The Tribune – SAARC members keen on boosting trade with India

Neha Saini

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 8 December 2016. SAARC countries are keen to strengthen trade with India by overcoming their internal challenges, said delegates at PITEX, organised by PHDCCI, today. SAARC members were of the opinion that the South East Asia was a consumer market with India a major player in it.

The five-day trade expo attempts to bring biggest buyers and sellers from across the countries on a single platform for direct trade collaboration.

“Being at the confluence of trade routes connecting SAARC members, India is a natural trading partner for the South Asian countries. Despite this, our trade is remarkably low with them,” said R S Sachdeva, co-chairman, Punjab committee, PHDCCI.

According to the South Asia Monitor, India’s trade with the SAARC members was three per cent of the country’s total trade with the rest of the world. “Therefore, with a view to boost the intra-regional trade, we organised the Reverse Buyer Seller Meet (RBSM) supported by the Union Ministry of Commerce,” Sachdeva added.

Speaking on increasing cooperation, Asela Livera, deputy president of National Chamber of Sri Lanka, said, “There is a big potential for high quality and high-end products from Sri Lanka while we look for the ayurveda and its learning from our Indian counterparts.”

According to Hassib Rahimi, CEO, Kabul Chamber of Commerce and Industry, “Afghanistan expects expertise and technology from India. Also, the recent change in the government policy has made Afghanistan more centred towards the economy.”

Kabul is looking to ink agreements with Indian companies in the field of agro-industries and food processing.

Similarly, Kesang Wangi, deputy secretary general, Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Bhutan’s import of edible products to heavy machinery from India in lieu of hydel power could open more trade avenues.

With its ‘open door policy’ for promoting direct foreign investment, Bangladesh is looking forward to enhance collaboration, partnership and cooperation for trade and investment.

“We want to establish 100 special economic zones where investors can target both domestic and export markets,” said Mohd Abu Naser, director, Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/saarc-members-keen-on-boosting-trade-with-india/334362.html

Network of Sikh Organisations – Debate on Article 18: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Earlier this month Lord Alton of Liverpool asked her Majesty’s Government what steps they were taking to promote Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Lord Singh’s contribution to this important debate has been reproduced in full below:

My Lords, I also offer my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for initiating this important debate and for the vast amount of work he does in this field. All too often, debates and questions in this House describe the appalling treatment of religious minorities across the world.

Unfortunately, the response from government is in my view far from even-handed. The world, it seems, is still seen in terms of friendly countries to be spoken to quietly, if at all, and the characterisation of those who are not dependent on us for trade or strategic influence as nasty regimes to be condemned in the most strident terms.

Let me give an example. In 2014, the Government described the human rights record of the Sri Lankan Government as “appalling” and called for an international inquiry.

I asked whether the Government would press for a similar inquiry into the Government-led massacre of thousands of Sikhs in India. The short, sharp response was that it was “a matter for the Indian Government”. Why the lack of even-handedness?

I have asked the same question several times both in the Chamber and in Questions for Written Answer, but always to no effect. On the last occasion, some six months ago, I was promised a considered reply from the Minister, but I am still waiting for it.

In France today, Sikhs are being humiliated by being asked to remove their turbans for identity photos in defiance of a UNHCR court ruling that the actions of the French Government are an infringement of the rights of Sikhs under Article 18. There was no mention of this in our Government’s recent report on human rights abuses across the world.

France, after all, is a “friendly” country. These examples of religious discrimination are especially hurtful to the followers of a religion in which freedom of belief is considered to be so important that our Ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, gave his life defending the right of Hindus, those of a different religion from his own, to freedom of worship.

What is of concern to me and others is that we, like other members of what we euphemistically call the Security Council are still living in a world of 19th-century power politics, a world in which the abuse of human rights was conveniently overlooked in a greed-fuelled era of strategic alliances.

If there are any doubts about the failure of our power-bloc politics, we should reflect on the current tragedy of the Middle East, which began a century ago with the carving up of the former Ottoman Empire by British and French diplomats.

As a Christian hymn reminds us:

“New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth”.

The great human rights activist Andrei Sakharov said that,

“there can be no real peace in the world unless we are even-handed in our attitude to human rights”.

We will fail future generations if we do not heed his far-sighted words.

Posted to Sikh News Discussion by
Hardeep Singh <bbinfo108@yahoo.co.uk>

Network of Sikh Organisations
Merton, London, Wimbledon SW19

Dawn – Misplaced patriotism

Editorial, 29 August 2016. Across much of South Asia, there is a growing strain of state-sponsored nationalism that is worrying and potentially dangerous in its consequences.

From India to Bangladesh, and from Pakistan to Sri Lanka, political dissent of various hues is being branded as anti-state and clamped down on viciously.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed has marched her country to a deadly place in her quest to vanquish her political enemies, while in Sri Lanka, the civil war may be over but great prejudice and discrimination are rampant against ethnic Tamils.

