The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to fast-track citizenship for persecuted minority groups in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The six minority groups that have been specifically identified are Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis. The Bill aims to change the definition of illegal migrants. However, the Act doesn't have a provision for Muslim sects like Shias and Ahmedis who also face persecution in Pakistan.
The beneficiaries of Citizenship Amendment Bill can reside in any state of the country and the burden of those persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Presently, the Constitution of India provides for citizenship by naturalization — for people who have lived in India for the past 12 months and for 11 of the past 14 years. It also provides for people whose parents or grandparents were born in India to become Indian citizens.
Who are illegal immigrants from India perspective?
As per the Citizenship Act, 1955, an illegal immigrant is one who enters India with fake or forged documents and/or does not have a valid passport. A person who stays beyond the visa permit is also referred to as an illegal immigrant.
When did the issue of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill come up?
Prior to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was seeking to topple the Congress-led UPA government, promised to grant citizenship to Hindus persecuted in the neighbouring countries. In the party's election manifesto, the BJP promised to give shelter to the Hindus and welcome the refugees.
Which parties are against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and why?
BJP's coalition partner Assam Gana Parishad has threatened to cut ties with the party if the Bill is passed. NGOs like Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti and students' organisation All Assam Stu-dents' Union also have come forward in opposing the Bill. All Opposition parties, including the Congress and All India United Democratic Front, have opposed the idea of granting citizenship to an individual on the basis of religion. It is also argued that the Bill if made into an Act, will nullify the updated National Registration of Citizenship (NRC).
Parties and activists opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 are of the view that it works against the cultural and linguistic identity of the indigenous people. Mizoram and other northeastern states, which have a diverse indigenous community, have urged the government not to table the new citizenship bill, saying it will open a "floodgate" of illegal immigrants in the state.
In January 2019, days after Union home minister Amit Shah announced that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill would be brought in parliament again, protests were held in Manipur, Nagaland and Meghalaya. The Nagaland and North East Forum of Indigenous People (NEFIP) claimed that it would seek the United Nations' intervention if the Centre implements the Bill.
Northeast protest against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019
The Bill has divided India into protests and jubilations. While Hindu refugee communities across India are celebrating the government's move, a majority of North-east remains on edge. Guwahati was the epicentre of anti-CAB protests. People in the north-eastern states fear that the Bill would change the demography of the states if it is passed as people of different cultures and languages will get citizenship of the country. Currently, the northeast is witnessing protests against Bangladeshi immigrants.
Exemptions under Citizenship Bill 2019
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill exempts certain areas in the North-East from this provision. It would not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura. This effectively means that Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram along with almost whole of Meghalaya and parts of Assam and Tripura would stay out of the purview of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
Amendments for OCI cardholders
According to the Citizenship Bill, a foreigner may register as an Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) if they are of Indian origin or their spouse is of Indian origin. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill entitles the OCI cardholders to benefits such as the right to travel to India, and to work and study in the country.
What is the current status of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019?
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was referred to a joint select committee in 2016, after being discussed extensively in the Lok Sabha. Members of the parliamentary committee visited several parts of the north-eastern states and discussed the Bill with various organisation. On January 8, 2019 the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. However, before it could be tabled in the Rajya Sabha, the Bill lapsed on June 3, 2019, as the tenure of the Lok Sabha ended.
The Rajya Sabha on December 11, 2019, passed the Bill. However, the Op-position, which terms it 'unconstitutional', is likely to knock the Supreme Court of India's door to protest against the Bill. Meanwhile, protests in the northeast, particularly in Assam continue.
The Indian idea of citizenship — as embodied in the Constitution and the law — is in the throes of a profound and radical metamorphosis. The twin instruments of this transformation are the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Act. If the former is carving out paths to stateless-ness for disfavored groups, the latter is creating paths to citizenship for preferred groups. While the first is, despite the looming threat of its extension across India, presently limited to the state of Assam, the second is designed to be pan-Indian in its application.
On the watch of the Supreme Court and under its unrelenting pressure for the completion of the NRC within a certain time-frame, Assam has served as a laboratory for a potentially dangerous experiment. Even though the results belied the expectations, the talk of sending those excluded from the Register to detention centres has given credence to the fear that thousands of people are vulnerable to being rendered stateless and rightless. Existing detention centres in Assam are already populated, and new ones are being erected on an unprecedented scale.
The implications of these developments can be interpreted in multiple ways. From a legal perspective, they imply a foundational shift in the conception of the Indian citizen embodied in the Constitution of India, followed by the Citizenship Act, 1955. This is, first, a move from soil to blood as the basis of citizenship, from a jus soli or birth-based principle of citizenship in the direction of a jus sanguinis or descent-based principle, and second, a shift from a religion-neutral law to a law that differentiates based on religious identity. From the perspective of India's social fabric, they signal an ominous fraying and unravelling of what was a daring and moderately successful experiment in pluralism and diversity.
From a political perspective, they point to a possibly tectonic shift from a civic-national to an ethnic-national conception of the political community and its terms of membership. From a moral perspective, they prompt us to confront the weakness of our commitment to human rights and to the moral and legal personhood of all human beings. From an international perspective, they remind us of, on the one hand, our longstanding aversion to signing inter-national treaties on refugees and the reduction of statelessness and, on the other, our easy engagement in double-speak with a valued neighbour. I will elaborate on some of these aspects to show how they are collectively refashioning the fundamentals of our collective life.
In a sense, we are once again rehearsing the debates on citizenship in the Constituent Assembly. The chapter on citizenship in the Constitution was necessitated by Partition and is limited to the determination of citizenship for those extraordinary times. The debate on what became Article 7 — relating to citizenship for the large numbers of Muslims who had fled India in the midst of the Partition violence but later returned — was fraught, the contention reflecting the communally charged atmosphere of Partition. Several members of the Assembly, who cast aspersions on the loyalty and intentionality of these returning migrants, called it the "obnoxious clause".
Though the markers of religious difference were not openly displayed, they are easily spotted in the consistent use, in the Assembly, of the words refugee and migrant for distinct categories of people — Hindus fleeing Pakistan de-scribed as refugees, the returning Muslims described as migrants — subtly encoding religious identity in a shared universe of meaning. The Assembly eventually adopted what it called the more "enlightened modern civilised" and democratic conception of citizen-ship, as opposed to "an idea of racial citizenship" and the Citizenship Act 1955 gave a statutory basis to the idea of jus soli or citizenship by birth.
Over time, chiefly triggered by the political unrest in Assam, this conception has been moving slowly but surely in the direction of a jus sanguinis or de-scent-based conception of citizenship. Assam has a long and complex history of in-migration, mostly from Bengal, from the 19th century onwards. It witnessed substantial in-migration from 1947 on-wards, peaking in 1971, and continuing steadily thereafter. It was no secret that many of the immigrants in recent decades had acquired forms of what Kamal Sadiq has called "documentary citizenship" through "networks of complicity" and "networks of profit".
In 1985, in the wake of the gruesome Nellie massacre of 1983, the Assamese students' organisations that had led the agitation against the enfranchisement of migrants from Bangladesh entered into the Assam Accord with the Rajiv Gandhi
government, leading to an amendment in the provisions relating to naturalisation in the Citizenship Act. This amendment created categories of eligibility for citizenship based on the year in which a person had migrated to India. All those who came before 1966 were declared citizens, those who came between 1966-1971 were struck off the electoral rolls and asked to wait 10 years before applying for citizenship, and those who came after 1971 were simply deemed to be illegal immigrants. Though these provisions were a response to the genuine grievances of the Assamese, they already contained the seeds of the politicisation and incipient communalisation of the issue of migrants.
"From a political perspective, they point to a possibly tectonic shift from a civic-national to an ethnic-national conception of the political community and its terms of membership. From a moral perspective, they prompt us to confront the weakness of our commitment to human rights and to the moral and legal personhood of all human beings."
Meanwhile, the gradual dilution of the principle of jus soli and the increasing recognition of elements of jus sanguinis — dependent on religious identity — was proceeding apace. Two amendments of 2004 — one to the Citizenship Act and the other to the Rules under the Act — show how religious identity was gaining ground as the basis of legal citizenship. Both introduced religion into the language of the law, the first implicitly and the second explicitly. The amendment to the Citizenship Act covertly introduced a religion-based exception to the principle of citizenship by birth. The amendment undercut the jus soli basis of citizenship, by stating that even if born on Indian soil, a person who had one parent who was an illegal migrant at the time of her or his birth, would not be eligible for citizenship by birth. Since most of the migrants from Bangladesh, against whose arrival there was so much political ferment in Assam, were Muslims, the term "illegal migrant" signalled this religious identity.
The Citizenship Rules were simultaneously amended to exclude "minority Hindus with Pakistani citizenship" from the definition of illegal immigrants. This amendment, firstly, destigmatised Hindu migrants, most of whom had come into the border states of western India from Pakistan, by dropping the label of "illegal migrants" for them, and officially describing them henceforth as "minority Hindus with Pakistan citizen-ship." Secondly, it openly introduced a religious category into what was until then a religion-neutral law.
In the run-up to the Assembly elections in Assam in early 2016, the Bharatiya Janata Party had made an electoral promise to "free" the state from illegal Bangladeshi migrants by evicting and deporting them. This was a dog-whistle reference to a specific religion, as it simultaneously promised to give Indian citizenship to all Bangladeshi Hindu immigrants if it won the election. This promise will be fulfilled by the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, which not only makes explicit but also legitimises the inflection of the law on citizenship with religious difference.
The Act essentially provides for fast-track citizenship by naturalisation for migrants from the neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who are religious minorities in those countries. It makes it possible for the preferred categories of Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians to obtain Indian citizenship in six years instead of the 11 it usually takes. Muslims are conspicuous by their absence in this listing, ostensibly on the grounds that they are not minorities in these three countries and cannot, therefore, be seen as persecuted.
The fact that Muslim sects like the Ahmadiyyas and Rohingyas are also persecuted in these countries does not make them eligible for similar benefits. By introducing a religion-based difference in the presently religion-neutral law on citizenship by naturalisation, this amendment would in effect create two categories of potential citizens: those professing the Hindu and other "acceptable" faiths; and those professing Islam.
A legal challenge to the Citizenship Amendment Act could plausibly bring into question its constitutionality, specifically its contravention of Articles 14 and 15 of the chapter on Fundamental Rights. Article 14 guarantees that `The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India." This is not a right that is dependent upon such a person being an Indian citizen, it is available even to foreigners who happen to be within the territory of India.
As such, differential treatment to individuals on the basis of their religious faith would appear to be in contravention of the right to equality. Article 15 prohibits the state from discriminating "against any citizen on ground only of religion, race, caste..." and the introduction of religious identity as a criterion into a matter as fundamental as citizenship is certainly questionable. Placing people in detention centres is arguably also violative of Article 21 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to life and liberty.
Experts have moreover questioned the legality of the NRC on the grounds that a provision under the Rules cannot contravene the provisions of the parent Act. Authorised by the Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Card Rules, 2003, the NRC uses the cut-off date of 1971 — based on the Assam Accord — rather than the date of 1987 which is the defining criterion of citizenship by birth according to the Citizenship Act.
The NRC and the CAA are manifestly conjoined in their objectives. The first paves the way to statelessness and detention centres for many poor and vulnerable people, and most unjustly for those whose genuine nationality is repudiated only on the basis of their faith. The second offers a smooth path to citizenship for groups of migrants who are deemed acceptable only on grounds of their faith. In other words, faith is set to become the exclusive criterion for determining who is an Indian citizen and who is not, for inclusion as well as for exclusion. Together, the NRC and the CAA have the potential of transforming India into a majoritarian polity with gradations of citizenship rights that undermine the constitutional principle of universal equal citizenship, with privileges of inclusion being attached to some categories of citizens while others suffer the disabilities of exclusion.
The politicisation of religious identity, finding articulation in and through the law, is a worrying portent for the founding vision of Indian nationalism which was emphatically civic-national in form. The march from a jus soli to a jus sanguinis conception of citizenship is also simultaneously a march from civic-nationalism to ethnoreligious nationalism, from a universalist and inclusive form of nationalism to an exclusionary form that renders difference as graded hierarchy. This is nothing less than a radical re-invention of the imagination of India that informed and inspired the freedom struggle and found embodiment in the Constitution.
The context of the anti-immigrant discourse that underlies the NRC, and the selective acceptance of persons "treated as illegal migrants" that underpins the CAA is important. It entails a substantive disenfranchisement of the Muslim minority, a normalisation and justification of violence — both discursive and physical — against it, and a re-construction of the Indian nation in the form of a Hindu Rashtra in which this minority lives on sufferance and must be prepared for everyday discrimination, legal and social.
In comparisons between the anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric of populist politicians across the world, it is rarely acknowledged that the "other" in India is wholly, historically and organically Indian, and not a recent entrant or stranger as in Europe or the United States. It is the Sri Lank-an Tamils, the Afghans and the Tibetan Buddhists who are relatively recent immigrants to India, but even before the CAA, India had no difficulty in assimilating them. In a society as plural and diverse as that encompassed by the territorial boundaries of the Indian nation, the quest to make the borders of religion and nation coincide is tantamount to opening up the scars of the Partition of 1947. This cannot be achieved without damaging the delicate balance in a society characterised by multiple heterogeneities of language, region, caste and even of religious sects.
"This amendment, firstly, destigmatised Hindu migrants, most of whom had come into the border states of western India from Pakistan, by dropping the label of "illegal migrants" for them, and officially describing them henceforth as "minority Hindus with Pakistan citizenship."
At the same time, it cannot be denied that India has never had a spectacular record of commitment to human rights, or even to the idea that all human beings are entitled to moral and legal personhood. The conundrum before us recalls a contention, most starkly identified by Hannah Arendt in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism. The supposedly universal and inalienable rights of man, Arendt argued, could not be invoked or claimed in contexts of statelessness. In the inter-war years, there was no international body to which lo million de facto stateless people could appeal for their human rights because a human being who is not a member of some political community is without recourse to such rights.
The loss of a polity is the loss of humanity, for only membership in a political community, i.e. citizenship can give people what Arendt famously called the "right to have rights". The deprivation of legality, of a juridical existence, is tantamount to the loss of moral personhood. Rights are meant to be enjoyed within a community, and the calamity of the
rightless, said Arendt, is that since they do not belong to any community, no law exists for them, and nobody even wants to oppress them. This was why the Nazis first deprived Jews of their legal status of citizenship before conveying them to concentration camps.
Although the Supreme Court has passed orders for the improvement of the conditions in these centres, there is a genuine moral concern about the very idea of such detention centres, which is at odds with India's constitutional values, and more generally with the idea of human rights. Stripping people of citizenship, even of the merely documentary kind, and rendering them stateless is a clear violation of the duty, placed on states by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to avoid taking actions that result in statelessness and the deprivation of citizenship.
Bangladesh, meanwhile, has been persuaded at the highest inter-governmental level, that the political rhetoric of sending the "termites" and "infiltrators" back to Bangladesh is an internal matter, and that there will be no deportation. In fact, the impressive economic indicators of Bangladesh today give rise to the speculation that we could now be looking at less migration from Bangladesh to India than in the reverse direction. Already, with 1.1 million illegal Indian immigrants, Bangladesh is the fifth largest sender of remittances to India. Given the cross-border movement of people in both directions, the two countries could even consider devising a mutually acceptable arrangement based on guest-worker visas.
In the meantime, as the NRC con-verts legitimate citizens into illegal im-migrants and illegal immigrants into stateless people, both destined for the camp; as the CAA selectively legalises illegal migrants; and as minorities are rendered second-class citizens by the insidious use of the law, India stands on the edge of a dangerous precipice where not only its constitutional values but also its moral compass are at grave risk.
An assessment of one of the tallest leaders of India’s Freedom Struggle who experimented with the fusion of socialism and fascism
Two figures dominated the last leg of Indian freedom struggle were Gandhi’s favorite soldiers namely Fabian Socialist acolyte, Jawaharlal Nehru and assertive and aggressive Subhas Chandra Bose, a man of comparable stature who admired Gandhi but despaired at his aims and methods, and became a bitter rival of Nehru. Bose played a very active and prominent role in India’s political life post 1930s. For example, he was twice (1938 and 1939) elected President of the Indian National Congress, the country’s most important political force for freedom from the Raj, or British rule. While his memory is still held in high esteem in India, in the West Bose is much less revered, largely because of his wartime collaboration with the Axis powers. Both before and during the Second World War, Bose worked tirelessly to secure German and Japanese support in freeing his beloved homeland of foreign rule. During the final two years of the war, Bose with considerable Japanese backing led the forces of the Indian National Army into battle against the British. Netaji, without a shadow of a doubt, remains one of the most key figures in the history of India’s independence. He played a crucial role in freeing the country from the clutches of 200 years of British rule in his own inimitable way, much like the other leading lights of the day such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Till the last day of his life as an active freedom fighter he kept the spirit of fighting the British.
Bose propounded the Ideology of fusion of socialism and fascism: In years that followed, he asserted that India must have a political system of an authoritarian character. In India, though, Bose is regarded as a national hero, in spite of his repeated praise (as will be shown) for autocratic leadership and authoritarian government, and admiration for the European fascist regimes with which he allied himself. During his lifetime, Bose was frequently denounced as a fascist or even a Nazi, particularly in the wake of the radical, revolutionary (as opposed to reformist) views he expressed in radio addresses broadcast to India from National Socialist Germany and, later, from quasi-fascist Japan. By 1930 Bose had formulated the broad strategy that he believed India must follow to throw off the yoke of British imperialism and assume its rightful place as a leader in Asia. During his years in Mandalay prison and another short term of imprisonment in Alipore jail in 1930, he read many works on political theory, including Francesco Nitti’s Bolshevism, Fascism and Democracy and Ivanoe Bonomi’s From Socialism to Fascism. It is clear that these works on fascism influenced him, and caused an immediate modification of his long-held socialist views: as noted above, in his inaugural speech as mayor of Calcutta, given a day after his release from Alipore jail, he revealed his support for a seemingly contradictory ideological synthesis of socialism and fascism. Until his death 15 years later, Bose would continue publicly to praise certain aspects of fascism and express his hope for a synthesis of that ideology and socialism. Contending that the Indian National Congress was somewhat “out of date,” and suffered from a lack of unity and strong leadership, Bose predicted in The Indian Struggle that out of a “Left-Wing revolt there will ultimately emerge a new full-fledged party with a clear ideology, program and plan of action.”
