Experts Call for Congressional Hearing on State Department’s Exclusion of Nigeria and India from Religious Freedom Violations List

A coalition of international religious freedom experts is urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to testify before a congressional hearing regarding the exclusion of Nigeria and India from a list of nations with severe violations of religious freedom. The group, comprising more than 40 religious freedom experts and organizations, sent a letter on Wednesday, expressing concern over the omission of these countries despite alarming instances of religious violence and persecution.

The letter, initially obtained by The Daily Signal, emphasizes the urgent need for accountability and transparency in the decision-making process. The experts cited significant data, stating that since 2009, over 50,000 Christians have been killed in Nigeria, with 18,000 churches and 2,500 Christian schools attacked. In the case of India, they reported that between May of the previous year and the present, 200 to 400 churches and 3,500 Christian homes have been targeted.

In the letter, the religious freedom advocates declared their support for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and its call for a congressional hearing into the State Department’s exclusion of Nigeria and India from the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list.

“Nigeria and India have been rocked by alarming instances of religious violence and persecution,” the letter states. “Pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act, both countries meet the statutory definition of ‘engaging in or tolerating particularly severe violations of religious freedom’ to be designated as CPC. They should be designated as such.”

The designation of a “Country of Particular Concern” is made by the secretary of state if a nation is found to be involved in severe violations of religious freedom under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. Under the administration of former President Donald Trump, Nigeria was designated as a CPC, but the Biden administration subsequently removed that designation, and the reasons for this decision remain unclear.

The experts stress the importance of the United States taking an active role in addressing these issues and ensuring that the principles of religious freedom are upheld globally. They call for hearings by both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to thoroughly examine the rationale behind excluding Nigeria and India from the CPC list.

“Accountability and transparency are essential to understanding the State Department’s rationale for declining to designate Nigeria and India as CPCs,” the letter continues. “We urge the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to convene hearings to thoroughly examine the reasons behind the exclusion of Nigeria and India from the CPC list. Secretary of State Antony Blinken must answer to Congress and the American people.”

Prominent signatories of the letter include McKenna Wendt from the International Christian Concern, former Representatives Frank Wolf of Virginia and Dan Burton of Indiana, Nadine Maenza, President of the International Religious Freedom Secretariat, Lela Gilbert from the Family Research Council, and William Murray, Chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition, among others.

Despite the request for comment, the State Department has not responded to inquiries from The Daily Signal at this time. The urgency and gravity of the situation, as highlighted by the religious freedom experts, underscore the need for a thorough examination of the decision-making process and a clear understanding of why Nigeria and India were excluded from the CPC list.

Navigating the Ongoing COVID-19 Landscape: Balancing Normalcy and Caution in 2024

In recent times, a substantial portion of the U.S. population has found themselves grappling with respiratory illnesses, constituting 7% of all outpatient healthcare visits during the week ending December 30, as per data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While flu, RSV, and other routine winter viruses contribute to this surge, the highly contagious JN.1 variant of COVID-19 is playing a significant role, presenting a challenging start to the year. Epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina, author of the Your Local Epidemiologist newsletter, asserts that Americans are witnessing a potential glimpse into their “new normal.”

Jetelina laments, “Unfortunately, signs are pointing to this [being] the level of disruption and disease we’re going to be faced with in years to come.”

The absence of active COVID-19 case tracking by the CDC complicates the assessment of the virus’s spread. Wastewater analysis, while not a perfect substitute, currently serves as a real-time signal, and its data indicate that the ongoing surge may only be surpassed by the initial Omicron wave in early 2022. Some projections suggest that over a million individuals in the U.S. could be contracting the virus daily at the peak of this surge.

Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have seen an increase, with almost 35,000 recorded during the week ending December 30, a 20% rise from the previous week in 2023. Deaths, typically lagging behind hospitalizations, are already at around 1,000 per week in the U.S.

Despite these concerning trends, everyday activities such as working in offices, attending schools, dining in restaurants, and sitting in crowded movie theaters continue with minimal masking. Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, and former COVID-19 response coordinator for the Biden Administration, emphasizes that the changing landscape is influenced by factors such as widespread immunity, available treatments like Paxlovid, and the general population’s familiarity with mitigation measures.

Jha states, “COVID is not gone, it’s not irrelevant, but it’s not the risk it was four years ago, or even two years ago.” He advocates for a balanced approach, acknowledging the persistent risks for certain groups while asserting that vaccines and treatments should instill confidence in resuming normalcy.

Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, acknowledges the challenge of adjusting to this new reality after years of heightened vigilance. Wachter advises adapting behavior based on individual risk tolerance and vulnerability to severe disease, recommending additional precautions during surges.

With precise COVID-19 data less available, Jetelina suggests aligning behavior with specific objectives. For example, individuals aiming to protect vulnerable family members may choose to avoid crowded places before visits. Dr. Peter Hotez of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development emphasizes the need for more people to receive updated vaccines targeting newer variants to enhance overall protection.

Despite vaccination efforts, Long COVID remains a challenging risk to address. Jetelina notes that staying up-to-date on vaccines reduces the risk but does not eliminate it entirely. Hannah Davis from the Patient-Led Research Collaborative for Long COVID advocates for adopting precautionary measures such as wearing quality masks, improving ventilation, and testing before gatherings.

Davis contends that the government should do more to inform the public about the persistent risks of Long COVID and reinfections. She suggests policy measures, such as ventilation requirements for public places and mask mandates on public transportation, to supplement individual efforts.

While some mask mandates have been reinstated in certain healthcare facilities and nursing homes, Jha argues against widespread mandates, asserting that with the current array of tools available, they are less crucial. Jetelina anticipates a potential relaxation of COVID-19 guidance in 2024, speculating on changes to isolation guidelines by the CDC.

Looking ahead, Wachter predicts that the threat of COVID-19 will become integrated into background risks, similar to other potential health hazards. Jha emphasizes the need to move forward rather than attempting to revert to pre-pandemic norms. He expresses hope that lessons learned during the pandemic will lead to a comprehensive approach to respiratory diseases, standardizing guidance on vaccines, masks, ventilation, and sick-leave policies for all infectious diseases, not just COVID-19.

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Narayana Murthy Advocates Reciprocity in Government Services at Bengaluru Tech Summit 2023, Urges Responsibility and Draws Inspiration from China’s Economic Success

Infosys co-founder N R Narayana Murthy, speaking at the 26th edition of Bengaluru Tech Summit 2023, emphasized the importance of reciprocity in availing government services. He expressed his disapproval of freebies and urged individuals to contribute back to society after benefiting from government services at subsidized rates. The event, held in the Karnataka capital, provided a platform for Murthy to share his insights on the role of “compassionate capitalism” in India’s path to prosperity.

Murthy highlighted the need for a symbiotic relationship between citizens and the government when it comes to subsidized services. He articulated his perspective, stating, “When you provide those services, when you provide those subsidies, there must be something in return that they’re willing to do. For example, if you say — I will give you free electricity, then it would have been a very nice thing for the government to have said, but we want to see the percentage attendance in primary schools and middle schools go up by 20 per cent, then only we will give you that.”

While acknowledging the importance of free services, Murthy underscored the necessity for recipients to shoulder a greater responsibility in return. Drawing from his own humble background, he empathized with those who have benefited from subsidies and advocated for a commitment to improving the prospects of future generations. He stated, “I am not against free services being provided. I fully understand, as I also came from a poor background once upon a time. But I think we should expect something in return from those people who received those free subsidies to take a slightly bigger responsibility towards making their own future generation, their own children and grandchildren, better in terms of going to school, you know, performing better. That’s what I mean.”

In the pursuit of creating efficient, corruption-free, and effective public goods in the country, Murthy acknowledged that taxation would inevitably need to be higher than what is observed in developed nations. Expressing his willingness to accept a higher level of taxation for the greater good, he stated, “In order to create efficient, corruption-free and effective public goods in our country, the taxation will have to be obviously higher than what you see in developed countries. So, I personally would not at all grudge if I have to pay a higher level of taxation.

Narayana Murthy Advocates Reciprocity in Government Services at Bengaluru Tech Summit 2023 Urges Responsibility and Draws Inspiration from China's Economic Success

Murthy also drew attention to the economic progress of China, emphasizing the need for Indian political leaders to study and learn from China’s successes. Despite facing similar challenges, China has achieved a GDP five or six times that of India. Murthy urged political leaders to carefully analyze China’s strategies and implement measures that would enable India to advance at a comparable pace. He expressed his vision for India to become a nation that effectively addresses poverty and uplifts its people. “So all that I would humbly request our political leaders is to study China very very carefully, and then see what are the good things that we can learn from China and implement here, so that India too advances at the same pace as China and becomes a nation that has reduced the poverty of its people,” he said.

Narayana Murthy’s address at the Bengaluru Tech Summit 2023 underscored the importance of reciprocity in the utilization of government services, advocated for a sense of responsibility among beneficiaries of subsidies, and encouraged political leaders to draw insights from China’s economic development to propel India towards greater prosperity.

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2024 Republican Contenders DeSantis and Haley Challenge Trump’s Nomination, Showcase Policy Positions in CNN Town Halls

In the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses, two prominent 2024 Republican presidential contenders, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, sought to sway voters by challenging the assumption that former President Donald Trump is a shoo-in for the party’s nomination. Both emphasized the potential risks of nominating Trump again, suggesting it could jeopardize the GOP’s chances in the November election. The candidates also aimed to showcase their own electability and distinct policy positions.

During a CNN town hall, DeSantis aimed to present a more relatable persona, starting the event by handing a jersey to CNN moderator Kaitlan Collins in a lighthearted gesture. He then delved into policy, expressing support for a “flat tax” and advocating for the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service. In contrast, Haley emphasized her readiness to tackle challenging issues, highlighting fiscal responsibility, advocating robust support for Israel in its conflict with Hamas, and recounting her efforts to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds during her governorship.

Both candidates raised concerns about the potential impact of Trump’s legal battles on the party’s ability to defeat President Joe Biden in the general election. They did not directly criticize Trump over the legal challenges he faces but framed him as a candidate whose personal controversies could harm the GOP’s chances. Haley asserted that the country couldn’t afford “four more years of chaos,” emphasizing the need for stability.

Here are six key takeaways from their CNN town halls:

Setting Expectations

Despite polls indicating Trump’s lead in Iowa, both DeSantis and Haley insisted they were committed to competing until the last moment. DeSantis encouraged voters not to let media or pundits influence their decision, emphasizing the importance of choosing the best president. Haley acknowledged the significance of the New Hampshire primary for her campaign but underscored her determination to fight until the end in Iowa and every state.

Taking on Trump

Both candidates argued that nominating Trump for a third consecutive time posed a risk for the Republican Party. While avoiding direct criticism of Trump’s legal challenges, they portrayed him as a candidate whose personal drama could hinder the GOP. Haley stressed the need for stability, stating, “We have a country to save, and that means no more drama.” DeSantis acknowledged the boost Trump received from his legal troubles in the primary but warned Iowa voters of potential damage in the general election.

DeSantis’ Evolution

DeSantis displayed a different demeanor in the town hall compared to earlier appearances in the 2024 Republican primary. He adopted a more relatable tone, using folksy language and refraining from immediately addressing social issues like transgender healthcare bans or abortion. DeSantis positioned himself as a candidate running for the average voter, signaling a departure from his previous image as overly stiff and unrelatable.

Addressing Gun Violence

The town hall occurred hours after a school shooting in Perry, Iowa. DeSantis addressed the issue of gun violence, referencing reforms passed in Florida after the Parkland shooting. He emphasized the importance of mental health and instant background checks, expressing opposition to mandatory waiting periods. Haley focused on mental health and security measures for schools, opposing restrictions on gun rights and advocating a holistic approach.

Haley’s Civil War Answer

Haley revisited a controversial moment from the previous week when she failed to mention slavery when discussing the Civil War. Acknowledging her mistake, she explained that she was thinking beyond slavery and focused on the lessons learned. She also shared personal experiences dealing with racism, emphasizing the need to show commonality rather than differences.

DeSantis on Abortion

DeSantis faced persistent questions about his stance on abortion, adopting a softer tone while reaffirming his anti-abortion record. He was evasive about the onus on women to access exceptions in Florida’s six-week prohibition. DeSantis also criticized Trump from the right on abortion, suggesting a misalignment between Trump’s current positions and his earlier beliefs, particularly for pro-life voters in Iowa.

DeSantis and Haley strategically positioned themselves as viable alternatives to Trump, emphasizing the potential risks of his candidacy and presenting their own policy positions and electability. The town halls provided insight into their evolving campaign strategies and their efforts to appeal to a broader audience, addressing issues ranging from taxes and gun violence to historical controversies.

Italian Priest Excommunicated for Denying Pope Francis’ Papacy

In a recent development, an Italian priest, Father Ramon Guidetti, has faced excommunication from his local bishop for expressing controversial views about Pope Francis during a homily. The Diocese of Livorno, located in Tuscany, issued a decree on January 1, alerting Catholics to Father Guidetti’s actions, asserting that he “publicly committed a schismatic act” during Mass, leading to an automatic excommunication under Canon law.

Bishop Simone Giusti, the local bishop, explicitly directed Catholics not to attend any Masses conducted by Father Guidetti, cautioning that doing so would result in the serious penalty of excommunication. The bishop invoked Canon 751, which defines schism as “the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

A video posted on YouTube captured the contentious homily delivered by Father Guidetti on December 31, 2023, marking the one-year anniversary of Benedict XVI’s death. In the video, the priest referred to Pope Francis as a “usurper” and a “freemason,” questioning the legitimacy of his papacy. Moreover, Guidetti outright denied that Pope Francis had been the pope for the past decade.

The 48-year-old priest had been serving as the parish priest of the Church of San Ranieri since 2017, situated outside the coastal city of Livorno, approximately 150 miles north of Rome. This move by the local bishop to excommunicate Father Guidetti comes after a meeting held before Christmas, where the bishop addressed the priest’s dissent and subsequently issued the official excommunication decree following Guidetti’s public act of schism on December 31.

Bishop Giusti emphasized the seriousness of the situation, highlighting the implications of excommunication for those who defy the directive: “Catholics are not to attend any Masses offered by the excommunicated priest or they would also incur the very serious penalty of excommunication.”

The use of canonical law to address cases of dissent or schism within the Catholic Church is not uncommon. Canon law provides a framework for maintaining order and discipline within the Church, and excommunication is considered one of the most severe penalties. The decision to excommunicate Father Guidetti stems from his public declarations challenging the legitimacy of Pope Francis’ papacy, constituting a direct violation of Canon 751.

Father Guidetti’s controversial statements, as captured in the video, play a central role in the bishop’s decision to issue the excommunication decree. In the homily, the priest not only referred to Pope Francis as a “usurper” and a “freemason” but also asserted that the current pope had not held the position for the past decade. These statements directly challenge the authority and legitimacy of the Supreme Pontiff, a grave offense within the context of the Catholic Church.

The decree issued by the Diocese of Livorno reflects the seriousness with which the Church addresses matters of schism and dissent. The term “latae sententiae excommunication” used in the decree indicates that Father Guidetti incurred automatic excommunication as a result of his actions during the Mass. This means that the penalty is applied automatically by virtue of the actions committed, without the need for a formal declaration from Church authorities.

The bishop’s adherence to canonical law and the use of excommunication as a disciplinary measure underscores the importance of maintaining doctrinal unity within the Catholic Church. While the Church encourages theological discussions and diverse perspectives, actions that directly challenge the authority of the Pope and the core tenets of Catholicism can lead to severe consequences, as witnessed in the case of Father Guidetti.

The decision to excommunicate Father Guidetti also serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between freedom of expression and the need for adherence to the doctrines of the Church. While individuals within the Church are encouraged to engage in open dialogue, the public expression of views that undermine the fundamental beliefs and authority structures of the Catholic Church can result in serious repercussions.

The local paper in Livorno reported that Bishop Giusti had met with Father Guidetti before Christmas to address his dissent. The subsequent excommunication decree indicates that the bishop deemed the priest’s public act of schism on December 31 as a clear and unacceptable breach of canonical norms. The bishop’s decision to proceed with the excommunication highlights the significance of upholding the unity and integrity of the Catholic faith.

The excommunication of Father Ramon Guidetti by the Diocese of Livorno for challenging the legitimacy of Pope Francis’ papacy during a homily underscores the seriousness with which the Catholic Church addresses matters of dissent and schism. The use of canonical law, specifically invoking Canon 751, reflects the Church’s commitment to maintaining doctrinal unity and discipline. This case serves as a poignant reminder of the boundaries set by the Church to safeguard its core tenets and authority structures.

Need To Put An End To India-Canada Friction

Justifiably, India and Sri Lanka are unhappy that the Canadian government is giving the freedom to operate to separatist movements in Canada and is keeping its eyes and ears closed to the violent objectives of the separatists.

It is evident that a large majority of the people living in India and Canada are highly concerned about the ongoing diplomatic friction between India and Canada and want the traditionally good relationship between both countries to be restored as early as possible.

While it serves no purpose at this stage to discuss who is responsible for developing such friction between these two democratic countries, many people in India and Canada think that Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau may have acted and spoken somewhat carelessly, attributing the death of a Sikh political leader in Canada to the machination of the Indian government. He has said this without adequate proof and that too in Canadian parliament. This statement has naturally irked India, as it would spoil the reputation of the country around the world.

 After this, one event followed another with Trudeau staying firm in his views. In the process, he has done enormous damage to the relationship with  India and the Indian government too seems to have overreacted to the accusation.

The fact that many people in Canada too are unhappy about the state of affairs became evident when Canada’s opposition leader said that he would work to restore a “professional relationship” with India if his party were to come to office in the next elections in Canada.  The question now is how to restore the relations between both countries to the traditional level.

Migrant population with twin loyalties

During the last several decades, Canada has been welcoming the migrant population liberally and has been providing citizenship to migrants from all over the world, probably without adequate checks and control from the point of view of national security.  In the process, Canada has a mixed population from various countries who have become citizens and belong to different religions including Christians, and Muslims. Sikhs, Hindus,  Buddhists and so on. Further, it appears that some of these migrant-turned-citizens have twin loyalties in their mindset to Canada as well as the country from which they have migrated.

Need To Put An End To India Canada Friction (The Guardian)
Picture: The Guardian

With such a large influx of migrants over the years and with an almost unchecked level of freedom given to the people in Canada, some of the migrants have been tempted to organise movements from Canadian soil to “fight “ for a separate state for a particular group in their original country. An immediate example is the LTTE movement freely operating in Canada to split Sri Lanka and the Khalistan movement freely operating in Canada to split India.

Justifiably, India and Sri Lanka are unhappy that the Canadian government is giving the freedom to operate to separatist movements in Canada and is keeping its eyes and ears closed to the violent objectives of the separatists. Probably, a few other countries too are unhappy with Canada for allowing separatist movements on its soil threatening the territorial integrity of those countries.

In the process of massive migration of people from different countries with varied traditional and cultural standards and value systems, the demographic structure of Canada is constantly changing with the migrant population getting considerable space in the Canadian parliament and government.  In the process, the political and electoral power of such migrants has also become strong, influencing Canadian politics.

Short-sighted policies

Probably, Trudeau feels that keeping the migrant Sikh population supporting the Khalistan movement in good humour would help him politically and hence made such a statement against India.  The twin loyalties of a section of the Canadian population became evident when the recent visit of Trudeau to a mosque in Canada was reportedly objected to by a section of Muslims living in Canada.

Obviously, Trudeau cannot afford now to backtrack since it would amount to eating his own words. However, there is concern in Canada that the country can suffer due to such short-sighted policies as the large student population from India going for higher education to Canada may start looking elsewhere.  There could be a loss of business opportunities for Canada just as it is for India too

What should be done now is that the spokespersons from both countries should remain silent for some time so that the dust settles down and saner voices can be heard from both countries.

(The author is a commentator on current affairs and a Trustee, NGO Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai. Views are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])

Read more at: https://www.southasiamonitor.org/perspective/need-put-end-india-canada-friction

The Qatar-India Diplomatic Conundrum: What’s India’s Next Move?

Should Bharat reconsider landing rights for Qatar Airways? A Test of Strategic Resolve

The Qatar-India Diplomatic Conundrum: What's India's Next Move?

By: Amb. Pradeep Kapur & Dr. Joseph M. Chalil

The recent sentencing of eight Indian Navy veterans, including the highly respected Cmdr. Purnendu Tiwari (Retd), by a Qatari court on espionage charges, is a moment of deep introspection for India’s foreign policy machinery. With bilateral ties between Qatar and India already hanging in the balance, this event marks a significant, potentially disruptive moment in their shared history.

Cmdr. Tiwari, a previous recipient of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, has been honored by India for his remarkable contributions to bilateral ties with Qatar. The naval officers were in Kotász to provide training to the Qataris. They are respected and enabled officers, and they are not terrorists. Thus, the sentencing of eight Indian naval officers to death on charges of spying for Israel poses severe questions about trust, respect, and the future trajectory of Indo-Qatari relations.

