The Print – Why disease and xenophobia go hand in hand

The central human fallacy is to assume that if international travel helps spread disease, a perceived “foreign” group is most likely to be carriers.

David Fickling

Op/Ed, 28 March 2020. Pandemics have always been fellow travelers of globalization. A third phenomenon stalks in their shadow: racism.

That’s worrying. The global threat of Covid-19 seems to be leading not to a unified global response, but to an American president who until Tuesday was describing it as a “Chinese virus” while officials in Beijing stirred up conspiracy theories on social media about a USA military origin for the disease.

Already, stories are proliferating of people subject to abuse and attacks for “coughing while Asian,” or being turned away from businesses because of actual or presumed Chinese ethnicity.

Sadly, there’s nothing new in this. As my colleague Pankaj Mishra has written, the current situation parallels events a century ago, when the first interconnected world economy unraveled into the chaos of World War I. It was disease, as much as war and revolution, that drove that collapse.

The age of sail had imposed a natural restraint on both epidemics and migration. It took as long as a month to cross the Atlantic, meaning any infections had already burned themselves out by the time a port was reached.

When typhus spread to North America among Irish emigrants fleeing the potato famine of the 1840s under sail, the onboard outbreaks were so notorious that the boats were nicknamed “coffin ships.”

Steamships changed all that, opening up ocean transport by drastically lowering its cost and cutting the time needed for transatlantic crossings to less than a week. That helped spark the first era of mass migration as millions of Europeans left for the new world, but it also put the length of a transatlantic journey well within the period when diseases could spread unnoticed.

Why disease and xenophobia go hand in hand – Op/Ed – A Sikh perspective: The UK’s divorce with the European Union

A Sikh perspective against Brexit

Bhai Manvir Singh

London – UK, 03 February 2020. With Brexit, it’s going to be more difficult for our Sikh brothers and sisters living in continental Europe to fight for their rights and liberties. Sikhs in mainland Europe are less established in the communities and political systems of their respective countries in comparison to Sikhs in the UK.

For this reason, Sikhs in mainland Europe had traditionally relied on the support of UK Sikhs to represent them via British politicians in the European Parliament. With the United Kingdom’s divorce with the European Union, Sikhs in Europe have lost a significant amount of political influence in European politics which governs them.

Many Sikhs from mainland Europe, in particular Italy, had taken advantage of the UK’s membership in the European Union and migrated to the UK. I feel that the UK offers the most religious freedom for Sikhs out of all the European countries. In the UK we don’t need to worry about wearing the Kirpan or the Dastaar.

It would be unbelievable to think that a child in the UK would be barred from a school or university for wearing a Dastaar or not be allowed to have a front-line job like working in a bank, school, civil service etc because of their visible Sikh identity. The reason for this is that Sikhs in the UK have already faced their challenges to safeguard their rights in the 1970s and 80s.

However, countries like France currently have outright bans on wearing any religious headgear in any government school or public service job. Countries like Denmark do not allow Sikhs to wear the Kirpan (wearing it underneath your clothes is even illegal!).

Countries like Belgium and Germany have certain schools which don’t allow children to wear a Dastaar or even keep their heads covered. Most mainland European countries would not allow Sikhs to wear a Dastaar openly or visibly in government jobs.

In short, intolerance towards religion in the name of secularism is increasing in mainland Europe. Some may say this is influenced by the growth in Islamic extremism. However, whatever the causes are, it effects Sikhs living in Europe. Therefore, after attaining citizenship, many European Sikhs have moved to the UK.

With this divorce, the chance for Sikhs to move to the UK from mainland Europe decrease. For Sikhs in mainland Europe who don’t want to migrate, there will be more inconvenience for those wishing to visit the UK to meet their relatives or attend Samaagams (religious events).

For Sikhs living in the UK, Brexit has been reported as being a factor for the increase of hate crimes against minorities and the growing voice of white nationalism and intolerance towards those perceived to be a threat to “british-ness”.

This has led to a hateful rhetoric towards immigrants and immigration in the UK. As a visibly identifiable minority community in the UK, Sikhs often suffer the brunt of racism and racist attacks.

A Sikh perspective for Brexit

European Sikhs are facing the brunt of a growing trend of intolerance towards religion in mainland Europe, from education to work. There is also a growing resistance against looking different in public life. Countries like France don’t accept any ID photo with someone wearing a Dastaar. Also children have been told to remove their Dastaar if they wish to continue studying in school.

Sikh legal experts have taken this case to the United Nations. Despite the United Nations direction to France for the right of Sikhs to wear the Dastaar to be safeguarded, the ruling has been ignored by the French government.

The European Parliament is made up of European politicians. Even though the UK was part of the European Parliament, they do not form a majority. Most mainland European countries having little historic ties with Punjab or Sikhs, and having no need for Sikh votes (as Sikhs are a small minority in all European countries and in a lot of places don’t have the right to vote as they have not gained citizenship).

Keeping this in mind, there is little or no hope for Sikh interests to be defended by European politicians in the midst of a growing trend against religion being seen in public life. If the UK remained in the European Union, there would have been a danger that the freedoms that UK Sikhs have achieved in this country would come under threat from intolerant European politicians. A growing threat of radical Islam to Europe has negatively impacted on Sikhs and law-abiding Muslims.

By getting out of the European Union, the UK Sikh voice is likely to become stronger and the UK’s good-will towards Sikhs and religion in general will likely to either increase without European constraints or at least be safeguarded as it is now.


A large proportion of the UK’s public have lost faith in the integrity of politicians and the political system. People have began questioning the validity and truthfulness of claims made by politicians of both sides of the political argument.