Bose was willing to tone down his more radical political beliefs on those occasions when he considered it advantageous or necessary to do so. For example, in his February 1938 inaugural speech as President of the Indian National Congress, Bose - probably in a sincere attempt to placate the Gandhian faction -- made statements that appear to represent almost an about face from the political views he had expounded in The Indian Struggle. In a future independent India, he said, “the party itself will have a democratic basis, unlike, for instance, the Nazi party which is based on the “leader principle.” The existence of more than one party and the democratic basis of the Congress party will prevent the future Indian State becoming a totalitarian one. A year later he successfully re-contested the presidential election, but two months afterwards was forced to resign because of his inability to resolve his differences with Gandhi and the Gandhian faction. Probably believing that his earlier suspicions of democracy had been proven correct, and feeling that there was now no use in trying to win the favor or approval of more conservative elements in the Congress party, Bose once again proclaimed his belief in the efficacy of authoritarian government and a synthesis of fascism and socialism.
Many similar examples can be cited to show how Bose outwardly (but probably not inwardly) modified his views to suit changing political contexts. “In the struggle for the cause of India’s independence he has given his life and has escaped all those troubles which brave soldiers like him have to face in the end. He was not only brave but had deep love for freedom. He believed, rightly or wrongly, that whatever he did was for the independence of India. Although I personally did not agree with him in many respects, and he left us and formed the Forward Bloc, nobody can doubt his sincerity. He struggled throughout his life for the independence of India, in his own way.” Along with his abiding love for his country, Bose held an equally passionate hatred of the imperial power that ruled it: Great Britain. In a radio address broadcast from Berlin on March 1, 1943, he exclaimed that Britain’s demise was near, and predicted that it would be “India’s privilege to end that Satanic Empire. The fundamental principle of his foreign policy, Bose declared in a May 1945 speech in Bangkok, is that “Britain’s enemy is India’s friend.” Although these two speeches are from his final years, they express views he had held since before his April 1921 resignation from the Indian Civil Service. It was this principle of making friends with Britain’s enemies in the hope that they would assist him in liberating India that brought him in 1941 to Germany and then, in 1943, to Japan. Indeed Bose was infatuated with military discipline, and later commented that his basic training in the University Unit of the India Defence Force (for which he volunteered in 1917, while a student at Scottish Church College in Calcutta) “gave me something which I needed or which I lacked. The feeling of strength and of self-confidence grew still further.” Bose was able to give much grander expression to his “militarism” when, in 1930, he volunteered to form a guard of honor during the ceremonial functions at the Calcutta session of the Congress party. Such guards of honor were not uncommon, but the one Bose formed and commanded was unlike anything previously seen. More than 2,000 volunteers were given military training and organized into battalions. About half wore uniforms, with specially designed steel-chain epaulettes for the officers. Bose, in full dress uniform (peaked cap, standing collar, ornamental breast cords, and jodhpurs) even carried a Field Marshal’s baton when he reviewed his “troops.” Photographs taken at the conference show him looking entirely out of place in a sea of khadi (traditional Indian clothing). Gandhi and several other champions of Nonviolence (Ahimsa) were uncomfortable with this display.
A high point in Bose’s “military career” came in July 1943 in Singapore. At a mass meeting there on July 4, Rash Behari Bose (no relation) handed over to him the leadership of the Indian Independence League. This “Free India Army” (“Azad Hind Fauj”) would not only “emancipate India from the British yoke,” he told the soldiers, but would, under his command, become the standing national army of the liberated nation. Bose clearly admired strong, vigorous, military-type leaders, and in The Indian Struggle he listed several whom he particularly respected. These included Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and even a former British governor of Bengal, Sir Stanley Jackson. Nowhere in this book is there any criticism of these individuals (three of them dictators) for having too much power, yet another man is chastised for this: Mahatma Gandhi. Bose admired Gandhi for many things, not least his ability to “exploit the mass psychology of the people, just as Lenin did the same thing in Russia, Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany.” But he accused Gandhi of accepting too much power and responsibility, of becoming a “Dictator for the whole country” who issued “decrees” to the Congress. According to Bose, Gandhi was a brilliant and gifted man, but, unlike Mussolini, Hitler and the others mentioned, a very ineffectual leader. Gandhi had failed to liberate India because of his frequent indecision and constant willingness to compromise with the Raj (something Bose said he would never do). Bose’s militarism, ambition and leadership traits do not necessarily indicate (contrary to popular opinion) that he was a leader in the fascist mold. If they did, one would have to consider all personalities with similar traits -- Winston Churchill, for example -- as “fascist.” In this regard, it is worth noting that during his many years as head of various councils, committees and offices, and during 15-month tenure as President of the Indian National Congress (February 1938 to May 1939), Bose never acted in an undemocratic manner, nor did he claim powers or responsibilities to which he was not constitutionally or customarily entitled. Neither did he attempt in any way to foster a cult of his own personality (as, it could be argued, Gandhi did).
Bose proclaimed, on October 21, 1943, the formation of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind (“Free India”). While retaining his post as Supreme Commander of the Indian National Army, he announced that he was naming himself Head of State, Prime Minister, and Minister for War and Foreign Affairs. (The most important of these positions -- Head of State -- he anticipated retaining in a free India.) These appointments involved no democratic process or voting of any kind. Further, the authority he exercised in these posts was dictatorial and often very harsh. He demanded total obedience and loyalty from the Indians in south Asia, and any who opposed him, his army or government faced imprisonment, torture, or even execution. Additionally, if wealthy Indians did not contribute sufficient funds to Bose’s efforts, they risked confiscation of their property. Bose’s threats were taken very seriously, and had the desired effect: funds did pour in. His INA troops were obliged to swear an oath of loyalty to both the Provisional Government and to him personally. He ordered the summary execution of all INA deserters, and also prepared (but was never able to implement) law codes for the entire population of India. These laws, which stipulated the death penalty for a range of offenses, were to come into force when the INA, together with the Japanese Army, entered India to fight against the British. With regard to his leadership style during this 1943-1945 period, in fairness to Bose is should be pointed out that the entire world was then engulfed in a horrendous war, and political and military leaders everywhere, on all sides, adapted extraordinarily authoritarian and repressive measures.
As he frequently stated, Bose aimed for nothing less than the formation of “a new India and a happy India on the basis of the eternal principles of liberty, democracy and socialism.” He rejected Communism (at least as it was practiced in the Soviet Union) principally because of its internationalism, and because he believed that the theoretical ideal found in the writings of Marx could not be applied, without modification, to India. Still, he maintained socialist views throughout his adult life, and, on very many occasions, expressed his hope for an egalitarian (especially classless and casteless) industrialized society in which the state would control the basic means of production. He was opposed to liberalism, believing that greater emphasis should be placed on social goals than on the needs or desires of individuals. Individual wishes, he reasoned, must be subordinated to the needs of the state, especially during the struggle for independence and the period of reconstruction immediately following liberation. Nonetheless, having himself been imprisoned eleven times and sent into exile three times, he was fully committed to upholding the rights of minority intellectual, religious, cultural and racial groups. He hoped for an “all-round freedom for the Indian people -- that is, for social, economic and political freedom,” and would, he said “wage a relentless war against bondage of every kind till the people can become really free.”
of course, Bose demanded not only the total mobilization of Indian resources in south Asia, but of Indian resources everywhere. He called for mass mobilization not only in support of his army, but also for his dynamic new government, the various branches of which required financing and manpower. First, his ideology and actions were not the result of any extreme neurotic or pathological psychosocial impulses. He was not a megalomaniac, nor did he display any of the pathological traits often attributed (rightly or wrongly) to fascist leaders, such as hostile aggression, obsessive hatred or delusions. Moreover, while he was an ardent patriot and nationalist, Bose’s nationalism was cultural, not racialist. Second, his radical political ideology was shaped by a consuming frustration with the unsuccessful efforts of others to gain independence for India. His “fascist” outlook did not come from a drive for personal power or social elevation. While he was ambitious, and clearly enjoyed the devotion of his followers, his obsession was not adulation or power, but rather freedom for his beloved Motherland -- a goal for which he was willing to suffer and sacrifice, even at the cost of his life. Bose was favorably impressed with the discipline and organizational strength of fascism as early as 1930, when he first expressed support for a synthesis of fascism and socialism. During his stays in Europe during the 1930s, he was deeply moved by the dynamism of the two major “fascist” powers, Italy and Germany. After observing these regimes first-hand, he developed a political ideology of his own that, he was convinced, could bring about the liberation of India and the total reconstruction of Indian society along vaguely authoritarian-socialist lines. Bose’s lack of success in his life-long effort to liberate India from alien rule was certainly not due to any lack of effort. From 1921, when he became the first Indian to resign formally from the Indian Civil Service, until his death in 1945 as leader of an Indian government in exile, Subhas Chandra Bose struggled ceaselessly to achieve freedom and prosperity for his beloved homeland.
(Writer is Editor of Opinion Express and regular columnist to The Pioneer)
Kashmir is a saga of selfish dynasts destroying own people
IT is axiomatic that the state of Jammu and Kashmir became an independent state as soon as it was released from its allegiance to the British Crown under the Indian Independence Act. The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir became the repository of all power under this Act which created the two Dominions of India and Pakistan. The Maharaja was free to decide whether he would accede to any one of the two Dominions. Meanwhile, Jinnah visualized Kashmir as a part of Pakistan and dreamt of its bracing climate and its Mughal Garderns as the Governor General of Pakistan. He thought it was almost in his pocket: whether it came to him willingly or was taken by force was immaterial. The British had promised it to him: it was a majority Muslim area and it had no approach to India except through Pakistan.
Being sure of his ground, Jinnah first made an approach to the Maharaja for accession of the state to Pakistan in a very persuasive and friendly manner. In fact he lured then Prime Minister of Kashmir Mr Kak to bring Kashmir in Pakistan. But Maharaja remained firm on the ground that either the state will enjoy independent status or it will merge with Indian Dominion.
So far as India was concerned, she was indifferent on the subject, though she would have been happy if Kashmir had acceded to India. Mahatma Gandhi visited Kashmir before 15 Aug 1947 to persuade Maharaja to accede to India but he remained non committal for India, if Maharaja had decided to accede to India or to Pakistan before the 15 Aug 1947, much of the trouble and bitterness may well have been avoided. But he was fondling with the idea of independence and was relying on his Dogra forces to achieve this end. However, he was completely adverse to the idea of acceding to Pakistan as it would have involved the complete destruction of the Hindu population of the state and seizure of all that they had, including abduction of women.
Meanwhile Sheikh Abdullah with his deputy Bakshi took over the leadership of the National Conference Party was the only political party of the state. The National Conference leaders were favorable to the states accession to Indian. Maharaja felt that there was no option for him but to accede to India. However, India continued indifferent approach for Kashmir. Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel preferred the situation where Kashmir accession must come voluntarily to India. Pandit Nehru was keen on Maharaja handing over the power to Shiekh Abdullah than about accession. In his view, once the state administration had gone to popular hands, the question of accession could be appropriately discussed with the popular government.
The biggest hurdle to resolving the Kashmir issue has been that business of ‘’plebiscite’’ which Pakistan as well as other India baiters including so-called liberals has often raised. The origin of that apprehension can be traced to the letter of October 27, 1947 which Lord Mountbatten wrote to Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir after the latter had signed his acceptance on the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947. that letter of Mountbatten was a personal letter, and it was in reply to the Maharaja’s letter of October 26 stating that ‘’a grave emergency’’ had arisen in his state and acknowledging that the Indian Dominion ‘’cannot send the help asked for’’ without his state acceding to India. Accordingly on October 26, the Maharaja attached the Instrument of Accession for acceptance. In his letter Mountbatten wrote, ‘’ ... my government has decided to accept the accession of Kashmir state to the dominion of India. In consistence with their policy that in the case of any state where the issue of accession has been the subject of dispute, the question of accession should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the state, it is my government’s wish, that, as soon as law and order have been restored in Kashmir and its soil cleared of the invader, the question of the state’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people.’’
That statement of Lord Mountbatten was to evoke an almost violent re-action from M C Mahajan, who was the prime minister of Kashmir at the time of its accession and later became Chief Justice of India. In his Accession of Kashmir to India (The Inside Story), the learned judge wrote: ‘’The Indian Independence Act did not envisage conditional accession. It could not envisage such a situation as it would be outside the Parliament’s policy. It wanted to keep no Indian state in a state of suspense. It conferred on the rulers of the Indian states absolute power in their discretion to accede to either of the two dominions. The dominion’s governor general had the power to accept the accession or reject the offer but he had no power to keep the question open or attach conditions to it...’’
Moreover, Lord Mountbatten’s letter spoke of the policy of a reference to the people ‘’where the issue of accession has been the subject of dispute.’’ Now, with regard to Jammu and Kashmir in October 1947, there was absolutely no dispute about its accession. Neither Pakistan nor India was laying a legitimate, contestable claim to the state. Neither India nor Pakistan was disputing the maharaja’s sovereign right to take the decision he wanted. If there were at all any ‘’dispute,’’ it existed only in the maharaja’s mind as to whether to accede to India or to Pakistan or remain independent.
Circumstances compelled his dithering mind to take the decision, but he was not bound to obtain his people’s concurrence of it, before or after. In a monarchical form of government, it is the monarch who personifies and represents the state. That too was not in dispute. What is also not in dispute is the Himalayan bungle created by Nehru’s government of the time. on January 27, 1948, India and Pakistan submitted a draft proposal to the president of the United Nations Security Council on the appropriate methods of solving the Kashmir dispute. According to the Security Council verbatim reports cited by Justice Anand, the Indian representative on the floor of the Security Council made it appear that the final status of Kashmir was to be determined by plebiscite although the legal nature of Kashmir’s accession was the foundation of India’s case. Pakistan has since seized upon and used this point for its benefit. The plebiscite virus was sown and quickly took root.
According to a philosophy and social action publication of 1994, India’s Commitment to Kashmir, edited by Dhirendra Sharma, there are several statements made by Jawaharlal Nehru to the effect that the question of Kashmir’s accession to India must finally be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people. These cover a period between October 27, 1947 and August 7, 1952. In one of these statements, Nehru made reference to a ‘’referendum’’ and in another to a ‘’plebiscite.’’ While Nehru may well have made all the above referred statements in his wonted moralistic-cum-idealistic vision of world affairs, there is reason to wonder today whether, in those turbulent five years of India’s independence, he had grasped the factual and legal position of Kashmir’s signed accession to India. Take, for instance, the broadcast of November 2, 1947 he made on All India Radio. According to the publication mentioned above, Nehru is supposed have said that ‘‘where there is a dispute about the accession of a state to either dominion, the decision must be made by the people of the state. It was in accordance with this policy that we added a proviso to the Instrument of Accession to Kashmir.’’
The above statement stands faulted on two counts. Firstly, Kashmir’s legal accession to India was never in dispute. Pakistan never challenged the legality in the Security Council debates. Secondly, Nehru was wrong to believe that the Instrument of Accession which the maharaja of Kashmir signed on October 26, 1947 contained a special proviso. However, before he approached the UN, Nehru went to Lahore on December 8, 1947, to plead with his counterpart, Liaquat Ali Khan, to initiate steps to de-escalate tensions by issuing an appeal to the Pakistani intruders in Kashmir to withdraw. According to VP Menon, Secretary in the States Department at that time, Khan pleaded helplessness on the ground that he ran a moderate Government that was already under attack by the media for its failure to fully back the Azad Kashmir movement. If he issued such an appeal, there was every danger of his Government being dislodged by a more extremist political entity. Instead, liaquat Ali Khan said “it would be better for India to withdraw its forces and appoint an impartial administration in the state”. Nehru returned empty-handed from Lahore and thereafter decided to go to the UN. This hurt India’s interests on two counts: one, it internationalised the Kashmir dispute; and two, it stopped the Indian Army from finishing the job of throwing out the intruders. In fact, it is said that the ceasefire was ordered at a time when the Army needed just a few more days to complete its task. Further, the decision to beseech the UN showed India up as a weak state that needed third party intervention to throw out an aggressor. It led to the UN setting up a Commission and posting its observers along the ceasefire line and encouraged the US and other Western nations to meddle in India internal affairs.
We have Justice Anand’s doctoral thesis in support of this refutation of Nehru’s understanding. Justice Anand has stated that ‘’this Instrument of Accession (signed by the Maharaja of Kashmir) was in no way different from that executed by some 500 other states. It was unconditional, voluntary and absolute. It was not subject to any exceptions. As such, it bound the state of Jammu and Kashmir and India together legally and constitutionally.’’ Did Nehru have the legal authority to agree to a plebiscite proposal in the Security Council? Did he have the constitutional authority to commit India to a plebiscite as he is reported to have done in his address to our Parliament on June 26, 1952?
The answer given by M C Mahajan, former chief justice of India, is revealing. In his Accession of Kashmir to India (The Inside Story), the learned chief justice stated: ‘’I do not see what constitutional power the Indian government had to enter into such an agreement with Pakistan on the floor of the Security Council and how such an understanding can be considered as binding ... on the state of Jammu and Kashmir which had independent status before accession.’’ Justice Anand puts a seal on the subject by opining that with the accession of Kashmir to India being constitutionally valid, ‘’it excludes the possibility of a plebiscite for determining the status of Kashmir.’’
Years later, the problem in Kashmir, is often represented primarily as a matter between India and Pakistan and framed around the issues of the legitimacy of Kashmir’s accession to India at independence. But this is not the problem today, as circumstances since the accession have changed such that the insurgency is now largely fueled by increasingly hardliner Pakistan state. The ethnic and religious diversity in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is divided into three regions, has contributed to the complexity of the Kashmir problem. Jammu has 25.93 per cent of the area and 45 per cent of the population. Against this, the Kashmir region’s population in 2011 was 68,88,475 of which 96.40 per cent was Muslim. Though it has only 15.73 per cent of the state’s area, the Kashmir region holds 52 per cent of the population. Ladakh has 58.33 per cent of the area and accounts for 2.18 per cent of the population. A mere 2,74,289 people reside in Ladakh, of which 46.40 per cent are Muslims, 12.11 per cent Hindus and 39.67 per cent are Buddhist. The challenge for the current regimeis to correct the imbalance of population verses landmass ratio to comprehensively offer equal opportunities for all regions and communities. The current violence cycle of the insurgency was started in late 1980s, it began as an ethnic issue. However, over the years the insurgency has been carefully and deliberately cultivated into a religious one. This created an environment of intolerance, intimidation, and ultimately violence throughout the valley that only exasperated other existing tensions—a situation that led to the exodus of the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits from the region. Revitalizing the economy in the valley, would help address some of these problems. Describing the government’s control over most of the enterprises in the region, he noted that hiring in the valley was at a virtual standstill. To address this problem, he advocated a more open private sector to provide Kashmiris with a greater stake in their future. Further, a vibrant economy overall, he noted, would remedy the crisis of high unemployment that currently afflicts Kashmir—a situation that clearly propels young Kashmiris toward insurgent movements, much as it has in many other conflict zones around the globe.