Qatar and Bharat used to enjoy good bilateral relations. Of late, these relations have come under severe stress as Qatar’s policies have become more closely aligned with Türkiye and Iran due to Qatar’s support and funding of terrorist organizations, including some such organizations within Bharat. Also, the media channel Al Jazeera operates freely from Qatar, with its bias against Bharat.

However, the economic ties and bilateral trade are significant. Qatar is an important source of oil for Bharat. On the other hand, the 800,000 migrant workers from Bharat constitute the most significant component of foreign workers in Qatar, and they contribute significantly to the Qatari economy, along with the 6,000 Indian companies operating in Qatar. Under normal circumstances, the Indian envoy in Doha has a lot of access and clout within the Qatari establishment, and this issue could perhaps have been resolved without it escalating to this level.

Implementing the IMEC (India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor), which was already under stress due to the continuing Russia-Ukraine war and has also been impacted by the Middle East conflict between Israel and Hamas, will be further delayed.

  1. Diplomatic Channels and Open Dialogue

Bharat’s first line of action should continue to be diplomatic. The primary objective should be securing the safe return of the detained individuals, especially given the potentially politically motivated nature of the verdict. India must invoke the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to ensure regular consular access and a fair appeal process for the detained veterans.

Further, a lower court in Qatar has given the death sentence. An appeal must be made to a higher court. An appeal can also be made to the Emir for pardoning the Indian naval officers.  So far, in the last 20 years, only one Nepali migrant worker has been executed in Qatar.

New Delhi must open communication channels at the highest levels, possibly involving Prime Ministerial or Presidential diplomacy. A direct conversation between leaders can often break the ice and prevent a full-blown crisis.

  1. Bilateral Talks and Strategic Diplomacy

While securing the safety and well-being of its nationals is paramount, India must also address the core allegations which link it to Israel. India could propose a joint bilateral committee to investigate the charges independently. This gesture would show India’s commitment to transparency and respect for Qatar’s concerns while upholding its interests.

If Qatar delayed the resolution of the case and set free the former naval officers, Bharat would have to think about the various options, which it could communicate privately to Qatar.

  1. Rethinking Qatar Airways’ Landing Rights

India could reconsider landing rights for Qatar Airways, a major connector between the two countries. One of the significant sources of revenue for Qatar Airways is the Indian diaspora. Qatar Airways has been given rights to many Indian airports. While this move might strain the relationship further, it would be a strong statement about the seriousness with which India views the detentions.

  1. Collaborative Engagement with Israel

Given the alleged Israeli connection, India can deepen its ties with Israel on intelligence-sharing and defense cooperation, signaling a shift in its strategic alignment. While this doesn’t mean outright siding against Qatar, it indicates a diversified strategic partnership beyond traditional alliances. India could list Hamas as a terrorist organization. This will put Qatar under notice as a state sponsor of terrorism.

  1. Economic Leverage: A Double-Edged Sword

Qatar has significant resources for oil. It is also one of the richest per capita GDP countries. Qatar and India have a robust trade relationship. Qatar is one of India’s critical natural gas suppliers and is essential to India’s energy security. Conversely, India is one of Qatar’s largest trading partners. While using economic leverage, such as trade restrictions or curbing investments, is tempting, this tactic can backfire.

Instead of immediately resorting to sanctions or trade curbs, India could consider a phased approach. An initial step might be to review ongoing projects and investments in Qatar, signaling the potential economic consequences of strained relations.

  1. Internationalizing the Issue

If bilateral channels fail to yield satisfactory outcomes, India could consider raising the matter on international platforms. This could include discussions in the United Nations, Commonwealth, or other international forums where both nations participate. By internationalizing the issue, India can rally support from like-minded countries and build pressure on Qatar.

The US had declared Qatar as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA). The US has a major base in Qatar with 10,000 US army personnel. It also carries out a lot of its air force operations and drone attacks in the region from its base in Qatar. This base was also used extensively for the evacuation of Afghans when the Taliban took over.

On the other hand, Qatar provides a haven to representatives and leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Taliban, and Al-Qaeda. Thus, Qatar is said to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.

  1. Engaging the Indian Diaspora

With a significant Indian expatriate community in Qatar, their well-being and sentiments become pivotal in such a crisis. Engaging with the diaspora, ensuring their safety, and leveraging their influence in Qatar can be crucial in resolving the situation.

The Indian diaspora in the US can also play an essential role by leveraging their connections within the US administration to seek the urgent release of the Indian naval officers.

  1. Exploring Alternative Energy Partnerships

While disrupting the energy trade between Qatar and India could immediately impact India’s economy, the long-term strategy might include diversifying energy sources. India can reduce its dependency on Qatari gas by exploring deeper partnerships with other Gulf nations or looking towards non-traditional partners.

India’s initiatives to create the International Global Solar Alliance (GSA) and, more recently, the Global Biofuel Alliance and its impetus to renewable energy will contribute significantly to energy security. These initiatives need to be expedited.

  1. Approach the International Court of Justice (ICJ)

India should approach the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concerning the detention and sentencing of its Navy veterans in Qatar, which can be strategically framed by focusing on international legal principles, especially regarding the right to a fair trial and human rights considerations. Here’s how India can approach the ICJ to block the execution:

As seen in the case between India and Pakistan concerning Kulbhushan Jadhav, India invoked the ICJ’s jurisdiction based on alleged violations of the VCCR. The Convention outlines consular officials’ rights to visit, converse with, and ensure legal representation for their citizens detained abroad. India can argue that its rights under the VCCR were breached if they were not given appropriate consular access. Both India and Qatar are also parties to the ICCPR. Article 14 of the Covenant guarantees the right to a fair trial. If India believes the Navy veterans didn’t receive a fair trial in Qatar, it can base its arguments on violations of this treaty.

  1. Humanitarian Grounds:

While legal arguments will form the core of India’s case, the country can also emphasize the humanitarian aspects, especially given the irreversibility of the death penalty. This can build international pressure, making it more than just a legal issue but a global concern.

  1. Seeking Provisional Measures:

Once the case is brought before the ICJ, India can seek provisional measures, effectively an interim order, to prevent Qatar from executing the Navy veterans until the issue is conclusively decided. This ensures that no irreversible action is taken during the court’s proceedings.

Conclusion:

The ICJ’s involvement can be a double-edged sword, as it can help bring attention to the matter and potentially halt executions. Still, it also requires substantial evidence and solid legal arguments. It is crucial for India to meticulously prepare its case, ensuring that it stands on firm legal and moral grounds. Moreover, the entire process can be time-consuming and has no guaranteed outcome. With the right strategy, India can use the ICJ as a critical platform to seek justice for its veterans.

Declaring a state as a sponsor of terrorism is a significant and severe diplomatic move, and it’s essential to understand the complexities and implications of such an action. India could consider declaring Qatar as a state sponsor of terrorism based on alleged support for Hamas. It would likely strain bilateral ties considerably, impact regional geopolitics, and could lead to retaliatory measures by the designated state.

India’s response to this crisis will test its foreign policy’s resilience, maturity, and strategic depth. While the immediate priority is securing the release of the detained veterans, New Delhi must also ensure its actions maintain the delicate balance in West Asia and its strategic interests.

Economic and diplomatic actions should be measured and phased, ensuring room for de-escalation. At its heart, diplomacy is about dialogue, trust-building, and finding common ground. It’s time for India and Qatar to navigate this challenging moment and forge a path of mutual respect and understanding.

Ambassador Pradeep Kapur

Ambassador Pradeep Kapur is an acknowledged “luminary diplomat,” with a distinguished career working with leaders and policymakers in different continents of the world: Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and South America. He was the author and editor of many books. Kapur was Ambassador of India to Chile and Cambodia and Secretary at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs before joining as an academic in reputed universities in the USA and India. A graduate of the globally acclaimed Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-D), he is Executive Director of Smart Village Development Fund (SVDF); International Economic Strategic Advisor, Intellect Design Arena; and Chairman, Advisory Council, DiplomacyIndia.com. His healthcare contributions include setting up of BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Eastern Nepal, which is acclaimed as an exemplary bilateral India Nepal initiative.

Joseph M Chalil

Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, Chief Medical Officer at Novo Integrated Sciences, Inc., is a renowned physician executive with international recognition for his extensive contributions to healthcare innovation and research. Currently pursuing an LLM in Medical Law and Ethics at the University of Edinburgh Law School, he holds influential roles as Chairman of the Complex Health Systems Advisory Board and Adjunct Professor at Nova Southeastern University, Florida. Dr. Chalil, a U.S. Navy Medical Corps veteran, also serves as Chief Strategic Advisor for the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. His impactful book, “Beyond the Covid-19 Pandemic,” reflects his commitment to transforming global healthcare systems. A respected figure in healthcare and media, Dr. Chalil is known for his leadership in healthcare administration, balanced media representation, and insightful discussions on Indian TV news channels, showcasing his expertise in areas such as US-India relations, geopolitical issues, and public policy.

The UN’s Own Relevance Is At Stake At This Year’s General Assembly

(IPS) – This September, world leaders and public policy advocates from around the world will descend on New York for the UN General Assembly. Alongside conversations on peace and security, global development and climate change, progress – or the lack of it – on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is expected to take centre-stage. A major SDG Summit will be held on 18 and 19 September. The UN hopes that it will serve as a ‘rallying cry to recharge momentum for world leaders to come together to reflect on where we stand and resolve to do more’. But are the world’s leaders in a mood to uphold the UN’s purpose, and can the UN’s leadership rise to the occasion by resolutely addressing destructive behaviours?
Sadly, the world is facing an acute crisis of leadership. In far too many countries authoritarian leaders have seized power through a combination of populist political discourse, outright repression and military coups. Our findings on the CIVICUS Monitor – a participatory research platform that measures civic freedoms in every country – show that 85% of the world’s population live in places where serious attacks on basic fundamental freedoms to organise, speak out and protest are taking place. Respect for these freedoms is essential so that people and civil society organisations can have a say in inclusive decision making.

UN undermined.

The UN Charter begins with the words, ‘We the Peoples’ and a resolve to save future generations from the scourge of war. Its ideals, such as respect for human rights and the dignity of every person, are being eroded by powerful states that have introduced slippery concepts such as ‘cultural relativism’ and ‘development with national characteristics’. The consensus to seek solutions to global challenges through the UN appears to be at breaking point. As we speak hostilities are raging in Ukraine, Sudan, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Sahel region even as millions of people reel from the negative consequences of protracted conflicts and oppression in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Syria and Yemen, to name a few.

Picture : TheUNN

Article 1 of the UN Charter underscores the UN’s role in harmonising the actions of nations towards the attainment of common ends, including in relation to solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character, and to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. But in a time of eye-watering inequality within and between countries, big economic decisions affecting people and the planet are not being made collectively at the UN but by the G20 group of the world’s biggest economies, whose leaders are meeting prior to the UN General Assembly to make economic decisions with ramifications for all countries.

Economic and development cooperation policies for a large chunk of the globe are also determined through the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Established in 1961, the OECD comprises 38 countries with a stated commitment to democratic values and market-based economics. Civil society has worked hard to get the OECD to take action on issues such as fair taxation, social protection and civic space.

More recently, the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – grouping of countries that together account for 40 per cent of the world’s population and a quarter of the globe’s GDP are seeking to emerge as a counterweight to the OECD. However, concerns remain about the values that bind this alliance. At its recent summit in South Africa six new members were admitted, four of which – Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – are ruled by totalitarian governments with a history of repressing civil society voices.

This comes on top of concerns that China and Russia are driving the BRICS agenda despite credible allegations that their governments have committed crimes against humanity.

The challenge before the UN’s leadership this September is to find ways to bring coherence and harmony to decisions being taken at the G20, OECD, BRICS and elsewhere to serve the best interests of excluded people around the globe. A focus on the SDGs by emphasising their universality and indivisibility can provide some hope.

SDGs off-track

The adoption of the SDGs in 2015 was a groundbreaking moment. The 17 ambitious SDGs and their 169 targets have been called the greatest ever human endeavour to create peaceful, just, equal and sustainable societies. The SDGs include promises to tackle inequality and corruption, promote women’s equality and empowerment, support inclusive and participatory governance, ensure sustainable consumption and production, usher in rule of law and catalyse effective partnerships for development.

But seven years on the SDGs are seriously off-track. The UN Secretary-General’s SDG progress report released this July laments that the promise to ‘leave no one behind’ is in peril. As many as 30 per cent of the targets are reported to have seen no progress or worse to have regressed below their 2015 baseline. The climate crisis, war in Ukraine, a weak global economy and the COVID-19 pandemic are cited as some of the reasons why progress is lacking.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is pushing for an SDG stimulus plan to scale up financing to the tune of US$500 billion. It remains to be seen how successful this would be given the self-interest being pursued by major powers that have the financial resources to contribute. Moreover, without civic participation and guarantees for enabled civil societies, there is a high probability that SDG stimulus funds could be misused by authoritarian governments to reinforce networks of patronage and to shore up repressive state apparatuses.

Also up for discussion at the UN General Assembly will be plans for a major Summit for the Future in 2024 to deliver the UN Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda report, released in 2021. This proposes among other things the appointment of a UN Envoy for Future Generations, an upgrade of key UN institutions, digital cooperation across the board and boosting partnerships to drive access and inclusion at the UN.

But with multilateralism stymied by hostility and divisions among big powers on the implementation of internationally agreed norms, achieving progress on this agenda implies a huge responsibility on the UN’s leadership to forge consensus while speaking truth to power and challenging damaging behaviours by states and their leaders.

The UN’s leadership have found its voice on the issue of climate change. Secretary-General Guterres has been remarkably candid about the negative impacts of the fossil fuel industry and its supporters. This July, he warned that ‘The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived’. Similar candour is required to call out the twin plagues of authoritarianism and populism which are causing immense suffering to people around the world while exacerbating conflict, inequality and climate change.

The formation of the UN as the conscience of the world in 1945 was an exercise in optimism and altruism. This September that spirit will be needed more than ever to start creating a better world for all, and to prove the UN’s value.

(Mandeep S. Tiwana is chief officer for evidence and engagement + representative to the UN headquarters at CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.)

Modi Can’t Make India a Great Power Government-Backed Intolerance Is Tearing the Country Apart

Starting September 9, New Delhi is scheduled to host the G-20’s 18th annual summit. The event, in the eyes of the Indian government, will mark the country’s growing international importance. “During our G-20 presidency, we shall present India’s experiences, learnings, and models as possible templates for others,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared last year, when his country assumed the organization’s leadership. This August, he asserted that India’s presidency would help make the world into “one family” through “historic efforts aimed at inclusive and holistic growth.”

The government’s message was clear: India is becoming a great power under Modi and will usher in an era of global peace and prosperity.

But 1,000 miles away from New Delhi, in the northeastern state of Manipur, India is caught in a conflict that suggests it is in no position to serve as an international leader. Over the last four months, ethnic violence between Manipur’s largest community, the Meiteis, and its second-largest minority, the Kukis, has killed hundreds of people and rendered 60,000 people homeless. Mobs have set fire to over 350 churches and vandalized over a dozen temples. They have burned more than 200 villages.

At first glance, it may seem as if the violence in Manipur will not hinder Modi’s foreign policy ambitions. After all, the prime minister has traveled the world over the last four months without having to talk about the conflict. It did not come up (at least publicly) in June, when U.S. President Joe Biden rolled out the red carpet for Modi in Washington, D.C. It was not mentioned when Modi landed in Paris three weeks later and met French President.

Emmanuel Macron. And the issue has not arisen during his visits this year to Australia, Egypt, Greece, Japan, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates.

Picture : OPIndia

But make no mistake: the events in Manipur threaten Modi’s goal and vision of a great India. The state’s violence has forced the Indian government to deploy thousands of troops inside Manipur, reducing the country’s capacity to protect its borders from an increasingly aggressive China. The conflict has also hampered India’s efforts to be an influential player in Southeast Asia by making it hard for the country to carry out regional infrastructure projects and by saddling neighboring states with refugees.

And the ongoing violence could give other Indian separatist and ethnic partisan groups an opening to challenge New Delhi’s primacy. If these organizations do begin to rebel, as some of them have in the past, the consequences would be disastrous. India is one of the most diverse countries in the world, home to people from thousands of different cultures and communities. It cannot function if these populations are in intense conflict.

There is little reason to think that tensions will ease under Modi, and plenty of reason to think they will get worse.

The prime minister’s central ideological project is the creation of a Hindu nationalist country where non-Hindu people are, at best, second-class citizens. It is an exclusionary agenda that alienates the hundreds of millions of Indians who do not belong to the country’s Hindu majority. It is also one with a track record of prompting violence and unrest—including, now, in Manipur.

Modi’s allies and supporters like to argue that the prime minister is personally transforming India into a new superpower. Modi’s deputies, for example, suggest that the prime minister has earned respect unmatched by any previous Indian leader. Modi “exudes India in many ways, and I think that has had a big impact as well on the international community,” Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s foreign minister, remarked in June.

The country’s pliant media have declared that Modi is vishwaguru: the world’s teacher and guide. But Manipur shows that India stands little chance of becoming a global leader as long as Modi is at the helm. Great powers need to be stable, and the ruling party’s exclusionary policies will open the country’s various fault lines, creating chasms that lead to violence and drain the state’s capacity. Manipur has sent Modi a warning. He is ignoring it at India’s peril.

SONS OF THE SOIL

Modi is not the first Indian politician to promote Hindu nationalism and majoritarianism. The prime minister’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its parent organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have spent decades trying to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra, or a nation exclusively of Hindus. Along the way, the groups have routinely provoked bloodshed. The groups, for example, inspired the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. The RSS helped destroy a historic mosque in 1992, which set off widespread riots.

But although Hindu nationalism has been around for decades, the movement has amassed more power than it ever has before. Manipur provides an insight into how. In theory, the state should be unfavorable terrain for Hindu supremacists. Its Meitei majority does not traditionally identify as Hindu; they have instead followed an animistic faith, one with its own beliefs and traditions. The community’s language is not Hindi, nor is it one of Hindi’s cousins. In fact, until the late 1990s, the Meitei nationalist movement sought independence from India. Meitei organizations should, if anything, oppose Hindu nationalists ruling the country.

But the BJP and the RSS have worked to get ethnic groups that form the majority in their own states to join their cause (except when they are Muslims), arguing that these groups deserve to dominate their regions—just as Hindus should dominate India overall. Sometimes, the BJP and RSS even try to amalgamate smaller communities of animistic faiths into the Hindu tradition.

Their message does not always land, but in Manipur, it appears to have done so. Many Meiteis now say they are Hindus, and the community’s nationalists identify as part of the BJP’s program. They believe that they are the original inhabitants of Manipur—the sons of the soil—and that Kukis are illegal immigrants from Myanmar. Their argument mirrors the one made everywhere by the RSS, which claims that Hindus are the original inhabitants of India whereas Muslims and Christians are outsiders.

Great powers need to be stable.

The state’s chief minister, Nongthombam Biren Singh, has fashioned himself accordingly. Once a pluralist politician from the Indian National Congress—the main opposition party—Singh joined the BJP in 2017 and has positioned himself as a Meitei partisan since 2022. He won Manipur’s state elections again for the BJP, and he has been leading the charge against the Kukis.

In the months before the conflict began, he adopted a policy of arbitrarily evicting Kuki villages under the pretense of protecting forests. Beginning in February, his government began checking the biometric details of people living in Kuki-dominated hill districts in order to identify “illegal immigrants.” In March, he blamed “illegal immigrants from Myanmar” engaged in the “drug business” for protests against the state’s efforts to evict Kukis from their villages. And in April, he told an RSS-controlled newspaper that “foreigner Kuki immigrants have taken control of the social, political, and economic affairs of the native tribal people of the state.”

Singh’s policies and rhetoric are squarely at odds with the Indian constitution, which was designed to safeguard marginalized groups. The document affords all of the country’s indigenous minorities—including the Kukis—special protections to secure their land, language, and culture. But under Modi, those protections are falling apart.

After winning reelection in 2019, Modi’s government quickly stripped Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, of its constitutionally enshrined protections. He then split the state in two and downgraded the resulting components from states into federally controlled territories. Anticipating widespread unrest, Modi deployed vast numbers of troops into what was already a militarized region and shut off the area’s Internet. It was a brutal response, and one that sent a message to other protected groups.

That included the Kukis, who are now at risk of losing their own protections. In April 2023, the state’s high court ruled that the state government must recommend whether Meiteis should be given access to the same set of privileges granted to the Kukis, including reserved jobs, reserved university seats, and the ability to buy land in Manipur’s hill regions. (In the context of Indian politics, this effectively meant telling the state it had to give Meiteis access to these privileges.)

The decision, immediately condemned by Manipur’s Kuki and other tribal communities, kicked off the recent unrest. As tribal groups marched to protest the order, they began fighting against Meiteis who supported it. Soon, the clashes escalated into organized bloodshed. Meitei-majority areas in the Manipur’s Imphal valley were cleansed of all ethnic Kukis. In response, Kukis targeted Meitei households in their midst.