Discontent with politicians involved in expense scandals, growing fears of government cuts to essential services, and a desire for making society better than it is, led many to vote Brexit. However, the reality of situation will unfold only with time.

Gurbani teaches us to prepared for the future and have far-sightedness: “…ਦੇ ਲੰਮੀ ਨਦਰਿ ਨਿਹਾਲੀਐ ॥” (“…look ahead to the future with foresight.”). According to Gurbani, far-sightedness comes from spirituality and our connection with the Divine. Gurbani says, “ਸੋ ਪੜਿਆ ਸੋ ਪੰਡਿਤੁ ਬੀਨਾ ਜਿਨੑੀ ਕਮਾਣਾ ਨਾਉ ॥” (“They alone are learned, wise, and scholars, who accumulate the spiritual-wealth through connecting with the Divine.”).

There is no greater preparation for the future than grounding ourselves with the spirituality laid in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and remaining ready for the unknown through allowing the Guru’s virtues and glory to shine through our thoughts and actions.

The way forward for European Sikhs is instill Gurmat values and thinking in their children as well as focus on getting their children educated. When young spiritually-strong and educated Gursikhs in different European countries become lawyers, doctors, writers, and journalists, they will be able to express their own narrative to the wider society and respective government.

Building links with local communities and host community politicians will create stronger ties. A simple thing like regularly inviting politicians, teachers and police to the Gurdwara, explaining Sikhi to them, sharing Langar with them and having friendly dialogue will build bridges with decision-makers, who then become mindful and respectful of Sikhs.

Hopefully, one day, the young talented Gursikhs of European countries can reach influential positions where they can influence law-makers to safeguard Sikh rights like the pioneering Sikhs did in UK. There are already some young Gursikhs who are active in Europe and made a positive contribution for Sikhs living in their country.

Early pioneers for Sikh rights faced many challenges and had to engage in peaceful protests to gain the right to wear the Dastaar on the buses or the right not to wear the helmet. Sikhs got into politics at first as local councillors and then eventually we got to a point where we have a Sikh proudly wearing a Dastaar in parliament.

If Europe has young Gursikhs who are strong in their Sikhi, attached to Gurbani and dedicated to Simran, then their presence and aura will leave a positive effect on those they speak to. It is now time for the European Sikhs to venture out of their communities and engage in the wider community.

Similarly, Sikhs in the UK can continue to help European Sikhs by keeping ties with the embassies of different European countries and continue to provide support to communities in Europe who are struggling with issues.

With UK Sikhs history of fighting against racism, equal opportunities and safeguarding of religious articles of faith, we have a wealth of experience and expertise to guide our European brothers and sisters in helping to build a fairer and respectful society for all.

Op/Ed – A Sikh perspective: The UK’s divorce with the European Union

The Print – Under Modi-Shah, BJP is back to being the Bharatiya ‘Baniya’ Party

BJP under Modi-Shah is returning to its protectionist, anti-MNC, technophobic old notions, underlining that strong governments can also be more risk-averse.

Shekhar Gupta

Op/Ed, 18 January 2020. Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has been quick to clarify his remark on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos not doing India a favour by investing here. He now says all investment is welcome, as long as it complies with India’s regulations. You can’t argue with that.

Although, if read with the fact that monopoly watchdog Competition Commission of India had hauled up Amazon earlier this week for “unfair” trade practices, a move hailed breathlessly by the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and trader/retailer associations, you wouldn’t make such a benign interpretation.

It won’t be some diabolical conspiracy either. It’s only pure politics. It will underline the BJP’s inevitable return to its basic instinct: Mercantilism.

This needs explanation. For decades, until the Congress-Left, post-Rajiv Gandhi, began describing the BJP as a Hindu party, Indira Gandhi had avoided doing precisely that.

In an earlier National Interest, I had quoted from a conversation with Seshadri Chari, former editor of RSS mouthpiece Organiser, that she only described the BJP as a baniya (trader caste) party. The BJP has shown signs lately of proving Indira Gandhi right and returning to its trader mindset.

This is where the philosophical impulse of swadeshi also comes from. If someone has to profit from trade and entrepreneurship, it better be one of our own. And even if we let an outsider come and do so, he better be grateful to us rather than the other way around. Several strong emotions get meshed in this:

Nationalism, protectionism, mercantilism, and arrogance. Who the hell are you to walk all over my market, out-compete my native businessmen and then expect me to say thank-you?

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) had first started becoming fashionable in 1990-91, just as the Cold War ended. It was also a time when a deep economic crisis was building up in India.

Madhu Dandavate was the finance minister in V P Singh’s cabinet. Addressing one of those industry chamber gatherings, he famously, or infamously, said, something like, “I am not against FDI. But I won’t go looking for it”.

Since he was a dyed-in-the-red old socialist, even this reluctant acceptance of FDI was seen as something to celebrate. But no foreign investor was impressed.

The reform of 1991 changed things. But attitudes deep down didn’t. India had already had four decades of socialist, protectionist, swadeshi, import-substitution, ‘exports are good/imports bad’ toxification across the political spectrum. The only force of the economic Right, the once-powerful Swatantra Party, had been destroyed and entombed under Indira Gandhi’s populism.

Even the Jana Sangh by this time was singing the same socialist song, only fortified by its own economic nationalism. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the only truly reformist BJP leader in a modern free-market sense, ran with the baton of reform. He had too little time.

Old ideologies, and we say this in a purely non-partisan sense (as in Left or Right, Congress or BJP), are extremely obstinate. Like the proverbial dog’s tail, you can’t straighten or bend these even in a dozen years. Some individual leaders can make a difference: P V Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh for the Congress, Vajpayee for the BJP. Under others, the ‘tail’ goes back to the way it always was.