With Narendra Modi securing majority in the second term and Amit Shah at the helm of affairs as the Union home minister, the Narendra Modi government will now take on the Kashmir issue much more assertively than it did in its first term. One of the key shifts in the new government’s approach to Kashmir is that while prior to May 2019 the focus was on dealing with separatists with an iron hand, the focus now is to make the Kashmiri separatist and dynast leaders irrelevant altogether. NSA Ajit Doval has pushed for the muscular policy in dealing with the present crisis in the valley with fair success but India was missing a bold Home Minister in Modi 1.0 to translate Doval initiative at legislative platform. Amit Shah is likely to bridge this gap in Modi 2.0 leading to appropriate legislation in the Parliament.
The Modi government is of the firm view that the National Conference (NC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and outfits like All India Hurriyat Conference have no influence beyond a handful of districts in the valley. And, the top leadership of these parties has not allowed new leadership to emerge from the grassroots level. These parties and outfits have been given undue weight by planners in India due to feudal polity of the state influencing ruling elite in New Delhi, which doesn’t actually match their outreach or impact. The local body elections were boycotted by both the NC and the PDP but people turned out in large numbers with overall voting percentage at an impressive 74 per cent. The most visible impact of this boycott was confined to only four districts of South Kashmir – Shopian, Kulgam, Anantnag and Pulwama. It was proof of the limited influence of the PDP and the NC. So, the ‘New Kashmir Policy’ will focus more on building up a non-PDP, non-NC leadership from the grassroots level. Amit Shah, in his recent Rajya Sabha speech, said that he will crush “Pakistan-sponsored terrorism with the help of locals”. Shah’s outreach to the people of Jammu and Kashmir will ensure that political intermediaries, who want to maintain the status quo in the state, will soon become irrelevant. For the last seven decades, successive governments relied on a certain set of leaders from a handful of families in the region to solve the Kashmir problem – namely the Maharaja, the Abdullahs the Muftis and the Nehru-Gandhis. The Modi government is of the view that the time has come for the people of Kashmir to move away from these families –they are not part of the solution, but actually, a part of the problem.
The Modi government has a new multi-pronged Kashmir policy. It is imperative that Pakistan must be exposed in the international community for its role for fueling an arms conflict with an external state. It is an act of war according to the United Nation charter; India must seek sanctions on the Pakistan state for its misdeeds.
On the domestic front, the first part of the policy involves scaling up military action against terrorists in Kashmir. The second part of this policy involves the relentless pursuit of individuals and outfits who claim to be self-styled representatives of the Kashmiri Muslims, and support radicalism, directly or indirectly. No one will be spared, however influential. The National Investigation Agency’s summons to the grandson of Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani in relation to a terror funding case is proof of the Modi government’s steadfast commitment to this new policy. The NIA has already seized assets worth about Rs 1,400 crore and has launched an investigation in 21 cases, Home Minister Amit Shah said in Parliament. The Central Board of Direct Taxes and Enforcement Directorate are working overtime in the state identifying, tracking and shutting down all means to fund terrorist activities. A massive crackdown on Jamaat-e-Islami has already begun. The outfit has a strong influence in south Kashmir and is largely held responsible for turning the four districts in the region into the hub of terrorism. This crackdown is going to get stronger in days to come until the outfit is made completely redundant.
Similarly, tougher action is being taken against separatists, not just cosmetic ones. Many of these leaders have been shifted to prisons outside Srinagar to places like Jhajjar and Hisar in Haryana and Tihar prison in Delhi. This is to ensure that the valley does not come under their influence. In a nutshell, the Centre is sending a message that it doesn’t consider the existing separatist leadership in the valley to be the bona fide representative of the common people. It rather prefers to deal with people directly through the administrative apparatus by making it more robust and efficient.
One important shift in the new Kashmir policy is the redefining of ‘Kashmiriyat’. There is a big push to ensure that ‘Kashmiriyat’ doesn’t remain confined to merely Kashmiri Muslims. For Modi government, ‘Kashmiriyat’ is an all-inclusive concept– it takes into account the culture, traditions and stakes of Gujjar Bakarwals, Pahadis, Baltis, Dogras, Buddhists and Kashmiri Pandits. The writing on the wall is clear: Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are discarding the old guard in the state and building a new leadership from the grassroots. And the abolishing of 35A shall facilitate larger integration of J&K with rest of the country. As India is marching ahead towards 5 trillion dollor economy, the policy maker must not exclude J&K state from the fruits of development just to please few feudal families threatening the state of India of the false repercussions. J&K has been a victim of protecting the rights of few political familities rather than the people, and then one of the tallest Indian leader Shyama Prasad Mukherjee has correctly predicted in 1952 that Indian state must abandon Prince and Czars of Kashmir to let it freely integrate with the union of India to blossom in a prosperous integrated society.
With this background: history is scripted by Narendra Modi led BJP government on 5 Aug 2019 when in an stunning move, home minister Amit Shah announced in the Indian parliament regarding abrogation of article 370 and 35A leading to J&K state complete integration with the union of India. The paradise lost is regained by the country and Narendra Modi and Amit Shah must be complimented for securing an outstanding victory to integrate the country comprehensively.
(Writer is a regular columnist in prominent national newspapers and Editor-in-chief of Opinion Express)
As Modi govt completes four years in office, The Opinion Express brings out its report card
Four years of Modi government: In the biggest election of India’s history, Narendra Modi, the three-term chief minister of Gujarat stormed to power with a thumping majority for his vision for a developed India. In his first major address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, 2014, Narendra Modi announced his flagship Jan-Dhan Yojana, which to date is one of the jewels in his crown.
Others are the successful implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the introduction of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC). With India expected to emerge as the fastest-growing major economy again this financial year, especially after slumping to as low as 5.7% due to disruptions from structural changes, this could be a big shot in the arm of Narendra Modi ahead of the 2019 polls. From Ujjwala Yojana to Saubhagya Yojana — Narendra Modi gets full marks for his efforts, even as some targets are expected to be missed.
As Modi completes 4 years, India Inc’s thumbs up to economy; CII says GST cyclone over, reforms on track: As the BJP-led NDA government completes four years in office, industry chamber CII today said India’s economy is robust with GST system having settled down and reforms firmly on the right path. In a statement, CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said over the last four years, the government has systematically addressed major pain points for the economy such as ease of doing business, non-performing assets of banks, foreign direct investment rules, infrastructure construction and exit of failing enterprises.
Achche din may be several years away, but PM must get full marks for trying: Achche din may be several years away, but the NDA government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi must get full marks for trying. Four years into the government’s regime, the economy is not exactly rocking. GDP has clocked in at an average of 7.3% annually between FY15 and FY18, below the 7.5% notched up in the five years prior to that. Manufacturing is muddling along, but exports are in a shambles leaving private sector investment stagnant, and few jobs on offer. The damage from demonetisation and GST is slowly coming undone, but business sentiment remains subdued.
Sensex leaps 10,000 points! 4 winning feats that steered stock market to record highs: In the span of last four years, Indian stock markets have fared considerably well as compared to regional Asian peers and Wall Street — the world’s largest equity markets by turnover. The benchmark equity index BSE Sensex has added about 10,000 points in the last four years breaching the key levels of 30,000 for the first time under Narendra Modi-led NDA government. The S&P BSE Sensex has gained as much as 9,970 points to 34,663 from a level of 24,693 as on 23 May 2018, before swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as PM.
Has India created enough jobs? Debate on, but this next challenge will be bigger: While formal jobs have indeed been created, muted household income and savings macro data suggest muted quality of jobs in aggregate. “Job quality is the real issue for Indian macro and markets, manifested in the slowing growth of the middle class,” Gautam Chhaochharia, Analyst and Sanjena Dadawala, Analysts at UBS said in the report.
4 small reforms by Modi that went unnoticed: In 2016, the Lok Sabha repealed 1,175 of 1,827 laws that were identified as obsolete, and many other steps were taken to make lives of common people easier. From self-attestation to doing away with birth certificate for passport to Tatkal reforms to easing I-T filing, these reforms went unnoticed in the four years of Modi-led NDA government.
These 5 ministries get stellar score from people, and Finance is not among them: The top five ministries of the Modi government are Defence, External Affairs, New and Renewable Energy, Coal, and Road, Transport and Highways, a survey conducted by Local Circles showed. Indians have given a stellar score to the Defence Ministry — 4.9 on the scale of 5. The government has been applauded for “taking some bold steps like the surgical strikes against Pakistan,” Local Circles said.
Even after 4 years, Modi is winning hearts; Survey shows 57% Indians happy with his work: A total of 57% Indians say that the Narendra Modi government has “either met or exceeded” their expectations in the last four years, a survey said. A majority of Indians are particularly happy with Narendra Modi’s effort in improving India’s image globally, handling of Pakistan, fighting terrorism, infrastructure development and reducing tax harassment, a survey report by Local Circles said.
Four ambitious targets NDA is poised to miss: After taking over the Prime Minister’s Office in 2014, Narendra Modi shared his vision to make India an investor-friendly destination, which would subsequently lead to job creation and development. However, despite ambitious plans like Make in India, Narendra Modi, four years later, is poised to miss some targets. Amit Shah says PM Modi works for 15-18 hours every day: BJP provided the most hardworking Prime Minister & the most popular leader in the world to the country, a PM who works for 1518 hours a day. We are proud that this Prime Minister is a leader of BJP, says Amit Shah.
Challenges: Pakistan and China are the major source of worry for Modi government. Kashmir policy persuaded by NDA government has yielded no results. In fact, the militancy in the state is on the rise. The hawkish approach has yielded no dividends. China has a pro Pakistan policy and Beijing is looking to mediate in the Kashmir matter. Doklam, POK, Burma, South China Sea, Dalai Lama and trade imbalance are the pending issues with practically no solution. China has practically expanded in India’s next door countries through infrastructure projects and defence cooperation; it is a great challenge for Modi led NDA government in respect to the nation security.
Social Harmony: The Modi government must focus on building confidence with the minority community and the SC/ST community in India. It may be a perception that the NDA government led by Narendra Modi has targeted minorities and socially deprived sections of the communities though in government defence, it is a collective effort of opposition to portray Modi sarkar to be anti-minority and anti-dalit to reap political benefits. The sooner this problem is addressed, the better it will be for the nation.
Modi’s international trips have always generated a buzz. In the past four years, the PM has travelled six continents: 36 foreign trips visiting 54 countries; India’s global presence is said to have become stronger ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came into power after 2014 general elections. At one point, he was also criticized for his international trips. However, it has been said that in the four years of Modi as PM, India’s bilateral ties with major economies have improved.
India and the big economies
The country most frequented by PM Modi was the United States, where he made five visits including the UN General Assembly meeting in 2014. Indo-US relations were tensed under the second UPA regime, but has certainly improved since the entry of Modi.
Defence, economic and political ties between India and the US have improved a lot since Modi. The two countries signed Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), the defence agreement pending since 2004. Pakistan remains a major policy discussion between the countries. Trump’s tough talk on Pakistan has aligned the US with India’s old frustration with the country.
On his trips to the United Kingdom, PM Modi met Queen Elizabeth twice, once in 2015 and recently in April this year as well as his British counterpart Theresa May. India is the third largest investor in UK, making their ties crucial. Modi recently signed memorandums for National Clean Ganga Mission, skill development and vocational programmes and an agreement between NITI Aayog and UK’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Modi also visited China, Germany and Russia four times in the past four years. Relations between India and China have been strained since the Doklam issue arose and these meetings have defined the two countries’ relationships with each other. Modi was one of the first to congratulate Xi Jinping when he was re-elected as the president of China.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Modi met recently in an informal summit in Sochi, where PM Modi said India-Russia ties have “stood the test of time”. Germany is India’s biggest trade partner in the European Union, and ties have strengthened with each visit Modi paid Chancellor Angela Merkel. PM Modi also made three visits of strategic importance to France in his four years.
Narendra Modi has stressed on relations with neighbouring countries ever since he took office. The prime minister paid three visits to Nepal since 2014. Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan are also on the list. Modi had stressed a lot on how South Asian countries must work together for better individual economic standings. Before relations went south, Modi had also visited Pakistan and held talks with then PM Nawaz Sharif. Unfortunately, PM Nawaz Sharif with whom PM Modi had developed personal relationship reigned and the clock went back to square one. The Kashmir issue and OROP remains the burning obstacles in securing better relationship between the two countries, the border tensions and limited hostilities are the regular feature at the LOC that Modi government has failed to reduce and eliminate from the source.
India’s relations with Middle Eastern countries have soared since Modi came to power. Summits with leaders of Israel, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Palestine and Afghanistan were held.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and PM Modi showcased a fast friendship during the former’s visit to India in January 2018. Modi asked Israeli companies to take advantage of the “liberalized FDI regime to make more in India”. Moreover, Netanyahu had described Israel’s relations with India as a “marriage made in heaven”! The Middle Eastern economies have been a priority of the Modi government since India is dependent on them for two-third of the oil imports. Many Indians migrate to the Middle East for jobs too.
Other countries PM Modi visited include Japan, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Fiji, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Mozambique, Netherlands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain and Sweden.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has increased its electoral footprint from just eight states in 2014 to 20 in four years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership to emerge as the strongest political force in the country.
In fact, from just being a “formidable” force in the Hindi-heartland, the NDA is now in power across the North, with the only exception in Punjab, besides being part of ruling coalitions in seven of the eight states in the NorthEast.
The BJP is now looking to increase its electoral and social presence in the East and the South, where the NDA has marginal presence. Party leaders believe that Modi’s unwavering popularity will eventually help the NDA oust regional heavyweights, such as Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik, from their bastions, before it can increase its presence beyond the Vindhyas.
“The four years can be defined for BJP on the basis of expansion of the party both electorally and socially. Now, the BJP is the central force in national politics. The entire opposition, whether national or regional parties, is now coming together to oppose us.
This is the biggest influence of the BJP on national politics,” said a senior BJP leader, requesting anonymity.
The increasing dominance of the BJP in national politics can be established from the fact that it has wrestled away 12 states from the Congress in the last four years, while the NDA has had 14 electoral victories since Modi came to power. The emergence of the BJP as the political powerhouse took shape at the cost of the Congress, which has not only faced a series of electoral losses, but has seen its support base shrinking even in key states. The trigger was the historic defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, wherein it recorded the lowest-ever tally with just 44 Lok Sabha members.
Apart from the recent success in Karnataka, where it formed a post-poll alliance with the Janata Dal (Secular), the Congress is left with just Punjab, Mizoram and Puducherry. “Ever since the Lok Sabha defeat, electorally it has been a difficult time for us, but the tide is turning in our favour now. All the recent Lok Sabha bypolls show that the BJP is losing its momentum and popular support,” a senior Congress parliamentarian said, requesting anonymity.
With less than a year left for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress is now looking to bring together all opposition parties to form an anti-BJP coalition. The presence of top leaders of more than 15 opposition parties during the swearing-in of H.D. Kumaraswamy as the Karnataka chief minister was seen as a show of strength.
In the last lap of its five-year term, the NDA is also facing a key electoral challenge with three states—Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh— currently ruled by the BJP going to polls later this year. It will also be a test for the Congress, which is attempting to rediscover itself ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
(Writer is Political Editor of Opinion Express Group)
India must realise that its NRIs can act as a crucial force in its development, and leverage its potential
A recent UN report says that India now has the largest ‘diaspora’ in the world, with more than 16 million persons of Indian origin living abroad. This Non Resident Indian (NRI) pool represents a little over 1 per cent of India’s population but is a crucial cog in the wheel of India’s development.
How does the Indian diaspora benefit India? The biggest way is through regular remittances. According to a World Bank report released in April, India was the largest remittance-receiving country in the world, with an estimated $69 billion in 2015.
This amounts to a whopping 3.4 per cent of India’s GDP, an amazing multiplier because just 1 per cent of the citizenry, which does not even live in the country, contributes more than three times its fair share to the nation’s wealth.
Stimulating the economy
There are other advantages which diaspora populations bring that are harder to measure. When they visit India, they tend to spend more lavishly than the locals, thereby helping economic activity. NRIs are more prone to donating to domestic charities because of the strong cultural and emotional feelings that they nurse.
They bring technical and domain expertise to domestic startups and often act as angel investors. Diaspora Indian faculty abroad volunteer time and resources to help faculty on Indian campuses improve the quality of education — as in the case of member institutions of the Indo Universal Collaboration of Engineering Education.
With a little commitment and some creative thinking, the government could double or even treble the already substantial economic value of diaspora contributions by carefully de-signing a set of policies to exploit the talent, industriousness and patriotism of those living abroad. (Full disclosure: This writer has been an NRI for 30 years).
For inspiration, India just needs to look at recent policies implemented by the US, Canada and Germany in the last 18 months to take advantage of Indian migrants. President Obama signed executive orders in May to extend the optional practical training visa durations of foreign students who earn Master’s and PhD degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields to two full years. In effect, using a host of legal manoeuvres towards an ultimate green card, such students never really need to return home.
In January 2015, Canada relaxed its rules to immigrate even more permanent residents under its popular, competency-based, points system. Even Germany, which is saturated with refugees now, is quietly extending an olive branch to import even more skilled workers through programs such as free tuition for post-graduate education.
How much do the Indian diaspora cost India? Not much, because, largely living abroad, they do not consume the country’s public services or drain its natural resources. It is true that the Indian government spends a lot of money educating migrants before they leave for greener shores, but there are ways to recover this investment.
For example, as part of a new NRI policy, the government must immediately work with rich countries to ask that they kick back a portion of the income tax revenues they collect from the Indian diaspora.
This is fair because these countries did not invest anything in creating this talent but benefit immediately when the im-migrant pays taxes abroad. If negotiations fail, India should approach the WTO to argue that developing countries must be officially compensated for the human capital they export.
India should show that it is serious about managing its relationship with the NRIs by opening a separate Minister-of-State level department for NRI administration - similar to the Veterans’ Administration in the US. This department would act as the NRI voice across various Indian government agencies and promote engagement with NRIs to help India’s larger cause.
The government should launch various win-win schemes to make it more attractive for its diaspora to step up participation in India’s development. India should formalise a rotation program wherein top NRI scientists, engineers, doctors, managers and professionals serve Indian public sector organizations for a brief period, lending their expertise. This kind of lateral induction of senior staff can do wonders to both host and contributing personnel as was evidenced by the tenure of Dr. Rajan at the RBI. Many NRIs would be willing to serve for no compensation if living expenses, travel and accommodations are paid for.
In the country’s interest
India should aggressively court NRIs to invest in India — especially for projects which focus on rural development — by offering attractive interest rates on deposits. A new Foreign Currency Non Resident (FCNR) programme where each NRI can invest up to, say $100,000 per person, at 10-year rates close to the Indian domestic market (say 6.0 per cent), will bring in a flood of much needed cash and stabilise the rupee. Interest rates in most western countries are not much higher than zero. If just 25 per cent of the diaspora population in-vests the maximum amount, this could bring in $400 billion in new remittances to India.