Meanwhile, Kashmiri dissenters have once again caused India to bare its teeth while the political opposition in the restive northeast of that country has for decades now been labelled as militants, anti-nationalist and veritable traitors.

The unmistakable rise of a narrow, state-sanctioned version of patriotism is evident in far too many places in South Asia against far too many oppressed groups.

Yet, it is Pakistan that must remain of the most immediate and serious concern.

Misplaced patriotism, encouraged, sponsored and directed by sections of the state, is dominating the political discourse at present. Be it Baloch separatists or even nationalist politicians like Mahmood Khan Achakzai, there is wholesale condemnation of swathes of the political spectrum taking place.

Even a thoroughly regrettable speech by Altaf Hussain has been turned into an opportunity to shoehorn all political opinion into a narrow, sanctioned version of nationalism.

No right-thinking Pakistani would oppose the essence of ‘Pakistan zindabad’, but a patriotism test, demanding of everyone to express allegiance to the Pakistani state before countenancing their political views, is a development that militates against good sense and political rights.

Perhaps a brief tour of history may help here. Once upon a time, the Khan of Kalat was arrested for sedition, a charge that echoes uncomfortably decades later in the plight of Baloch activists today.

East Pakistan was lost in the civil war, a conflict situation exploited by India, arguably, the roots of separation were laid by the state-led West Pakistani campaign to label Bengalis and their principal representative party, the Awami League, as anti-state.

Soon after, in a truncated Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto banned the National Awami Party of Wali Khan. Today, its successor, the ANP, is a mainstream political party and its cadres have been decimated by the banned TTP.

The story continues with ugly allegations against G M Syed of Sindh and Sardar Ataullah Mengal, and arrives in the present day with the demonisation of Mr Achakzai, whose father faced similar accusations before his death in a bombing.

There is one Pakistan, but there is no one idea of what that Pakistan should be. The state has neither the right nor the authority to dictate to the people what Pakistan ought to be to them.

The political realm is best served by a robust debate among competing ideas and philosophies. Coercion and artificial homogeneity are the real threats.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1280618/misplaced-patriotism

The Hindu – New radicalisation of Dalit politics emerging in India: Sri Lankan academician

The emergence of new political and intellectual classes from among “Dalit elites” had shifted the agenda for social justice along new directions.

Colombo, 26 April 2016. Recent students’ protests at the Hyderabad Central University and the Jawaharlal Nehru University involving young Dalit scholars point to emerging signs of and possibilities for a new radicalisation of Dalit politics in India, according to Jayadeva Uyangoda, senior professor of political science at the University of Colombo.

This trend is quite independent of the established political parties as well as Dalit political elites who have become even political managers of state governments, Prof. Uyangoda said in his lecture delivered as part of B R Ambedkar’s 125th anniversary celebration organised by the Indian High Commission last week.

Pointing out that Ambedkar’s “harshly critical” writings on Hinduism and caste Hindu elites had “constantly highlighted the experience of humiliation of Dalits,” the veteran political scientist explained that the kind of anger demonstrated by the young students focussed on one theme “that continues to miss the attention of the media – humiliation that Dalits continue to suffer as individuals as well as a social group.”

He added that “one has to be a victim of hierarchies to experience social humiliation fully, as Ambedkar as well as young Rohith Vemula and Kanniah Kumar have told us with great passion.”

While electoral mobilisation and expansion as well as weakening of democratic political life in Indian society repeatedly highlighted the relevance and limits of the agenda for social transformation, the movement for equality and justice for the Dalits through political, constitutional and religio-social reforms seemed to have lost its edge.

The emergence of new political and intellectual classes from among “Dalit elites” had shifted the agenda for social justice along new directions. The project of India’s Dalit emancipation appeared to have reached a deadlock as reflected in a new political consciousness “in which critique is seen by these elites as negative politics.”

Prof. Uyangoda visualised that “in a sort of return to reclaiming Ambedkar’s legacy,” the post-Ambedkar Dalit politics in India might enter a new phase of direct confrontation. However, the efforts to return to Ambedkar’s legacy might be “handicapped by the absence of a new egalitarian-emancipatory hermeneutic that can capture the imagination of Dalit masses once again.”

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/new-radicalisation-of-dalit-politics-emerging-in-india-sri-lankan-academician/article8524454.ece

538. Man in Blue – If Narendra Modi becomes the Prime Minister of India International Relations

Before tackling the subject I want to introduce two assumptions.

Assumption 1: The BJP after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections will either have a majority of the seats in the Lok Sabha or will be near to having such a majority.

If the BJP is the biggest single party but depends on the support of a number of smaller parties to form a government, it will not be able to implement its nationalistic and Hindu supremacist programme.

Supposition 2: Narendra Modi as PM will be like Narendra Modi the Gujarat CM, and will follow a nationalistic and Hindu supremacist programme.

His record in Gujarat worries us greatly, and many of his statements and posturing in the campaign confirm our worries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and international relations

India has problematic relations with Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Deterioration of the already problematic relations with Pakistan will have a negative effect on India’s relation with many other countries in the world.