Over the past five-and-a-half-years, we have seen the protectionist, anti-MNC, technophobic old notions return with a vengeance. This government now gives a 20 per cent advantage to capital goods made in India over imports, signalling a return to the old regime.

All it meant was that now a foreign company could ship its kits to India and assemble, for example, metro coaches in ‘joint venture’ with an Indian minority partner or even directly, and sell the same coach at a price much higher than an import.

In budget after budget, we’ve seen tariffs go up, sectoral protections extended, steel is only the most visible example, and all kinds of government agencies, from regulators to quasi-policing organisations, go after foreign investors, especially in retail. After the last budget and the BJP discourse around it, that happily forgotten old, Indira-esque expression ‘import substitution’ staged a comeback.

That is the reason global business has seen its romance with Modi’s India fade. No one would say so in public, especially those that already have investments in India, or employees and other interests. Who wants ‘panga’ with a strong government?

Even the mighty Vodafone CEO has to retreat after saying in agony that he will have to leave India, although he still might do that, after writing off a couple of tens of billions because of regulatory and taxation shocks and unpredictability.

Want more evidence? See how Jeff Bezos’ previous visit to India went in 2014, when he was feted by Modi and others, and his peremptory dismissal now. The explanation also sounds like Dandavate of 1990: I am not against FDI, but…

You still want to know where this sentiment or push comes from? Play back the part of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s Dussehra speech last year where he lays out his economic doctrine.

We can describe it in one word out of these: Protectionist, xenophobic, swadeshi. Or, it could also be stated as, ‘We are not against FDI, but only in sectors where we need it, as long as it doesn’t hurt Indian business, and control remains with Indians’.

The most fascinating aspect of Modi in his sixth year with a big majority is how compliant his government has been to Nagpur. It has delivered on all of its big concerns: Cow, Article 370, CAA, triple talaq, anti-Pakistanism, and so on. Yet, it has reversed two decades of reform on trade, FDI in retail, and technology to harmonise itself with the RSS, not defy it like Vajpayee did.

In 2014, and again in 2019, India elected a “strong” government and prime minister because it was fed up of a “weak” one for a decade under Manmohan Singh. It has been stronger and more decisive in many areas, from retaliation for terror attacks to Article 370 to anti-corruption activism.

But not on the economy. Besides GST, however flawed, and the IBC, it is difficult to find one big, bold reform, although I recently listed 10 bits of good news even in gloomy times for the economy.

Think about it. A government as weak as Manmohan Singh’s had the courage to deliver the India-USA nuclear deal, thereby fundamentally shifting India’s geostrategic posture. Modi’s strong government, meanwhile, is struggling to seal a tiny, partial trade deal with the US, even as it celebrates this ‘strategic partnership’ co-founded by Singh and Bush/Obama.

Vajpayee’s weak government ushered in the cotton revolution by permitting genetically modified seeds. Modi’s strong government is pussyfooting on agricultural biotechnology, more respectful of Swadeshi Luddites than a Vajpayee would bother to be.

Which takes us to our old argument: Are strong, full majority governments necessarily good, or do they have a problem? More to lose, no excuses to put off ideological demands and compulsions, and a constant need to save face?

Are weak governments actually more decisive and less risk-averse because they have greater flexibility and humility? It is a particularly contrarian and provocative point. Which, indeed, is what it was intended to be.

Under Modi-Shah, BJP is back to being the Bharatiya ‘Baniya’ Party

The Telegraph – Surprises in Pakistan

The skeleton of internal contradictions tumbles out of the cupboard, once again

T C A Raghavan

Op/Ed, 18 December 2019. Just when Pakistan seemed set on a linear course, it surprises you once again. The linear path appeared to have consolidated further when in August this year the prime minister, Imran Khan, gave a three-year extension of tenure to the incumbent chief of army staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

At the time, it seemed unsurprising. The explanation given was geopolitical: the situation in Afghanistan and the legislative changes made in India with reference to Jammu and Kashmir and Article 370. The notification issued on 19 August, personally signed by Khan, thus cited ‘regional security environment’ as the reason.

But for many others, the reasons were more direct. Khan was elected in July 2018 through an election, which was, or so it appeared, the last act of the process of a ‘creeping coup’ where the higher judiciary acting in concert with the military high command sought to ensure that the incumbent prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, did not secure another term.

The preferred candidate was Khan, charismatic and at the head of a political party in his own right. What titled the scales in his favour were the military and the judiciary. Sharif’s tenure as prime minister from 2013 to 2017 had been marked by a series of frictions with the army through three chiefs of staff, Ashfaq Kayani, Raheel Sharif and Bajwa.

When he was finally ousted and debarred from holding office in the future by a Supreme Court order, it was evident that regardless of the reasons given by the court, Sharif had run his course in trying to assert civilian supremacy in Pakistan.

In terms of prevalent jargon, the Pakistani ‘Deep State’ had acted against him. An older vocabulary would have used the term, ‘Establishment’. In the longer view of Pakistan’s history, the outcome was the same: the ‘twenty year coup cycle’ of Pakistan had asserted itself, 1958, 1977, 1999 and 2018.

The difference in Sharif’s unseating was that it left his party, which was greatly weakened, in charge and kept the path open for Khan to win the general election and form the government.

To many, it seemed that a better civilian-military equation that would result from this was perhaps what Pakistan really needed.

As Khan completed his first year in office in August 2019, the event coinciding with the notification of Bajwa’s three-year extension, most would grant that this was easily the most friction free civil-military interface since a new phase began in Pakistan’s political history post Pervez Musharraf’s military regime.