As long as the interest differential is high, the likelihood that NRIs will withdraw these funds is low, so banks could essentially use new deposits to pay current interest obligations, much like the US Treasury does. While the theoretical expense of interest payouts is higher, it is no higher than borrowing from global banks with onerous lending terms.
Social media tools have made it easy and inexpensive for diaspora Indians to stay in touch with family and friends back home, and their link to India has never been stronger. It is time that the Indian government leveraged this strong bond for the greater good of the nation.
Let’s talk a bit about Indians for whom biscuits and chocolates have become cookies and candies – people who always carry a mineral-water bottle and a unique accent, wherever they go! Yes! We are talking about NRIs – a term which is more recognized among Indian citizens than RBI.
There have been many discussions on the subject of NRIs, and they have been frequently criticized by wannabe desh-bhakts (patriots) on social media. In this article, we are going to analyse some statistical facts and figures about NRIs.
We start with statistics regarding the population of NRIs and their distribution all around the globe. In total, there are 29.22 million Indians staying outside India which is more than the total population of many countries around the world.
Now, let’s see how this NRI population is distributed. The list excludes the members of neighboring countries like Paki-stan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, and Bhutan.
USA is on the list – but it is an honorable mention with an ethnic Indian population of around 1%. The biggest surprise lies in the Caribbean Region.
There were expectations that Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe would reveal a significant Indian population out there, but none of them meet the 1?r. As for Europe, no other countries apart from the UK (2.3%) and The Republic Of Ireland (1.9%) are reported to have an Indian population of 1%.
For the longest time, NRIs have been a symbol of ‘brain drain’. NRIs study in India and work outside. They are educated in India, but serve the foreign land. The question we need to ask here is whether studying in the Indian education system leads to learning, on a global scale?
It is extremely necessary to go out and expose yourself to the world. One cannot put enough emphasis on how important it is to explore, know, learn, observe and understand how the world functions. Let’s remember a few great legends who were and are at times, NRIs – for instance, Kalpana Chawla and even Gandhi! Yes, our own bapu was once an NRI. What’s more?
There are a few more honorable mentions. The founder and creator of Hotmail is Sabeer Bhatia, an Indian. The co-founder of Sun Microsystems is an Indian – Vinod Khosla. The creator of the Pentium chip is also an Indian – Vinod Dham. Narinder Singh Kapany, a Punjab-born genius, is known for his contribution to the field of fibre optics. Har Gobind Khorana, an Indo-American biochemist born in Raipur, Punjab, bagged the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1968, for cracking the genetic code along with Robert Holley and Marshall Nirenberg.
An Indo-Canadian of the Sikh community, Harjit Sajjan, also got appointed as the defence minister of Canada in 2015. The sheer number of NRIs notwithstanding, these are some of the NRIs who have made India proud.
Not only are they doing exceptionally good in their respective fields, they are also supporting the Indian economy at the same time. Despite a steep drop in the global remittances to India in 2016, India has received $65.5 billion in the past year. A report by wealth consultancy Wealth Insight stated that the number of NRIs with millionaire status last year was 2.36 lakh, with an average wealth of over $3.83 million.
The total NRI population was pegged at around 28 million. The US accounted for the largest proportion of NRI millionaires with a total of 133,564 or 56.5% share, followed by the UK with a 0.7% share. Other countries with a significant number of NRI millionaires include the UAE, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan. The total wealth of NRI millionaires was estimated at some $915 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2019. Remittances from NRIs are often used for investments in stocks, term deposits, land and property.
The NRIs often return with lots of knowledge, potential and passion to drive change, which they often exhibit through entrepreneurial and charitable activities. The NRIs around the world, thus, have made contributions not only to the development of their country of residence, but also to the development of India.
An analysis of these facts and figures shows that this is not ‘brain drain’ – rather it’s a significant ‘brain gain’. NRIs also take their Indian roots along with them, wherever they go, thereby, contributing to the dispersal and popularization of Indian cul-tures and traditions all around the world. Most importantly, they often earn recognition and respect for India and its citizens at the global scene.
Every time an NRI achieves something, it is a plus point for India too! They are really helping India become more global. Let’s break the ‘brain drain’ stereotype and feel proud of the ‘global Indians’!
WHAT WILL BE MAJOR FACTORS TO DECIDE INDIA’S NEXT PRIME MINISTER
Can you make a difference between business and politics?” The answer is simple: “In politics, there is no value for being number two.”
There are no prizes for coming second in an election. All you get is five years to introspect what you did wrong. Being out of power can be really depressing, especially once you have tasted it. Elections, thus, are the most innovative form of business, and politicians are the smartest entrepreneurs. The Prime Minister’s post is the ultimate trophy in this winner-takes-all contest. They have every incentive to try all sorts of innovations, tricks, and games to win and be number one.
There are nine factors – three sets of numbers, three strategies, and three tactics – that will determine India’s next Prime Minister.
The Numbers 330-230-130:
This is what the BJP and Congress win together in the 543-seat Lok Sabha, as you can see in the table (in the video), which shows the story of elections since 1991. The rest go to regional parties, who may or may not be allied with either of the two national parties. Thus, the most important contests are the ones where the BJP and Congress fight directly against each other. Each seat outcome results in a relative difference of two between them.
For Narendra Modi to continue as India’s PM, he would like to ensure that BJP’s 282 tally should not fall be-low 230, which means Congress’ tally should be less than 100. For Rahul Gandhi to make an attempt to become PM, he will need to at least ensure that Congress’ 44 seats go up to more than 130, which means BJP’s seats should be less than 200. So, BJP + Congress is 330, BJP’s target is 230+, and Congress’ target is 130+.
The number game: 10 crore and 67 crore:
Ten crore is the number of unregistered voters in India. Of these, 7.5 crore are in the 18-24 age bracket, while the other 2.5 crore are older voters who have not registered for a variety of rea-sons. As you can see in the graphic, the 7.5 crore unregistered youth, form half of all 18-24 year olds in India.
These 10 crore missing voters are part of the 33 crore Indians who do not vote. Another 34 crore are undecided, or not likely to support any one of the mainstream parties. Together, the number is 67 crore – two-thirds of the eligible voters in India. And they are up for grabs. This is four times the BJP’s core support base, and eight times the core Congress support.
The total number of seats in the two large states with four strong parties – Uttar Pradesh with 80, and Maharashtra with 48 seats. BJP won a total of 94 seats and its allies won another 20, making a total of 114 of 128 seats. With BJP as the party to beat, the number of candidates against the BJP will determine its success in the next election. The more the candidates from the main parties, the better will be its chances. So, the key to the next election lies in the index of opposition unity in these 128 seats.
The Strategies Wave Creation:
A wave election, like 2014, is needed to ensure a national mandate. Else, elections tend to be an aggregation of state elections, which tend to lead to fractured mandates. There have only been three wave elections in the past 40 years – 1977 (after the Emergency, which brought the Janata party to power), 1984 (after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, when Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress swept the nation), and 2014 (where Narendra Modi’s BJP became the first party in 30 years to win a majority). Parties like waves – it unites voters to create a winning majority. Will the next election be a national wave or states summation?
Big Idea Selling:
To create a wave, the election has to be about a couple of big ideas. No one really bothers with manifestos anymore. Which party will have the big ideas in this election? Congress record in government in the 60 years starting in 1947? BJP’s track record in delivering ‘acche din’ since 2014? Corruption? Governance? Narendra Modi himself?
To sell its big idea, a party only targets a selected set of voters – those who they think will support them. So, it is not about the Electorate, but about the electorate. This is the minimal mix of smaller groups that is needed for a party to craft a win in a first-past-the post system, where the party getting the highest number of votes wins. BJP’s electorate was the middle class for a long time, but it now seems to be transitioning its focus to the poor.
The Tactics Polarisation Game:
Elections are about divide and rule. Like in a marketplace, politicians and their parties like to have voters see sharp differentiation, to ensure they turn up to vote. Hence, the need for polarisation. Caste, community, class – all can divide the electorate and therefore unite the selectorate. In the absence of optimism, a party will use anger, fear, high passion to maximise voter turnout in its support base.
India has 10 lakh polling booths, each with about 1,000 voters, which comes to about 250 families. In every election, what matters besides the top down media campaign is the ground game, especially closer to the voting day. Using data and analytics to identify supporters, and then getting them out to vote on election day will be instrumental in determining the eventual winner. To make this happen, parties need the sales army – the booth workers who can register new voters, persuade the supporters and undecideds, and then turn them out to vote.
The one big change from 2014 is the amazing growth of smartphones and data connectivity across India. As a result, Facebook and WhatsApp have become the primary methods for sharing content and opinions. You see the explosion of creative content every time a big news story breaks. More than half of all voters, and at least one person in every household in India, is now digitally connected via a smartphone. Digital India may take time, but India’s Digital Election is coming! So, these are the numbers, strategies and tactics that will decide who will be India’s next Prime Minister. What happens in the elections will determine our individual and collective future – now more than ever. India is a young nation. We have lost a lot of time over the past decades in pursuing policies that keep taking us away from the path to prosperity. This election offers yet another moment for change. Be aware of the games the politicians and their parties play, and vote wisely – for India’s First Prosperity Prime Minister.
Whoever may be the Prime Minister, here’s is what my opinion on the issue constitute:
Born to an Indian father who values western culture and way of life more than anything, he was brought up as any kid in the elite class would have been expected to be. Such was the extent of the elitism in the household that speaking in the vernacular was not entertained even on the dining table. The boy goes on to study at Harrow and later at Cambridge. On returning to India, inspired by a certain MK Gandhi, he takes up a lead in the nationalist movement of the time. His involvement in the movement and his image availed the whole country to see him as the second-in-command of the struggle against the Raj. So much so that, his chief contender Patel once said, ‘The masses, they come for him.’ I talk about a person named Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The Congress that Nehru inherited was a mixed bag of liberals, conservatives, and radicals. But when he embarked on building a nation on the foundations of rational liberalism and secularism, no one dared oppose him. Because they knew that their seats, their posts, and positions in the new democratic India were because people voted for Nehru, not for the individual MPs. If Nehru resigned, their own positions were at stake. It used to be called Nehruvian consensus. Imagine. A person who grew as an elite, who spoke and wrote in English so proficiently (more than in vernacular), who preached and propagated those versions of Secularism and Socialism that were alien to Indians, he, was more popular in the Indian rural heartland than any conservative of that time.
Why Not Congress-mukth?
There is an argument I hear every now and then that the current BJP Government has the mandate of citizens and hence it should not be a cause of concern for us because ‘democracy is being followed.’ I would with due respect disagree. Democracy is not raw majoritarianism. When we say, ‘Democracy is government by, for and of the people,’ it means it is by, for, and of all the people. Not by, for, and of just a majority. Let’s say, hypothetically, 51% of people vote to support the banishment of the remaining 49% of the citizens of the country, is it sensible to implement it?
In all this binary game of ‘yes-no’s, we are forgetting the basic intent of democracy. Democracy is a practicable framework of governance that will ensure human rights and dignity to all the citizens, not a tool to assert majoritarianism. That is why there is a concept called Participatory Democracy, wherein citizens, from time to time, check the government and assist the government in catering best to their needs. And how is this done? Four major ways: Opposition in the legislature, Judiciary, Media, and protest. And each of these four is essential. You cannot say that 3 of them are working fine in checking the government; hence the fourth one need not work. My attention in the current essay will be on showing the importance of Opposition in Parliament.
Let’s take the example of one of the latest bills that the Lok Sabha passed, the Finance Bill. The Finance Bill made provisions for private companies to make as much donation to political parties as they wish, without disclosing the name of the political party they are donating too. If read carefully, it is easy to infer that it is cronyism. Which of the above four checked the passage of this law? Media was busy with Yogiji’s rule in UP (which was also important to cover). Social media even less, with BJP trolls trolling anyone who so much as says a thing against BJP and government. Judiciary couldn’t have acted in such short a time span. And even if it could, the amendment had been made and it had become a law. So, unless, there is a violation of the ‘Basic Structure of the Constitution’, it cannot overturn the amendment. And, the Opposition? It was so weak that neither the government nor the citizens took it any seriously. A majority of the amendments were added one day before the final vote after all the discussion had happened and it was passed through the brute force of majority. Could things have been better had opposition been stronger (not in terms of the number of seats but the support it gets from the citizens)? The fact that the same opposition (which had farmers’ support) were able to stall the amendment to Land Acquisition Act 2014 shows it is possible.
Therefore, it is important that the citizens of the country rely also on the opposition for their own good. But for that, it is important that the opposition shows itself to be competent and strong to the citizens. The point I make is, a strong opposition is essential to a healthy democracy. And the closest to opposition in India today is Congress. And the set of leaders who are closest to making that opposition strong can be Rahul Gandhi, Kapil Sibal and Shashi Tharoor.
Still Sibal or Tharoor?
The example of Nehru that I gave in the beginning of the essay was to address the larger point that no seemingly elite politician is capable of reaching the masses of the rural heartland of the country. It, however, doesn’t address the barriers that lie between Sibal or Tharoor and the UPA Candidature for Prime Ministership in 2019. Let me address these as answers to potential questions that might arise about his candidature.
What about Rahul Gandhi?
I know that Sonia Gandhi is not that naive a person to allow for someone other than Rahul or a puppet to be the PM. But this is politics and, as the cliched statement goes, ‘Anything can happen in Politics.’ Trust me. I am not going to go into counterfactuals. Let’s look at Congress realistically. The narrative in Congress so far has been, ‘We get votes because people vote for the descendants of Nehru and Indira.’ In essence, the brand of Congress was what was giving MPs votes. But has it been working? Did it work in Bihar 2011? In UP 2012? In India in 2014? In UP 2017? Don’t accuse me of being selective. Of course, I didn’t mention Bihar 2016 because it was Nitish-Laloo’s win rather than the brand of Congress’. In the above-mentioned elections, Rahul Gandhi was the star campaigner. And clearly, it didn’t work in party’s favor. There is a high possibility of change in the leadership. A political party can never be owned by a person. It is owned by people. Politics change according to what people want. Status quo in Congress is highly unlikely. Whether I am right or wrong, time will tell.
What does Congress has to offer to the country anyway?
If an alternative to Modi is the only thing Congress has to offer, I have no doubt that it’ll not work. I don’t say Congress party doesn’t have an ideology. Its ideology is of Liberalism, Secularism, and Socialism. But these are textbook concepts. Even a middle-class Indian, leave alone rural peasant, would not understand these. You need to have a narrative. The world sustains on stories. Stories of the holocaust, stories of China stealing our jobs, stories of Mexicans polluting our country, stories of EU eating our wealth etc. Stories work. Which is why good politicians are effective storytellers.
Congress too had a story to tell. A story of ‘New Possibilities’ (1950s), then a story of ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kissan’ (Sastri), then a story of ‘Garibi Hatao’ (1971), then a story of ‘Vote for Government that works’ (1980), a story of ‘Sikhs are our enemies’ (1984), a story of ‘Rama Rajya’ (1991). They worked. Now, the dominant Congress story is ‘BJP is anti Minority’. This story has no robustness. It is not a philosophy, rather a counter-argument. So, yes, the Congress has to literally go back to its drawing board. And start making a story that will convey the textbook concepts that it stands for, a story that is robust in itself.
When Tharoor said that Rahul Gandhi might not have a conviction but he wants people to tell him what they want to be done, I found myself in amazement. Surely, Tharoor knows better than that in politics.
What if Sibal or Tharoor becomes Manmohan Singh II?
Well, everything is contingent on that not happening. If they remains faithful to the family, like they does now, I take my proposition back. But I am sure that if they were to become a Prime Minister, both would assert themself well enough to be the Prime Minister and not a Principal Secretary of 10, Janpath Road. Both has seen and been involved in more politics than Manmohan Singh.
So, Modi-mukth Bharat?
I am a full-time Capitalist and a part-time Conservative. And I am a vegetarian too. So, I don’t have qualms with the current regime personally. Yet, I care about the personal liberties of everyone to be concerned about the developments in the country today. The discourse has become more and more polarized (because of lack of stories from one of the sides) and the authority of the government is being asserted at an alarming magnitude. I don’t want a Modi-mukht Bharat. I rather prefer a Bharat where the government doesn’t set precedents that might increase the authoritarianism. For which we need a counternarrative (not counter-argument, we already have one). Sibal or Tharoor’s ascent is not going to be easy. It is difficult. But what that is good is easy? In the end, my nation is bigger than any of these politicians. Yet, my nation is the people in it, not a landmass with boundary.
Drawing battlelines for 2019: Upcoming Lok Sabha election will define future of Indian politics Though the 2019 Lok Sabha election is more than two years away, every political calculation now revolves around it.
Make no mistake: 2019 represents an existential moment for several parties. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads the BJP to victory in 2019, it could spell the end of the dynastic Congress. Rahul Gandhi will be 54 in 2024. He would by then have spent 20 unsuccessful years in politics. Sonia Gandhi will be 77 and no longer a key factor in Indian politics. Priyanka Gandhi, 53, would remain the Congress’ wild card. But by 2024 playing it may be too little, too late. Other parties in the Opposition recognise the danger of a second successive victory for Modi. It explains the near-hysteria the Prime Minister’s demonetization scheme has caused. Only Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik among Opposition leaders have grasped the full political ramifications of Modi’s war on black money. They know that the economic benefits — and these could be considerable — are dwarfed by the political implications.
In a country where poverty in varying degrees afflicts nearly half-abillion people, the emotional appeal of punishing bla*ck money hoarders and tax-evading millionaires has irresistible moral appeal.
Nitish Kumar, for example, has used morality in governance to burnish his political career. He has legislated against benami properties in Bihar and banned liquor. The JD(U) pointedly broke ranks with the rest of the Opposition over demonetization. Nitish is even talking to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley about a joint initiative to forge a digital-pay economy.
None of this suggests that Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) is about to return to the NDA fold. As if to squelch growing murmurs of Nitish’s bromance with Modi, the Bihar chief minister declared: “The Central government’s actions are creating fear among minorities. The Centre is deliberately weakening federal power of the states. Some people talk about ghar wapsi and cow protection and are spreading hatred. But we are working to achieve our goals and will continue to do it in Bihar.”
Despite the rhetoric, Nitish has two problems. First, the erratic behaviour of his coalition partner Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family. The return of jungle Raj in Bihar has damaged Nitish’s reputation for good governance built methodically over two decades. Second, Nitish has sensed the national mood on demonetization. Aligning with those who oppose action against black money carries a huge political risk.
Unlike Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and Arvind Kejriwal who react emotionally to events, Nitish has a cold, clinical approach to power. But, he too knows that a victory for Modi in 2019 will end any realistic chance he has of being Prime Minister in a future national mahagathbandhan. Modi, of course, has problems of his own in the run-up to 2019. He has to make demonetization work on the ground. Moral victories can vanish if the poor continue to suffer due to a continued shortage of cash.