But even though both sides have resorted to violence, it is clear that tribes have borne the brunt of the carnage. Kuki women have been raped and subjected to other forms sexual violence. Indian soldiers have done little to arrest armed Meitei men. Manipur’s police have done almost nothing while Meitei groups ransacked their armories. Since the conflict started, mobs have taken more than 4,900 weapons and 600,000 rounds of ammunition—including mortars, machine guns, and AK-47s—from Manipur’s stockpiles. Almost 90 percent of these weapons have been taken by Meitei militias.

WEAK LINKS

The Kukis are not an isolated ethnic group. Instead, they belong to a broad network of tribes that live in Manipur, Manipur’s neighboring states, and two of India’s neighboring countries: Bangladesh and Myanmar. As a result, tens of thousands of Kuki families have fled into these jurisdictions, turning Manipur’s conflict into a regional issue.

The exodus and violence have undermined Modi’s grand strategy. Under Modi’s “Act East” policy, for example, India is trying to build infrastructure connecting its remote northeastern states with Southeast Asian countries. But the instability has delayed these ambitious projects.

The government, for instance, cannot begin a planned highway linking India to Myanmar and Thailand until there is peace in Manipur. It also cannot start a project that would improve the Indian northeast’s coastal access by building a road to the Burmese river town of Paletwa. (Civil conflict in Myanmar is holding up these endeavors as well.) India’s bid for greater influence in Southeast Asia therefore remains stalled, even as China continues its heavy regional spending under the Belt and Road Initiative.

The spillover is not the only way that Manipur’s violence has made it harder for New Delhi to compete with Beijing. Over the last 40 months, the Chinese and Indian militaries have been locked in a series of heated—and sometimes lethal—border standoffs, as China works to grab Himalayan territory from India. As a result, protecting India’s borders has become one of the country’s main foreign policy objectives. But to send troops to Manipur, the federal government had to pull a whole mountain division of roughly 15,000 soldiers away from the Chinese-Indian border, weakening India’s defensive posture.

China, of course, may not capitalize on India’s border weakness; Beijing has its own security priorities and issues. But even if the conflict in Manipur does not end up directly helping China, the violence will still degrade India’s international position. Since its independence from British colonial rule in 1947, India has been bedeviled by many separatist insurgencies. Sikh separatists, for example, waged a bloody, failed campaign for independence in the northern state of Punjab during the 1980s and 1990s. Maoist insurgents fought against India in parts of the country’s east and center.

Some of these groups still exist, and they occasionally remind Indians of their presence by carrying out spectacular acts of violence. The central government’s complete collapse in Manipur could embolden all of them to challenge New Delhi, putting India’s security establishment under increased pressure and diverting its energy and resources away from major external threats.

And yet despite these risks, Modi has been remarkably blasé about the conflict. He has not visited Manipur, and he has refused to meet with elected representatives from the state. He has not chaired a meeting about the violence, nor has he issued major statements condemning the deaths or suffering of Manipur’s people. He did not react even when the house of his junior foreign minister was burned by a large, angry mob in the state’s capital. His silence was broken only after 78 days, when he spent all of 36 seconds criticizing the violence after a video of two naked Kuki women being harassed and paraded went viral. Modi talked about the fighting again a few weeks later, but only when opposition parties tabled a no-confidence vote in parliament in order to force him to speak about the issue. Even then, Modi raised the subject about 90 minutes into his remarks, after all the opposition lawmakers staged a walkout in frustration.

KING OF THE ASHES

There are several explanations for Modi’s silence. One is Manipur’s location. The state, tucked into India’s northeast corner, is seen as a distant land—barely connected to the country psychologically, physically, and now digitally. (The government has largely shut down Manipur’s Internet in response to the unrest.) Another is that Manipur is home to just three million people, a tiny fraction of India’s 1.4 billion residents, and so the country’s BJP-friendly media can easily ignore its politics. A third is that Modi may believe he can fix the conflict without saying anything, simply by throwing more troops and police at it.

But the final explanation for Modi’s silence is more chilling: the prime minister cannot condemn what is happening because it would expose the debilitating contradiction between his ideological project and his vision for a strong India. The BJP’s goal is to create an India where Hindus, as the party defines them, control everything. It is encapsulated in the BJP’s old unitary slogan—“Hindi, Hindu, Hindusthan”—and is evidenced in its virulently anti-Muslim election campaigns. (During the 2019 national elections, Amit Shah, now India’s home minister and Modi’s second-in-command, called Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh “termites.”) Letting the Meiteis dominate the Kukis is perfectly in keeping with this majoritarian vision. It may, in other words, be the natural outcome of Modi’s politics.

Modi has certainly behaved as if he does not mind Meitei dominance. The prime minister could fire Singh, or he could use his considerable weight to make the country’s armed forces actually check Meitei violence. But he has not. Instead, Modi has placed his political interests ahead of the requirements of India’s constitution. He has decided that, although the BJP’s behavior in Manipur may alienate some voters, it is more likely to help by rallying Meiteis to the party’s side. Corralling the country’s Hindu majority through exclusionary rhetoric and actions has, after all, helped Modi win commanding national elections.

But in the long run, Modi’s project will take a toll on the authority and credibility of the Indian state. It will open up fault lines between and among India’s many communities—divides that will widen and cement into permanent gulfs. The country could eventually confront what the British Trinidadian writer V. S. Naipaul called “a million mutinies,” threatening India’s own being. The northeast’s various other ethnic groups might begin fighting with each other.

India’s southern states, which have their own distinct languages and identities, could demand more freedoms from New Delhi. Kashmir and Punjab—which do not have Hindu majorities—could experience renewed sectarian violence and insurgencies. Both places are on India’s volatile border, and so conflict in either would bode poorly for New Delhi’s international dreams.

The BJP’s goal is to create an India where Hindus control everything.

Even if Hindu supremacy does not result in widespread civil strife, the Indian government’s nationalist program could still undermine its bid for global leadership. New Delhi likes to argue that its aspirations are peaceful, but the RSS has long spoken of trying to establish Akhand Bharat: a fantastical, greater India in which New Delhi would govern over all or part of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tibet. When the Modi government unveiled a new parliament building in May, it even featured a mural of the entity. Multiple countries lodged formal complaints in response.

None of those countries, of course, are part of the West, which has nothing to directly fear from India’s regional goals. Indeed, Western governments seem to believe they will gain. The United States and Europe both openly hope that as India grows more powerful, it can serve as a strong check on China. As a result, they have gone out of their way to avoid criticizing New Delhi, irrespective of its bad behavior.

But the violence in Manipur clearly shows the limits of India’s potential under Modi. The country will not be able to effectively defend its borders if it has to divert military force to suppress internal unrest. It cannot serve as a counterweight to China if it is burdening other parts of Asia with domestic conflicts. In fact, India will struggle to be effective anywhere in the world if its government remains largely preoccupied with domestic strife.

For New Delhi’s Western partners, an India that cannot look outward will certainly prove disappointing. But it will be more disappointing for Indians themselves. Theirs is the largest country in the world; it should, by rights, be a global leader. Yet to be stable enough to project substantial authority, India needs to keep peace and harmony among its diverse population—something it can accomplish only by becoming an inclusive, plural, secular, and liberal democracy. Otherwise, it risks turning into a Hindu version of South Asia’s other countries, such as Myanmar and Pakistan, where ethnic dominance has resulted in tumult, violence, and deprivation. Everyone who wants India to succeed should therefore hope that New Delhi can see the problem with its vision—and change course before it is too late. (Courtesy: Foreign Affairs)

How China Influenced US-India Ties In The Last 76 Years

As the US tries to break the stranglehold of China on its supply chains, especially in hi-tech, India is emerging as a venue for what is now called ‘friendshoring’ – developing manufacturing in friendly countries that can be reliable partners. From being a recipient of food aid from the US seven decades ago, India has emerged as a partner in defence, space, health and technology.

China, intriguingly, has been a constant factor in the trajectory of India-United States relations, putting them at odds in the first years after Independence but now propelling them to the apex.

In the years after Independence, India under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru backed Beijing while the US supported Taiwan laying the foundation for the many differences between them that would continue in many forms. Now it is China with its aggressive postures from the Himalayas to the South China Sea and beyond that helping strengthen bonds between India and US that share worries about it.

Eurasia Review

Yet, even as the two largest democracies draw closer, a shadow of ambiguity persists in their ties.

India still will not back the US unambiguously, is still dangerously reliant on Russia for defence, and is wary of going too far in provoking China while appearing with them on international forums. And it is the China factor that makes Washington so forgiving of India’s neutrality ignoring calls, especially in the US media tinged with hostility to India, especially under the BJP.

Those in the administration with an unblinkered view of geopolitics know that were India to break with Russia, its defences would be degraded making it vulnerable to China and thus reduce its value as a strategic partner.

Leaving geopolitics aside, perhaps the most momentous development is a person of Indian heritage, Kamala Harris, holding the second highest office in the US – something Franklin D Roosevelt, the US president who laid the groundwork for India becoming free of the colonial yoke, might not have dreamt of.

How initial warmth turned to fissures

Modern India’s ties to the US can be traced to Roosevelt forcing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the archetypical racist colonialist, into signing the 1941 Atlantic Charter promising independence for colonies with a clause about self-determination.

“America won’t help England in this war simply so that she will be able to continue to ride roughshod over colonial peoples”, Roosevelt is said to have warned the imperialist.

Roosevelt, who tried unsuccessfully to have an emissary mediate between the British and India’s Independence movement leaders, could not force Churchill to implement it as long as World War II was raging. But ultimately, Roosevelt’s idea prevailed and India became free under both their successors, US President Harry Truman and British Prime Minister Clement Atlee.

Truman had high expectations of a democratic India and sent Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru his own plane to bring him from London and went out of his way to greet him on arrival and feted him in 1949.

But China intervened. With Cold War both leaders were hung up on China – Truman was backing Taiwan, then officially recognised as China at the UN and was set against a Communist Beijing, and wanted Nehru, who was behind Mao Zedong, to switch sides.

That was the first overt sign of the fissures between the two countries, yet about three-quarters of a century later, it is China that is drawing them closer.

Truman’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared Nehru “one of the most difficult persons”. Shortly after the visit, Nehru declared more firmly the policy of not aligning with blocs, which would later become the concept of non-alignment.

In the Korean War that broke out a year later when the US and Beijing’s forces clashed, India stood neutral, much to the chagrin of Washington.

But the US continued with economic assistance for India and in 1951 Truman pushed through the India Emergency Food Assistance Act when India faced severe food shortage.

The 1962 China war and aftermatch

Engulfed in an ideological fog, Nehru ramped up his rhetoric of nonalignment,  which in effect was perceived as critical of the West. The tenuous relationship with Washington continued with a slight warming of ties between Nehru and the wartime general President Dwight Eisenhower, who expressed respect for Nehru in his memoir. In 1959, Eisenhower became the first US president to visit India.

Meanwhile, Pakistan had grown closer to the US, joining the two now-defunct defence collectives, SEATO and CENTO, and benefitted militarily from the US.

India Today

The China war in 1962 shocked Nehru into reality and temporarily abandoning his veneer of nonalignment sought US military aid from President John F Kennedy, which he received.

The Soviet Union, which had broken up with China, began supplying arms to India, notably the MIG21 fighter jets, although the supply began after the war.

The Kennedy administration initially supported Nehru’s request for setting up a massive state-owned steel plant at Bokaro, viewed as a socialist project it faced political opposition. Moscow stepped in to help India set up the steel plant further deepening ties between the two countries.

That was further strengthened at the cost of Washington during the 1965 Pakistan War when Islamabad flung advanced US weaponry at India, which was using mostly British and Soviet arms.

Yet, when the danger of famine loomed over India, President Lyndon Johnson rushed food aid to India in 1966, while also extracting promises to reform agriculture and to tone down criticism of the US internationally. India and the US had already been collaborating in agriculture development and what was probably the greatest achievement in India-US cooperation followed, helping India achieve food self-sufficiency through the Green Revolution in a few short years and making it one of the nations that can extend food aid to others.

The 1971 Bangladesh and dip in ties

The 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence is the nadir in New Delhi-Washington relations. A month before the War, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited Washington and met with President Richard Nixon, asking for help to temper the Pakistani military crackdown on what was then East Pakistan and to deal with the crisis of refugees fleeing army terror.

His vulgar personal comments about Indira Gandhi and about Indians emerged from White House tapes that were made public decades later.

Given the deep ties with Pakistan and Islamabad acting as the broker for the US to establish relations with China, Nixon made the infamous “tilt” to Pakistan and tried to intimidate India by sending the Seventh Fleet to the Bay of Bengal.

Under Presidents Jimmy Carter, who visited India, Ronald Reagan, who warmly received both Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv who succeeded her, and George Bush, the senior, the two countries plodded on with no breakthroughs in their relations.

India’s nuclear test brought sanctions against it from President Bill Clinton, marking another diplomacy dip between the two nations.

Although relations with India had had a rocky start at the start of his administration due to Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s perceived hostility, Clinton came through when Pakistan sent its forces into Kargil in Kashmir in 1999.

A war seeming likely when India began to root out Islamabad’s forces, Clinton called Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Washington and read him the riot act, forcing him and then-military chief Pervez Musharraf to withdraw their troops.

The beginning of the embrace

With the emergence of the Indian American community and the onset of India’s economic liberalisation, Clinton started the steps that have led to the embrace of the two countries now.

His visit to India the next year, was the first visit by a US president in 22 years, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee went to Washington the same year.

A bipartisan consensus on cooperation with India was becoming entrenched and President George W Bush in 2001 ended all the sanctions against India, that were already beginning to be relaxed.

The 2001 terrorist attack on the US that was orchestrated by Pakistan’s allies in Afghanistan brought a sense of urgency to New Delhi’s and Washington’s war on terror, even as Islamabad took advantage of its geography in the US invasion of Afghanistan.

India and the US began joint military exercises in 2002 and in 2005 signed an agreement on the framework for defence cooperation.

That year the two countries also signed the landmark Civil Nuclear Agreement that allowed them to resume cooperation in the area, while having an impact beyond their borders facilitating trade in nuclear equipment and materials.

The agreement became the centre-piece of the era of Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Singh visited Washington in 2005 to discuss it, and in 2008 after it was ok’d by Congress, while Bush went to India in 2006 to finalise it, and during that trip the two countries agreed to increase trade and loosen restrictions.

Singh returned to Washington the next year on a state visit at the invitation of President Barack Obama, and made another visit in 2013. The cerebral Indian leader bonded with the intellectual American and the relations in economy and defence took off.

China has again taken the centre in the relations between the US and India, but this time with a convergence – India jolted from the Nehruvian illusion and the US waking up to the looming threats in the economy, trade and, more importantly, security.

The Quad, the group of India, the US, Australia and Japan, that was to play a greater role later on was launched in 2007, but collapsed quickly when Canberra cooled towards Washington.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, without ideological baggage and with a fresh outlook on the world, opened up the avenues for ties that bind closer. Once shunned by the US, his election made Washington realise the new realities of India and Obama quickly invited him to visit in 2014.

He arrived like a rock star feted by tens of thousands of Indian Americans. Besides vowing to boost trade, the two leaders turned their focus to climate change and agree on programmes on green energy.

Obama was the guest at India’s Republic  Day celebration the next year.

In 2016, Modi addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time and the US gave India the status of Major Defence Partner, which led to an agreement on an agreement to deepen military cooperation

At President Donald Trump’s invitation, Modi visited Washington in 2017 and in 2019 the two of them went together to Houston and paraded at an event billed as “Howdy Modi” that drew about 50,000 people.

Trump went to India in 2020 for his last foreign trip as president and was greeted by a roaring crowd of about 100,000 in Ahmedabad.

During the Covid pandemic, India sent some medicines at the request of Trump, as well as some medical supplies, while the US sent medical equipment.

While New Delhi was already sending vaccines to many countries, the Quad which was revived in 2017 devised a joint programme to provide developing countries with vaccines made by India.

On the trade front, Modi’s “Make in India” clashed with Trump’s “America First” resulting in a mini-trade-war. Trump ended preferential trade status for some Indian products under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences programme asserting that New Delhi does not give “equitable” access to Indian markets for some US products – among them whisky and motorcycles.

India retaliated by hiking tariffs on 28 products, among them almonds, and the US hit back with more duties on Indian aluminium and steel imports.

But they went ahead on the defence and security front, signing a slew of pacts including the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that gives New Delhi access to advanced technologies and realtime military data and the  Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for intelligence-sharing.

What Next for U.S.-India Military Ties?

A new agreement between top U.S. and Indian officials will deepen military cooperation and bolster strategic tie…

The unthinkable happens

When President Joe Biden came into office and the full impact of China on security, trade and the economy hit him, he revved up cooperation with India.

The Quad meetings were raised to summit status and Modi attended it in Washington in 2021.

Ignoring opposition from the vociferous left in the Democratic Party and the ideologically liberal mainstream media, Biden invited Modi for a state visit last month.

Not only was the US selling India advanced military equipment worth several billions of dollars, but it was also authorising the production of military jet engines jointly in India while promoting cooperation in defence production, something unthinkable some years ago.

(The writer is Nonresident Fellow, Society for Policy Studies, New Delhi, Views are personal)   Read more at: https://www.southasiamonitor.org/spotlight/how-china-factor-influenced-us-india-ties-last-76-years

Fragile Freedom Must Be Fiercely Defended

After Prime Minister Modi’s much-celebrated visit to the United States, there was a growing debate as to the level of success compared to the previous visits by Modi himself or the former Indian prime Ministers. In an Economic Times report, various industrialists in India called it trend a setting or landmark visit. However, an article in Time magazine called the Biden-Modi meeting a failure for democracy. The truth is somewhere between these two assertions.

Undoubtedly, Biden’s embrace of Modi was a significant endorsement by Washington that has made several of his allies in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party express deep concern about the state of affairs in India. About 75 Washington lawmakers, Senators, and Congressmen wrote to Biden in an open letter demanding that Biden discuss growing human rights violations in India. American mainstream media in general, decried Modi’s past complicity in rights violations and his current governance that discriminates religious minorities across India.

It is to be noted that Modi was on a visit to the United States when one of the states in the union called, Manipur, was burning by ethnic clashes involving Hindu militants and Tribal Christians. Although the BJP propaganda machine has been eager to portray that as a dispute between two ethnic groups involving land rights, the burning of 243 churches in the Meitei heartland alone reveals the hidden agenda of the party in power. It is inconceivable that Mr. Modi hasn’t spoken about Manipur before or after his state visit to Washington.

Washington’s Deep State’ might have embraced Modi, but the mainstream media’s stories tell altogether a different story about the situation in India. In a press conference held in Washington along with President Biden, Modi pretended to be surprised by the question about how India treats its minorities. Not long after that, the Muslim WSJ reporter who asked that question was threatened and trolled mercilessly by those faithful followers of the Prime Minister.

Picture : TheUNN

There is little doubt in independent minds that Modi has been presiding over a period of rapid deterioration of human rights and religious freedom and the increasing criminalization of dissent. Civil Society, once vibrant in the country, is close to extinction as their voices are muted, and their financing channels are blocked. The media, by and large in India, has been taken over by the crony capitalists who have turned them into a Modi worship team. Investigative agencies have been weaponized to silence any organization, media outlet, or political party that would dare to challenge their deception and half-truths.

As the country is about to celebrate its 76th Independence Day from colonialism, one wonders whose independence we will celebrate! It indeed is not the independence of those two women who were marched naked and allegedly gang-raped in Manipur at the beginning of the unrest. The video showed two women stripped naked, held, and groped by a mob of men and dragged to a field. Would a country that prides itself on being the largest democracy and of a great civilization treat its women this way? Moreover, the arbitrary Internet shutdown, another violation of the right to information, covered up this embarrassing news to the public before his impending arrival in the U.S.

It is indeed not the independence of two Muslim men called Junaid and Nasir, from the Rajasthan-Haryana border,

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who were allegedly attacked and abducted by a mob that later set them ablaze, alive while they were inside their car. A gang of self-professed right-wing zealots appears to have taken control of what Indians should eat in that part of the country! A Bajrang Dal leader Monu Manesar is named as the gang leader as accused in the burning of Junaid and Nasir and still at large and probably is the latest provocateur in the Nuh, Haryana riots.

It is indeed not the independence of those hundreds of Muslim families who were made homeless and destitute overnight by the actions of the state machinery that engaged in bulldozing homes of those who were allegedly accused of throwing stones at a march that appeared to have designed to enrage the locals due to the rumored presence of Monu Manesar. Nobody should condone the behavior of those who pelted stones; however, bulldozing their homes and shops that helped a community make a living is a crime against humanity. Don’t we have enough laws on the books to arrest and punish those culprits? Does the extra-judicial and collective punishment we might have copied from the Israeli occupation of Palestine appropriate for real democracy and the land of Mahatma?

After nine years of BJP rule, lynching, burning of people alive, and ethnic cleansing are all assumed to have a sense of normality. However, the institutions that were built to safeguard the values of democracy are all under great duress. It is quite evident that the current government disregards the aspirations of minorities while actively diminishing the power structures that provided political and social equilibrium in the last 65 years or more. The great leaders who have fought for our independence from the British, like Gandhi, Nehru, and Patel, together with B.R. Ambedkar who, have built institutions that guaranteed life and property protection of every citizen regardless of their race, religion, or region, also provided the opportunity to climb up the ladder of success and economic prosperity. What we are witnessing today is not the pursuance of that dream but somewhat revisionist steps on a regressive path that would not bode well for the Republic.