So the extension seemed to be in the natural order of things for Pakistan, a civilian government with a popular mandate but a government with which the military was comfortable. For many Pakistan watchers, this hybrid was the holy grail that had long eluded the country and the nectar of internal stability, regardless of the manner in which it was extracted, seemed within reach.

A series of hearings late last month in the Supreme Court upset this trend. Apart from finding procedural deficiencies in the order granting Bajwa a three-year extension, the court raised more fundamental questions about the legal and constitutional provisions by which the extension to the army chief was being granted.

These hearings were conducted within days of Bajwa’s impending retirement and when the Supreme Court struck down the August notification of a three-year extension, many Pakistanis did feel that another phase of their country’s history may well be beginning.

Technicalities apart, the Supreme Court’s point was that in the extant regulations, there was no specific provision providing for the reappointment or extension of the army chief’s service tenure.

The court’s final order, giving Bajwa a six-month extension, avoided precipitating an immediate crisis. The government was also directed to pass legislation to govern tenure and extensions of the army chief within this six-month period.

Given the long tenures in post-1971 Pakistan of Zia-ul-Haq (1976-88), Pervez Musharraf (1998-2007) and Kayani (2007-2013), it is legitimate to wonder what was being missed here. Evidently, the court is now a different institution and the old civil-military tangles thus have a new ingredient in them.

Numerous explanations, including conspiracy theories, have emerged to unveil the rationale for this chain of events. Was it no more than a case of friction between the chief justice and the prime minister in which the extension issue proved of utility to embarrass the latter?

Or did the tussle represent, in fact, rumblings and unhappiness within the army hierarchy, extensions to the top gun hold up promotions down the line. In between, there were other variations including speculation on whether this episode has weakened the COAS and affected his interface with the prime minister and the government. As always, such questions have no clear answers.

However, we can see these developments in the longer span of Pakistan’s history. The Supreme Court has historically acted as an adjunct to Pakistan’s bureaucratic and military elite from the 1950s. Its legitimization of different spells of military rule using dubious legal principles from ancient Rome and English common law had facilitated multiple dictatorships.

One chief justice had thus cited the maxim, “that which is otherwise not lawful is made lawful by necessity”. Other principles invoked included salus populi suprema lex esto (the health, welfare, good, salvation, felicity of the people should be the supreme law) and salus republica est suprema lex (the safety (or welfare) of the state is the supreme law).

The long ‘doctrine of necessity’ phase of Pakistan’s legal history ended amidst much drama in 2008 when an unseated chief justice led a movement of lawyers to effectively put an end to Musharraf’s dictatorship.

In the crucible of numerous contradictions that Pakistan faced then, there were other forces that worked to usher in a new democratic phase in Pakistan’s history. Yet it was the lawyers’ and the judges’ movement that tipped the balance.

The judicial process that finally catapulted Khan to electoral victory seemed to be a setback to the political activism by the bar and the bench. The latest fracas over the army chief’s extension now suggests that the churn in Pakistan is still active. Clearly, the higher judiciary should not be taken for granted.

Secondly, it underwrites that a balance among different institutions, the elixir that has for so long eluded Pakistan, remains distant. The next stage in this may well be the treason trial of Musharraf. The death penalty announced yesterday by a special court gives this issue extra drama and the matter will certainly go all the way to the Supreme Court.

What do we make of all this in the light of our own predicaments with Pakistan? It is four years now since the downswing in relations after the Pathankot attack. The Kartarpur opening provides a balance but it is a small one given the high tensions, terrorist attacks and our own robust countermeasures.

One point that does stand out is that the prolonged period of tension has camouflaged Pakistan’s internal tensions. Nevertheless, the tussle over the army chief’s extension shows that the many internal contradictions remain and will continue to rise to the surface.

The author is a retired diplomat and currently Director General of the Indian Council of World Affairs

The Asian Age – Here’s why the Chinese model is unsuitable for Pakistan’s government

The second feature is the absence of rule of law, rather than its unequivocal application.

Umair Javed

Op/Ed, 04 December 2019. Every few months or so, the demand for a ‘presidential system’ of government in Pakistan makes an appearance on various social media sites. This happens most prominently on Twitter, where a number of users share similarly worded tweets, all using the same hashtag.

On its own, there’s nothing wrong with the demand for a constitutional redesign. Political systems are, theoretically, not set in stone, and neither are constitutions.

Parties in a number of countries have contested for power on platforms that seek to change electoral systems, voting formulae, power-sharing arrangements between different social groups, and relations between the executive, legislature, and the judiciary.

If anything, initiating a public conversation on institutional redesign is certainly more practical and preferable than cheerleading for ad hoc interventions by a particular organ of the state.

The most recent chorus of presidential fetishism is also slightly different from previous iterations on at least two counts. One is its frequency, which seems to be picking up pace since this government took office in July 2018.

It appears an ever-increasing number of people from one side of the partisan divide believe that the lack of executive authority with the Prime Minister’s Office, the reliance on largely incompetent ministers, and the cumbersome legislative procedures required to push through ‘change’, are holding the country back.

The second change is the citation of two countries as case studies worthy of emulation, China and Turkey. While the infatuation with Erdogan has been around for a while, the systemic embrace of Turkey is relatively new.

What’s also interesting is that believers in the ‘China model’ seem to be increasing in proportion to the country’s enhanced footprint on Pakistan’s economic and strategic decision-making. The drawing room logic is some variant of ‘if their system allows them to build a motorway at lightning speed, it’s surely worth importing’.

Less facetiously, high growth rates, ‘strict rule of law’, zero-tolerance for corruption, and the overall welfare success of this developmental model are usually cited as reasons for systemic emulation.

This is curious because China’s actually existing political system (what drives its well-publicised growth story) is considerably under-discussed in mainstream political conversations across Pakistan.