Modi also has to cross the hurdle of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in 2017. Many realignments among the Opposition will take place after UP. The importance Modi attaches to the state is highlighted by the number of rallies he is holding there months in advance of the poll.
Modi also has to recalibrate ties with his allies. The Shiv Sena is a prickly customer, though somewhat sobered by the BJP’s recent victories in local elections in Maharashtra. The forthcoming BMC poll will decide how the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance holds up in 2019. Meanwhile, other NDA allies like SAD in Punjab, LJP in Bihar and TDP in Andhra Pradesh have weakened electorally since their wins in 2014. They will need to be whipped into shape. Modi and his opponents both know that the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha election will define the contours of Indian politics for a generation.
His ‘fixing’ skills and excellent rapport across party line ensures Amar Singh never goes out of currency
Hit me, kick me, abuse me but always keep my name on the board –Winston Churchill.
One Indian politician that emulated Churchill’s golden words is Amar Singh. The political build up for general elections 2019 has started picking up and so are the stocks of Amar Singh. The massive Modi wave of 2014 has evaporated and BJP-RSS have to contest the elections on the facts and performance of the last five years. Unfortunately the BJP is facing anti incumbency in states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Gujrat and Maharashtra. The emotional issues of Ram Temple, uniform civil code, to abolish article 370 in J&K has not moved an inch during the Modi’s era. So the apex policy makers in BJP and RSS must come up with innovative and radical ideas to attract the voters in favour of them yet again in 2019.
*President rule in J&K is an attempt to consolidate BJP national vote bank despite BJP and Mehbooba enjoys cordial relationship even now.
*To bring petrol and diesel under GST in the two months before the announcement of elections dates, it will offer a relief of Rs 10 per litre.
* Push the anti corruption agenda by forcing conviction in the ongoing prominent cases, it will give perception that Modi government is different than the previous governments.
*Prime Minister’s performance is excellent but his cabinet colleagues are a miserable failure with exception of Nitin Gadkari. PM must include special talent namely Subramanium Swamy and Varun Gandhi to boost freshness in approach even if the time is limited.
* Two states namely Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra are likely to decide the outcome of the next general elections so to break opposition unity index in both the states will be the key for securing success. To bring back Shiv Sena in NDA and breaking up SP-BSP alliance will secure comfortable victories. And to break SP-BSP alliance and micro operation within SP is assigned to Amar Singh.
So Amar Singh is relevant again in 2019 for the ruling NDA and BJP to swing the fortune in their favour. Born in a Rajput family in Aligarh, politics was always his principle passion. Young Amar Singh had always great memory and brilliant oratory that attracted major political people cutting across party line. Till recently he was one of the tallest leaders in the Samajwadi Party. He was the general secretary of the Samajwadi Party and was a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament. On 6 January 2010, he resigned from all the posts of Samajwadi Party and was later expelled from the party by its chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav on 2 February 2010. He took retirement from politics citing poor health. In his statement he mentioned, “I want to give more time to my wife and my family. However in 2016, he rejoined Samajwadi Party and was elected to Rajya Sabha even after facing a stiff opposition from a section of the party including the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav. He was also reinstated as one of the general secretaries of the party in October 2016. But the Yadav family feud forced Amar Singh to side with his mentor Mulayam Singh Yadav that led to differences with then CM of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Ram Gopal Yadav. Ultimately it led to expulsion of Amar Singh from the party and he became unattached member in the Rajya Sabha.
However, it was in July 2008 that Singh rose to political prominence. Singh’s prominence in Delhi surged when the UPA government was reduced to a minority after the Communist Party of India withdrew their support over the proposed Nuclear Accord with the United States. His Samajwadi Party pledged support to the UPA government with the support of its 39 members. Amar Singh closeness with then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and strategic grip over his party propelled him to the centre stage of the national polity. In the process, he attracted powerful friends and even more powerful enemies. The powerful lobbies worked against the sudden rise of Amar Singh and on 6 January 2010, he was forced to resign as general secretary of the party as well as from its parliamentary board and as its spokesperson. He also used his blog to speak about his abrupt departure from the Samajwadi Party. On 21 December 2010, Singh launched his official website and blog, supposedly after being encouraged by Hindi film maga star Amitabh Bachchan, whom he was close to at the time.
As the destiny has it, Then Chief Minister of UP Late Vir Bahadur Singh introduced Amar Singh with Mulayam Singh Yadav with an agenda to target VP Singh for neutralizing growing threat for Rajiv Gandhi from VP Singh. This meeting was the turning point in Amar Singh’s political career that sparked the rise of Amar Singh. Singh’s first stint in politics happened in 1985 when he was assigned to look after UP chief minister Vir Bahadur Singh while he was in the city for a programme organised by the Thakur community of Kolkata. Impressed with Singh, the chief minister invited him to Lucknow. Quick to recognise the potential of the invitation, Singh shifted to Lucknow. Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was then an outsider to Delhi’s power circles had met Singh at Vir Bahadur Singh’s residence and saw the merit of a man whose reach ranged from politicians and film sets to corporate houses. This marked the beginning of his friendship with Netaji, who was then a staunch socialist, worked at the grass root level and followed the instructions of veteran socialist leader and thinker Madhu Limaye and Ram Manohar Lohia. However Amar Singh ventured closely with Congress party to explore his political options under Madhav Rao Scindia patronage. Incidentally Amar Singh was in the board of directors of Hindustan Times, newspaper owned by Birla’s, traditional Congress supporters. He almost fought parliamentary elections in 1991 on congress ticket but Arjun Singh and Digvijay Singh opposed his nomination that led to Amar Singh’s disillusionment with the congress party. Many years later, Mulayam Singh Yadav happily welcomed Singh on board in 1996. The alliance was mutually beneficial and gave the businessman political heft. Amar Singh’s rendezvous with industrialists and Bollywood gained prominence as he bailed them out of crisis, either by offering them financial aid or liaising for them at Lutyens’ Delhi. He wielded influence and power and had contacts with both rustic politicians and elite socialites. Given the responsibility of being SP’s spokesperson in Delhi, Singh soon became the face of the party in the national capital and also rose to the position of No. 2 in SP, edging out veterans like Beni Prasad Verma, Raj Babbar and Mohammed Azam Khan, among others. “Most of the SP leaders, including Ram Gopal Yadav, Mohammed Azam Khan and Shivpal Yadav may not be very pleased with the decision of Mulayam Singh. Typical of a regional party which is headed by a patriarch, the entire politics of the organization revolves around the patriarch. Amar Singh became the eyes and ears of Mulayam Singh Yadav and this made a lot of leaders jealous of him,” the SP leader said. Later in 1996 when H.D. Deve Gowda was prime minister and Yadav, a key supporter of Gowda, was defence minister in the Union cabinet, Amar Singh formally joined SP in the same year to become one of the most influential lead in Delhi. Singh has remained the face of SP in Delhi’s power circles ever since, and has always been identified as a close confidant of Yadav, who later became Uttar Pradesh chief minister. SP was a traditional party till 1996, the basic organizational network of SP was in rural and semi urban areas, but after Amar Singh joined in 1996, he brought glamour, political connections, Bollywood, network with big industrial houses with him to the party. He managed to change the basic image of the party.
Yet again in 2016, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s decision to nominate Singh as one of the seven candidates for the Rajya Sabha comes as a political resurrection of the 60-year-old master strategist of the SP, ahead of the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. A shrewd politician and a Bollywood socialite, Singh’s journey from the lanes of Burrabazzar in North Kolkata to the power corridors of Delhi and gradual exit from the scene is unmatched. “There is one quality of Mulayam Singh Yadav which cannot be matched by any other politician. If a person has been with Mulayam Singh Yadav during his good and bad times, the SP chief doesn’t forget it. He doesn’t care if the public perception of the person is good or bad, but he will return the favour if he thinks the person has served him well. And Amar Singh is one such person who continues to remain very close to Mulayam Singh Yadav,” the SP leader quoted above said.
It will not be prudent to say that we are not friends. It will not be proper to say we are enemies,” Singh was quoted in a report by News 18 dated 4 July 2008, a statement reflective of Singh’s tongue-in-cheek way of talking. Singh’s 31-year-old political career has seen controversies and allegations of many hues. Singh has time and again grabbed headlines over several charges -- whether it is the July 2008 cash-forvotes scam where a chargesheet was filed against him for allegedly bribing three Bharatiya Janata Party Lok Sabha MPs to vote for the UPA government which was facing a floor test in the parliament; the 2011 phone tapping controversy where taped phone conversations revealed Singh allegedly fixing deals with politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats and Bollywood celebrities; or the 2011 ‘fix-a-judge’ controversy where again a CD allegedly showed Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav in conversation with former law minister Shanti Bhushan suggesting that a judge could be bribed for Rs.4 crore for a desired court verdict. In spite of these charges he was given a clean chit by Speaker Mr. Somnath Chatterjee and from lower court to Supreme Court in “Cash for Vote” scam for total absence of any tangible evidence against him. In telephone tapping case Attorney General of India Mr. Ghulam Vahanvati accepted in Supreme Court that said controversial tapes were forged and doctored and therefore Chief Justice Sabarwal gave a stay instructing the media to not use these doctored tapes.
Amar Singh’s growing dominance in the domestic power corridors pushed him to international arena. It is Amar Singh’s persuasive skills that brought US President Bill Clinton to India on a private visit to Lucknow city that boosted the stock of Samajwadi Party in the international arena. In reference to the book Clinton Cash, the New York Post questioned Singh’s $5 million contribution to the Clinton Foundation, writing “Singh’s donation was treated with suspicion and amusement in India as the US Congress debated the landmark India-US civilian nuclear deal. Friends and politicians who have worked closely with Singh call him a hardworking and resourceful person who has always had a political bent of mind. SP leader and Rajya Sabha member Kiranmoy Nanda who has known Singh since the time Singh was part of the Youth Congress in Kolkata, says that “Singh is and has always been a political person.” Amar Singh is a very resourceful man and by that I not just mean monetarily, which obviously stands true. But even his personal relationship with the media namely Shobhna Bharatia of Hindustan Times, Subhash Chandra of Zee Media, Rajat Sharma of India Tv etc which he handles so well, as well as his political understanding with leaders cutting across party lines - all have helped Singh reach where he is today,” he says.
However, Singh’s political career saw a downward spiral after his expulsion from the SP following fallout with Yadav in 2010.He floated his own political party, the Rashtriya Lok Manch, in 2011, and unsuccessfully fielded a number of candidates in the 2012 assembly polls in the state. He tried to revive his career again in 2014, ahead of parliamentary elections, when he and former Bollywood star Jaya Prada joined Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) but failed again as Singh lost the Lok Sabha poll from the Fatehpur Sikri seat. Amar Singh is a political obsessed man, looking to be politically relevant irrespective of win or loss. According to Amar Singh, “life without politics is unthinkable”. Even after the loss, he scored a point that Amar Singh is not politically untouchable.
In his long political career, Amar Singh has held many important positions starting from 1997-98 : Member, Committee on Papers Laid on the Table, 1998-99 and Oct. 2004 onwards Member, Consultative Committee for the Ministry of Finance, June 1998 – Feb. 2004 and Aug. 2004 – Aug. 2006 : Member, Committee on Finance, 1999–2001 : Member, Committee on Provision of Computers to Members of Rajya Sabha, 1999 : Member, Consultative Committee for the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas Member, Informal Consultative Committee for Northern Railway Zone, April 2001 – Dec.2002 : Member, Joint Parliamentary Committee on Stock Market Scam and matters relating thereto, March 2002 – Nov. 2002 : Member, Committee on Petitions, Nov. 2002 : Re-elected to Rajya Sabha, June 2003 – Aug. 2004 : Member, Committee of Privileges, Aug. 2004 – May 2009 and Aug.2009 onwards : Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare, Aug. 2004 onwards : Member, General Purposes Committee, Sept. 2006 onwards : Member, Business Advisory Committee, May 2008 – Nov. 2008 : Member, Committee on Public Undertakings, Nov. 2008 : Re-elected to Rajya Sabha, Jan. 2010 onwards : Member, Parliamentary Forum on Population and Public Health, 2016 : Re-elected to Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh as a member of Samajwadi Party.
Amar Singh has held many important positions in the government namely Director, (i) Indian Airlines, (ii) State Bank of India and (iii) National Textiles Corporation; previously associated with Congress; was Secretary, District Congress Committee, Calcutta; was Member, (i) A.I.C.C. and (ii) United Front Steering Committee; Member, (i) Board of Governors of Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, (ii) Telephone Advisory Committee, Telecom District Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, 1998, (iii) Telephone Advisory Committee, Telecom District Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, 1999 and (iv) Hindi Salahkar Samiti of the Department of Defence Production and Supplies and Defence Research and Development Organisation; All India General Secretary, Samajwadi Party; National Spokesperson, Samajwadi Party
In an era dominated by RSS ideology, Amar Singh is no outsider in the power corridors based in Nagpur. According to him, his association with RSS dates back to three decades. Then PM Chandrashekhar with Amar Singh helped Nanaji Deshmukh to establish Ashram in Chitrakoot. Amar Singh was personally close to former RSS Chief Rajju Bhaiyya and he was regular visitor to Allahabad during Rajju Bhaiyya tenure leading to his active association with prominent RSS functionaries that are in control of the organization today. According to Amar Singh, RSS is a nationalist organization with extremely high moral value and is dedicated to building character of the native Indians vital to flare nationalist value in every citizen. Recently, Amar Singh is spotted in many RSS functions to consolidate the old relationship. This strategic relationship is taking him closer to RSS promoted political entity BJP. In an era of Modi and Shah, Amar Singh integration in the party is a mere formality.
The next general election in 2019 will throw a great challenge to Modi Shah Partnership. The 2014 wave is missing but BJP organization is much more muscular and the resources available with the party are better than the previous elections. Fortunately the brand Modi remains intact to be marked as the face of next elections. But BJP is facing a threat from the combined opposition to target BJP state wise. Today BJP is challenged by a probable alliance between SP & BSP in UP. The sheer articulation of the vote bank puts BJP strategy on the edge. So BJP has opted to co-operate its next move taking the services of UP veteran Amar Singh because nobody knows DNA of SP and BSP better than Amar Singh in the current political scene. Amar Singh insight knowledge of Samajwadi Party will be offered to BJP Chief strategic Amit Shah to break the party’s core strength while contesting the next Lok Sabha elections.
Further the Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi is struggling to push the development agenda that is vital to the success of terminally sick UP, struggling between the politics of Mandal and Kamandal. Amar Singh through his vast network of industrialist friends is likely to play a proactive role in the industrialization of the state. An indication to this effect came from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the recent UP Industrial summit wherein PM has applauded Amar Singh association with business people. Amar Singh is likely to be deputed by the Prime Minister to accelerate the industrialization process of the state, to assist Yogi Government in pushing the development agenda.
Solving Amar riddle
Decoding the three decade old complexed riddle Amar Katha is a great research work; our team has explored all unconventional methods to extract informal information to engage interest of the people reading Opinion Express. Prashant Tewari, Editor-in-Chief, speaks candidly to Amar Singh recently to explore his next political move and roadmap ahead.
Q Why Amar Singh is controversial name in Indian politics? Is it deliberately designed strategy to be relevant or you love camera and limelight?
Q Your parliamentary track record is phenomenal, the issue raised by you have national impact namely on the farmer, agriculture, defence and industries etc. There are few MP’s who understand synergy of politics and business better than you. Do you think this is the reason why Industry loves you?
Q You have matured in a seasoned political mode after three decades of national politics, surely you are a success story in parliament yet people call you “power broker”, “dalal” and “fixer”, why?
Q How do you rate Narendra Modi four years of rule in Delhi? And how Yogi has performed in UP in the last one year?
Q You were the architect of Mahagatbandhan in 1996 when Devegowda was made the PM, what difference do you feel that prevails in India today when entire opposition is united against Narendra Modi?
Q You are a politically obsessed person going ahead, how do you see your role in the coming months specially when all important national elections are due in 2019 and 80 parliamentary seats of UP is likely to decide the next PM of the country?
Why has BJP sidelined its best brain? Does it realize its pitfalls?
Subramanian Swamy is among the leading intellectual, academicians and politician of the present time. He is a rare combination of Subhash Chandra Bose’s aggression and Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s intellect. All the three leaders have similar leadership traits and moral courage to stand for truth. As India is still looking to find out the reasons of Bose and Syama Prasad’s mysterious deaths that cut short their brilliant political careers and similarly country is looking for an answer from BJP as to why Dr Swamy is sidelined by PM Narendra Modi while selecting his cabinet colleagues in 2014 to cut short his best period of political life? Swamy aggression is largely appreciated by masses though it creates fear in his own party colleagues of being overshadowed by his persona. It is a known fact that Swamy’s name was suggested as Finance Minister by RSS top leadership in the midnight tussles at Gujarat Bhawan on May 25, 2014, but his name was forced out from the final list due to the tantrums played by BJP Delhi gang members and vested corporate interests. It is extremely unfortunate that PM Narendra Modi did not opt for Dr Swamy for navigating the country’s economy. Surely, his availability in the party could have been better utilized than merely offering a Rajya Sabha seat to target traditional BJP political adversaries. To PM Narendra Modi’s credit, his government has performed well on all parameters except on the economic front, anti corruption action against corrupt leaders of UPA regime and J&K fiasco. This economic mess could have been avoided had Modi opted for the service es of an expert in 2014. Today, BJP stands to lose its large core vote bank of middle class and trading community largely due to the poor management of economy. Surely, it could have been addressed by a competent finance minister and what better choice could there be but Dr Swamy. He would have simultaneously attacked the corrupt lobbies resulting in creation of public goodwill for the Modi government.
Dr Swamy is perhaps the most literate politician of the present time in India. He has Bachelors Honours degree in Mathematics Hindu College, University of Delhi and master’s degree in Statistics from the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. He was later recommended by Hendrik S. Houthakker at Harvard University on a full Rockefeller scholarship where he received a PhD in Economics in 1965. His thesis adviser was Nobel Laureate Simon Kuznets. In July 1965, immediately after obtaining his PhD in economics from Harvard, Swamy joined the faculty of economics at the same institution as an assistant professor; in 1969, he was made an associate professor. As associate professor, he was invited by Amartya Sen to occupy the chair on Chinese studies at the Delhi School of Economics. He accepted the offer, and indeed he even travelled to India to take up the position, but his appointment was cancelled at the last minute due to his views on India’s economic policy and also its nuclear policy. At that time, India was partially oriented towards Socialism and the “command economy” model instituted by Nehru and Swamy was a believer in free markets. Thereafter, Swamy moved to the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and he was a full Professor of Mathematical Economics there from 1969 to the early 1970s. He was removed from the position by its board of governors in the early 1970s. The real turn in his political career came after his sacking from IIT but was legally reinstated in the late 1990s by the Supreme Court of India. He continued in the position until 1991 when he resigned to become a cabinet minister. He served on the Board of Governors of the IIT, Delhi (1977–80) and on the Council of IITs (1980–82). He also taught economics courses in summer session at Harvard until 2011.