This week, we may witness widespread celebrations of India’s independence that will be held in many cities across the country in the U.S. However, you may not hear a word about whether the hard-fought freedom won by our founding fathers of modern India is in danger of being extinguished! The Indian community, by and large, remains silent on the ever-diminishing freedom or the weakening of its institutions. Five Congressmen of Indian origin are represented in the halls of Congress today, and we should be proud of that achievement. We must be grateful as well for the opportunities and privileges accorded in this great land of our adoption, where we can express our opinions freely and challenge the powers that be when we feel discriminated against. Yet not a single Congressman, who has taken an oath to uphold the American constitution and values, uttered a word when Manipur was burning, and the ethnic cleansing was in progress! They sat there in the joint session of Congress and clapped away, cheering the leader of the ‘mother of democracy’!

There is little doubt that the BJP’s role in the last nine years has ushered in an unprecedented attack on India’s democracy and people’s independence while injecting new elements of intolerance and authoritarianism. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter. The question would be whether the Indian Diaspora could ill afford to continue its long-held silence on the current polarization that is ripping the country apart or its open defense of a regime that discriminates and punish the minorities in India! The thirty million-strong Diaspora may need to ponder our status as minority citizens across the globe and how we may be on the verge of undermining our own moral arguments in defense of freedom and justice.

(Writer is the Vice-Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA)

As A Christian, Suddenly I Am A Stranger In My Own Country

Is it coincidence or a well-thought-out plan that the systematic targeting of a small and peaceful community should begin only after the BJP government of Narendra Modi came to power

There was a time, not very long ago — one year short of 30, to be precise — when only a Christian was chosen to go to Punjab to fight what then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi termed “the nation’s battle” against separatists. I had accepted a “demotion” from secretary in the Union home ministry to DGP of the state of Punjab at the personal request of the prime minister.

Then Home Secretary, Ram Pradhan, and my dear friend, B.G. Deshmukh, then chief secretary to the government of Maharashtra, were flabbergasted. “Why did you accept this assignment?” they asked. The same question was put to me over the phone by then President Zail Singh. But Arjun Singh, the cabinet minister who personally escorted me by special aircraft from Delhi to Chandigarh, remarked that when my appointment was announced the next morning, the Hindus of Punjab would breathe more freely and rejoice. I presume Hindus would include RSS cadres who had been pinned into a corner by the separatists.

When 25 RSS men on parade were shot dead in cold blood one morning, then Punjab Governor S.S. Ray and I rushed to the spot to console the stricken families. The governor visited 12 homes, I visited the rest. The governor’s experience was different from mine. He was heckled and abused. I was welcomed.

Today, in my 86th year, I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my own country.  The same category of citizens who had put their trust in me to rescue them from a force they could not comprehend have now come out of the woodwork to condemn me for practising a religion that is different from theirs. I am not an Indian anymore, at least in the eyes of the proponents of the Hindu Rashtra.

Is it coincidence or a well-thought-out plan that the systematic targeting of a small and peaceful community should begin only after the BJP government of Narendra Modi came to power last May? “Ghar wapsi”, the declaration of Christmas as “Good Governance Day”, the attack on Christian churches and schools in Delhi, all added to a sense of siege that now afflicts these peaceful people.

Christians have consistently punched above their weight — not as much as the tiny Parsi community, but just as noticeably. Education, in particular, has been their forte. Many schools, colleges, related establishments that teach skills for jobs have been set up and run by Christians. They are much in demand. Even diehard Hindus have sought admission in such centres of learning and benefited from the commitment and sincerity of Christian teachers. Incidentally, no one seems to have been converted to Christianity, though many, many have imbibed Christian values and turned “pseudo-secularist”.

Hospitals, nursing homes, hospices for dying cancer patients needing palliative care — many of these are run by Christian religious orders or Christian laymen devoted to the service of humanity. Should they desist from doing such humanitarian work for fear of being so admired and loved that a stray beneficiary converts of his or her own accord? Should only Hindus be permitted to do work that could sway the sentiments of stricken people in need of human love and care?

The Indian army was headed by a Christian general, the navy more than once, and same with the air force. The country’s defence forces have countless men and women in uniform who are Christians. How can they be declared non-Indians by Parivar hotheads out to create a pure Hindu Rashtra?

It is tragic that these extremists have been emboldened beyond permissible limits by an atmosphere of hate and distrust. The Christian population, a mere 2 per cent of the total populace, has been subjected to a series of well-directed body blows. If these extremists later turn their attention to Muslims, which seems to be their goal, they will invite consequences that this writer dreads to imagine.

I was somewhat relieved when our prime minister finally spoke up at a Christian function in Delhi a few days ago. But the outburst of Mohan Bhagwat against Mother Teresa, an acknowledged saint — acknowledged by all communities and peoples — has put me back on the hit list. Even more so because BJP leaders, like Meenakshi Lekhi, chose to justify their chief’s remarks.

What should I do? What can I do to restore my confidence? I was born in this country. So were my ancestors, some 5,000 or more years ago. If my DNA is tested, it will not differ markedly from Bhagwat’s. It will certainly be the same as the country’s defence minister’s as our ancestors arrived in Goa with the sage Parshuram at the same time. Perhaps we share a common ancestor somewhere down the line. It is an accident of history that my forefathers converted and his did not. I do not and never shall know the circumstances that made it so.

What does reassure me in these twilight years, though, is that there are those of the predominant Hindu faith who still remember my small contribution to the welfare of the country of our birth. During a recent trip to Rajgurunagar in the Khed taluka of Pune district to visit schools that my NGO, The Bombay Mothers and Children Welfare Society, had adopted, I stopped at Lonavla for idli and tea. A group of middle-aged Maharashtrians sitting on the next table recognised me and stopped to greet and talk. A Brahmin couple returning from Kuwait (as I later learnt) also came up to inquire if I was who I was and then took a photograph with me.

It warmed the cockles of my heart that ordinary Hindus, not known to me, still thought well of me and would like to be friends 25 years after my retirement, when I could not directly serve them. It makes me hope that ordinary Hindu men and women will not be swayed by an ideology that seeks to spread distrust and hate with consequences that must be avoided at all cost. (Courtesy: The Indian Express)

(The writer, a retired IPS officer, was Mumbai Police Commissioner, DGP Gujarat and DGP Punjab, and is a former Indian Ambassador to Romania)

How Modi and Biden Turbocharged India-US Ties

US President Joe Biden hails the partnership with India as one of the “most consequential in the world” following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s grand state visit to Washington. Exploring the potential of this visit in strengthening ties between the two nations, experts highlight the transformative nature of the relationship. According to Michael Kugelman of The Wilson Center, the India-US summit indicates a broad and deep connection that has developed in a relatively short period. He states, “It underscores just how broad and deep it has become in a relatively short time.”

One significant driving factor behind the deepening relationship is the US’s aim to establish India as a counterbalance to China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. While the promise of India-US ties had previously been limited due to India’s liability law and a fading commitment during former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure, the enthusiasm to embrace the US has surged under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership. Seema Sirohi, author of “Friends With Benefits: The India-US Story,” explains, “With Mr Modi, there has been a lot more enthusiasm about embracing the US. Mr Biden has also given an overall broad directive to make it work.”

The US has demonstrated its commitment to the relationship by actively pursuing substantial outcomes during Prime Minister Modi’s visit. Areas of focus include defense-industrial cooperation and technology transfer. Noteworthy collaborations include General Electric and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited partnering to manufacture advanced fighter jet engines in India. This move represents a significant transfer of US jet engine technology, emphasizing Washington’s willingness to not only sell arms but also share military technology.

Additionally, India plans to purchase $3 billion worth of MQ-9B Predator drones from General Atomics, which will establish a facility in India for assembly. This aligns with Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. While Russia remains India’s largest arms supplier, the US aims to become the primary provider in the coming years. The objective, as highlighted by Michael Kugelman, is to “strengthen India’s military capacity to counter China.”

Recognizing the importance of technology and the future, India seeks to establish itself as a semiconductor hub. Micron Technology, a US memory chip giant, plans to invest up to $825 million in building a semiconductor assembly and test facility in India, which will generate numerous job opportunities. Furthermore, Lam Research, a US semiconductor equipment maker, will train 60,000 Indian engineers to accelerate semiconductor education and workforce development. Applied Materials, the largest semiconductor manufacturing equipment supplier, will invest $400 million to establish an engineering center in India.

Seema Sirohi sums up the current focus of the India-US relationship, stating, “It is all about the future now. Both sides are talking about cutting-edge technologies and how to seed and shape the future.” While the relationship between India and the US has experienced fluctuations over the years, the recent visit signifies a more substantial and forward-looking connection.

India’s approach to geopolitics and its position in the global order has shaped its foreign policy, rooted in the strategy of nonalignment established by Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister. India has always sought to maintain its independence and avoid being perceived as subservient to any global superpower. Prime Minister Modi continues to uphold the ideals of “strategic altruism” in Indian foreign policy, despite leading a more economically and geopolitically influential India. He has developed close relationships with former US presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, and now with President Biden, while preserving India’s “strategic autonomy.”

While the Biden administration may have desired a stronger stance from India on Russia and China, Prime Minister Modi’s approach did not compromise India’s strategic autonomy. Although he refrained from mentioning Russia, he reiterated the importance of humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. He also emphasized the significance of a free and prosperous Indo-Pacific without directly mentioning China. This delicate balance allowed Mr. Modi to push the boundaries of strategic autonomy without undermining the success of his visit.

The defense collaboration between India and the US has strengthened, with increased cooperation, joint exercises, intelligence sharing, and the utilization of each other’s facilities for refueling and maintenance purposes. This progress, without formalizing a full-fledged alliance, demonstrates Mr. Modi’s ability to test the limits of strategic autonomy. Michael Kugelman acknowledges his achievement, stating, “In the sense that he is getting about as close as you can to a major power without signing on to a full-fledged alliance.”

While trade disputes and tariffs have been contentious issues between India and the US in recent years, the two nations announced the resolution of six separate trade disputes, including tariff-related disputes, during the visit. The US is currently India’s top trading partner, and analysts see tremendous untapped potential for further growth, given India’s expanding middle class and its aspiration to become a manufacturing hub and an alternative to China in the global supply chain. Resolving trade disputes will undoubtedly provide a significant boost to India-US trade ties and help unlock their full potential.

Despite concerns raised by critics in Washington regarding democratic backsliding under Prime Minister Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), there is a bipartisan agreement to deepen and broaden the relationship between India and the US. While some progressives in the Democratic Party express concerns about the treatment of minorities in India, the broader consensus recognizes the importance of strengthening the relationship, especially considering the growing influence of China. Seema Sirohi asserts that the India-US strategic partnership has indeed reached the next level, characterized by mutual need and mutual benefit.

In conclusion, India’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Modi reflects a delicate balance between preserving strategic autonomy, fostering strong ties with the US, and positioning India as a significant global player. The successful state visit solidified the partnership between India and the US, with a focus on defense collaboration, the resolution of trade disputes, and the recognition of shared interests and benefits.

Happy Independence Day America!

America and India were both British colonies. America got its independence in 1776 and India got its independence 170+  years later.  America is the most powerful democracy, while India is the most populous democracy .

Today, conflicts are on the rise everywhere, and nuclear arsenals are swelling, posing an existential threat to humanity.

Millions are displaced, international law is disregarded with impunity, as criminal and terrorist networks profit from the division and violence. This is the situation the world finds itself in today.

The reasons for these conflicts and violence for numerous man-made reasons, especially due to territorial, religious and ethnic divisions. Added to these are the regional tensions, high level  corruption and dwindling resources due to climate change.

In the midst of all these, the people of these 2 great nations, stand for peace, equality and progress. We salute and honor the United States of America as the nation celebrates her Independence.

Dr Arnold Toynbee ‘s quote is very appropriate for today.

“It is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self destruction of the human race… At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way. Emperor Ashoka and Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of nonviolence and Shri Ramakrishna’s testimony to the harmony of religions ;  here we have an attitude and spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single family —and in atomic Age, this  is the only alternative to destroying ourselves .

What we need is – true friendship (MAITRI) between the most powerful democracy and the most populous democracy!

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected

V.K. Raju, MD, FRCS, FACS

Ophthalmologist, Regional Eye Associates

President and Founder, Eye Foundation of America

President and Founder, Goutami Eye Institute

Clinical Professor, West Virginia University

Director, International Ocular Surface Society

Adjunct Professor, GSL Medical School

Adjunct Professor, Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University

Author: Musings on Medicine, Myth, and History-India’s Legacy

Charisma or Happenstance?

PM Modi’s much-touted visit to the US, and his address to both houses, marks another watershed moment in the increasing alliance between the US and India, now the largest democracy and a country with the highest census figures.

Several authors have sung the customary paeans on the strength of emerging India. However, there is a not-so-silent murmur about doubts about ideological alignment between India and the West. Equally important are the suspicions that India harbors against the US.

Use and Throw

The West, and especially the US, has adopted a “Use and Throw” policy in shaping and reshaping its political partners on the global stage. Unlike the West, the East, especially India, is less focused on a transactional relationship and more on the substance of an alliance. India is wary of being staged like a stooge and decapitated later when the interests effervesce. Supporting Pakistan (and indirectly the terror outfits) has truly not gone well in the annals of recent Indian memory bylanes.

What does India look for in an alliance partner?

With a resurgence of Indian identity, Indian pride, and Indian legacy, India is looking for independence in its interaction with its partners. Despite being a partner, India does not want to play second fiddle or be overwhelmed with the pressure of alliance in building or maintaining its identity and Asmita (Hindi word with roots in Sanskrit). India’sIndia’s Independent identity and Asmita are key to forging relations with India.

Indian Aspirations and Threats

India can successfully counter the bullying of China. However, other than the border disputes, India has to care for its voracious appetite for essential needs and concurrently face the vagaries of the confluence of challenges emanating from the resources crunch, creating opportunities and innovating itself from strategies to operations across multiple dimensions (governance, regulations, and operating model), and sectors, (agriculture, industry, commerce). It hasn’t lost sight of gaining self-reliance in several sectors. Its quest for ”Make in India.”

PM Modi’s Visit

Not sure if that is a watershed moment, but one thing is for sure, it has nothing to do with Modi’s charisma. There are several charismatic global leaders, and several have not been accorded the type of welcome offered to PM Modi.

Fragmenting Global Order and Restituting Supremacy

Modi arrives at a crucial juncture in international politics. China and Russia are overtly (no more covertly) opposing Western hegemony. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel are fast-changing alliances. A bipolar global order is fast reassembling into a multipolar order. Technological advances are fast challenging the existing order. More so, the pandemic, the Chinese hegemony, and belligerence have prompted an urgent reshaping of the global supply chain and creating multiple manufacturing hubs.

PM Modi’s visit has to be viewed against these complex global dynamics. It’s a coincidence and not charisma. India fits the bill as an alliance partner for the West, and its indomitable leader, the US. India is aware that it is a junior partner in the alliance, but Modi’s astute leadership will articulate its needs, aspirations, and Asmita. If the US can understand the psyche of contemporary India, the partnership will rise high like an Eagle. However, the West and the US will have to invest in removing the suspicion and building confidence for an enduring partnership with India.

Times have changed, and in a flat and multipolar world, the US, too, needs to introspect, retrospect, and reflect. Adopting an ideological change is pertinent and time-sensitive. Will it?

Why India And The U.S. Are Closer Than Ever?

Défense deals and tech ties underpin Modi’s visit to Washington.

“My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States,” then-Sen. Joe Biden said on a visit to New Delhi in 2006. They may not be quite there yet, but Biden is doing everything to ensure they end up much closer—especially economically and militarily—after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits next week.

Washington is rolling out the red carpet for Modi, hosting him for a state dinner, the Biden administration’s third such visit after welcoming French President Emmanuel Macron and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol within the past year. Modi will also address a joint session of Congress, his second time doing so as Indian prime minister.

It’s not just pomp and symbolism, however. The United States wants to bring India deeper into its manufacturing and defense orbit, with the added benefit of helping wean New Delhi’s military off Russia and U.S. supply chains off China. Although both sides have been tight-lipped on planned announcements, a number of expected agreements on semiconductor chips and fighter jet engines have been in the works for months, bolstered by visits to New Delhi by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in the weeks leading up to Modi’s trip. This week, the two sides reportedly sealed a deal for India to buy more than two dozen American drones.

“While I will not spill the beans, I can tell you that the ceremonial and substantive parts of the visit will fully complement each other and will be unparalleled,” Taranjit Singh Sandhu, India’s ambassador to Washington, said at a recent event.

The India-U.S. relationship hasn’t always been smooth sailing, and potential frictions remain, but the two countries have increasingly zeroed in on an arena where they can achieve symbiosis. “If you ask me what I would bet on the most, what is that one force multiplier for this relationship, it is tech,” Sandhu said. “It is the master key to unlock the real potential in the relationship.”

Officials from both sides have spent months laying the groundwork—and acronyms. An initiative on critical and emerging technology (iCET), launched in late January by Sullivan and his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, commits to cooperation in areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, space exploration, semiconductors, and defense technology. There has been more movement on the last two in particular: U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal inked a bilateral semiconductor supply chain partnership in New Delhi in March, while Austin’s visit to New Delhi earlier this month yielded INDUS-X, or the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem, described by the Pentagon as a “new initiative to advance cutting-edge technology cooperation” between the two militaries.

The most significant developments are likely to take place on the defense front, particularly if recent discussions on jointly producing jet engines, long-range artillery, and military vehicles come to fruition next week, product of a yearslong rapprochement on sharing defense technology with India. “This is not just manufacturing in India, this is genuine tech transfer,” said Rudra Chaudhuri, director of New Delhi-based think tank Carnegie India. “That’s a big deal.”

In some ways, it is an opportunity for a marriage of convenience. About half of India’s military equipment is Russian-made, and although New Delhi has spent years trying to diversify that supply, Russia’s protracted war in Ukraine has increased the urgency of finding new bedfellows. Washington sees an opening.

“The one relationship which the U.S. has traditionally been wary of in closer defense ties with India has been the India-Russia partnership,” said Aparna Pande, director of the India Initiative at the Hudson Institute. “This is one chance where if India can be weaned away because of a lack of supply parts, problematic equipment, or Russia getting closer to China, [you can] maybe convince India to purchase more from the United States and U.S. partners and allies.”

China is another major source of mutual concern pushing Washington and New Delhi closer together. India’s relationship with China deteriorated earlier and far more dramatically, with military clashes on their shared border leading to an Indian purge of Chinese technology (including, notably, a TikTok ban) nearly three years ago. Chinese naval expansion into the Indian Ocean has also spooked India and reinforced the importance of the so-called Quad group of countries. The United States and its allies, meanwhile, are urgently trying to reorient and “friendshore” global tech supply chains to reduce dependence on China, which has spent years establishing itself as the world’s factory floor.

India presents a ready replacement in many ways, much of it stemming from its new status as the world’s most populous country. That means a large (and youthful) labor force, millions of whom are skilled engineers, and relatively low manufacturing costs that the Modi government is further bolstering with tax incentives under its signature “Make in India” program. Like China, India’s sheer size also presents a huge potential domestic market for U.S. companies, an advantage over other alternatives such as Vietnam and Mexico. If for decades dollars and cents determined the landscape of global technology production, geopolitics have become supreme.

“There’s a sense of Balkanization taking place” in the global tech supply chain, said Mukesh Aghi, CEO of the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum, a Washington-based business advocacy group. “Geopolitical stress points are driving the tech agenda.”

There are still hurdles that need to be overcome, including India’s history of protectionism and red tape that has burned U.S. companies in the past and made it difficult to create the kind of manufacturing infrastructure required to rival what China has built. One large semiconductor push, a $19 billion joint venture between Indian conglomerate Vedanta and Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn, has reportedly already been stymied by a denial of government incentives.

And while companies will ultimately have to vote with their checkbooks, Biden and Modi are sending nothing but boosterish signals.

“Remember the old saying that trade follows the flag—I think the two governments are waving the flag very mightily to show which direction industry and business ought to be going,” said Atul Keshap, a former diplomat who heads the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-India Business Council. “The two governments tried for a long time to figure out what government-to-government interaction would look like, and now I think they’re realizing the value of letting the private sector collaborate,” he added.

But one casualty of the Modi visit and his newfound status will likely be U.S. willingness to call out concerns about the health of India’s democracy, at least publicly. The Biden administration has been increasingly reluctant to call out Modi’s crackdowns on free speech and violence against minorities, and experts say the strategic imperatives are too great to afford antagonizing a vital partnership.

“There is a desire to emphasize the strategic and the national security imperative over the domestic imperative,” Pande said. “In the current context, India is important, and so what the U.S. is preferring to do is convey a lot of what it wants to say in private and not in public.”