The print and electronic media doesn’t report on China’s domestic politics, and it rarely reveals any insight into what drives economic growth. There’s a recurring caricature of strong leadership, mythical levels of anti-corruption, and decisiveness, in drawing rooms, WhatsApp groups, and TV studios alike, but that’s where the depth of it ends.

Leaving aside the moral and functional desirability of parliamentary democracy in ethnically fractured societies, and China’s own authoritarian behaviour with minority groups, it is worth clarifying some important features of China’s political economy before embracing it as an ideal.

In an excellent new book on the past, present, and future of economic systems, titled Capitalism, Alone, Branko Milanovic draws a sharp contrast between two ideal types of capitalism that have shown relative durability. Liberal meritocratic capitalism, exemplified by the US, and increasingly characterised by plutocratic levels of inequality and disparity.

And political capitalism, exemplified by China, which stands as the only present-day alternative to organising politics and economics in a particular configuration, since the implosion of communism (or state socialism).

China’s political capitalism, according to Milanovic, rests ironically on certain pillars some of which seem to be at odds with its popular caricature in the Pakistani imagination.

Tracing the current system back to Deng’s reform period, Milanovic argues that political capitalism exhibits two main features: The first is a highly skilled, technocratically efficient, and meritocratically recruited bureaucracy.

This bureaucracy (which is clearly the primary beneficiary of the system) has as its main duty to realise high economic growth and implement policies that allow this goal to be achieved. Growth is ultimately needed for the legitimisation of continued bureaucratic and party rule.

The second feature is the absence of rule of law, rather than its unequivocal application. This, Milanovic argues, is necessary to ensure that the interests of businessmen (and the private sector in general) are never in a position to become primary drivers of government behaviour.

Instead, the state retains authority and autonomy precisely because it can choose to apply the law to whomever and wherever it wishes.

By arrangement with Dawn – Can the Kartarpur corridor really help Pakistan in smuggling drugs and ammunition to India?

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, Op/Ed, 05 November 2019. Ahead of the opening of much awaited Kartarpur corridor, the Indian intelligence agencies have again started its malicious propaganda against the Pakistan government.

Interestingly, the Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh is being used as a mouthpiece by the Indian agencies for raising suspicion over the Pakistan’s pro-Sikhism intention to open the Kartarpur corridor.

This time, the Indian agencies have claimed of the presence of some training camps related to Jaish-e-Mohammad in Narowal. The reports of Indian intelligence also claim of the presence of huge numbers of “terrorists” including women in these camps.

Crossing all limits, the reports by Indian agencies claim that the Kartarpur corridor could be used for smuggling Drugs and promoting anti-India activities. Actually, all these claims are being planted deliberately in media to create a panic among Sikhs and other communities about the Kartarpur corridor.

Can the Kartarpur corridor really be used for smuggling Drugs and Ammunition?

The Kartarpur corridor terminal on the Indian side is being built by the Land Port Authority of India (LPAI). In this terminal, all the facilities for managing the entrance and exit of Sikh pilgrims will be given like usual air and sea ports of India.

In other words, we can say that the Sikh pilgrims will have to go through security check while leaving for Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib as well as while arriving back in India after paying obeisance there.

These days, the luggage and passengers at all ports of India is scanned with radiation detectors to bar entrance of any prohibited item like weapon, explosives and drugs. These scanners can scan the passenger and his / her belongings in a quick and reproducible way, without harming the person or items being examined.

Further, the facilitation of X-ray and CT scanners at all ports has enabled the security staff to fully watch in a clear way that what is inside the luggage.

Beside it, the trade is already going between India and Pakistan through various ports like Attari-Wagah, then how come this corridor is going to become a pathway for drugs and ammunition even when it is a non-commercial corridor.

Op/Ed: Can the Kartarpur corridor really help Pakistan in smuggling Drugs and Ammunition to India?

The Telegraph – Worried whispers: Is J P Nadda a bad omen for BJP?

He is slated to take over the BJP’s reins from Amit Shah early next year

Op/Ed, 27 October 2019. The larger picture changes many times when it comes to the internal machinations of a political party. The main story of the recently-concluded assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana was the failure of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and the Union home minister, also the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Amit Shah, to turn the polls into a referendum on Article 370.

Whispers in the BJP’s corridors, however, had a different take on the matter. Some party leaders were heard pointing out that this was the first round of polls after the appointment of J P Nadda as the working president of the BJP. Nadda is slated to take over the reins of the BJP from Shah as full-time party president sometime early next year.

The whispers in the BJP circles clearly appeared to be holding Nadda responsible for the party’s performance in the polls, which were below expectations. Party leaders were heard saying that Nadda may not be a good omen for the party. Unlike Modi and Shah, Nadda prefers to maintain a low profile.

He was the Union health and family welfare minister in the first Modi cabinet. His closeness to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is believed to have earned him the party’s responsibility.

Two more state polls are coming up in the near future, the Jharkhand assembly elections at the end of this year and then the Delhi polls in early 2020. If the BJP’s performance continues to slide, then Nadda could well be labelled inauspicious for the party.


The election result in Haryana has apparently brought the aam Congressman back to life. Even the most ardent supporter of the Grand Old Party would not have imagined such a performance given the drubbing it received at the hands of Narendra Modi and the BJP in the general elections.

Surprisingly, Rahul Gandhi has not gone overboard with the showing in Haryana. Is that because the veteran, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Rahul wanted Ashok Tanwar to replace him as the state chief, put up a commendable performance? – Gandhi vs Mahatma – Gandhi’s racism: It’s time for the Mahatma to become a properly historical figure with all his flaws

I prefer a flawed Gandhi to his saintly effigy, just as I prefer the problematic figures of his political descendants Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

Faisal Devji

Op/Ed, 28 October 2019. If the memory of Mahatma Gandhi lives on today, then it is mainly thanks to his enemies, who seem unable to forget him. The Mahatma’s followers, on the other hand, have turned him into a saint whose teachings can safely be ignored as the words of a superior being to be admired from afar.