Dr Swamy was a staunch opponent of Indira Gandhi so the right wing political party Bharatiya Jana Sangh sent him to Rajya Sabha – the upper house of Indian Parliament in 1974. He was elected Member of Parliament five times between 1974 and 1999. Swamy was a hero during the Emergency due to maverick exit from the country and landing in Parliament and then again escape to abroad. He was the Global Ambassador of RSS against Emergency exposing Indira Gandhi. He has twice represented the city of Mumbai (North East) during 1977 and 1980. Swamy has served as a member of the Planning Commission of India and was a Cabinet Minister in the Chandra Shekhar government. Earlier in November 1978, Swamy was member of the Group of Eminent Persons and was called to Geneva, Switzerland to prepare a report of the United Nations (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)) on Economic Co-operation between Developing countries (ECDC). Swamy also simplified trade procedures and formulated a new export strategy which became the forerunner of trade reform adopted subsequently. In 1994, Swamy was Chairman of the Commission on Labour Standards and International Trade set up by former Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao. However, his most important contribution to Indian economy has been that of the “Economic liberalization” in 1991 which dismantled the infamous “license raj” and paved the way for real economic growth in India. The Architect for reforms was none other than Dr Subramanian Swamy, off course with PV Narsimha Rao political brilliance and administrative skills. Way back in the late 1960s Dr Swamy had done in-depth research in Indian economy & presented his analysis in the form of a comprehensive book titled “Indian Economic Planning: An Alternative Approach” in which he had given a detailed blueprint & proposed dismantling of “license raj” to revive entrepreneurship & boost Indian economy. By connecting the sequence of events, one cannot help but acknowledge that Dr Subramanian Swamy was the brainchild behind the blueprint & the architect of Indian economic reforms, which rescued our economy, dismantled license raj, revived entrepreneurship, boosted industry, reversed brain-drain, and our economy since then has been scaling new heights. However, with this formidable track record of exemplary excellence: BJP leadership had other idea of economics. Swamy’s natural claim to Ministry of Finance to address several structural issues of the Indian economy and fix corrupt syndicate groups operating in India was ignored by the first BJP majority government in 2014. People in India and the global PIO population are extremely disappointed with the Prime Minister Modi decision to exclude Swamy from the cabinet because Swamy enjoys tremendous goodwill amongst liberal intellectuals in India and even more with the overseas Indians.
Dr Swamy has written on foreign affairs of India dealing largely with People’s Republic of China (PRC), Pakistan and Israel. In fact with his huge international experience, if put to effective use, can be extremely beneficial in drafting the contemporary foreign policy of India. He is a rare leader in India having great relations with both USA and China. Swamy learned Chinese language to understand the political developments in China, while closely tracking the developments in China during the 1960s, Dr Swamy noticed that the Chinese were very serious about regular up-gradation of their military systems. In 1964, when China successfully tested its first nuclear weapon, Dr Swamy was one of the first visionaries in India who realized that India also must have its own nuclear equipment in order to defend itself from any future external threats. However, Swamy has worked towards normalising relations between China and India. According to Swamy, the re-opening of the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage route was announced at a meeting convened by the People’s Republic of China paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in April 1981, in which Swamy was in attendance. Swamy made pioneering efforts towards India’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel. In 1982, Swamy became the first Indian political leader to make a well publicised trip to Israel, where he met with several important Israeli leaders such as Yitzhak Rabin and then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin. His efforts at normalising relations with Israel have borne fruit with both India as well as Israel deciding in 1992 to facilitate the building of embassies in their respective countries. Swamy, on several occasions, has voiced support for the state of Sri Lanka in its role during Sri Lanka’s protracted civil war with the LTTE, for which he was criticised as “pro Lanka” by his political opponents domestically. In an interview given to The Sunday Leader newspaper, Swamy stated that the Indian government should attend the CHOGM meeting held in Colombo despite stiff opposition from Indian politicians in Tamil Nadu concerned for the welfare and human rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka, placing the onus on the LTTE for
Dr Swamy strictly adheres to the politics with principle and knowledge with character. Swamy understood the power of the press to influence public opinion. And he has maintained extremely close relations with media friends in Delhi to articulate his views. This is the single most relevant reason for Swamy’s glorious success in public life.
The demolition man
Swamy’s transformation from a slightly idiosyncratic, outspoken, sometimes annoying politician to the man India Inc. fears (and, grudgingly respects) started with the 2G spectrum scam in 2010. Swamy’s activism in the 2G case resulted in licences worth Rs 9,000 crore being cancelled. “I don’t care about what money they lose,” says Swamy, who often threatened to send Anil Ambani and Ratan Tata to prison during the 2G scandal (both Tata Tele and Reliance ADAG had bought licenses). “The truth is more important to me.” Dr Swamy has been a lone crusader against mega corruption in India. In fact, a large section of the Indian population knows him as an anti-corruption crusader rather than an economist or politician. Swamy’s moral integrity is the strong trunk from which all the branches of his life grew. His integrity has many roots in the soil, in education and in Bhagwad Gita. Swamy is a diehard nationalist and believes in one India. Dr Swamy tirade against corruption was largely facilitated by independent judicial system of India. In Oct 2014, Swamy filed a petition in Supreme Court praying for declaring Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, that deal with criminal defamation, as unconstitutional. In 1996, Swamy had filed a criminal complaint against Jayalalitha which led to her prosecution, conviction and sentencing to four years imprisonment by the trial court in 2014. Later, on May 11, 2015, a special Bench of the Karnataka High Court set aside the trial court order convicting former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha, who was acquitted of all charges in the disproportionate assets case. An Appeal against the High court verdict was filed in Supreme Court.
However, keeping personal differences aside, he wished her a speedy recovery on her last illness and advised she visit Singapore for treatment. The final verdict of Supreme Court came in February, 2017 that indicted Jayalalitha posthumously and upheld the trial court judgment in toto. In November 2008, Swamy amongst others wrote the first of five letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking permission to prosecute A. Raja in regard to 2G spectrum case. After not receiving any response, Swamy decided to file a case on his own in the Supreme Court of India regarding the matter, which then asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to produce a detailed report on it. On 15 April 2011, he filed a 206-page petition with PM Singh seeking permission to prosecute Sonia Gandhi on charges of corruption. He also raised doubts regarding her acquisition of Indian citizenship. Swamy filed documents in the court to prosecute Minister of Home Affairs P. Chidambaram on 15 January 2008 on various corruption charges; Swamy placed on record the certified copy of the minutes of a meeting between Chidambaram, Raja and the Prime Minister during the tenure of Raja as the MOC&IT. On 31 January 2012, the Supreme Court of India accepted Swamy’s petition against the Prime Minister’s Office in the 2G case, saying that all public authorities should give a sanction within three months against any public official if a request is made for prosecution. The Supreme Court said that Swamy had the locus standi to seek sanction from the Prime Minister for the prosecution of A Raja in the 2G case. Sanction by a competent authority for the prosecution of a public servant has to be granted within a time frame, the apex court said. Justice AK Ganguly said that the sanction would be deemed to be granted if competent authority failed to take a decision within four months. Swamy’s arguments were that he wrote to the PMO on 29 November 2008, but it was only on 19 March 2010 the PMO replied that the plea made by Swamy was “premature” as investigation was being carried out by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). His relentless pursuit of truth may cost corporate India. After the telecom scam, at stake is a $900 million (Rs 5,643.9 crore) investment of Etihad in debt and equity into Jet, a $30 million investment in the Air Asia deal, and $100 million to be put in for the Tata-Singapore Airlines carrier. Apart from this, there’s also his accusation that the sale of the Indian telecom provider Aircel to Malaysia’s Maxis was manipulated to ensure that Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram benefited financially. He also accused the Chidambarams of money-laundering; this epic battle is likely to come to a decisive conclusion soon.
Swamy always stood for the independence of institutions in India. He assisted Election Commission of India in improving the transparency of voting system when he demanded that an independent committee should be formed to check the security and safety of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) to avoid any rigging or tampering. He argued that countries like US, Japan, UK, Germany and Netherlands have abandoned EVMs and are using paper-ballot system and demanded that a printed receipt should be given to every voter after casting the vote. His PIL to investigate the working of EVM was dismissed by the Delhi High Court on 17 January 2012. The court refused to give any direction to the Election Commission to bring back paper-ballot system or use of printed receipts. The Commission argued that the use of paper is not feasible due to the huge size of Indian electorate. The court further asked the Election Commission to “immediately begin a process of wider consultations” and the Parliament “to go into this question in-depth and decide”. On 22 January 2013 the Election Commission informed the Supreme Court that it would include Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system which is in the testing phase after the court agreed with some points raised by Swamy who was the contender, in the machines so that every voter will come to know who he/she is voting by getting a printed slip after pressing the EVM button. The voter paper audit trail has then been in use from 4 September 2013.On 8 October 2013 the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to implement audit trail system in 2014 general election in phases.
The National Herald case demolished credibility of apex Congress leadership. In 1 November 2012 Swamy alleged that both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have committed fraud and land grabbing to a tune of ?20 billion (US$300 million) by acquiring a public ltd company called Associated Journals Private Ltd (AJPL) through their owned private company, Young Indian which was formed on 23 November 2010. Through this they had got publication rights of National Herald and QuamiAwaz newspapers, with real estate properties in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The acquired place was intended only for newspaper purposes but was used for running a passport office, amounting to rental income of lakhs of rupees, it alleges. Swamy further added that Rahul Gandhi hid the facts in his affidavit while filing nomination for the 2009 LokSabha elections. It further alleges that on 26 February 2011 AJPL approved the transfer of unsecured loan of ?900 million (US$13 million) from the All India Congress Committee at zero interest. Swamy argued that it is illegal for any political party to lend the loan as per violation of Section 269T of Income Tax Act 1961. On 2 November, the party responded that the loan was given only for reviving National Herald newspaper with no commercial interest. Swamy decided to approach the Supreme Court for de-recognising the Congress party, while the Election Commission ordered the probe on 17 November 2012. The hearing of the case had been taken up thereafter on different occasions with the court observing prima facie evidence against all the accused. On 1 August 2014 the Enforcement Directorate initiated probe to find any money laundering in the case while on the same day Swamy was served notice by the High Court. On 18 September 2015 it was reported that the Enforcement Directorate had reopened the investigation. Following it, on 19 December 2015 Patiala House Court granted unconditional bail immediately on the hearing to all the five accused but one.
Dr Swamy has fought an epic battle against black money and corruption in India. According to Dr Swamy, the black economy in India is all pervasive, affecting the day-to-day life of the common man. Be it the purchase of a house or a pin, people has to pay higher price either due to corruption or due to poor quality or due to a black premium. While majority of the population suffers, tiny minority of 3% is its principal beneficiary. The black economy as a percentage of national income (GDP) is supposed to have grown from about 3% in the mid-fifties to over 50% in the present times. Given its significant size, it is little wonder that the citizen’s life is affected by the black economy at every step. Whether it is the landlord harassing the tenant for a higher rent or the builder, broker and developer who cheat the public in the real estate market, or the trader who sells adulterated stuff (food & medicine) or the restaurant owner who serves sub-standard food, the public have no respite. Then there are mafia operating in slums that makes life hell. All this encourages drugs peddling, prostitution, gambling, contract killings, petty crime and thefts. The corrupt police force provides no help and the citizens are left with no justice. Even the justice system is overpowered by the corruption leading to increase in organized gangs, terrorist groups, mafia formations, naxal activities. As the citizens are increasingly getting cynical of the system, the only way to restore their confidence is to attack the source of corruption with relentless zeal and conviction. We have to clean the political, administrative and judicial system to restore faith in common citizen of the rule of law. Finally, the black economy in India leads to inefficiency in the system unlike in the developed world. The time wasted due to non-functioning telephones, queues for payment of municipality bills, delays in banks, slow movement of materials for industry or trade etc raises transaction costs all round. This leads to low productivity, poor quality of goods& services and non-competitiveness of exports (In spite of low wages). This inefficiency is part and parcel of the existence of the black economy since people pay extra for any work where additional costs and hassles are involved. Swamy has been the original campaigner against corruption by bringing to light the 2G case and coal scam. He founded Action Committee against Corruption in India (ACACI) on 14 October 2011 and acted as a chairperson. ACACI’s goal is to take specific action against corruption at very high places of government and Indian black money stashed abroad, Swamy is the petitioner in Supreme Court for the battle against corruption and it is due to his efforts that SIT was constituted by Supreme Court to track black money in India and abroad.
Swamy has defended the cause of Hindutva in courts with extreme zeal to become de-facto RSS ideologue. He had filed a petition in the Supreme Court with priests of the dikshitars sect challenging the decision of the Madras High Court on transferring the administration of the Nataraja temple to the then Tamil Nadu government in 2009.Swamy on referring to the provisions of Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, contended that PoduDikshitars have right to administer the temple and argued on handing over the administration on mismanagement grounds of temple’s wealth is violation under article 26 of the Constitution of India. On 6 January 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that the administration is to be handed over back to the priests of the temple from the state government. Ayodhya temple case: On 22 February 2016, Swamy filed a petition in the Supreme Court allowing construction of Ram temple at the disputed site where Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992, and expediting the adjudication related to order of the Allahabad High Court on 30 September 2010, petition was accepted on 26 February to be later heard by the court. According to Dr Swamy, the Ram temple issue is a matter of faith rather a simple land dispute, and majority Hindu community must get an access to huge ram temple at the earliest.
Swamy has extensively worked on the integration of the country, especially when at the height of unrest in J&K and LTTE era in Tamil NADU. In September 2008, Swamy stridently retorted against the contentions of some Indian columnists who voiced their opinions in favor of “peacefully” surrendering Kashmir to Pakistan. He said,” I would say that the silent suffering majority of India wants none of this. The ‘Kashmir issue,’ in fact, can no more be solved by dialogue either with the Pakistanis or the Hurriyat, leave alone the Constitutional impossibility of allowing it to secede. Kashmir, in fact, is now our defining identity. It is a touchstone for our resolve to preserve our national integrity. The population of that State may be majority Muslim but the land and its history is predominantly Hindu. For our commitment to the survival of the ancient civilization of India and the composite culture that secularists talk of, we have not only to win that coming inevitable war but also resolve never to part with Kashmir.
Dr Swamy is the tallest Tamil leader in BJP today. He is loved and hated by the native Tamil population of Tamil Nadu largely due to his non-diplomatic pro– Hindu political approach. Yet again, the RSS / BJP leadership has relied on the likes of Gurumurthy and OPS/EPS combine to expand party’s political base with an absolute failure at the ground polity of Tamil Nadu. Swamy is well known for his critical views against the “Aryan versus Dravidian” politics of Periyar E. V. Ramasamy calling it as the theory forwarded by the British administration and evangelists to divide and rule the people of Indian subcontinent based on imaginary histories and racial myths – to an extent of inventing an entirely new race called Dravidians. In late 1870’s: Bishop Caldwell became one of the pioneering missionaries in South India who shaped what now flourishes as the Dravidan identity. The concept of dissociating Tamils from mainstream Hindu spirituality provided Caldwell an ethica rationale for Christian proselytization. Surely, it is the reason why missionaries have targeted Swamy for his hard-line approach on Hindu identity. And it would have consolidated huge section of Tamil population in favour of BJP party struggling to find its footprints in the state but again BJP leadership had other ideas. He has been a staunch opponent of the armed rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. He also urged the Indian government not to support the US led resolution condemning war crimes in the Sri Lankan Civil War, citing it as one-sided and not in the interest of India. Swamy moved the court and got the order restoring quota for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in colleges in the state. Swamy obtained Supreme Court Stay against the implementation of Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project (SSCP). He believes that it would hurt the sentiments of people who believe that this shallow land connecting between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka was built by the Hindu god Ram. He strongly opposes the implementation of SSCP citing that implementing this scheme will be a criminal offence under section 295 Indian Penal Code. He wrote letters to Prime Minister of India in June 2009 asking him to stop the project and had informed the Supreme Court on 14 October 2015 that the government may not continue with the Sethusamudram Project.
Swamy’s lack of fear has its basis in his uncompromising honesty. “I cannot be bought off, and both the netas and industrialists know that. So no one offers me anything,” he says with a smile. Seeing some skepticism, he adds: “If I had done anything wrong, I would have been in prison long ago.” He has a point, since he’s under scrutiny by industry and politicians, both seeking to bring him down. That they haven’t succeeded so far proves his contention. Despite Swamy’s formidable intellectual abilities and personal integrity, he has failed to capitalize on it in political arena. His open arm approach, simple going attitude and blunt speeches have been an obstacle in scaling the political ladder of India’s apex power zone. Swamy is largely misunderstood by his own party leaders due to insecurities that they carry within themselves. Today Swamy is perhaps the most popular leader in India after Narendra Modi. The RSS being the ideologue of BJP have realized the value of Dr Swamy and it was RSS in 2014 that forced BJP leadership to welcome Dr Swamy in party to gain pan India footprint. It was RSS that forced the BJP leadership to offer Rajya Sabha seat to Dr Swamy in 2016 in spite of huge resentment within the BJP leadership opposed to the entry of Swamy in the upper house of Parliament. Dr. Subramanian Swamy is a lone warrior who is fighting alone for many battles in the national interest. As we are approaching the next general elections in 2019, BJP leadership must introspect how badly they have missed the services of Swamy? Yet again, the sad story of Subhash Chandra Bose and Syama Prasad Mookerjee is replicated in modern times. The world class economist, seasoned politician, trained diplomat and anti–corruption crusader is left alone to fight the epic battle on his own for his countrymen.
Swamy: Postemergency, nonmeritorious Chamchas were promoted by establishment
You have seen pre & post emergency era of India, what according to you have changed in INDIA post emergency?
Post emergency, non-meritorious chamchas were promoted by the establishment officially. The Congress party was gradually taken over by the private secretary, political advisers and has started ignoring mass based leaders, the process was facilitated faster by Sonia Gandhi in the recent times. The institutions were attacked and politics penetrated in constitutional positions. Unfortunately, the process is the order of the day even now.
In a popular and large democratic country like India where regional divide, caste divide and religious segregation are virtual realities, do you think the exceptional merit and impeccable character of a leader can facilitate his journey to the highest level in politics?
Yes, I see a struggle but ultimately, there is no alternate for talent.
You are a mascot of India’s anti corruption movement but do you think it is a relevant issue to a large section of society, when the leadership is build on caste and religious platforms? Glaring examples are Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar or DMK leadership in your state of Tamil Nadu?