(Rishi Iyengar is a reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @Iyengarish)

Pope Francis’ Message For Peace Now Orbits The Earth, To Be Heard Across All Borders

(RNS) — Pope Francis’ message for unity and peace can now be heard from space, after a satellite containing a nanobook of his teachings was launched into the Earth’s orbit on Saturday (June 10), “to create new ways to show and promote ‘the seed of hope’,” according to a Vatican statement.

The satellite hitched a ride aboard Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket launching from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, after being blessed by Pope Francis on March 29 at his General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.

The Spei Satelles mission, the Latin words for Satellite of Hope, was inspired by this papacy’s most memorable moment during the pandemic, when Pope Francis stepped out into an empty St. Peter’s Square on a rainy evening in late March 2020 to issue a message of unity as the world began to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If that evening Pope Francis, from St. Peter’s Square, used the colonnade as a symbol of embrace to all of humanity, with the voyage of this satellite we wish to prolong that embrace,” said Msgr. Lucio Adriàn Ruiz, the secretary of the Vatican communication department, during a press conference in March.

The highlights of that historic moment were written down in a book titled “Why Are You Afraid? Have You No Faith?” which was converted into a “nanotechnological version,” a silicon plate measuring 0.08 square inches by 0.008 inches wide, by Italy’s National Research Council.

“For those of us who are used to seeing space as the privileged place from which to observe the world and communicate to it without borders, it was easy to imagine a quick, humble and effective solution to offer wings to the Holy Father’s message,” Giorgio Saccoccia, president of the Italian Space Agency, said in a statement.

The satellite, built by the Polytechnic University of Turin and operated by the Italian Space Agency, weighs less than 6 pounds. It contains the pope’s message on March 27, 2020, and the names of all those who collaborated and supported the project. During its orbit, the satellite will transmit small messages of hope by Catholic popes “to signify the continuity that the Church’s message has had through history.”

The logo of the mission pulls together the symbols of Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Holy Trinity and the pope orbiting around a stylized version of the Earth made with the Holy See’s initials. It was created by the students of the Salesian University Institute in Venice.

In 2022, the pope’s message was also memorialized in the Svalbard Seed Vault, a depository in the Arctic that contains more than 1 million seed samples from all over the world to ensure their survival. It was registered as “a seed of hope.”

The project was coordinated by the Vatican’s Dicastery of Communication with the help of other Catholic institutions. People could acquire a virtual “boarding pass” aboard the satellite by signing up on the Spei Satelles website and committing to making a gesture of mercy for peace and hope.

“We are all in the same storm,” Paolo Ruffini, head of the Vatican Dicastery of Communications, said at a press conference, describing modern struggles ranging from the pandemic to the conflict in Ukraine.

“We need to look beyond. We need to look up. We need to look from above. And we must look deep, deep within us. Because, as the pope said speaking to God, this is not a time for your judgment but for our judgment,” he added.

The Karnataka Story: Truth Finally Triumphs

The Congress has virtually swept the election in Karnataka winning 136 seats out of 224. This time, the voters proved cleverer as they did not leave any opportunity for the BJP to use either its money or muscle power to come to power. The party has not won even half the seats the Congress has won.

A party, which declared its ambition of ushering in a Congress-mukt Bharat has to reconcile itself to a BJP-mukt Dakshin Bharat. The BJP has only itself to blame for the drubbing it received.

The party had no right to form a government but it managed to form one by engineering defections. Once it came to power through dubious means, it thought that it had the mandate to do whatever that pleased their leaders and cadres.

Soon, the government became synonymous with 40 percent, the cut the ministers expected in the awarding of government contracts. In comparison, Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto’s husband was known only as “Mr Ten Percent”!

When the people of Karnataka were suffering from price rise and unemployment, the government sought to divert their attention to a non-issue. The BJP felt threatened by the hijab that some Muslim girls wore while attending classes.

The BJP declared a war on Muslim girls by not allowing hijab-wearing girls from attending schools and colleges. It did not matter to them that they were depriving the girls an opportunity to study and do well in life.

The defiance by a hijab wearer was the kind of stuff that enthused a whole lot of the population, not just Muslim women. Forget good governance, even governance was put on the back-burner as the BJP sought to drive the Christians to the wall. For no rhyme or reason, it enacted a stringent anti-conversion law, euphemistically called the Freedom of Religion Bill.

To give some nuggets of wisdom contained in the law, mass conversion was defined as conversion of two and more people. Which means if a husband and wife couple converted to Christianity, it would be declared as a mass conversion, inviting harsher punishment. If a poor child is admitted to a good school, not a government school, and the fee is taken care of by a Christian, it will be treated as an allurement.

Hijab was not the only card it used against the Muslims. They enacted a stringent anti-cow slaughter law and removed the Muslims from the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), eligible for reservation.

The government did not bestir itself when fringe groups like the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and the Sri Ram Sene unleashed campaigns against halal meat and letting Muslim businessmen participate in temple fairs.

They even wanted a ban on the use of loudspeakers in masjids. Chief minister Basavaraj Bommai did not think it necessary to rein in these elements so much so that one BJP leader had the gumption to say that his party did not need the support of Muslims. A BJP legislator was seen egging on his supporters to bash up the Christians and if they faced any problem, he was there to help them.

One had even doubts whether the BJP was leading a democratic government in the state. What the party did not appreciate was that a large majority of the common people, meaning a majority of the Hindus, were not happy with the kind of politics they were indulging in.

For tens of thousands of Hindus who studied in Christian schools or who benefited from Christian medical institutions like St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore, it was scandalous to claim that they were there to convert people.

Crisis often brings out either the best or the worst in man. In the case of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Bengaluru Peter Machado, it was an occasion for him to prove his mettle. He made it clear that the Christian community would not be browbeaten by anyone and it would defend its rights to do their bit for the development of the country.

Unlike some bishops of Kerala, who talked about quid pro quo like offering Christian votes for increased rubber price and who talked about the glorious past when Christians were Hindus, Archbishop Machado went to the Supreme Court defending the Christian right to practice and propagate their faith.

All this had its impact on the voters who were only waiting for an opportunity to vote out the Bommai government. When Congress leader Rahul Gandhi began his Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari, the BJP leaders were stunned by the kind of response he received in Kerala.

They took consolation in the hope that Gandhi would have to walk alone through Karnataka. The government did everything possible to disrupt his journey. But wherever he went, lakhs of people were there to cheer him up. He was mobbed at every point.

It was obvious that Gandhi had struck a chord with the masses. The results have revealed that a majority of the constituencies through which he walked have voted in favour of the Congress.

Of course, the BJP knew about the groundswell of support the Congress enjoyed. It tried to counter it by resorting to crass communalism. There was a mention of organisations like the PFI and the Bajrang Dal in the Congress manifesto. All it said was that if they tried to take the law into their own hands, it would be dealt with.

Leaders like Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, who were the star campaigners of the BJP, tried to emotionally blackmail the voters by claiming that the Congress was against Lord Hanuman. It is a different matter that the Bajrang Dal never championed the cause of the unemployed Hindus and those who lost their jobs during the Covid period. True, it was founded in Karnataka but it never won the hearts of the people by taking up people’s causes.

So when Narendra Modi exhorted the people to vote for the BJP by chanting slogans in favour of the god of love, compassion, devotion, strength and intelligence, they knew that he was conceited and, therefore, paid no attention to his exhortation.

Amit Shah, who addressed more rallies than Modi and BJP chief Jagat Prakash Nadda, claimed that the party would get 150 seats in a House of 224. The people knew that he was talking through his hat for he had no clue of the Kannadiga mind.

In all the other states where the party is in power, it is either by engineering defection as in Madhya Pradesh or joining hands with the winner as in Nagaland. In the last election in Himachal Pradesh, where the Hindus are about 97 percent of the population, the BJP failed to retain the state despite the two bearded leaders from Gujarat vigorously campaigning in the BJP president’s home state.

And in UP, the BJP won mostly because of the appeal of Yogi Adityanath, not because of the gentlemen from Gujarat. Yet, an impression has been created by the media that Modi is invincible. He could not even win the Delhi Municipal elections, though he is a voter there.

The Karnataka elections prove that the communal card does not always work. The film The Kerala Story was released with a view to influencing the voters in Karnataka. Modi used the election to promote the film.

The film was based on the claim that 32,000 women from Kerala were swayed by Love Jihad and they were indoctrinated and sent to fight in Afghanistan, Syria and other places where the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is in combat.

The fact of the matter is that there were over 42,000 IS warriors, who were recruited from countries like Germany, France, the US etc. There were not even 100 Indians among them, although India has the third largest Muslim population in the world.

Modi should have been happy that Indians did not join the ranks of a terrorist organisation. Instead, he was busy promoting the film. When the film’s claims were critically examined, it transpired that only three, yes only three, women from Kerala joined the IS ranks.

Three became 32,000 in the film and the BJP government found it necessary to give the film tax exemption. In the past, films that promote national integration, family planning etc were given tax exemption. Under Modi’s regime, hate films like The Kerala Story that promotes lies and calumny get tax exemption!

Why did Modi’s campaign not make any impact in Karnataka? Because they knew that what he and Amit Shah were talking about was false. In fact, Amit Shah said at a rally that Kerala was Karnataka’s neighbour and he did not want to say anything about it. As if Kerala was a gone case.

And when John Brittas, a CPM MP, questioned him in a newspaper article, the Rajya Sabha chairman thought it necessary to summon the MP and seek a clarification. It is not known under what law he asked for such a clarification.

Of course, the people of Karnataka knew that the campaign of calumny against Kerala, which Modi once compared to Somalia in sub-Saharan Africa, was absolutely baseless. In Mangalore, which borders Kerala where Malayalam and Kannada are spoken, the people voted for a Muslim who contested on the Congress ticket.

Out of the 15 or so Congress MLAs who defected to the BJP, a majority lost the election this time. Why? People did not approve of their conduct. They knew that they would have taken money to change sides and defeat the purpose of the voters who elected them.

Defection is not something which people want. It is against this backdrop that the defeat of Jagadish Shettar, former chief minister, who contested on the Congress ticket should be seen.

The local Congress leaders had been campaigning against him and all of a sudden when they were asked to vote for him because he did not get a ticket from the BJP, they found it a difficult task. The point is that the people do not approve of the politics of turncoats like Shettar.

The Congress, perhaps, did not know that the BJP was skating on thin ice and it could fall any time.

One reason why the Congress could do well was because there was complete unity of purpose among its leaders. The state leaders played as important a role as leaders like Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi.

The strike rate in terms of rallies held and seats won of the siblings was much more than that of Modi, Shah and Nadda put together. Yet, the funny thing is that Gandhi is ridiculed as Pappu when the sobriquet fits well the two from Gujarat.

There were some armchair intellectuals who supported Shashi Tharoor when he contested against Mallikarjun Kharge for the post of Congress President. They argued that he was younger and could articulate better in English.

When the BJP tried to corner Kharge in Parliament over his remark about the BJP’s patriotism outside of the House, he stood like a rock and paid no attention to the demand that he make amends. Finally, the BJP had to end its campaign against him.

That he was at the helm of the Congress, too, played a significant role in the Congress victory in Karnataka. There is a Malayalam saying that which is sown in fire would not fade in sunlight. Kharge came up in politics the hard way and he is not likely to wilt like the lotus that wilted in Karnataka.

It is a challenge for the Congress party to elect a leader and form a government. However, they cannot complain that the voters have not given them a clear mandate.

The BJP’s defeat is not confined to Karnataka alone. It failed miserably to snatch the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat in Punjab, held by the Congress, and the Jharsuguda Assembly seat in Odisha. In UP, it was able to win two Assembly seats by supporting an ally. What the results show is that the BJP is no longer its former self and its Modi-Shah leadership is like the “post-dated cheque drawn on a failing bank”, to quote Mahatma Gandhi. (Courtesy: The Indian Currents)

India Is ‘A Country of Particular Concern’

The United States Independent Commission on Religious Freedom (USICRF), in its report released on May 1, 2023, categorized India as ‘a country of particular concern’ for its ‘severe violations of religious freedom or belief’ in the year 2022.

The USICRF, a bipartisan government advisory body created by an Act of the Congress in 1998, in its latest annual report asked the US Congress to take up the issue of religious freedom in India through hearings, briefings, letters and Congressional delegations.

In response, India termed the comment as ‘biased and motivated’, a traditional response without any feeling. To quote, Arindam Bagchi, the spokesman of the federal external affairs ministry, “we reject such misrepresentation of facts, which only serves to discredit the USICRF itself”.

Further, the ministry advised the USICRF to develop a better understanding of India, its plurality, democratic ethos and constitutional mechanisms. This advice is over and above the complaints raised by India in the past as regards the so called attempts to tarnish the image of India.

It is not the first time India scores this merit of a ‘country of particular concern’. It has been doing so for the fourth consecutive years. The USICRF report in 2023 states, ‘conditions of religious freedom in India continue to worsen in 2022’. The worsening situation is a matter of grave concern, which India is either slow to realize or is refusing to admit.

A ‘country of particular concern’ is a designation for a nation engaged in severe violations of religious freedom under International Religious Freedom Alliance, which is a network of like-minded countries fully committed to the Declaration of Principles for advancing freedom of religion or belief around the world.

Imposing anti-conversion laws in 10 States, attacking Churches and Christians, mob-lynching of Muslims in the pretext of cow slaughter, targeting human rights defenders and media persons, and the like are proofs for the brutal attacks on religious freedom. India seems to conveniently close the eyes at these foul instances and thus play the fool, by habit so, in view of a false and goody-goody image.

The bone of contention here is the contradiction between theory and practice. The theory of India is the deafening ‘self-talk’ about becoming the ‘vishwa guru’, super power, saare jahaan se achha, and the like. The practice is its utter failing in some of the basic lessons of life, like waste management, along with aping the west in almost everything in the name of development. This discrepancy is a matter of ‘particular concern’, too.

It is true that India is a land of ‘diversity’, more so than perhaps the entire world. But, the breakdown in honouring and learning from differences, the time-to-time frictions and crack down between groups, the difficulties in knitting together as a nation, the majoritarian ‘hindutva’ politics, the change of history books, the blatant half truths and full lies in the public space, etc. pose a major question at the unity and integrity of the country. This is a point of particular concern, as well.

Yet again, India is the largest democracy in the world, considering the vote bank. But the undemocratic way of politicians easily jumping over to other parities, lack of democracy in the social and economic arenas, the chunk of the population being poor, like ‘bheedchaal’ (crowd-like following) and ‘bhedchaal’ (sheep-like following), and the autocratic way of capturing the autonomous institutions squarely stare at the real spirit of democracy. This is another matter of particular concern.

India has a Constitution that is one of the best in the world. Its Preamble contains an amalgam of human values of the supreme order, very much in a condensed form. But, the blatant violation of the Constitutional values in the system of governance as well as the failure in measuring out justice to the citizens and communities make a topsy-turvy of the values of the Constitution, shockingly so. This is yet another particular concern.

The discredit of ‘particular concern’ the country has earned is not only in the area of religious freedom, but also of caste, gender, ideology, food habits, dress patterns and other socio-cultural realities. Considerations of high and low in caste, familiar and strange, rich and poor, of this religion and that religion, and the like, challenge the very fabric of clicking together with fellowship as a nation.

In addition, India never tires shouting on the top of its voice that it is a ‘religious country’. But, in point of fact, the Himalayan heap of superstitions, ceremonial rituals, theological abstractions, myths and stories, pilgrimages and the like, hardly make any impact in life. The sheer lack of ethics in life, as against the time, energy and money spent in the name of religion, is a matter of ‘particular concern’ in India.

Well, ‘particular concern’ is symbolic of a pathological state of affairs. It is like being on the ‘ventilator’, supported by an artificial supply of oxygen. How long can a country survive as a ‘country of particular concern’, that too, a country restlessly aspiring for securing a permanent membership in the United States Security Council? How could India ever realize the dream or slogan ‘21st century is for India’?

It is high time India should look into the mirror, secure a correct self-understanding and do the necessary homework for improving its look, for oneself and for the entire world. I believe, G 20 is a great occasion for India to achieve an awareness of ‘who’s who’, while global leaders meet and international concerns come to the table, along with the required alterations in policy and practice.

‘Religious freedom’ is granted by the Constitution of India. The government, may it be of any political party, has no business to meddle with its provisions. It is the primary duty of all governments, of the Centre and of the States alike, to enforce the same. Playing the fool by stating that it is an ‘internal matter’ will only risk India being dumped into the category of a ‘country of particular concern’. I believe, this state of affairs has to end, sooner the better, in view of enhancing the global image as well as well-being at home.

(Courtesy: The Indian Currents. The writer is Director, Institute of Harmony and Peace Studies, New Delhi.)

India Expelled Me For Journalism 47 Years Ago. It’s Still Cracking Down

Lewis M. Simons is a Pulitzer Prize winner and two-time Pulitzer finalist. His most recent book is To Tell the Truth: My Life as a Foreign Correspondent, which includes a foreword by the Dalai Lama.

Nearly half a century after the government of India kicked me out of the country for writing a story that struck an exposed nerve, foreign journalists there are under the gun again. And for a similar reason.

Last month, authorities from the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered 50 officials to raid the offices of the BBC in New Delhi and Mumbai. They seized documents and records, confiscated journalists’ mobile phones and accused the company of tax irregularities.

The real reason for the raid, though, was that in January, the British broadcaster had aired a TV documentary charging that in 2002, Modi, a Hindu nationalist who was chief minister at the time, had whipped up a communal riot in his home state of Gujarat. More than a thousand people, mainly Muslims, were slaughtered.

Picture : Human Rights Watch

“The Modi Question” revealed secret diplomatic cables in which the British government concluded that the Gujarat violence was likely preplanned by Hindu nationalist groups. It went on to say that Modi was “directly responsible” for the “climate of impunity” that enabled the assault.

These words were hardly news to Indians. Suspicions and rumors of Modi’s involvement in the rioting had circulated widely for years. But, originating in the halls of power of India’s former colonial ruler and delivered by the respected BBC, the allegation rattled Modi supporters, many of whom are inordinately sensitive to coverage by the foreign press — British and American, particularly.In my own case, too, a handful of words resulted in my expulsion. Here’s what happened:

It was June 27, 1975, midafternoon. Hours before, the government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had stunned the world by imposing an open-ended period of authoritarian rule called the “Emergency.”

With my back to the door, typewriter keys clicking beneath my fingers and the air conditioner rattling in my ears, I was unaware that three armed policemen had barged into the little office at the rear of our house until they stomped their heels on the concrete floor. The senior officer, tapping a steel-tipped lathi, barked an order:

“Come with us!”

At the Immigration Office, where I’d long been a welcome visitor, my visa was stamped “cancelled.” The police then drove me to the ornate Ashoka Hotel, locked me in a room and posted an armed guard at the door.

Early the next morning, a white-uniformed customs official confiscated stacks of reporter’s notebooks that I was trying to take out of the country. Police hustled me onto an airliner bound for Thailand. My sin? An article I had written in The Washington Post the previous day that shook Gandhi.

At the time, Gandhi’s political future was under unprecedented challenge. The High Court in her hometown, Allahabad, had found her guilty of illegally using military aircraft to shuttle party functionaries around the country during her reelection campaign. The court ordered her to resign and to forego all political activity for six years.

To put this in context, one year earlier, President Richard Nixon faced similar humiliation following the Watergate impeachment hearings. He opted to resign.

Gandhi chose to slug it out. She trucked hundreds of thousands of supporters into the streets of New Delhi. Their frenzied cries of “Indira Gandhi zindabad” (“long live Indira Gandhi”) reverberated off the capital city’s red sandstone walls.

Covering what would turn out to be the last of those events, I noticed dozens of close-cropped, combat-booted young men dressed in civilian clothing controlling the demonstrators. I returned to my office and telephoned two army officers I knew personally. They confirmed my observation and, when I pressed them, expressed their own views.

“According to a military source,” I wrote in my piece for the Post, “tension is growing in the armed forces, which have a long and proud tradition of remaining out of politics. Resentment is said to be particularly sharp in the army, where officers are known to be annoyed over Mrs. Gandhi’s refusal to resign.”

As with the BBC’s broadcast about Modi stirring the anti-Muslim violence, my quoting in an influential American newspaper that Indian military officers were displeased with Gandhi’s illegal behavior was a step too far.

The Indian ambassador in Washington called Executive Editor Ben Bradlee and insisted that my story was untrue, pointing out that no other foreign correspondent had written it. If Bradlee would “voluntarily” withdraw me, the Post would be permitted to continue operating in India with another journalist. Bradlee refused. I was expelled and the bureau shuttered.

Having imposed the Emergency, Gandhi canceled elections, locked up hundreds of her political opponents, embarked on a mass sterilization campaign in which the government forced more than 6 million teenage boys and men to undergo vasectomies, and censored the domestic and foreign press.

I was merely the first of half a dozen or so foreign correspondents to be expelled. Over the course of the Emergency, more than 200 Indian journalists were arrested and jailed.