Given the ritualistic respect offered to Gandhi in India, which is received with public indifference, it is puzzling why he remains so alive for his critics. Perhaps they are the only ones who continue to feel betrayed by Gandhi’s loss of sainthood.

For Indians, this betrayal is renewed with each new generation, as scholars and activists discover yet another of the Mahatma’s failings. During the 1980s in the wake of second-wave feminism in India, it was his treatment of women that came under the spotlight.

And in the 1990s, with the rise of caste politics in India, it was Gandhi’s views about untouchability that were questioned. In our own time, the worldwide focus on racism has unsurprisingly led him to be accused of this sin as well.

What is unprecedented about the condemnations of Gandhi’s racism, however, is that they are not limited to India but have become global, with statues of the Mahatma being attacked in South Africa and removed in Ghana.

I had a taste of this myself earlier this year, when I suggested on the Oxford and Colonialism Working Group email list that we might begin our efforts to make imperial history visible in the University by marking Gandhi’s visit there in 1931.

This would be followed by commemorations of other anti-colonial figures who had visited Oxford with conferences, rooms named in their honour, and plaques, for example.

Political naivete

I was opposed by a former student and fellow academic who had been active in the Rhodes Must Fall movement in Oxford, which sought to follow South Africa’s precedent by removing a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College. The movement was attacked in the press and finally failed once alumni and donors threatened to pull their donations from the college.

His was not the only critique, however. He was followed by another academic activist interested in caste issues who had been a student at Oxford, and then by a student from Birmingham who accused both Gandhi and Nehru of being anti-Sikh.

As this debate was going on, I received private messages of support from many others, who were perhaps uncomfortable with making their views about race known in public because they were white.

The only Oxford student who intervened in the debate, and the only Indian citizen to do so, pointed out how politically naïve it was for these critics in effect to make common cause with the most violent elements of India’s far right, who also accuse Gandhi of racism while celebrating his assassination. Gandhi, he pointed out, is no longer the enemy for progressives there.

Like other critics of Gandhi’s racism, those who commented on my proposal offered personal rather than properly historical analyses of it, thus falling into the very moralism they despise in Gandhi and revealing their frustrated desire for the saint he has failed to be.

I prefer a flawed Gandhi to his saintly effigy, just as I prefer the problematic figures of his political descendants Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, whose sexual and other lapses have not resulted in their statues being vandalised or names banned from commemoration.

Personality over politics

The Rhodes Must Fall activists who had complained about Oxford bowing to outside pressure were now the outsiders trying to prevent us from making colonial history visible in the University.

The academic who led the campaign to remove Gandhi’s statue from the University of Ghana had likewise focused on his personality rather than his politics, making moral virtue the benchmark for commemoration and thus establishing a competition in purity.

Should statues of the dictator Kwame Nkrumah be removed from Accra as well? And how might anti-colonialism be understood if such figures are all written out of its history?

South Africa plays an interesting role in terms of virtue signalling on university campuses and in liberal society in the West more generally. The fact that the Rhodes Must Fall movement in South Africa attacked African and Indian professors, eventually descending into violence, does not seem to worry the movement’s followers in Oxford.

South Africa’s belated independence represents an opportunity for the West to be on the right side of imperial history for the first time, by re-running the script of de-colonisation to condemn apartheid and celebrate the emergence of a “rainbow nation”. This means that finally white liberals can claim the virtue of anti-colonialism.

Yet such invocations of diversity also emerged out of the African colonies, whose administrators used the term “multi-racialism” to describe societies in which whites needed to hold the balance between Africans and Indians (and sometimes Arabs as well).

Seen as a source of both moral and political corruption, Indians – but not Europeans – were often (and sometimes still are) forbidden from owning agricultural land so as to protect Africans from their rapacity. Indians in Africa thus came to occupy the role of alien middlemen familiar in anti-Semitic discourse.

Anti-Indian rioters

But there is more to the story of Gandhi’s racism than such campus controversies. The global interest in the Mahatma’s moral failings has just as much to do with the dissolution of anti-colonial solidarity worldwide. The growth of India and China as economic and military powers has lifted them out of the old world order of Afro-Asian unity to compete for their own status vis-à-vis the West.

Gandhi would have been against this development of course, but he must nonetheless pay for it through loss of reputation, being the most famous representative of India and Indians globally.

Attacks on statues of Gandhi, therefore, are also attacks on Indian communities in places like South Africa, where his house and settlement at Phoenix were destroyed by anti-Indian rioters in 1986.

Such attacks on minorities also include the murderous violence against African migrants from neighbouring countries (which South Africa dominates economically in fulfilment of the aims of apartheid).

The arguments deployed against Indians by men such as the South African militant Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, continue to follow a classically anti-Semitic script in their depiction of an insular and exploitative community.
Credit: AFP

It is no coincidence that Julius Malema and his violent followers have selected Gandhi as a favourite target, even using a book written by two of the Mahatma’s critics in South Africa to support them. This volume, which has become the standard account of Gandhi’s racism, was published by Stanford University Press in a series for which I am an editor.

While disagreeing with its views on this issue, I had reviewed, approved and even endorsed it for describing the independent political activism of the Mahatma’s compatriots in South Africa.

Having been reduced to useful stooges for Malema’s movement, while at the same time being attacked by him for defending the very Indians they wanted to bring out from under Gandhi’s shadow, these authors will now have to rethink their politics.