In a religious and caste ridden society, the first priority of the voters is to select its own caste leader to establish superiority in the social order but the democracy in India is maturing fast, the glaring example is the Narendra Modi Election of 2014. People are by and large dislike corruption and bad governance but there should be an alternate to attract voters for cleaner politics. In 2014: Narendra Modi was the clear alternate and people from all sections of the society voted for him.
You are a bitter critic of Jawaharlal Nehru and his socialist policy despite Nehru contributed in setting up industrial base of the country that brought scientific temper, world class institutions?
I have never opposed any individual in person, I am opposed to ideology or policies of individuals. His adoption of the Soviet economic model, with its neglect of agriculture, quotas and licenses caused India’s GDP growth stunted at 3 ½ % per years rate for 40 years till my reform blueprint developed as Minister in 1990-91 and courageously implemented by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao through Manmohan Singh during 1991-96 changed it over 8% per year. During this period I also held a Cabinet rank post in Rao’s government.
How do you rate last four years of Modi government?
Except for gross economic mismanagement, I would give full marks to Narendra Modi government. Although I must confess that PM selection of certain bureaucrats in the important positions has brought down the prestige of the government. And the lack of talent in the present cabinet has made the PM’s job more stressful.
Congress party utilized the services of economist Dr Manmohan Singh extensively in the last three decades, even to an extent of appointing him the Prime Minister of the country. However, BJP had the equally competent economist in you but they ignored the claim for the reasons best known to them. How do you think you would have planned the economy differently if you were to head the finance ministry?
I would have reformed the tax system to make it simple and incentive oriented such as abolition of income tax, reducing indirect taxes to 22 commodities, zero tax on services, and raised resources by auctioning natural resources such as Spectrum and coal. I would have lowered interest rates to 9% as prime lending rate and raised fixed deposit rates to 9%. R&D expenditures would be tax exempt while innovation development would get matching grants from government, agriculture become global exporting sector, and got opened colleges in such numbers especially by alumni of universities that Reservation quota would become redundant.
How do you assess the upcoming 2019 General Elections?
If Hindutva agenda is implement such as adopting Devanagari script as additional compulsory alphabetical script, encouraging by liberal grants teaching Sanskrit synonyms for English technical terms, abolition of Article 370, finding legal ways for building Ram Temple, ensuring fast tracking in courts of my cases against the Gandhi family and Chidambaram family, then majority in Lok Sabha is certain.
Article complied with inputs from J Gopikrishnan – The Pioneer, Dr Pradeep B & Dr Swamy interview conducted by Prashant Tewari Editor-in-Chief of Opinion Express Group. The feedback can be shared at firstname.lastname@example.org
Proofs and documents that convinced the Supreme Court couldn’t satisfy the trial court!
The trial court judgment on 2G Scam delivered by the Special Judge acquitting all the accused in India’s biggest loot, is flabbergasting. The 1552-page judgment just ignores the findings of the Supreme Court judgment delivered by Justice GS Singhvi and Justice AK Ganguly cancelling all the 122 telecom licences and severely indicting the then Telecom Minister A Raja. The trial court judgment delivered by Special Judge OP Saini simply ignored the entire concrete money trail data provided by CBI and ED. Perhaps this was one of the rarest cases CBI and ED provided kick back details which happened through bank transfers. Interestingly, ignoring all such solid evidences, Judge OP Saini said that these were routine business transfers.
Supreme Court’s Judgment emphasis on each violation, citing the appreciation of each evidence submitted. This landmark judgment was the outcome of the Public Interest Litigation filed Subramanian Swamy and Prashant Bhushan and the evidences submitted by them and the evidences submitted by CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) in sealed covers. The apex court judgment clearly says the main accused then Telecom Minister A. Raja acted in dishonest way.
“The exercise under taken under the leadership of the Minister (A.Raja) was wholly arbitrary, capricious and contrary to public interest apart from being violative of the doctrine of the equality. “The material produced before the Court shows that the Minister (Raja) wanted to favour some companies at the cost of public exchequer,” said the Judgment delivered by Supreme Court on February 2, 2012.
The apex court judgment went on against the accused Telecom Minister: “Arbitrary action of the Minister (Raja) though appears to innocuous was actually intended to benefit some of the real estate companies who did not have any experience in the dealing the telecom services.” It is intriguing that how a trial judge’s verdict can simply say the evidences provided were not enough and sufficient. How the documents convinced the Supreme Court was not acceptable to trial court? This is not a murder case to give benefit of doubts. This is a case under Prevention of Corruption Act based on solid evidence and not to ponder on intention of the accused.
Now mysteriously the trial court judgment says there was no convincing evidence. It was interesting to note that in his own judgment dated February 4, 2012, Judge OP Saini said he has enough evidence to prosecute Raja. This was on the petition by Subramanian Swamy to prosecute then Finance Minister P Chidambaram for engaging in conspiracy with Raja in the price fixing and approving the allotment of the licences. In that bad judgment also judge Saini gave clean chit to Chidambaram that though there are enough evidence on the criminality of Raja, Swamy failed to prove the criminality of Chidambaram! The judgment agrees that documents provided by Swamy shows that Chidambaram and Raja unitedly fixed the base price of controversial allotments in 2FG Scam, Swamy could not establish the evidence on association of Chidambaram invited criminality though evidences show Raja’s criminality. Judge Saini wrote in his Order on Feb 2, 2012: “I may add that there is such incriminating material against other accused persons, who stand charged and facing trial.”
And the same Judge now claims he was waiting for evidences. Till Feb 2012, Saini firmly believed he had got all incriminating evidences against Raja including criminality. Was it Swamy’s job to prove Chidambaram’s criminality? It would have been fair if the judge or the apex court ordered CBI to prove Swamy’s allegation against Chidambaram. Anyway it is a known fact that Courts won’t so easily go against top sitting Ministers including Chief Minister and Prime Minister after the landmark Allahabad High Court judgment indicted Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, which ultimately lead to imposition of Emergency. After this there is an open secret that there is an unwritten rule for avoiding friction between Judiciary and Executive.
It is a big question how the evidences of Raja’s criminality detailed in the February 4, 2012 judgment by Judge OP Saini now not convincing when he acquitted main accused Raja in December 21, 2017. It is very sure many things have flown under bridge in these six years. Shockingly at many areas the Judge praises Minister A.Raja and even termed that some proofs shows that Raja is an accommodative persons and given freedom to bureaucrats. Judge blames former Telecom Secretary DS Mathur in very unkind way and wonders how democratically elected Minister can work with such bureaucrats. The Judge justifies the deposition of whistle-blower Aseervatham Achary that he heard Raja shouting at Mathur for not toeing the line. Actually Mathur deserves appreciation for not allowing Raja allot spectrum and licences till his retirement December 31, 2007. Within 10 days new Secretary Siddaharth Behura, who was Raja’s coaccused approved the dubious issue of allotting 122 licences.
But this yardstick was not applicable to another democratically elected Law Minister HR Bhardwaj. Judge in his judgment wonders why the Law Minister objected and suggested for Empowered Group of Ministers in deciding on spectrum allocation. The trial judge simply says Law Minister was wrong, when Supreme Court appreciated HR Bhardwaj’s decision. The trail judge also wonders why Law Secretary is always sending files to Law Minister!
After ignoring the Supreme Court judgment and evidences mentioned in it blatantly the trial court judgement in many areas vents anger against Investigation and Prosecution. Being a regular visitor in the 2G Court on almost all days, I have witnessed on many many occasions Judge Saini praising the Supreme Court appointed Special Public Prosecutors (SPP) UU Lalit and Anand Grover. Judge Saini agreed to add charging Raja and other accused for Breach of Public Trust under IPC 409 as per the recommendation to SPP UU Lalit during Framing of Charges. Lalit lead the majority part of Prosecution till August 2014, till he was elevated as Supreme Court Judge. The crossing of Prosecution was ended by November 2013 under Lalit. Anand Grover took charge from September 2014 and lead the Final Arguments. Many times I have witnessed the Judge was fully agreeing and appreciating the arguments and evidences put forward by UU lalit and Anand Grover. It is intriguing to see the judgment of OP Saini, now accusing and ruing and complaining against Prosecution and Investigation. It was fun to read his observation that he waited whole day for evidences which look similar to the dialogue of the judge character in the famous sarcastic move on judicial system – ‘Jolly LLB.’
I have witnessed the appreciation of Judge OP Saini on many deposition of star witnesses like the 2G Scam whistleblower Aseervatham Achary and then TRAI Chairman Nripendra Mishra, currently Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is interesting to note in the judgment, Judge OP Saini says Nripendra Mishra proved that Raja violated TRAI Act citing the provisions. What was proved by Nripendra Mishra? He proved during his deposition that among the 122 licences allotted 85 belong to new companies, the shell companies of real estate companies owned by accused like Shahid Balwa, vinod Goenka and Sanjay Chandra. As per the TRAI Act, it needs TRAI’s mandatory clearance to allow a new firm to operate in telecom sector. This big violation was the crux in the Supreme Court Judgment cancelling licenses based on the PILs of Subramanian Swamy and Prashant Bhushan. This was the major evidence citied in CAG Report and CBI’s charges. And during his deposition also then TRAI Chairman Nripendra Mishra proved it, says Judge Saini in his controversial judgment. Then how he acquitted all simply and complaining lacked evidences?
The judgment simply ignores the deposition of whistleblower Aseervatham Achary to give clean chit to Raja and Kanimozhi. Judge says as Achary had political ambitions and so can’t be taken his deposition at value. Having political ambition is a crime? How can ignore the facts provided by CBI corroborated by Achary’s deposition?
What is the basic of 2G Scam and evidence provided?
What are the evidences of kickback:
The Judge termed all these concrete facts as routine business transfers. CBI and ED also took statement of Raja’s aide Sadhik Batch who admitted that full load of money bags were transported in a Tavera Car from Maharashtra to Chennai. Once when Sadhik Batcha counted the bags, he found two bags were missing and he beaten driver Krishnamoorthy. The Driver was put in illegal police custody and later they found that Diver after some months started travel agency by buying four vehicles. Weeks after this statement Sadhik Batcha was found dead in March 16, 2011. CBI produced Driver Krishnamoorthy to depose in court as witness. He was crying and telling judge, his life would be in danger and he can’t tell anything more that he said in the statement. The Judgment was totally insensitive to this stunning incident.
Government, CBI, Enforcement Directorate and Chief Prosecutor Anand Grover should immediately challenge this bad in law judgment by filing appeal in Delhi High Court. There should be a well coordinated strategy in filing appeal to bring justice in this grand loot 2G Scam. We have seen the frauds committed by then tainted CBI Director Ranjit Sinha in mid 2014 and he was stripped by Supreme Court from meddling in 2G Scam probe and now he is facing investigation in trying to sabotage Coal Scam. Most of the accused were caught for regular night visiting at his home. There are many such hurdles faced by Investigators. ED’s Investigating Officer Rajeshwar Singh is still facing all kind of hardships created by the corrupt politicians and corproates. Many times Supreme Court has warned the Government on this. Recently also attempts were to shunt him out from ED as soon as after he attached Karti Chidambaram’s bank accounts in connection with Aircel-Maxis scam. We have seen the shunting of CBI Joint Director Ashok Tiwari to Himachal Road Transport Corporation for summoning Chidambaram in December 2014. It is high time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tighten and fix the Investigation and Prosecution in high profile corruption cases where all sort of unholy nexus working including judicial fixing. Niira Radia tapes remind us how then judgments were written by someone and transferring to certain judges in pen drives. These murky things have to end and it is the responsibility of the Modi led government which came to power on the promises in fight against corruption. At the end of the passing of the buck stops at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This trial court judgment is black chapter in the history of the judgments in the judiciary. This judgment shows how crony capitalism and corrupt lobbies survives and escapes. There are many factual errors in the trial court’s judgment, apart from many portions which are simply bad at law. Fiat justitia ruat caelum: This famous Latin legal phrase means “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.” Let us be optimistic that higher forums of Indian judiciary will do justice in the bad judgment on the 2G trial court.
(The writer works with ‘The Pioneer’ daily’s New Delhi Bureau)
NPA crisis of Indian banking system is a ticking time bomb that can explode any time with disastrous consequences. The potential damage to the economy due to the present NPA crisis is huge. The legacy of NPA in banking is largely to be blamed to the various governments that have ruled India and milked the public sector banks in promoting crony capitalism.
The problem reached epic proportion during the past two decade when selective set of industrial houses were favoured by government by putting pressure on the banks board to clear unsustainable business models. Surely the blame must be shared by ruling elites, mainly finance ministers, RBI governors and greedy bankers who in their respective interest have harmed the entire economy of the country.
Indian banking sector has been facing serious problems of raising Non-performing Assets (NPAs) since liberalisation of the economy was kicked off. The NPAs growth has a direct impact on profitability of banks. Non-performing assets are one of the major concerns for scheduled commercial banks in India. On the recommendations of Narasimham Committee and Verma committee, some steps have been taken to solve the problem of old NPAs in the balance sheets of the banks.
It continues to be expressed from every corner that there has rarely been any systematic evaluation of the best way of tackling the problem. There seems to be no unanimity in the proper policies to be followed in resolving this problem. NPAs reflect the performance of banks. A high level of NPAs suggests high probability of a large number of credit defaults that affect the profitability and net-worth of banks and also erodes the value of the asset. NPAs affect the liquidity and profitability, in addition to posing threat on quality of asset and survival of banks.
The problem of NPAs is not only affecting the banks but also the whole economy. In fact high level of NPAs in Indian banks is nothing but a reflection of the state of health of the industry and trade. It is necessary to trim down NPAs to improve the financial health in the banking system.
Understanding NPA: An attempt is being made in this paper to understand the NPA, the status and trend of NPAs in Indian Scheduled commercial banks, the factors contributing to NPAs, reasons for high impact of NPAs on scheduled commercial banks in India and recovery of NPAs through various channels. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is moving to resolve the bad loan crisis with an Internal Advisory Committee (IAC) of the RBI having identified 12 accounts of corporate borrowers who owe over Rs 5,000 crore each — and overall involve an amount of close to Rs 175,000 crore — for insolvency proceedings under the newly enacted Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016 (IBC).
The RBI committee has recommended for IBC reference all accounts with fund and non-fund based outstanding amounts in excess of Rs 5,000 crore, with 60% or more (Rs 3,000 crore or more) classified as non-performing by banks as on March 31, 2016. However, the central bank did not reveal the names of these 12 defaulters. With total NPAs or bad loans of banks now close to Rs 700,000 crore, the money of banks stuck in these 12 accounts is estimated to be around Rs 175,000 crore.
“The IAC also arrived at an objective, non-discretionary criterion for referring accounts for resolution under IBC,” the RBI said. The RBI, based on the recommendations of the IAC, will issue directions to banks to file for insolvency proceedings under the IBC in respect of the identified accounts. Such cases will be accorded priority by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).
Once referred to the NCLT, the resolution of the case in terms of either a sell-off of assets or revival or winding up will have to be completed within 180 days. The government had issued an ordinance last month by amending the Banking Regulation Act to empower RBI to recover ballooning NPAs. The amendment empowers the RBI to ask banks to initiate insolvency resolution proceedings for bankruptcy code cases and recover bad loans.
The RBI recently announced several steps, including the reconstitution of oversight committee (OC) and bigger role for credit rating agencies to bring down NPAs. It also sought information on the current status of large stressed assets from banks. The oversight committee so far comprised two members. It has been constituted by the Indian Banks Association in consultation with the RBI. It then decided to reconstitute the OC and enlarge it to include more members so that the OC can constitute requisite benches to deal with the volume of cases referred to it.
The RBI plans to expand the scope of cases to be referred to the OC beyond those under the Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets (S4A) as required currently, it said. According to the RBI, the current guidelines on restructuring are under examination for such modifications as may be necessary. In order to prevent rating-shopping or any conflict of interest, the RBI is exploring the feasibility of rating assignments being determined by the RBI itself and paid for from a fund to be created out of contribution from banks and the RBI. The loan recovery exercise will require coordination with and cooperation from several stakeholders including banks, asset reconstruction companies, rating agencies and private equity firms.
An NPA is defined as loan or an advance where interest and/or installment of principal remain overdue for a period of more than 91 days in respect of a term loan, The account remains ‘out of order’ for a period of more than 90 days, in respect of an Overdraft/Cash Credit (OD/ CC), The bill remains overdue for a period of more than 90 days in the case of bills purchased and discounted, interest and/or instalments of principal remains overdue for two harvest seasons but for a period not exceeding two half years in the case of an advance granted for agricultural purposes, and Any amount to be received remains overdue for a period of more than 90 days in respect of other accounts.
It also involves non-submission of stock statements for three continuous quarters in case of cash credit facility; no active transactions in the account (Cash Credit/Over Draft/EPC/PCFC) for more than 91days, further classify non-performing assets further into the following three categories based on the period for which the asset has remained non-performing and the realisability of the dues.
Sub-standard assets: A sub-standard asset is one which has been classified as NPA for a period not exceeding 12 months.
Doubtful Assets: A doubtful asset is one which has remained NPA for a period exceeding 12 months.
Loss assets: where loss has been identified by the bank, internal or external auditor or central bank inspectors. But the amount has not been written off, wholly or partly. Sub-standard asset is the asset in which bank have to maintain 15% of its reserves.
All those assets which are considered as non-performing for period of more than 12 months are called Doubtful Assets. All those assets which cannot be recovered are called as Loss Assets. Some advanced tools like Experian India’s “Hunter Fraud Score” have also been launched that work on data mining and calculate some authentic score that can help banks detect fraud and lower their losses.
Reasons for Occurrence of NPAs: NPAs result from what are termed “Bad Loans” or defaults. Default, in the financial parlance, is the failure to meet financial obligations, say non-payment of a loan installment. These loans can occur due to the following reasons: Usual banking operations /Bad lending practices, A banking crisis (as happened in South Asia and Japan), Overhang component (due to environmental reasons, natural calamities, business cycle, Disease Occurrence, etc...), Incremental component (due to internal bank management, like credit policy, terms of credit, etc...).
The Problems caused by NPAs: NPAs do not just reflect badly in a bank’s account books, they adversely impact the national economy. Following are some of the repercussions of NPAs: Depositors do not get rightful returns and many times may lose un insured deposits. Banks may begin charging higher interest rates on some products to compensate Non-performing loan losses, Bank shareholders are adversely affected, and Bad loans imply redirecting of funds from good projects to bad ones. Hence, the economy suffers due to loss of good.
Impact of NPA: NPA impact the performance and profitability of banks. The most notable impact of NPA is change in banker’s sentiments which may hinder credit expansion to productive purpose. Banks may incline towards more risk free investments to avoid and reduce riskiness, which is not conducive for the growth of economy. If the level of NPAs is not controlled timely they will reduce the earning capacity of assets and badly affect the ROI.