Indians for decades have relished touting their nation as “the world’s largest democracy.” The boast continues, even as Muslims and other minorities are reduced to second-class status, local journalists are targeted for their critical reporting and foreign journalists are coming under intensifying threats of arrest and expulsion. But while India is surpassing China for the dubious distinction of comprising the world’s largest population — more than 1.4 billion — its claim to democratic preeminence rings ever more hollow. (Source: India expelled me for journalism 47 years ago. It’s still cracking down: NPR)

Vladimir Putin Has Already Lost His War On Ukraine

One year into his war with Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s world has shrunk. He’s lost his claim to be a global leader. Prior to his launching the invasion of Ukraine a year ago, the world treated Russia as a great power with a seat at the table on major international issues. Relations with the West may have been tense, but European and American officials continued to engage with Russia. Russia was an energy superpower with the geopolitical heft that went with that, and Putin had just established a “no limits” partnership with China’s President Xi. And Ukrainians were divided over how they viewed Russia.

What a difference a year has made. The devastation wreaked by Russians on the Ukrainian people has consolidated the entire country against them and ensured that Ukrainians will despise their large neighbor for a long time to come. Ukraine will emerge from this war with one of the most effective armies in Europe and with the prospect of European Union membership and close ties to NATO. Ukraine, as numerous officials reiterated at last weekend’s Munich Security Conference, will become part of the European family, the exact opposite of what Putin hoped to achieve with this war.

Putin visits mobilized troops as chaos plagues military draft

Russia’s relations with the West are broken and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Few Western leaders advocate engaging Russia anymore. And the collective West is united in its opposition to the war as it increases sanctions on Russia and severs economic ties. Russian officials are sanctioned, no longer welcome in many international fora. And Russian oligarchs have lost access to their homes and yachts in Europe.

Putin may have believed a year ago that Europeans were so dependent on Russian hydrocarbons that they would not jeopardize their access to them by opposing the war. But Europe has managed to wean itself from Russian oil and gas in a remarkably short time, jettisoning 50 years of energy interdependence. Russia will no longer have the geopolitical influence that had qualified it as an energy superpower even as it sets its sights on the Asian market.

Putin has closed the window on the West which his much-invoked favorite Tsar Peter the Great opened three centuries ago. But Russia’s ties with China remain strong. China repeats the Russian narrative about the West being responsible for the war, while indirectly criticizing Putin’s threats that Russia might use nuclear weapons. China does not want Russia to lose this war because of concerns that a leader who might succeed Putin might re-evaluate Russia’s ties to China. China needs Russia for ballast in this new era of great power competition. So China remains the anchor of Putin’s world, even as the relationship increasingly makes clear that Russia is the junior partner.

In one part of the world Russia is still a player. Since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, Putin has assiduously courted the developing world, the global South, and this part of his world has expanded in the past year. No country in Africa, the Middle East or Latin America has sanctioned Russia and some have abstained on United Nations resolutions condemning the invasion and subsequent annexation of four territories in Ukraine. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was recently in South Africa, where he and his South African counterpart agreed to conduct joint naval exercises with China this week. Russia’s influence on the African continent has grown this year with the mercenary group Wagner becoming increasingly active in supporting autocratic leaders and profiting from their ample natural resources. Many countries in the global south view the Russia-Ukraine war as a regional European conflict of little relevance to them and refuse to take sides. Ironically, given their own experience of colonialism, they do not view Russia as a colonial power seeking to restore its lost empire.

Putin’s world may have shrunk, but he has used this past year to consolidate his power at home. The poor performance of the Russian military and the significant casualties — over 200,000 killed or severely wounded — have not damaged his political position. As many as 1 million Russians have left the country in the past year, many of them coming from the most dynamic parts of the economy, but those that remain by and large support the war or are indifferent to it. Greater repression and jail time for those who dare to question the “special military operation,” plus an endless barrage of propaganda about Russia fighting “Nazis” and NATO in Ukraine, have acted as a disincentive to oppose the war. Unlike during the Soviet-Afghan war, there is no independent Soldiers’ Mothers committee to protest. When Putin met recently with the mothers of dead soldiers, the cold-blooded words he offered them was that it was better that their sons die as war heroes than drink themselves to death.

‘Big mistake’: Biden responds to Putin’s nuclear treaty suspension

Putin has also made the Russian political elite accept the war by making clear that there is no alternative. Very few of them have left, perhaps out of fear about what might happen to them if they do. The rest, including those once known as pragmatic technocrats who favored ties to the West, have adapted to the war and its constraints. There is no obvious challenger to Putin. The Russian people have been told that Putin is the leader of great power fighting the West just as the USSR fought Nazi Germany in World War II and that Russia will prevail because, according to Putin, there’s no alternative. The degree of state control and repression which has grown in the last year, where anyone who dissents is branded a traitor, makes it unlikely that Russia’s fading international stature will backfire on him domestically.

Putin launched this war hoping to reincorporate Ukraine into the Russian state and gather in other lands which, he believes, Russia has a right to rule. Russia would emerge from the conflict a larger, stronger power with a sphere of influence in its neighborhood, regaining aspects of great power status which were lost when the USSR collapsed.

But Putin will emerge from this war no longer the leader of a great power. His status as a competent leader has been diminished by his army’s poor performance and by the West’s isolation of him. Russia may still have the largest number of nuclear warheads and a veto on the U.N. Security Council, but it will have lost its seat at the table of global leadership. (Angela Stent is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of Putin’s World: Russia Against the West and with the Rest.)

Why Can’t The World Agree On Ukraine?

By Emma Ashford, a columnist at Foreign Policy and a senior fellow with the Reimagining U.S. Grand Strategy program at the Stimson Center, and Matthew Kroenig, a columnist at Foreign Policy and senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

Emma Ashford: Hey, Matt! Greetings from sunny Cartagena, Colombia, where I’m talking about U.S. foreign policy. I’m about as far from the war in Ukraine as you can get, yet with the war’s one-year anniversary this week, Ukraine is still looming large in discussions of the United States and its global role.

Matthew Kroenig: Colombia sounds nice. I was a bit closer to Ukraine this weekend at the Munich Security Conference, and Ukraine was obviously the dominant topic on the agenda there too.

How is the war being perceived in the global south?

Picture : Foreign Policy

EA: I’d draw a pretty clear distinction between two groups of countries. First, the Western coalition that the Biden administration has pulled together, which is quite united in its continued opposition to Russia and—at least in general—its willingness to bear some costs to do so. That’s the group you undoubtedly interacted with most in Munich, and I suspect the message you heard from it was quite triumphalist, focused on the success of U.S. and European efforts to arm Ukraine and turn the tide of the war on the ground.

The second group, however, comprises a wide variety of Latin American, African, and Asian states, many of which are conflicted about their response to Ukraine. Most of them oppose the invasion itself, but they’re also wary of damaging their ties with Russia and also extremely worried about spiraling costs created by the conflict in food and energy prices globally. That’s a much more mixed picture for U.S. officials to manage.

Did I characterize the Munich crowd correctly?

In Munich, there was a kind of naive assumption that if the West just takes the right steps, everyone will fall into line.

MK: Yes and no. There seemed to be a consensus that the outcome of the war would have enormous consequences for the future of European and even global security. Accordingly, the common view was that the goal needed to be a Ukrainian victory—and for many also a Russian defeat.

The global south was, however, another major topic of conversation. People were genuinely puzzled as to how so much of the world could be agnostic on the issue of a war of aggression in Europe. The search for answers, however, was often superficial and revealed what former U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster calls “strategic narcissism.”

The question seemed to be: “What did we do wrong?” Officials and experts wondered, for example, whether wealthy governments should have provided more COVID-19 relief. There was a kind of naive assumption that if the West just takes the right steps, everyone will fall into line. Instead, they should have showed some strategic empathy and tried to understand the issue from the perspective of the global south’s interests.

I assume you were able to see things more from that point of view in Cartagena.

EA: I think it really highlights that for all the valuable things about meetings like the Munich Security Conference, Aspen Security Forum, or World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, they do often have a tendency to produce groupthink among like-minded officials and experts. I hope that some of the African and Latin American delegates in attendance were able to impress upon their European counterparts that it is hardly difficult to understand their viewpoint: They have interests, including the basic economic needs of their own populations, at stake in this conflict.

For that reason, I suspect Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s speech to the conference—in which he promised that China would shortly be presenting a peace plan for Ukraine, which Beijing has now revealed—might have been popular among some of those delegates. Of course, it seemed to be undermined almost immediately: Wang headed straight to Moscow after the conference, and U.S. officials alleged that Beijing is considering sending arms to Moscow to help its efforts in the war. So much for the appearance of Chinese impartiality!

MK: I’m glad you mentioned China and Russia because they are part of the other major grouping you left out above. The world is increasingly divided into three blocs: the free world (the United States and its formal allies in Europe and Asia), the revisionist autocracies (China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and a few less capable rogues like Syria, Eritrea, and Belarus), and the new nonaligned movement (everyone else!).

China’s plan at Munich seemed to be to try to drive a wedge between Europe and the United States. Wang’s speech talked about how Europe and China could work together, but “hysterical” Americans have lost their minds and are shooting down weather balloons. You are right that they also tried to be the good guys by offering up promises of a peace plan—never mind that they only talked to the Russians, not the Ukrainians, about the plan.

China’s posturing at the conference was undermined most by the Biden administration releasing intelligence suggesting that China was preparing to provide weapons to Russia. Nothing could have made Beijing more unpopular in Europe than indications that it was getting ready to arm Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It was similar to Biden’s attempts during the early stage of the war in Ukraine to deter actions by revealing intelligence. Let’s hope it works this time.

EA: It was innovative the first time around, but at some point, I imagine it will cease to be an effective approach. Worth a try though, I guess.

The problem with these two conflicting worldviews—Western and Russian/Chinese—is that I think the last year has mostly shown they’re both wrong. The world isn’t fully united in opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and they’re definitely not on board with the Biden administration’s democracy versus autocracy framing. But at the same time, the world is not united against the United States, and many countries in the global south and elsewhere view Russian and Chinese intentions with deep suspicion. It suggests a more diverse set of global viewpoints.

And for that reason, I was rather disappointed to see Biden double down on his triumphalist rhetoric about democracy and the war in Ukraine in his big Warsaw speech in Poland.

Shall we chat about Biden’s secret trip to Kyiv and his speech in Warsaw?

MK: Sure. Let’s start with the trip to Ukraine’s capital. I think it was a brave show of support for Ukraine. It was also conducted with amazing operational security. It caught everyone by surprise. I chatted with several senior Biden administration officials in Munich, and none of them let out a peep. I assume you were less impressed.

(Courtesy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/02/24/why-cant-the-world-agree-on-ukraine/?utm_source=PostUp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Editors%20Picks%20OC&utm_term=70516&tpcc=Editors%20Picks%20OC)

Under India’s Leadership, G20 Can Help Solve Global Healthcare Crisis

Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, MD, MBA, FACHE

According to a new study published in the Lancet, an estimated 6.4 million physicians are needed to meet global universal health coverage (UHC) goals. America is also experiencing a significant physician shortage, and it’s only expected to get worse, a concerning situation that could lead to poorer health outcomes for many patients. Data published in 2020 by the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that the US could see a shortage of 54,100 to 139,000 physicians by 2033.

Europe is not in any better spot. More than three years into the pandemic that decimated personnel, healthcare managers and governments are scrambling to cobble together a semblance of a workforce in European countries. Europe’s healthcare worker shortfall—around 2 million—is acutely felt across the Continent.

In Greece, first responders sound the alarm over longer emergency response times due to a shortage of personnel. England lacks tens of thousands of nurses, reporting a record number of vacancies. Nurses top the list of all occupations experiencing shortages in Finland. Maternity wards in Portugal are struggling to stay open due to a lack of doctors. Some 50,000 healthcare workers in Europe have died due to Covid-19, and health worker absences in the European Region increased by 62% during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, according to WHO.

The pandemic also took a severe toll on the workers’ mental health. In some countries, over 80% of nurses reported psychological distress caused by the pandemic, and 9 out of 10 nurses planned to quit their jobs.

G20, under the leadership of India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, could offer bold solutions to this impending global healthcare crisis. While the recommendations to establish a G20 Health Preparedness Taskforce are excellent, addressing the global health workforce shortage must be a key priority in national development agendas. India can help solve the expected global physician shortage in G20 nations by investing in healthcare infrastructure and training programs. This could involve increasing funding for medical schools and postgraduate programs and improving the quality of medical education.

Additionally, India can help by expanding its role in providing medical services to underserved populations in G20 countries. This could include establishing telemedicine programs, allowing Indian doctors to provide medical care remotely. India can also work with governments in G20 nations to develop more streamlined pathways for Indian doctors to practice in those countries. Finally, India could use its public health and health systems expertise to help G20 countries develop and implement effective healthcare policies.

Here are the practical steps that G20 may take under Indian leadership:

  1. STRENGTHEN THE MEDICAL EDUCATION FRAMEWORK

Setting up common minimum standards in the medical education of physicians, nurses, health administrators, and other allied healthcare workers among G20 nations could create a G20 medical corps that can be mobilized in the invent of emergencies due to pandemics, war, or other natural calamities. Promoting private-public partnerships and investing in new international medical schools should also be considered. We have examples of Indian universities like Manipal offering American equivalent medical education from Antigua. We also have several thousand Indian students currently completing medical education in European countries. Let G20 help execute formal agreements between G20 governments and India that define the conditions and requirements for Indian doctors to practice in those countries.

Revamping the existing guidelines for setting up medical schools and teaching methods as per future methodologies will require significant investment in e-learning tools, including remote learning, virtual classrooms, etc.

Indian medical education system is evolving and striving to reach international standards. Setting up new international medical colleges in addition to current colleges training MBBS and PG students may be considered initially. There are examples of parallel pathways in primary and secondary education in India currently offered via State syllabus in addition to ICSE or CBSE schools.

  1. STANDARDIZING GLOBAL MEDICAL LICENSING SYSTEMS AND VISA REQUIREMENTS

Developing an online database and platform that lists the qualifications and experience of Indian doctors interested in pursuing opportunities in G20 countries would be a good start. In addition, let us work with G20 nations to create more flexible visa and work permit requirements for Indian doctors.

Furthermore, establishing a mutual recognition agreement between G20 countries and India would enable Indian doctors to practice in those countries without additional licensing exams and create standard international medical licensing guidelines. Working with G20 governments to develop and implement standardized, streamlined credentialing and licensing processes for Indian doctors and the reciprocity of national medical licenses and international clinical rotations for medical students among G20 countries should also be considered.

Facilitating and supporting the mobility of Indian doctors within the G20 countries should be promoted. We will also need to create more opportunities for G20 nations and India to collaborate on research and development initiatives.

  1. HARNESSING TECHNOLOGY

The healthcare industry is fast-tracking the use of e-health and e-learning techniques, AI, VR simulation, and the internet of things to train, upskill and empower health workers. Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring should be encouraged among and within G20 nations involving the G20 Medical Corps, as mentioned above. The scaling-up is rapid, based on big data and analytics. These emerging technologies will also generate more demand for new skills, increasing the potential to employ more in digital healthcare delivery. Let G20 leadership help develop programs that allow G20 countries to benefit from the expertise of Indian doctors through telemedicine and other remote care services.

  1. REBALANCING HEALTHCARE TASKS AND MANUFACTURING

As per an OECD global survey, 79% of nurses and 76% of doctors were found to be performing tasks for which they were over-qualified. Given the worldwide evidence of the poor distribution of skills, we must rationally re-organize our workforce for effective management of high-burden diseases, particularly NCDs, which are responsible for 71% of the global mortality and, unless addressed, could cost the world $30 trillion by 2030. G20 nations should also increase manufacturing and procurement of essential medical supplies domestically. Depending on China for most of your medical supplies has exposed the vulnerabilities of G20 healthcare systems during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

  1. BRIDGING LANGUAGE BARRIER AMONG HEALTHCARE WORKERS

The newly proposed international medical and nursing students should be encouraged to be fluent in at least one or two foreign languages, which will help them bridge the language divide. For instance, several countries have similar course curriculums for nursing; however, cultural aspects sometimes need fixing. For example, Sweden and India have identical nursing curricula, and there is great potential to encourage the exchange of nurses. Still, the potential for exchange is restricted due to linguistic barriers. However, this can be easily overcome, and more conducive arrangements can be implemented to facilitate the exchange of healthcare workers.

  1. CREATING A SUSTAINABLE AND GENDER-BALANCED WORKFORCE

Evidence points towards gender imbalance and disparities in health employment and the medical education system. According to the WHO, globally, only 30% of doctors are females, and more than 70% of nurses are females. A similar trend is seen in India, where most nursing workforce comprises women, but only 16.8% of allopathic doctors are females. As per ILO data, gender wage gaps are also a cause for concern. Therefore, we need proactive steps to create a balanced healthcare workforce that addresses the issue of gender inequity and ensures equal pay for work of equal value, a favorable working environment, and targets investments towards training the female workforce.

G20 member states under India’s leadership must increase the in-built flexibility of their health systems, showing the capacity to guarantee everyday quality healthcare for all citizens, refugees, and displaced populations. Significant investment in the future of healthcare of G20 nations is the need of this hour. The abundance of young Indian talents could help the world to minimize the expected healthcare human resource shortfall with proper training and investment. G20 countries represent two-thirds of the world’s population and four-fifths of the global gross domestic product but also a significant proportion of people left behind socially, economically, and in terms of health. Let India propose bold steps and offer solutions in healthcare to secure the future of the G20 nations.

(This story was published in The Sunday Guardian on February 11, 2023)

(Prof (Dr) Joseph M. Chalil, MD, MBA, FACHE, is an Adjunct Professor & Chair of the Complex Health Systems advisory board at Nova Southeastern University’s School of Business, Chief Strategic Officer of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), and the publisher of The Universal News Network. He recently published a best-seller book, “Beyond the Covid-19 Pandemic: Envisioning a Better World by Transforming the Future of Healthcare”.)

India Can Use Its G20 Leadership To Fight Corruption, Reduce Global Inequalities

(IPS) – The G20 India Presidency is marked by unprecedented geopolitical, environmental, and economic crises. Rising inflation threatens to erase decades of economic development and push more people into poverty. Violent extremism is also on the rise as a result of increasing global inequality, and the rule of law is in decline everywhere. All of these challenges impact the G20’s goal of realizing a faster and more equitable post-pandemic economic recovery.

But as India prioritizes its agenda for 2023, it is corruption that is at the heart of all of these other problems- and which poses the greatest threat to worldwide peace and prosperity.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Although the G20 has repeatedly committed to the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) anti-money laundering standards, member countries have been slow to implement policy reforms

Despite unprecedented challenges, 2022 also opened windows of opportunity to move the needle around critical anti-corruption issues, such as anti-money laundering, asset recovery, beneficial ownership, and renewable energy. When global leaders meet during the G20 Indian Presidency , they must prioritize and build on this progress, rather than make new commitments around these issues that they then fail to implement.

Picture : TheUNN

According to the UN, an estimated 2-5% of global GDP, or up to $2 trillion, is laundered annually. Although the G20 has repeatedly committed to the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) anti-money laundering standards, member countries have been slow to implement policy reforms. In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and ineffective economic sanctions against Russian oligarchs, governments have started reexamining existing policy and institutional gaps, especially recognizing the role of Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs), also known as “gatekeepers.”

G20 member countries are responding to concerns and criticisms from their national counterparts regarding failures to adopt FATF recommendations and clamp down on “dirty money.” Grappling with the need to be able to prosecute money-laundering cases and recover billions of dollars worth of frozen assets, they are also amending national laws to be able to do so.

Lack of beneficial ownership transparency is also aiding the flow of laundered money globally. The G20 recognizes beneficial ownership data as an effective instrument to fight financial crime and “protect the integrity and transparency of the global financial system.”

The Russian invasion helped drive home this message, especially among countries that are popular destinations for those buying luxury goods and assets. FATF’s amendment of its beneficial ownership recommendations in early 2022 was timely. Member countries are also introducing new reporting rules, and fast-tracking policies and processes to set up beneficial ownership registers. While there are still gaps in the proposed policies – as identified here– these are important first steps.

Similarly, the transition to renewable energy, initially raised as an environmental issue and then as a national security concern is increasingly gaining attention from a resource governance perspective. Given the scale of the potential investment, there is a need to tackle corruption in the energy sector to avoid potential pitfalls resulting from a lack of open and accountable systems as we transition to a net zero economy.

The cross-cutting nature of the industry means a wide range of issues– from procurement and conflict of interest in the public sector to beneficial ownership transparency- need to be considered. The global energy crisis and the Indonesian Presidency’s prioritization of the issue have helped build momentum around corruption in the renewable energy transition, and this focus must continue.

Calling on India

Corruption-related issues identified here are transnational in nature and have global implications, including for India. For instance, with money laundering cases rising in India, it cannot afford to regard it as a problem limited to safe havens like the UK or the US. The same is true for the lack of beneficial ownership transparency or corruption in the renewable energy transition, which fuels illicit financial networks in India and beyond, and which often transcend national borders.