I will tackle India’s relations with Pakistan first.

Pakistan

Pakistan’s civilian governments were never in control of the security forces, and its various security forces do not always sing from the same hymn sheet either.

In India the government has more control over the security forces, but border incidents along the international border or along the ‘Line of Control’ between the Pakistan and Indian controlled parts of Jammu and Kashmir are not necessarily always reported correctly to Delhi.

Jammu and Kashmir, which has a Muslim majority and is adjacent to other Muslim majority parts of pre-partition India, should have been part of Pakistan from 1947 going by the partition agreement. What the majority of the population of Jammu & Kashmir want is another matter. For many ‘Azad Kashmir’ should be an independent state and not a part of Pakistan.

Even ‘moderate’ Indian and Pakistani governments have taken positions on Jammu and Kashmir that make compromise near impossible. Just to maintain ‘status quo’ needs governments that practice a lot of self-restraint and are willing not to get provoked by incidents between the security forces of both countries or between Indian forces and ‘militants’.

With Narendra Modi at the helm an already fraught situation is bound to get worse. Going by newspaper reports the BJP has always been more stridently anti-Pakistan than the Congress led UPA government.

Politically aware people on both sides of the border are worried about another India – Pakistan war fought in the planes of Punjab, this time between two nuclear armed opponents.

There are two areas where the India – Pakistan border or the Line of Control has not been clearly defined.

Sir Creek is a 60 mile strip of water disputed between India and Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch marshlands on the border between Sindh and Gujarat. Pakistan claims that the line follows the eastern shore of the estuary while India claims a centre line.

In the Karakoram Mountains in the Himalayas are located the Siachen Glacier and the Saltoro Mountains, where there is disagreement over the location of the LoC.

These disputed territories are of no great economic value, but in spite of that it is very difficult to get both parties around the table and agree on a compromise.

China

There are areas of Pakistan controlled Jammu and Kashmir which have been ceded to China, causing unhappiness in India. The border between India and China in Ladakh (Jammu & Kashmir) is disputed and there are Chinese claims on parts of or all of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

The Chinese government is aggressively nationalistic and claims territories all around it, including large parts of the surrounding seas and islands therein.

PM Manmohan Singh and External Affairs minister Salman Khurshid have been handling recent incidents in Ladakh and visa problems for people from Arunachal Pradesh diplomatically, firmly insisting on India’s version of the border without indulging in non-diplomatic shouting matches.

There has only been one India – Chinese war so far, and both parties would be mad to indulge in another, but if either party feels that its honour requires military action, even if it is meant to be a limited one, things could easily get out of hand.

And Mr Modi and organisations like the RSS and the Bajrang Dal are not known for subtle approaches and self-restraint.

Bangladesh

There are border issues between the two countries, but I feel that the complicated relation between the two countries is mostly based on the Indian intervention in the East – West Pakistan conflict. Without the help of India the struggle for independence would have lasted much longer, but it is not easy to accept big brothers help.

There are additional problems about river waters, about the treatment of Hindus in Bangladesh and about illegal immigrants from Bangladesh settling in neighbouring India states like Assam.

The Shiv Sena, a Maharashtra party to the right of the BJP, claims that all Bengali speakers in Mumbai are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and wants to return them to that country.

There are serious issues between the two countries and the chances are that a Modi government, encouraged by the Trinamol Congress in West Bengal, will not improve matters.

But it seems unlikely that the existing tensions will erupt into an armed conflict.

Sri Lanka

What we are facing here is an equation between the Delhi government, the Tamils from Tamil Nadu, the Tamils from Sri Lanka, specifically those from the north-east of the island and the Colombo government.

The central governments in Delhi and Colombo have both a record of centralising tendencies, and opposition to movements that emphasise local cultures and local autonomy.

Since Congress lost its overall majority in the Lok Sabha India has been governed by coalitions that usually include parties from Tamil Nadu. These parties have supported the efforts of Sri Lanka Tamils to have more political and cultural autonomy.

Tamils speak a Dravidian language and are mostly Hindus. The majority of the Sri Lankans speak Sinhalese (an Indo-Germanic language like Hindi, Punjabi or Urdu) and are Buddhists, while the majority of the Indians speak Indo-Germanic languages and are Hindus.

Rajiv Gandhi sent an Indian Peace Keeping Force into Sri Lanka and changed from peacekeeping to fighting the Tamil Tigers, which led to his assassination in 1991.

At the moment the UPA government is forced by the Tamil Nadu political parties to be highly critical of the treatment of Tamils after Sri Lanka won the civil war against the Tamil Tigers.

What Narendra Modi and the BJP will make out of this is hard to predict. Will they go with the fellow Indo-Germanics who are mostly Buddhists, or with the mostly Hindu Dravidians? And how will these choices work out domestically? As we have also said about the other issues discussed above, strident nationalism and Hindu supremacist attitudes will certainly not be helpful.