Because Gandhi’s racism stands in for Indian racism in general across sub-Saharan Africa, with long-standing anti-Indian narratives there drawing on tropes that were once invoked by Idi Amin to expel tens of thousands of Indians from Uganda.

Caste and race

Brutal forms of racism undoubtedly exist in India, as any African student or businessperson there will attest. However, prejudiced as they may be, the Indian minorities in African countries cannot be accused of holding any real race power there, although, like the Jews, they are often charged with using financial inducements to exercise power surreptitiously.

In fact, Indian communities have been socially and legally discriminated against in a number of African countries, and occasionally they have even been forced to leave their homes.

Gandhi’s critics never link their accusations about his racism in South Africa with the present-day African context of racialised attacks on Indians.

Instead, the racial character of such attacks is often concealed under the fig-leaf of solidarity between Africans and low-caste or Dalit Indians, who serve as exceptions to the racist norm represented by the Mahatma and Indian minorities generally.

Comparisons between Dalits and African-Americans in particular go back to the “untouchable” leader Ambedkar himself, who was both the Mahatma’s contemporary and his enemy.

Apart from the questionable merits of using caste to think about race and vice versa, this revival of a black political rather than ethnic identity is as deeply nostalgic as the celebration of South Africa as a rainbow nation re-writing the script of decolonisation that other African nations can be seen to have betrayed.

In Britain, meanwhile, where it had been pioneered in the 1970s, the rise of Islamism and other religious forms of identity broke black politics by the end of the 1980s, ushering in new kinds of religious solidarity as well as new forms of discrimination such as Islamophobia.

Two charges have been levelled against Gandhi. The first is that he never spoke for the liberty of Africans or involved them in his movement, and the second is that he considered Africans to be inferior and sought to keep Indians separate from them. However, unless he was invited to do so, the Mahatma never spoke for any community of which he was not a member.

He conceived of non-violence as an exemplary rather than prescriptive practice, which would attract emulation to maintain an anarchistic social plurality. And of course, had he presumed to speak for Africans, it is certain that today he would be accused of patronising and appropriating their struggles, as indeed he often is by Dalit activists.

Legal compulsions

South Africa was a society whose racialised populations were treated differently by law. As a lawyer hired to defend Indian privileges, Gandhi was unable to challenge the legal system itself.

And the law ensured he could only defend these privileges by making sure Indians were not identified with Africans, as was the case with all non-white minorities throughout eastern and central Africa.

Although he likely approved of this separation personally, in line with his caste-defined ideas of plurality, Gandhi also insisted on treating wounded Zulus in the ambulance corps he led during the Bambatha Rebellion, with whom his political sympathies also lay.

When he was no longer serving as a lawyer, Gandhi’s derogatory comments about Africans ceased, and in his book Satyagraha in South Africa he contrasted Zulus favourably with Indians on every count.

Eventually, he would see African-Americans as the most hopeful agents of non-violence worldwide and would prove to be a significant influence on their struggle. Nonetheless, given their legal status as British subjects of the Raj, the Mahatma had to fight for his compatriots as Indians, since no such juridical or political subject as “South African” existed.

His demand was therefore an international rather than a South African one, and consisted in compelling India to uphold the status of her citizens across the British Empire.

Calling the Mahatma’s first satyagraha (passive resistance) a South African action, as he himself did, is, therefore, something of a misnomer, as it depended on the involvement of India, and therefore London, for traction. And expecting Gandhi to fight for the freedom of all South Africans is anachronistic.

South Africa was only one site of this struggle, with Gandhi interested in the status of Indians all over the British Empire, from Kenya to Mauritius to Guyana, Fiji and Trinidad. His movement became a global one when Gandhi sought to, and in fact succeeded in, abolishing indenture, which was the Indian successor to African slavery and supplied labour for much of the Empire.

Perhaps Gandhi was a racist, but we get no sense of this from his enemies, whose personalised arguments deprive his thought of integrity and ignore the many contexts in which he operated.

After all, even accusing Hitler of racism is a meaningless generality, since we can only understand Hitler’s violence by taking its intellectual justification and historical context into consideration as well. Instead of merely turning the saint into a sinner, then, it is time for the Mahatma to become a properly historical figure with all its flaws, for his friends as much as for his enemies.

Faisal Devji is Professor of Indian History and Director of the Asian Study Centre at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford.

The Indian Express – It is hard to feel sympathy for Chidambaram because as Home Minister he never tried curbing powers of agencies

It is hard to feel sympathy for political leaders when they become victims of the system they have created.

Tavleen Singh

It was with deep interest but little sympathy that I watched the arrest of P Chidambaram last week.

As I watched that small army of officials from the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation enforce their authority on a man who was once their boss, memories flooded back of what happened to me when Mr Chidambaram was Finance Minister.

I have told the story in full, gory detail in my book India’s Broken Tryst, but a precis is necessary.

I was staying in the seaside home of a friend. It was a lazy Saturday afternoon. I was half asleep in front of the TV when the study in which I rested filled up with a group of men (and one dwarf-like woman).

They screamed in unison that I had to ‘come down at once’. The Government of India, they yelled, we are from the Government of India, and this is a raid.

On the way down I accidentally touched the dwarf woman and she screeched ‘don’t touch me’ as if I had molested her. When I got downstairs, I saw that there were around 30 people in the raiding party. Their first purpose seemed to be to intimidate me.

This is not easy. I yelled back when they yelled at me and this calmed them down. But, my protestations that the house they were raiding did not belong to me made no difference.

They went through my private things and evaluated every little piece of jewellery I had. When they did not find whatever it was they came in search of, their aggression waned slightly but only slightly.