Finally, corruption has a disproportionate impact on the global poor. Almost 10% of the global population lives in extreme poverty, many of whom live in countries such as India. The G20, under the Indian Presidency, provides a unique opportunity to ensure the voices of the most vulnerable are heard at the global level. By prioritizing the anti-corruption agenda and building on past priority issues and commitments, the Indian government can lead efforts to bridge the North-South divide.

Unity In India, Real Unity In 2023

Each new year is a gift of learning , growth, and hope .  May your mind and soul be enriched with these things and more, in the days to  come.

I wish only one thing – “unity in India , real unity,” .  I am in Manipur in connection with a childhood vision project of Eye Foundation of America ( world without childhood blindness ) . Today is the last day and  I was watching CNN before I leave to the airport and listened to talking heads discussing how China is trying to influence Africa  ( Xi  jinping announced that China would implement TV satellite programs for 10,000 African villages. ) and  about how US is struggling to compete with China in influencing Africa. (You may remember the PEPFAR ( President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief program by US 20 years go and  Power Africa ten years ago).

I did not want to watch further . I switched off the TV and turned to my notes. While world powers are  struggling for supremacy, all of us are aspiring for world peace.    India, the largest democracy with its incredible accomplishments since 1991, is in a unique position to bring world peace. Look  at what Arnold Toynbee said , decades ago-

“It is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self destruction of the human race ….At this supremely dangerous movement in human history, the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way —Emperor Ashoka‘s and Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of nonviolence and Shri Ramakrishna’s testimony to the harmony of religions .  Here we have an attitude and spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single Family — and in the Atomic age, this is the only alternative to destroying ourselves.”

Finally let me say this —In spite of the great accomplishments of India, there may be new tremors, working their way through the subsoil of our national life. It is only the character and dedication of the young generation that can ensure the survival of freedom. We can never forget the last words of Buddha to his disciples. “Look not for refuge  to anyone besides yourselves“ these words contain timeless wisdom .
Be wise, Don’t  be otherwise. Happy New Year 2923!
– From Dr, VK Raju

While Opponents Of Ruling BJP Arrested for ‘Spurious Reasons,’ India’s Judiciary Faces Major Challenges

(IPS) – India’s new Chief Justice, Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, has a significant challenge ahead – as activists and minorities remain hopeful that he will remain true to his legacy of delivering judgments that enshrined the Constitution, especially on personal liberty.

Sanjay Kapoor, founder editor of Hardnews Magazine and political analyst told the IPS that many of the rulings by Indian courts in recent times have been deeply disturbing.

“In the name of national security, draconian laws are evoked to curb personal liberty. Journalists and activists have been arrested and locked away under anti-terror law without evidence,” said Kapoor.

He gave the example of Siddique Kappan, who has remained in jail for more than two years for unknown reasons. Kappan got bail from the Supreme Court, but anti-money laundering laws were immediately slapped upon him to ensure that he remained in prison.

Kapoor’s main concern is the undermining of courts by the government, which is sure to weaken institutions and harm democracy in India.

Meanwhile, the CJI also warned that he was not here to do miracles.

“I know that challenges are high; perhaps the expectations are also high, and I am deeply grateful for your sense of faith, but I am not here to do miracles,” Chandrachud said after his appointment.

The challenges facing the judiciary include a backlog of cases, delays in appointing Supreme Court judges, and significant inconsistencies in judicial approaches.

Soon after Chandrachud took oath on November 9, Chandrachud expressed concern over the long list of requests before the Supreme Court for bail. He said that district judges are reluctant to grant bail in a fair manner out of fear of being targeted.

Activists say that this is the same reason that media personnel, political opponents, and social activists are languishing behind bars without bail today.

Activist Teesta Setalvad was arrested in June 2021, and her bail plea was only accepted three months later when she was finally released. There are others, like student leader Umar Khalid, who has languished in jail for more than two years.

Picture : CNN

The judicial system in India is under tremendous pressure. Until last May, countless cases were pending in courts across different levels of the judiciary. Many of the cases were pending in subordinate courts, a large percent in High Courts, while a hundred thousand cases have been pending for over 30 years. Amid the rising trend of litigation, more and more people and organisations seek justice from courts today. However, there are not enough judges to hear the cases. The courts are overburdened, and the backlog of cases is intimidating.

The reluctance to grant bail to especially political opponents has only aggravated the matter. Most recently, Sanjay Raut, senior opposition party leader, said that he had lost 10 kgs while in prison. The legislature was accused of money laundering. He was in jail for 100 days before bail was granted to him in November. He was kept in a dark cell where he did not see sunlight for 15 days.

Raut said that he would not have been arrested if he had surrendered to the will of the ruling party and remained a mute spectator to the politics of the day. He wondered if only those who oppose the politics of the ruling party would continue to be arrested.

The use of the justice system as a political tool and reluctance to grant bail at the district level has clogged the higher judiciary with far too many cases.

“The reason why the higher judiciary is being flooded with bail applications is because of the reluctance of the grassroots to grant bail, and why are judges reluctant to grant bail not because they do not have the ability to understand the crime. They probably understand the crime better than many of the higher court judges because they know what crime is there at the grassroots in the districts, but there is a sense of fear that if I grant bail, will someone target me tomorrow on the ground that I granted bail in a heinous case. This sense of fear nobody talks about but, which we must confront because unless we do, we are going to render our district courts toothless and our higher courts dysfunctional,” Chandrachud said at an event hosted by the Bar Council of India last week to felicitate his appointment as the country’s 50th CJI.

The Supreme Court of India is perhaps the most powerful Court in the world. However, in recent times the judiciary has been criticised for its uneven handling of cases. It is under scrutiny over contradictions found in its functioning. The fact that a former CJI accepted a seat in the upper house of parliament soon after his retirement two years ago had raised eyebrows.

The judiciary’s perceived deference to the present government is a major concern, including the ongoing arrest of political opponents, and refusal to grant bail to those arrested is becoming the norm. On the other hand, ‘friends’ of the ruling party are allowed to get away with murder and rape.

The nation was shocked after a document was made public last October as proof that the premature release of 11 men convicted for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano and the killing of her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots was approved by the home ministry despite opposition by a special court. A Communist Party of India (Marxist) member Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul and Professor Roop Rekha Verma together filed a public interest litigation (PIL) against a remission granted to 11 convicts who were released on August 15, India’s 75th Independence Day celebrations this year on account of good behaviour.

Bano was gang-raped along with 14 members of her family. Her 3-year-old daughter Saleha was killed by a mob in a village in the province of Gujarat as they fled communal violence in 2002. Bano was 19 years old and five months pregnant at that time. Shobha Gupta, the lawyer for Bano has battled for years for the rape survivor to get justice. Gupta told Barkha Dutt, a senior journalist, that she is shattered and unable to face Bano. That after the release of her rapists from custody, Bano is silent and feels alone.

Dutt had interviewed Bano 20 years ago. Today she wrote in her column that an unspeakable injustice is unfolding with brazen impunity. Its legality is dodgy. Dutt said, “Let’s raise hell”.

After the men who raped Bano and killed her child were freed, they were greeted outside the prison with sweets and garlands. This is the story of a very seriously ill nation, columnist Jawed Naqvi said.

“The nation that was baying for the execution of men who raped a young woman in a bus in Delhi in 2012 seemed deaf to Bilkis’s trauma,” Naqvi wrote. The executive has turned its back on Bano. The media is disinterested and civil society has been bullied into silence at a time when principles are passe for most politicians.”

So who will give justice to citizens like Bano? The Supreme Court?

In a plea filed by Azam Khan last July, the opposition party leader pointed out a new trend amongst the high courts to impose unnecessary bail conditions. Khan said that a high court had ordered the politician to hand over allegedly encroached land as a condition for bail. The ruling was overturned.

Seeking justice these days is tough within the courts and outside.

The 74-year-old Khan has been behind bars since early 2020. Multiple charges have been slapped on him, including corruption, theft, and land grab, in an effort to make sure that he remains behind bars on some charge or the other. However, Khan was granted interim bail last May. A few months later, he was fined and has been sentenced to three more years in prison for a hate speech made in 2019. At that time, Khan was accused of blaming the Prime Minister for creating an atmosphere in the country in which it was difficult for Muslims, the largest minority community in India, to live.

A new report published by the USA-based NGO Council on Minority Rights in India (CMRI) and released on November 20 at New Delhi’s Press Club found that by helping offenders, detaining victims, and failing to register first information reports (FIR) in some cases, law enforcement agencies play a role in furthering hate crimes.

Discussing the legal aspects of persecution, lawyer Kawalpreet Kaur said that minorities are facing the brunt of the state to varying degrees. Cases of the pogrom against Muslims during the Delhi riots have been lying in the high court for the last two years.

“Indian courts need to keep their eyes and ears open; it is not a one-off case of Afree Fatima’s house bulldozed or when the stalls of working-class Muslims were razed in Delhi despite a stay from the court,” she said.

The lawyer called it an attack by the Indian state against its minorities and a campaign of misinformation and Islamophobia witnessed every day.

The release of the CMRI report comes at a time when numerous countries and organisations are calling upon India to take stock of the plight of its religious minorities.

Six international rights groups – the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Inter­national Dalit Solidarity Network, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have reminded New Delhi in a joint statement that it is yet to implement recommendations of a recent UN report on India which cover topics which include the protection of minorities and human rights defenders, upholding civil liberties, and more.

“The Indian government should promptly adopt and act on the recommendations that United Nations member states made at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process on November 10,” the joint statement read. (IPS UN Bureau Report)

International Anti- Corruption Day: Stop Corruption!

Have you ever heard about the surprising Corruption Perception Index (CPI)?  In 1995 Transparency International developed CPI to measure Corruption across sectors and practices in various countries and rank them comparatively. The index now collects data from 180 countries. Organizations like the World Bank also capture corruption data through their Worldwide Governance Indicators. 

 

Corruption is spreading everywhere where the easy money is involved, whether in politics, education, public works, transportation, the medical system, or even getting a basic driving license or a shop permit.

 

Corruption is a significant impediment to peace, security, and development. From education to the environment, from business to sports, from gender equality to access to your rights, justice, and more – Corruption undermines all areas of society’s development. 

 

Corruption has existed in history from time immemorial. Some of the earliest writings on anti-corruption measures are in the Code of Hammurabi of Babylonia, the Great Edict of Horemheb in Egypt, and Arthashastra in India. These texts spoke about bribery practices among officers of the state and law. 

 

“Corruption is cancer, cancer that eats away at a citizen’s faith in democracy, diminishes the instinct for innovation and creativity.” — Joe Biden said few years back at the same time, he was the vice president of the USA.

 

Globally, Corruption saps economic growth, hinders development, destabilizes governments, undermines democracy, and provides openings for dangerous groups such as criminals, traffickers, and terrorists. 

 

Decades ago Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s first  governor- general warned  “One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering – I do not say that other countries are free from it, but I think our condition is much worse – is bribery and corruption. That is poison”.

 

Corruption significantly impacts poor people, as it directly increases costs and eats up the tax the citizen pays. For example, Corruption in the wholesale purchase of drugs and medical equipment now pushes prices up and can lead to sub-standard or harmful medicines. The greedy corrupting officials help the introduction of counterfeit drugs and vaccinations with health hazards, and the life-long impacts on children far exceed the financial costs. 

 

In 2003, the world came together to adopt a landmark agreement named the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Since then, 188 parties have committed to the Convention’s anti-corruption obligations, showing near-universal recognition of the importance of good governance, accountability, and political commitment. 

 

The world today faces some of its most significant challenges in many generations – challenges threatening prosperity and stability for people across the globe. When the U.N. Convention Against Corruption was adopted by the General Assembly in 2003, it decided to observe a special day against Corruption. 

 

International Anti-Corruption Day is celebrated every year on December 9th, which goes much unnoticed. 

 

The 2022 International Anti-Corruption Day (IACD) highlights the crucial link between anti-corruption and peace, security, and development. At its core is the notion that tackling this crime is the right and responsibility of everyone and that only through cooperation and the involvement of every person and institution can we overcome the negative impact of this crime. States, government officials, civil servants, law enforcement officers, media representatives, the private sector, civil society, academia, the public, and youth alike all have a role to play in this. 

 

The 2022 IACD also marks the start of our efforts to keep the twentieth anniversary of UNCAC. This is reflected by the theme of this year’s international day, “UNCAC at 20: Uniting the World Against Corruption”. Over the next year, culminating with IACD 2023, together with partners worldwide, we will be reflecting on a world made better. Thanks to the collective push afforded by the Convention and what gaps remain to ensure this is a robust mechanism for the years ahead. The U.N. has launched a unique campaign on Corruption in the last two years with the theme ‘Recover with Integrity.’

 

In the USA, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) advocate for timely changes and demands accountability for those corrupt actors. It also promotes accountable regulations to prevent and combat crime by leading U.S. government engagement. 

 

As a result, several anti-corruption initiatives, including the fight against foreign bribery, promote and regulate U.S. firms doing business overseas. There are measures advancing transparency and accountability in public financial management.

 

India is really in the grip of Corruption everywhere, and we are victims of that malpractice. We need to expose corrupt officials, politicians, and anyone who demands bribes for any service, one by one.

 

Integrity, transparency, and the fight against Corruption must be part of the culture. These ingredients have to be taught as fundamental values at the school levels. We have created bribery and Corruption, but now we need to eradicate the social evil that is spreading like cancer.

 

That is why an organization like Global Indian Council, Inc considers Corruption a crucial issue at all levels and moves forward with a responsible action plan for a ‘Campaign against Corruption in the days ahead.

Corruption is cancer, remove it- or it will kill you and the system that stabilizes society and democracy!

Global Risks in 2022, The Year of Colliding Consequences

(IPS) – As 2022 draws to a close, we are confronted with an unprecedented collision of global risks, interacting and reinforcing each other in dangerous new ways. The impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are still rippling outwards, colliding and combining like waves on a sea. The heightened threat of nuclear conflict, the global energy crisis, the rising cost of food, deepening poverty and inequality: these consequences are interacting with the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of climate change.

This confluence of global risks has led to unwelcome new terms entering the dictionary, such as ‘polycrisis’ and ‘multicrisis.’

In the face of such complex challenges, it’s easy to feel helpless and paralyzed. And yet, if this year has shown us anything, it’s that we need an urgent upgrade of our systems of cooperation to tackle them.

Picture : Evereytwon Research

It starts with making sure we have the right knowledge. Climate scientist Johan Rockström, a board member of our foundation, has written powerfully on the need for an international consortium of scientists to provide shared insights on the emerging interactions between risks.

At the Global Challenges Foundation, we’ve just released our annual review of global catastrophic risks, risks that threaten the survival of more than ten per cent of humanity. This year’s report shows how, more than ever, our systems and structures for preventing and managing these risks are both outdated and inadequate.

Whether it’s climate change, environmental breakdown, nuclear conflict, pandemics or artificial intelligence, we have a systemic problem with processing and acting on the complex challenges that lie in the intersections.

Of course, there is no one magic solution, given the multilateral system that we inhabit. However, there are many existing proposals to improve the mechanics of global governance that could be immediately fast tracked.

For example, there are several important proposals in the United Nations Secretary-General’s 2021 report, Our Common Agenda. These include the idea for an Emergency Platform that would be triggered by a major crisis such as the use of a nuclear weapon and coordinate the global response.

The report also proposes reviving the UN’s Trusteeship Council, inactive for many years, as a multi-stakeholder body to tackle emerging challenges and to act to preserve the global commons on behalf of future generations.

The failure of the COP27 climate talks in Egypt to agree strong measures to curb fossil fuel production has demonstrated how intergovernmental negotiations are not producing rapid enough action on climate change.

On top of this, the global energy crisis has led to some countries slowing or shelving their green agendas, in a year of extreme temperatures and climate-related crises.

We urgently need to find alternative ways of collaborating to prevent catastrophic climate change. One key proposal is a carbon tax – administered at both global and national levels – with the proceeds going to the communities who are most affected.

The International Monetary Fund concluded that, of all the various recognised strategies to reduce fossil fuel emissions, implementing a carbon tax would be the most powerful and efficient.

Of course, this may not be the easiest ‘sell’ politically during a cost-of-living crisis but evidence from countries like Canada shows that it can be done gradually and sensitively.

The spread of COVID-19 around the world since 2020 has highlighted the linkages between environmental destruction and pandemics. COVID-19 is unlikely to be the last pandemic that humanity faces.

As renowned epidemiologist and public health expert Professor David Heymann writes in his pandemics chapter in our report, as well as tackling the root causes of new pathogens coming into contact with humans, we need to upgrade the international frameworks that govern how countries report on new disease outbreaks.

This means enacting a stronger enforcement mechanism to the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations, and a Pandemic Treaty.

When it comes to nuclear risk, looming ever larger over Ukraine, it’s now more likely than ever that nuclear weapons will be used in either military actions, miscalculation or by accident than at any time since the beginning of the nuclear age.

The international community must treat all threats to use nuclear weapons very seriously. Even ‘small’ or ‘tactical’ weapons can cause terrible damage and their use would undermine the nuclear taboo in place since their use at the end of the Second World War.

Nuclear expert, and contributor to our report, Kennette Benedict says there is still much more we can do to prevent a nuclear disaster. IAEA Director General Raffael Grossi and his colleagues are doing heroic work to prevent nuclear plant disasters in Ukraine.

The international community must continue to support the agency and provide more funding for IAEA’s work. Explicit protection of nuclear plants in violent conflicts and war should be codified in international law.

Only with a clear understanding of each of the greatest risks facing humanity can we move forward to rethink how we could better manage them. And only with new kinds of global cooperation can we deal with today’s complex web of interlocking and reinforcing global risks to ensure a habitable, safe and peaceful future. As we say goodbye to this year of global risks, this should be top of our ‘to do’ list for 2023.

(Jens Orback is Executive Director of The Global Challenges Foundation: IPS UN Bureau)

Bharat Jodo Yatra – An Historic Initiative By Rahul Gandhi

Let me begin by revisiting history. In  2015-16, Mahatma Gandhi journeyed across the length and the breadth of the country. His objective was to understand the real India, its differences in terms of caste, creed and religion. His fight was against the forces of imperialism. More than a century later another individual carrying the same Surname has undertaken another seminal journey.

This time not to understand but to explain the credo of India – an ethos which stands for  harmony, trust and togetherness. His fight is against the forces of imperialism.

Yes, you have guessed it right I am talking about Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat jodo yatra’!

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come,” Victor Hugo the French novelist said ages ago. According to me Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo yatra’ is one such idea whose time has well and truly come.

Picture : Tribune India

Bharat Jodo Yatra is historic in many ways. It is being undertaken at a time when India is being torn apart by religious strife, when the fault lines between communities have deepened like never before.  The role of all the  4 pillars of democracy – Legislature,  Executive, Judiciary  and Media media has been compromised. The country’s public sector undertakings which have been the  backbone of the country’s infrastructure are being constantly eroded leading to  massive private monopolies and uneven distribution of wealth in the country.

In this chaos when the average Indian is looking for a voice of sanity and peace  Rahul Gandhi has undertaken one of the most strenuous and difficult exercises to assure the oppressed and the marginalised that he is committed to their cause.

I am reminded of a similar exercise undertaken by the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who had embarked on a satbhavana yatra in 1990  when the nation was battling the scourge of  casteism unleashed by VP Singh’s Naitonal Front and the curse of communalism  cut loose by L.K. Advani’s Rath Yatra!

Rahul Gandhi’s  Bharat Jodo Yatra has immense contemporary relevance  because the country has been divided like never before on the basis of religion, region, caste and creed. It is time for someone to pick up the gauntlet and show the true path of time cherished values which India has always stood for.

Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra has been even more challenging  because he is covering the  entire distance from south to north on barefoot. His yatra started from September 7th from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and has so far covered Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and after covering many more states will culminate in  Srinagar in 2023

A look at his daily schedule will throw light on the gritty  man, his exemplary mission and his brilliant vision. His typical day starts at 5:30 am in the morning and he walks on the common man’s path till 7:30 where he takes a short break for tea. He then resumes his yatra and walks till 10:30-11:30 am where he breaks for lunch and a short rest. He then resumes his yatra from 3 pm to 6pm and has a public meeting or engagement with the people before he breaks for the day.

This exercise has continued despite inclement weather and several impediments in this yatra.

It should be mentioned here that the yatra has showed the people the real face of Rahul Gandhi where he has come across as a very good human being, a caring person who really loves the country for which his family has sacrificed so much including the ultimate sacrifice to the nation by his  father and grand mother. Rahul Gandhi also has shown how fit he is during the course of the yatra as he has never complained of fatigue or any other issues despite the hectic schedule and engagements during the strenuous yatra that involves constant and continuous public engagement and media glare. It is very rare in politics to see a determined and strong person who despite hardships is determined to continue with the yatra that wants to fight the divisive forces of the country and unite the nation.

People from many walks of life  interact with Rahul Gandhi on his bharat jodo yatra and he listens to their views and issues.  His patience is non-pareil and his ability to connect amazing. We see that he gives the same attention to the common man as he gives to any other celebrity who joins him in this historic yatra. Actors, writers, thinkers, spiritual leaders from different religions, school children, daily wage workers, retired Armed forces personnel,  law and order officials, former judges, farmers, students and  others from different walks of life are marching with Rahul in this momentous journey. People like Tushar Gandhi (Great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi) and several intellectuals have reached out to Rahul Gandhi offering their support and encouragement.