There would be other impacts as well
1 The cost of capital will go up,
2 The assets and liability mismatch will widen,
3 Higher provisioning requirement on mounting NPAs adversely affect capital adequacy ratio and banks profitability,
4 The economic value additions (EVA) by banks get upset because EVA is equal to the net operating profit minus cost of capital,
5 NPAs causes to decrease the value of share sometimes even below their book value in the capital market,
6 NPAs affect the risk facing ability of banks,
7 Reduce the earning capacity of assets and badly affect the ROI,
8 The cost of capital will go up,
9 The assets and liability mismatch will widen,
10 Higher provisioning requirement on mounting NPAs adversely affect capital adequacy ratio and banks profitability,
11 The economic value additions (EVA) by banks get upset because EVA is equal to the net operating profit minus cost of capital,
12 NPAs causes to decrease the value of share sometimes even below their book value in the capital market,
13 NPAs affect the risk facing ability of banks.
RBI may initiate actions against defaulters like, publishing names of de-faulters in Newspapers, broadcasting media, which is helpful to other banks and financial institutions.
As a part of curative measures, bankers may resort to Compromise Settlement or One Time Settlement. Lok Adalats and Debt Recovery Tribunals are other ways for the recovery of dues. It has been observed that Banks these days are highly resorting to SARFAESI Act for the management of NPA.
If the delinquencies are due to reasons beyond the control of borrower which are namely draughts, floods, or other natural calamities, the banker should suitably restructure the loans taking into account the genuine difficulty of the borrowers.
Ineffective recovery, willful defaults and Defective lending process are the important factors which are responsible for the rise of NPAs in banks.
The non-performing assets have always created a big problem for the banks in India. It is just not only problem for the banks but for the economy too. The money locked up in NPAs has a direct impact on profitability of the bank as Indian banks are highly dependent on income from interest on funds lent. This study shows that extent of NPA is comparatively very high in public sectors banks. Although various steps have been taken by government to reduce NPAs but still a lot needs to be done to curb this problem.
The NPAs level of our banks is still high as compared to the foreign banks. It is not at all possible to have zero NPAs. The bank management should speed up the recovery process. The problem of recovery is not with small borrowers but with large borrowers and a strict policy should be followed for solving this problem. The government should also make more provisions for faster settlement of pending cases and also it should reduce the mandatory lending to priority sec-tor as this is the major problem creating area. So the problem of NPA needs lots of serious efforts otherwise NPAs will keep killing the profitability of banks which is not good for the growing Indian economy at all.
Secondly, the banks management should be given more discretion to take bold decisions with fear of investigating agencies scooping on them. Banking is a professional work and the management must devise mechanism to resolve the crisis by setting up accountability within the system. The bank must ensure that the management should have contemporary knowledgeable experts with the board to vet the risk factors.
Moreover the bank must ensure that project sanctioned by the board must be vetted by the highly qualified third party having knowledge of business and trade. It will ensure transparency and ease for the banks to take decisions. Over activism of the investigative agencies will lead to fear in the banking sector wherein the bankers will start avoiding taking any decision to save their skin for any subsequent trouble in case of default.
The present state of banking is suffering from catch 22 crisis where no banker is taking any decision and the lending has gone down substantially leading to the slowdown of the economy. The vigilance department within the bank must be trained to catch the black sheep as and when the deliberate corruption is initiated.
Last but the most important is to bring fear factor in the willful defaulters operators and to bring sanity in the system. In 2014, All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) released a list of 406 bank loan accounts amounting to Rs70,300 crore that have been declared bad. The bank union pointed out that the top four bad loan accounts add up to a massive Rs22,666 crore, which include Kingfisher Airlines and Winsome Diamond and Jewellery Co.
According to the list published by Newslaundry, steel and the metals and mining sector feature prominently on the list of top 10 defaulters. “Of the 10 companies, four are public sector undertakings: Hindustan Cables (Rs4,917 crore), Hindustan Photo Films (Rs3,929 crore), Prag Bosimi (Rs3,558 crore) and Malvika Steel (Rs3,057 crore), which was bought over by SAIL from Usha Group in 2009. Both Hindustan Cables and Hindustan Photo Films are declared terminally sick, and the former may shut down soon,” the report says.
However, only two of these are really public sector units. The list also has names of Usha Ispat (Rs16,911 crore), Lloyds Steel (Rs9,478 crore), Prakash Industries (Rs3,665 crore), Zoom Developers (Rs3,843 crore), Cranes Software International (Rs3,580 crore) and King-fisher (Rs3,529 crore). Many of these are non-functional today raising question on the period of defaults. Malavika Steels and Usha Ispat are long gone.
The present government must come up with a white paper on the state of banking in India and set up investigation against all the defaulters by linking Aadhaar with respective director accounts of all defaulted companies, it will reveal the amount of pilferage done by the directors from the loan account to their respective private accounts and majority of them are leading lavish life-style by mastering the system through availability of liquidity in personal accounts. The money belongs to people of India and all the white colour criminals must be brought to books to establish credibility of the banks in India.
How to manage NPAs
Number of Cases Referred to Lok Adalat was 1,86,535 in 2008 and reached to 16,36,957in 2014 Rs. 2,535 cr of NPAs of SCBs recovered through Lok Adalat during 2008 to 2014 Rs. 27,231 cr of NPAs of SCBs recovered through DRTs during 2008 to 2014 Rs. 77,241 cr of NPAs of SCBs recovered through SARFAESI Act during 2008 to 2014
As per AIBEA list, as on 2014, Vijay Mallya-owned and now defunct Kingfisher Airlines was the big-gest defaulter and owe Rs2,673 crore to public sector banks (PSBs). Mumbai-based Winsome Diamond and Jewellery Company (erstwhile Suraj Diamond India Ltd), with dues of Rs2,660 crore, was the second highest defaulter, followed by Electrotherm India Ltd at Rs2,211 crore. Some of the other big-ticket defaulters include, Zoom Developers Pvt Ltd (Rs1,810 crore), Sterling Biotech Ltd (Rs1,732 crore), S Kumars Nationwide Ltd (Rs1,692 crore), Surya Vinayak Industries Ltd (Rs1,446 crore), Ispat Alloys Ltd (Rs1,360 crore), Forever Precious Jewellery and Diamonds (Rs1,254 crore), Sterling Oil Resources Ltd (Rs1,197 crore) and Varun Industries Ltd (Rs1,129 crore).
The ties between India and Israel are booming after the ascendance of Narendra Modi, who has always been considered the West Asian country’s best friend in the region
The magnificent political victory of Narendra Modi in national elections of 2014 has provided a new flip to India Israel relationship. It is visible on ground that both countries are closest to each other in the history of their bilateral relationship. Although India and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1992 and since then the bilateral relationship between the two countries has seen many ups and down at the economic, military, agricultural and political levels. Both countries see themselves as isolated democracies threatened by neighbours that facilitate training, finance and encouragement of terrorism, therefore both countries also view their cooperative relationship as a strategic imperative.
Relations between Jerusalem and New Delhi were not always warm. Al-though both countries gained their independence from the United Kingdom within months of each other, they found themselves headed in pointedly different directions for nearly four decades-India as a leader in the Non-Aligned Movement that maintained close relations to the Arab world and the Soviet Union; Israel which linked its future to close ties with the United States and Western Europe.
India’s large Muslim population was another major obstacle to building a relationship with Israel, as India feared that close relations with the Jewish State might somehow radicalize its Muslim citizens - numbering more than 100 million - and hurt its relations with the Arab world.
Although India publicly kept a distance from Israel until the late 1980’s, there was in fact a great deal of bilateral activities between the two countries in the preceding years. India extended de-jure recognition to Israel in 1950 and allowed Israel to maintain a consulate in Mumbai (Bombay) to facilitate the voluntary immigration of thousands of Indian Jews to Israel. Thousands of Indians have also travelled to Israel for special courses and training in agricultural technology and community development. Israeli supplied weapons aided India in winning the Kargil War against Pakistan in 1999. Israel also provided humanitarian relief to India. Following a devastating earthquake in 2001, Israel sent an IDF emergency response delegation to India for two weeks to provide humanitarian relief and treatment for the victims.
In November 2002, the head of Israel’s space research program, Colonel Avi Hareven, and the head of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Dr. K. Kasturirangan, signed an agreement on space cooperation between the two countries.
Since firmly establishing diplomatic ties, both countries have benefited immensely. India has become one of Israel’s largest trading partners, many of the world’s leading high-tech companies in Israel and India are forging joint ventures that are successfully competing in the tough international market-place. Trade and cooperation between the countries now centers primarily on security-related deals and aid in areas such as agriculture and water desalination. As of July 2013, India-Israel trade had risen to approximately $6 billion a year, far surpassing the modest $200 million level it was at in 1992.
In 2006, Israeli and Indian ministers of agriculture signed a long-term cooperation and training deal, which has since been supervised by field experts from Mashav, an international development program of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. In 2008, the two nations started a $50 million shared agriculture fund, focusing on dairy, farming technology and micro-irrigation. This constituted the Agriculture Cooperation Agreement. In 2011, India and Israel signed an agreement to foster cooperation on urban water systems, which came after more than a decade of joint research, development and shared investment in the countries’ respective water technologies.
In May 2013, Israel announced that it will help India diversify and raise the yield of its fruit and vegetable crops by offering the country advanced technology and know-how. Israel will help set up 28 centers of excellence across India focussed on specific fruit and vegetable crops. “We congratulate India on being self-sufficient in food. Feeding 1.2 billion people is not an easy task. But with improvement in technology, a lot more can be achieved,” Daniel Carmon, head of MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, said.
By March 2014, 10 Centres of Excellence operated throughout India offering free training sessions for farmers inefficient agricultural techniques using Israeli technological expertise and know-how. Vertical farming, drip irrigation and soil solarisation are some of what is taught at the centers. The 10 already operating focus on mangoes, pomegranates and citrus fruits and the idea is to expand to flowers, beekeeping and dairying, with 28 centers by 2015.
Israeli Embassy spokesman Ohad Horsandi explained: “The idea is to transfer applied research and technologies to the farmers in various states across India. While Israel has already entered into agreement with seven state governments to set up these centres, the most successful model has been Haryana,” in the northern part of the country. The visit was jointly arranged by the governments of India and Israel and managed by the Weitz Center for Development Studies and Israel New-Tech, the national sustainable water and energy program of Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour.
In June 2013, a delegation of 16 high-ranking Indian officials of the water authorities of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Goa and Haryana came to Israel and visited wastewater treatment plants, met with some of Israel’s leading environmentalists and agronomists and listened to explanations of some of the newest technologies for water management. “In India, we have a major crisis of water,” said Rajeev Jain, an assistant engineer in the water department of Rajasthan. “Our problem is the same that Israel faced. But Israel is an expert at successfully implementing technologies that we aren’t able to implement. So we have come here to understand which technologies they use and how they manage these things.”
The key to the growing India-Israel ties, however, is in the realm of security and defence. In the early 2000s, the Indian army declared its intention to implement a modernization program to which resources of tens of billions of dollars would be allocated. Since then, defence deals with Israel have grown exponentially - today, India is the number one export target of Israel’s defence industries.
Israel has sold radar and surveillance systems as well as electronic components for military aircraft and has helped India defence itself through training in counterterrorism methods. In November 2011, India’s elite Cobra Commando unit bought more than 1,000 units of the Israeli X-95 assault rifle to use in counterinsurgency operation. Also in 2011, India placed orders for four advanced Israeli Phalcon AWACS planes (airborne warning and control systems) which are capable of detecting hostile aircraft, cruise missiles and other incoming aerial threat far before ground-based radars.
In January 2012, India and Israel stepped up their counter-terrorism coordination strategy in the wake of Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna’s visit to the Jewish state. While in Israel, Krishna met with top Israeli government and defence leaders and agreed to work to boost their counter-terrorism cooperation. The two countries also signed an Extradition Treaty and a pact on Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners.
During a July 2014 visit to Tel Aviv, Indian Defence Secretary Radha Krishna Mathur outlined his goals for Indo-Israeli defence cooperation. The Indian government requested an unspecified number of Sword Fish ground radar trackers, precision-guided artillery, unspecified missiles, and two AWACS units (in addition to the four ordered in 2005). Mathur was especially interested in the delivery of long-range anti-missile defence batteries for deployment aboard Indian naval ships. The project was announced in 2005, and originally scheduled for delivery in 2012. Israeli and Indian government officials signed an intelligence-sharing agreement in July 2014, hoping to fight radical Islamic extremism in the region together.
In a historic moment, the first meeting of the Prime Ministers from Israel and India in over a decade occurred on September 28, 2014. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the two spoke of economic, technological, and agricultural collaboration in the future. Netanyahu expressed his concerns about a nuclear Iran and the spread of radical Islam throughout the Middle East, and the two enjoyed a friendly conversation. The Indian Prime Minister acknowledged that Israel and India have a historic working relationship and stated that India is “the only country where anti-Semitism has never been allowed to come up, where Jews have never suffered and lived as an integral part of our society”. The meeting was left on a positive note, with Netanyahu inviting Modi to Israel for a return visit.
In October 2014 India and Israel reached a deal for India to purchase 8,356 Spike anti-tank guided missiles and 321 missile launchers developed by Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd. Rafel was competing against US companies Lockheed Martin and Raytheon for this contract, worth $519 million.
Israel Aerospace Industries successfully tested a jointly developed Indian-Israeli Barak 8 air and naval defence missile system on November 10, 2014. The missile test was carried out by Israel’s Defence Ministry and India’s Defence research and Development Organization, and represents the first full successful test of the missile. A top advisor to India’s defence minister hailed the test as “an important milestone in the cooperation between India and Israel”.
India-Israel cooperation increased dramatically in 2014 since the election of India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Between Modi’s election in May 2014 and November 2014, Israel exported $662 million worth of Israeli weapons and defence items to India. This export number is greater than the total Israeli exports to India during the previous three years combined.
Israel and India continued their positive relationship into 2015, with Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon making the first official visit of an Israeli Defence Minister to India in February. While in India, Ya’alon, along with many other top Israeli defence officials, attended the Aero India arms exhibition in Bangalore. The purpose of Ya’alon’s trip was to increase interaction and co-operation between defence industries in Israel and India. Photos surfaced online the following day of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi standing at the Israel Aerospace Industries booth at the exhibition, in a public display of Israel and India’s strategic relationship.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narenda Modi announced in June 2015 that they will be embarking on a historic visit to Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Jordan in 2015, making them both the first Indian President, and Prime Minister to visit Israel. In early October 2015, President Mukherjee delivered a speech at the Knesset, and officials from both countries discussed cooperation in science, technology, agriculture, medicine, and economics. During the lead-up to the visit, Indian media speculated that multiple agreements to increase bilateral cooperation would be signed.
In what was hailed as a “huge development for India” by local news agencies, India abstained from a vote at the UNHRC that approved their Gaza Commission of Inquiry report, in July 2015. Forty-one countries voted in favour of adopting the findings of the biased report, and India was one of only five others who abstained. This marked the first time that India had ever voted against Palestinian interests at the UNHRC, signalling a significant shift in India Israel relations.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Indian state-owned Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) began collaborating on a jointly developed surface-to-air missile system for the Indian Army in 2015. Indian officials purchased 321 launchers and 8,356 missiles from the Israeli military in 2015. India uses Israel-made unmanned drones for surveillance and military purposes, and ordered 16 drones during 2015.
India’s ambassador to Israel, Jaideep Sarkar, encouraged the approximately 85,000 Israeli Jews of Indian descent to tour their country of origin in August 2015, amid warming ties between the nations. Sarkar stated that, “We want to tell the world proudly about the rich Jewish life in India with your efforts we are working to preserve the Jewish heritage in India. We hope to have a package tour to Jewish heritage sites in Mumbai and elsewhere by early next year.” He also suggested that these Indian-Israeli Jews consider enrolling in higher education courses at Indian universities.
The government of India quietly approved the purchase of 10 armored Heron TP drone vehicles from Israel on September 11, 2015, at a price of $400 million. These drones will help secure India’s borders, and will be operated by members of India’s air force. An original proposal for the purchase was presented in 2012, but the program did not receive political backing until 2015.
The Barak 8 long-range surface-to-air missile, developed jointly between India and Israel, was successfully tested on December 30, 2015. The test of the missile system, which cost the Indian government approximately $1.4 billion, was carried out on the Indian warship INS Kolkata. India again successfully tested the Barak 8 on June 30, 2016. An Indian defence official praised the test, stating “the test launch was a grand success and it met all the targets.” The Barak 8 was developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organization in collaboration with Israel Aerospace Industries, and can be launched from a ship or from land. Another successful test of the Barak 8 missile was carried out on September 20, 2016, at the Chandipur research and development base in Odisha, on the Bay of Bengal.
During a 3-day visit to Israel in January 2016, Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj stated that the full development of positive Israel-India ties is of “the highest importance,” to the government in India.
Indian firm Reliance defence and Israeli firm Rafael Advanced defence Systems signed a cooperative agreement worth an estimated $10 billion at Def expo India on March 30, 2016. Per the agreement, Rafael and Reliance will cooperatively produce air-to-air missiles, various missile defence systems, and surveillance balloons for the Indian military. The undertaking is projected to provide employment for 3,000 Indians at a facility in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
In the first visit of its kind in 20 years, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited India for a week in mid-November 2016. Rivlin and Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi held discussions and meetings pertaining to security cooperation and combatting terrorism, and also discussed the future of Israeli investment in India. While in India, the Israeli President also visited the Taj Mahal and observed Indian water treatment facilities. Indian officials signed contracts worth a combined $1.4 billion with Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) during Rivlin’s visit, on November 16, 2016. The two defence contracts provide for the Indian purchase from Israel of two Phalcon/IL-76 Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), valued at $1 billion, as well as 10 additional Heron TP UAV drones, valued at $400 million.
The Indian Navy launched a new, Israeli-developed Integrated under Water Harbour Defence and Surveillance System (IUHDSS), in February 2017. The system will enhance the security of above and below-water vehicles operated by the Indian Navy in the Mumbai Naval Harbor.
An estimated 50,000 Chinese tourists visited Israel in 2015, rising 43% from the number of Chinese tourists in 2014. The number of tourists from India also increased dramatically, with 40,000 Indian nationals vacationing in Israel in 2015. The efforts are on from Indian side to overtake the Chinese tourist in the years to come to consolidate people to people contact. The major changes are expected on all the front post proposed visit of Indian Prime Minister expected in June 2017. Defence, intelligence sharing, agriculture technology, health care sectors are expected to receive major boost. Surely the developing relations are just a beginning of new era in global geopolitical partnership.
By Prashant Tewari – inputs from Jewish Virtual Library