There continued to be menace in their manner as if they were dealing with a criminal who was guilty till proven innocent. These men were from the Enforcement Directorate.

What happened to me happens to thousands of ordinary Indians routinely. Anyone trying to run a business, no matter how small, is constantly at the mercy of officials who handle economic offences.

Criminals and terrorists are treated as innocent till proven guilty, but with supposed economic offenders, this basic principle of justice is usually reversed.

Anyone who thinks that the platoon of TV reporters who covered Chidambaram’s arrest were there by accident needs to think again. Live television has emboldened officials to make the most of their 15 minutes of fame, so media trials of ‘celebrity offenders’ are now the norm.

Dawn – Post-370 options?

Riaz Mohammad Khan

Op/Ed, 11 August 2019. The Modi government’s move to scuttle Article 370 and 35A was anticipated. Yet when it happened, it came as a shock.

Reaction by Pakistan has been sharp while response internationally is so far predictably muted. This reaction and response will evolve with time especially as the Kashmiri voices currently stifled are heard and the youth uprising griping the Kashmir Valley revives with the weakening of the unsustainable Draconian military clampdown in India-held Kashmir.

So what are the implications of the move and what are the challenges and options for Pakistan?

The immediate and far-reaching consequence of the Indian move is the rapture of diplomatic and political interaction between Pakistan and India.

With formal Indian annexation of held Kashmir, from Pakistan’s point of view, the heart of any dialogue process for normalisation has been removed. The faint hope for a reasonable settlement based on optimum self-governance for Kashmiris and protection of vital interests of the two countries is extinguished.

And so is gone the possibility of any workable joint arrangement for Siachen and Sir Creek to underpin a new cooperative paradigm for bilateral relations. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s offer “you move one step, we will move two” is rendered meaningless. Ahead lies a path fraught with tension, risks and dangers.

The Bharatiya Janata Party move is likely to be challenged in the Indian Supreme Court, but chances of a reversal or a remedy are next to nothing. What can force the Indian government to eventually take a step back will be the determination of the Kashmiri people to thwart Indian designs, especially demographic change.

They will need to be steadfast in the face of every possible BJP tactic, massive use of brute force, massacres, political manipulation and economic incentives. Today Kashmiri leaders in the Valley, including the veteran pro-India personalities, display a rare unity in rejecting the Indian move.

They need to convert this unity into a strong coalition for non-cooperation and resistance. The Kashmiri diaspora in the UK and the US has a critical role to play, and herein lies one of the challenges for Pakistani politics and diplomacy.

Pakistan has vowed to go to any extent in support of the Kashmiris. War is no option, but if imposed it may become unavoidable. Barring that apocalyptic scenario, arguably, Pakistani options appear to be limited but they must be put into play in a sustained manner.

We must continue to agitate about the situation as it develops at all international forums including the UN Security Council regardless of whether or not the UNSC is able to give it consideration.

Such support, even if lacking in the desired results, will be necessary for the Kashmiri morale. We must take the Kashmir case to every human rights forum. Our initiatives should be well considered but undeterred by possible setbacks; we are in for a long haul. If the situation worsens, the international community will have to take notice.

Pakistan will come under pressure to extend material help beyond diplomatic support if the Kashmiris face genocide. The Kashmiri struggle for self-determination has echoes of the past anti-colonial struggles which for success often depended on outside help.

However, we have the experience of the 1990s when infiltration of Jihadi elements was used by India to effectively malign and distort the indigenous Kashmiri uprising.

Since then, India keeps justifying its repressive measures in Kashmir as counter-terrorism. This poses inevitable dilemma, but Pakistan must not allow India this pretext to misrepresent the Kashmiri struggle internationally. This is irrespective of our own counter-terrorism commitments including those in the context of Financial Action Task Force.

No amount of Delhi’s contrived explanations for the abrogation of the special status of the occupied Valley can conceal the fact that it is a step towards the implementation of BJP’s aggressive and sinister Hindutva ideology with neo-fascist undertones. BJP stalwarts make no bones about their intentions.

This poses an almost existential challenge to not just the Kashmiri Muslims but also to the Muslims and other religious minorities in India. Pakistan also faces a grave threat. Kashmiris have a protracted struggle before them for preserving their identity and achieving self-determination.

Indian Muslims have to address the challenge within the context of their own political circumstances and in step with segments of the Indian population whose future depends on the espousal of values of secularism and a pluralistic society.

Besides the responsibilities that the Kashmiri struggle will place on it, Pakistan faces two distinct dangers: direct intervention in Azad Jammu and Kashmir or Gilgit and Baltistan or subversion in these territories and inside Pakistan. Direct intervention would mean war with incalculable consequences.

Subversion is a real possibility that may warrant preemptive political and administrative measures besides vigilance.

We are not handicapped to take any advisable measures in consultation with the people, government and administration in these territories, if necessary with the proviso similar to that adopted in the case of Pakistan-China boundary agreement that any agreed arrangement would be subject to a review in the remote eventuality of a Kashmir settlement.

Hindutva raises larger questions for South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. India is seen as a major power, but, under Modi, it is actively seeking the status of a regional hegemon. However, no nuclear power has accepted another power’s hegemony, and Pakistan is not and cannot be an exception to this reality.

On the other hand, the aspiring hegemon will be encouraged by the dismal predicament evident in our frail economy, political dysfunction, narrow technological and knowledge base. This state of affairs will also be dispiriting for the Kashmiris and for South Asian Muslims with whom we have shared history of the freedom struggle.

Our strength will help equanimity in South Asia. Therein lies the greatest challenge we face as a society, as a nation and as a country.

The writer is an author and former foreign secretary