This yatra will go down in history as one of the greatest initiatives of a leader who really cared for the country and wanted its citizens to  work together and respect each other’s differences. This yatra will be remembered by generations for the effort and initiative by yet another member of the Nehru/ Gandhi family to come out of their comfort zone and risk their personal security and health for the greater cause of the nation. Let us hope that this will bring a positive and much needed change and unity in the country.

When asked about his mission Rahul Gandhi said, “The spirit of the Yatra is to make the country focus on the attempt to change its nature. This country has never been fearful. Even in the worst of times, India was not scared. The people of India have a particular culture — the culture of compassion, of respect, of affection. You ask anybody — a villager, a billionaire, or the American President — they will say that India’s strength is compassion. You don’t believe it but the objective of the Yatra is not political. It is to remind the people what the true nature of this country is, what the culture and history of the country is, what its DNA is. Where India stands today, if we continue moving on the same path, the country will suffer enormous damage both at the domestic and international levels.”

I admire Rahul Gandhi’s historic initiative of understating the Bharat Jodo Yatra in these difficult times and trying to unite and assure the country under a sane voice.

The G-20 Proved It’s Our World Government At a time of global conflict, world powers showed that cooperation can actually work.

Ahead of time, the script for the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, seemed to write itself. A grouping conceived in the heyday of globalization was meeting in person for the first time under the shadow of the new Cold War. China and Russia would clash with the United States and its allies. Ukraine would hog center stage. Indonesia made no secret of the fact that it feared that the interests of the rest of the world—sometimes dubbed the new nonalignment—would take second place.

Picture : Foregin Policy

There were moments in Bali that did conform to this script. Russian President Vladimir Putin declined to attend. Russia was at first represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who gave pugnacious press conferences in which he denounced Ukrainian fascists and brandished conspiracy theories about U.S. biolabs. Then Lavrov departed and Russia’s representation was reduced to the finance minister, effectively the junior tier of the G-20. When the missiles landed in Poland, the Indonesian president was obliged to delay a scheduled tour with journalists of a mangrove plantation, while U.S. President Joe Biden convened a war council of the G-7.

But if one takes the occasion as a whole, what is striking is how far the G-20 meeting succeeded in defying expectations.

It was, in fact, a relief that Putin chose to absent himself. It spared China and India the embarrassment of having to distance themselves from him too publicly. In Bali, there was no one who was keen to ally themselves with Russia. Ahead of the meeting, Chinese officials briefed the Western media more openly than ever before about the degree to which Moscow had left them in the dark ahead of the invasion.

This does not mean that China, India, and Brazil were going to fall in line with the United States and Europe in condemning Putin. In that crucial respect, they preserved their stance of nonalignment. But there was no hiding the fact that they regard the war in Ukraine as a threat to the world economy and are aghast at Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling.

Indonesia, which voted with the West against Russia in the United Nations, pushed for an end to the war, even if there was no unanimity. India provided the mantra that this is “not a time for war.” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey strutted his stuff as the man who brokered the U.N. grain deal.

The emerging-market nations that might once have been regarded as junior members of the G-20 demonstrated clout and independence. Unlike their European counterparts, their autonomy and influence have grown with the crisis.

Meanwhile, on the most fundamental axis of global conflict, that between the United States and China, President Xi Jinping and Biden decided to talk. After the rather reckless escalation of recent months, there seemed to be a sense that it was time to reduce tension and find new protocols for engagement.

As Xi made clear to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, this does not mean reaching for cheap headlines by spilling the beans on a private conversation with your Chinese counterpart. The Chinese may be bunkering themselves in behind the Great Firewall, but they follow what happens on our side and do not appreciate media stunts at their expense. The Biden team has less need for grandstanding and can be counted on to be more discreet. Not until the archives are opened will we have much idea of what was said in the three-hour conversation between Xi and Biden. And that is probably for the best. Discretion is a sign that things are getting serious.

The G-20 meeting ended with a leaders’ declaration, which made few new pledges but affirmed basic agreements, such as the commitment to the Paris climate accord.

None of this alters the fact that Russia’s war on Ukraine continues. The risk of escalation is serious. The tensions between the United States and China are real. China upholds its claims on Taiwan. The United States will likely continue its campaign of sanctions. Neither side has any room in domestic politics to back down. On both sides, talk of actual war is increasingly commonplace.

The two conflicts—Russia vs. West and China vs. United States—split the world. But there are also countervailing forces.

The nonaligned powers are a force to be reckoned with, more individually than as a group. But even individually they are significant players. They may be nonaligned and wary of any overt alignment with Washington, but at least, as far as Ukraine is concerned, they are not blind to the disruption caused by Putin and the risks of escalation. Clearly, both Beijing and Washington recognize the need to keep channels of communication open.

As in the Cold War, there are existential risks that require active management. If Bali is anything to go by, the G-20 may be one of the arenas in which that management takes place.

Picture : FP

The G-20 may appear like the cliché of globalization, but it was in fact born out of crisis. Its origins lie in the mishandling of the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 and the perception in the Clinton administration that a new forum was needed to give legitimacy to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Initially, it was a meeting of finance ministers and economic officials. The meeting was raised to the status of a head-of-government meeting in 2008, when the Bush administration was desperately trying to coordinate its response to the financial crisis.

Today, we are in crisis once again, and once again the G-20 is providing a useful forum for diplomacy, both to defuse tension and, as Indonesia insisted, to balance the claims of geopolitics against the interests of economic development.

The format works because it encompasses 60 percent of the world’s population and 80 percent of GDP but is less unwieldy than the U.N. General Assembly or the U.N.’s climate conference.

The Bali G-20 demonstrated that conducting diplomacy in an age of crisis does not mean that things are destined to blow up or fall apart.

The word “crisis” derives from the Greek and captures a moment not of disintegration or explosion but of decision, a turning point, a moment in which you face choices that define your identity. That is true on multiple fronts right now—from the war in Ukraine to U.S.-China tension to climate change. You can manage the moment by deferring, fudging the issue, accepting a further escalation, or making a choice. In Bali, we saw a mixture of all these options.

It may have been bland. It did not resolve anything. But compared to the nightmare of World War III, which seemed to loom on Tuesday evening, it was a relief. (Adam Tooze is a columnist at Foreign Policy and director of the European Institute at Columbia University)  Courtesy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/11/17/g-20-world-government-china-united-states-india-europe/

World Population After 8,000,000,000

(IPS) -Contrary to the often-cited hype and nonsense of some celebrities reported in the news media, the world’s population of 8,000,000,000 human beings is not going to collapse any time soon.

Moreover, that fancied collapse of world population is neither the biggest problem facing the world nor is that false notion a much bigger risk to civilization than climate change, which is certainly humanity’s greatest challenge.

According to recent projections, the world’s population is expected to continue increasing over the coming decades. Hundreds of millions of more people are projected to be added to the planet, but at a slower pace than during the recent past.

The expected slowdown in the growth of world population does not constitute a problem. The global demographic slowdown clearly signals social, economic, environmental and climatic successes and benefits for human life on planet Earth.

Many of those calling for increased rates of population growth through higher birth rates and more immigration are simply promoting Ponzi demography. The underlying strategy of Ponzi demography is to privatize the profits and socialize the costs incurred from increased population growth.

World population reached the 1 billion milestone in 1804. World population doubled to 2 billion in 1927, doubled again to 4 billion in 1974, and then doubled a third time to 8 billion in 2022

India’s population will likely overtake China’s population by 2023. Picture: Mumbai, India. Credit: Sthitaprajna Jena (CC BY-SA 2.0).

PORTLAND, USA, Nov 8 2022 (IPS) – Contrary to the often-cited hype and nonsense of some celebrities reported in the news media, the world’s population of 8,000,000,000 human beings is not going to collapse any time soon.

Moreover, that fancied collapse of world population is neither the biggest problem facing the world nor is that false notion a much bigger risk to civilization than climate change, which is certainly humanity’s greatest challenge.

Picture : India TV News

According to recent projections, the world’s population is expected to continue increasing over the coming decades. Hundreds of millions of more people are projected to be added to the planet, but at a slower pace than during the recent past.

The expected slowdown in the growth of world population does not constitute a problem. The global demographic slowdown clearly signals social, economic, environmental and climatic successes and benefits for human life on planet Earth.

Many of those calling for increased rates of population growth through higher birth rates and more immigration are simply promoting Ponzi demography. The underlying strategy of Ponzi demography is to privatize the profits and socialize the costs incurred from increased population growth.

World population reached the 1 billion milestone in 1804. World population doubled to 2 billion in 1927, doubled again to 4 billion in 1974, and then doubled a third time to 8 billion in 2022

Throughout the many centuries of human history, the 20th century was an exceptional record-breaking period demographically.

World population nearly quadrupled from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 6.1 billion by the close of the century. In addition, the world’s population annual growth rate peaked at 2.3 percent in 1963 and the annual increase reached a record high of 93 million in 1990.

Since the start of the 21st century, the world’s population has increased by nearly 2 billion people, from 6.1 billion in 2000 to 8 billion in 2022. Over that time period, the world’s annual rate of population growth declined from 1.3 percent to 0.8 percent, with the world’s annual demographic increase going from 82 million to 67 million today.

While mortality continues to play an important role in the growth of the world’s population, as witnessed recently with the COVID-19 pandemic, fertility is expected to be the major determinant of the future size of world population.

The world’s average fertility rate of approximately 2.3 births per woman in 2020 is less than half the average fertility rates during the 1950s and 1960s.

The United Nations medium variant population projection assumes fertility rates will continue to decline. By the century’s close the total fertility rate is expected to decline to a global average of 1.8 births per woman, which is one-third the rate of the early 1960s and well below the fertility replacement level.

The medium variant projection results in an increasing world population that reaches 9 billion by 2037, 10 billion by 2058 and 10.3 billion by 2100.

Alternative population projections include the high and low variants, which assume approximately a half child above and below the medium variant, respectively. Accordingly, world population by 2100 ends up being substantially larger in the high variant at 14.8 billion and substantially smaller in the low variant at 7.0 billion (Figure 2).

Another alternative population projection, which is unlikely but instructive, is the constant variant. That projection variant assumes the current fertility rates of countries remain unchanged or constant at their current levels throughout the remainder of the 21st century. The constant variant results in a projected world population at the close of the century that is more than double its current size, 19.2 versus 8.0 billion.

Although world population is projected to continue increasing over the coming decades, considerable diversity exists in the future population growth of countries.

The populations of some 50 countries, including China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Spain, are expected to decline in size by midcentury due to low fertility rates. At the same time, the populations of about two dozen other countries, including Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Niger, Somalia and Sudan, are expected to increase substantially due to their comparatively high fertility rates.

A comparison of the growth of the populations according to the medium variant for the four projected largest countries by midcentury, i.e., China, India, Nigeria, and the United States, highlights the diversity of population growth expected during the 21st century.

China’s current population size is estimated to be near its peak at approximately 1.4 billion. Due to its fertility rate of 1.16 births per woman, which is close to half the replacement level and is assumed to remain relatively low over the coming decades, the Chinese population is expected to decline to 1.3 billion by 2050 and decline further to 0.8 billion by 2100.

In contrast, India’s population, which has an estimated fertility rate of 2.0 births per woman that is expected to decline further, is continuing to increase in size. As a result of that demographic growth, India’s population will likely overtake China’s population by 2023. By 2060 India’s population is projected to peak at 1.7 billion and decline to 1.5 billion by 2100 (Figure 3).

The population of the United States, currently the third world’s largest population after China and India, is expected to continue increasing in size largely due to immigration. By 2050 the U.S. population is projected to reach 375 million and be close to 400 million by the century’s close.

Nigeria’s rapidly growing population, which more than doubled over the past 30 years from 100 million in 1992 to 219 million in 2022, is expected to continue its rapid demographic growth for the remainder of the century. The population of Nigeria is expected to be larger than the U.S. population by 2050, when it reaches 377 million, and then increase to 500 mil1ion in 2077 and 546 million by the century’s close.

Admittedly, the future size of the world’s population remains uncertain. Demographic conditions, especially mortality levels as recently witnessed with the COVID-19 pandemic, could change markedly and future fertility rates may also follow different patterns from those being assumed in the most recent population projections.

Nevertheless, it appears that the world’s current population of 8 billion will continue increasing over the coming decades, likely gaining an additional 2 billion people by around midcentury.

The expected demographic growth of the world’s population of 8 billion during the 21st century poses daunting challenges. Prominent among those challenges are dire concerns about food, water and energy supplies, natural resources, biodiversity, pollution, the environment, and of course climate change, considered by most, including the world’s scientists, to be humanity’s greatest challenge.

(Joseph Chamie is an independent consulting demographer, a former director of the United Nations Population Division and author of numerous publications on population issues, including his recent book, “Births, Deaths, Migrations and Other Important Population Matters.”)

Why They Broke With Hindu Nationalism: Four Former Zealots Speak Out

Participants in the destruction of a historic mosque 30 years ago, a signal event that led to a surge in Hindu nationalism in India, talk about their transformed lives.

This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center

(RNS) — Mangala, a laboratory manager from Maharashtra, India, was 19 years old in December 1992, when she joined thousands of fellow Hindu zealots in chanting fiery slogans as they tore down the Babri Masjid, a 16th-century, three-domed mosque in Ayodhya, in northern India.

The crowd set upon the mosque with hammers, pickaxes and shovels before mounting barricades and swarming inside. Mangala, wearing a saffron scarf to indicate her Hindu allegiance, slammed her fist against a wall of the mosque and shouted, “My blood is boiling.”

Picture : RNS

Mangala felt proud, even “electrified” to be part of a “historic demolition” taking place on the ground considered by many Hindus as the birthplace of Rama, one of their faith’s most exalted deities. The Hindu nationalist crowd had consummated a six-year campaign already championed by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which now rules India, to demolish the mosque and replace it with a temple to Rama.

Thirty years later, Mangala, who calls herself a humanist, said, “I feel ashamed to say I was part of this. In a way I feel responsible for the damage and divisions across India that followed.”

The Babri Mosque’s demolition led to widespread rioting across India. More than 2,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims. India’s tradition of secular, tolerant politics was dealt a hard blow. The Hindu nationalist political movement, meanwhile, got a jump start.

“This was part of a strategy worked out by Hindu supremacists to gain political power,” said Mangala. “If you have to build a temple, why do you need to demolish a mosque for that?”

Looking back, Mangala said, “Thousands of us were hypnotized by the dream of a pure Hindu nation fueled by nationalist leaders. We believed Lord Ram would make our mission successful.”

The seeds of religious extremism were planted in Mangala as a young teenager, when she joined the Rashtra Sevika Samiti, the women’s wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist paramilitary voluntary organization and the ideological parent of BJP.

For 28 years, she regularly attended RSS military camps, underwent weapon-training and traveled to remote towns and villages to spread the Hindu nationalist ideology.

Mangala’s life revolved around discipline and organization. She valorized RSS slogans such as “One-nation, One-leader” and its insistence on a unified Indian subcontinent. She also developed a visceral hate toward Muslims, secularists and Mahatma Gandhi, who spearheaded the idea of India as a country for all faiths.

“As an upper-caste Hindu, I felt the country belongs to us,” she said. “I felt Muslims and other minorities must accept the idea of a Hindu nation or leave the country.”

Mangala’s ideas about caste, gender, identity and sexuality started changing when she ventured into working for children and disadvantaged groups infected with HIV. “Working at the grassroots level exposed me to an entirely different world of ideas, people and possibilities, it almost set me free,” she said. Much of what Mangala championed as a Hindu nationalist started to feel wrong.

“At one level I felt my past had shaped my identity,” she recalls, “but at another level I was feeling suffocated in this rigid patriarchal system.”

When the urge to break with her militant past started consuming her a few years ago, Mangala felt she could no longer remain tied to the RSS movement.

Abhijit Deshpande, an associate professor of Marathi at the KJ Somaiya College of Arts and Commerce in Mumbai, felt a similar need to break free of Hindu nationalism.

Deshpande, 48, grew up in an upper-caste Hindu family in Maharashtra amid religious gurus and preachers. He visited temples regularly and took part in festivals and ritual congregations, and well-known Hindu nationalist leaders would visit their home for meetings with his father, who was active in RSS. At home, they criticized Gandhi’s non-violent tenets and heaped praise on militant Hindus of the past.

But with the growing involvement with the RSS, said Deshpande, “I drifted away from everyday Hindu practices and rituals. Working for a homogenous Hindu nation became my new religion, something I could die for.”

Deshpande quickly rose through the RSS ranks as an intellectual head of his region. “I delivered fiery speeches at public events, schools and colleges and visited hundreds of families to rope them into the Ram temple movement,” he recalled.

Deshpande was in the crowd at Ayodhya when the nationalists gathered in front of the mosque. “Everyone knew the end-goal was to bring the mosque down at whatever cost,” he says.

But just four days after the mosque’s demolition, Deshpande slipped into a deep depression. “I stopped talking to everyone,” he said. “Riots had engulfed the country. I was thinking, ‘Can I raise any questions now? What should I speak about? Who should I speak with?’”

Realizing the criminality of the events at the mosque, Deshpande recognized that the demolition was no spontaneous act but a “carefully monitored and systematic process to dismantle the basis of Indian democracy,” he said.

In 1994, Deshpande moved to Mumbai to pursue a master’s degree in Marathi literature. Wrapped up in the debates of graduate school and exposed to new books and films, his attitudes and eventually his politics became more progressive. “I started questioning not just Hindu nationalism, but religion itself,” he said. Questions about caste and religious bigotry led him to question the basis of his beliefs.

Before long, Deshpande had embraced atheism and slowly cut ties with Hindu nationalism — though it wasn’t finished with him. He continued to receive threats long afterward from religious extremists online.

Leaving Hindu nationalism behind has been more difficult for Purnendu Goswami, who was raised in the holy city of Vrindavan, in northern India, in a renowned family of religious narrators, priests who recite and interpret stories from Hindu religious texts. His family’s prominence, and his own fame for pro-Hindu advocacy, has made extricating himself a more tortuous process.

Goswami, now 49, initially joined the Hindu nationalist movement to achieve political and financial success.

“I was looking to make religion profitable and gain followers,” he said.

He was among those who campaigned for the Ram temple in Ayodhya at rallies, meetings and religious gatherings. On Dec. 3, 1992, three days before the scene at the mosque, he set out for Ayodhya with a group of 50 other Hindu nationalists chanting inflammatory slogans, but was arrested and sent to jail.

After his release, Goswami’s Hindu nationalist zeal intensified. Along with his older brother Balendu, Goswami built a cave near the family’s ashram. Balendu retreated inside the cave for three years, 108 days to contemplate Hinduism.

“We felt it was a good career investment, something no one had tried before,” said Goswami, who kept an eye out for his brother’s daily needs from a room outside the cave.

When Balendu emerged from the cave in 2000, the Goswamis’ fame grew. They were invited to religious events in India and abroad.

It was about this time that the brothers’ sister died in a car accident. Goswami began to question his faith in a “kind and just god.” His Hindu practice felt hollow. “I felt religion and caste were just traps to divide people,” he said.

Goswami’s embrace of atheism irked the religious community in Vrindavan, and some of his neighbors boycotted the family after an atheist meeting was organized at their ashram in 2016. The threats and boycotts escalated over the next few years, even as Goswami started rethinking his strict atheism.

“I felt atheism was a cult just as religion was a business,” said Goswami, who now calls himself a humanist. He believes his fervent promotion of both paths made him arrogant and destroyed what’s most valuable to him — human relationships.

Indoctrination was a “gradual, almost imperceptible process” for Bhanwar Meghwanshi, a 47-year-old low-caste activist and author from Rajasthan. Meghwanshi was initiated into the RSS at the age of 13, thinking it would turn his life around. “I felt we are responsible for our lowly status,” he recalled. “The RSS filled me with a false sense of pride, and the Ram temple movement deepened that.”

A resolute Meghwanshi threw himself into the rising Hindu nationalist movement of the early 1990s. He learnt how to use weapons and make gasoline bombs. When he heard about the demolition, he said, “I wanted to free Ram from his shackles in Ayodhya and restore our Hindu identity. I felt when history would be rewritten I’d go down as a hero.”

Everything changed during one of the Ram temple mobilization campaigns, when upper-caste Hindus refused to eat at Meghwanshi’s house. “I was deeply hurt” he says. “I felt I was doing so much work for this great Hindu nation and was even ready to die for it, but upper-caste Hindus can’t so much as eat at my house!”

Meghwanshi felt in his heart there was no place for low-caste Hindus in the new India that nationalist leaders were spearheading.

The incident plunged him into “a terrible internal crisis,” and he considered ending his life.

But around this time, he came in touch with a Sufi saint in Rajasthan. “I had gone through life immersed in hate, fanaticism, bloodshed and bigotry,” he said. “I was thirsty for love, and he taught me how to love in a radical way.”

After meeting the Sufi saint, Meghwanshi was inspired to work for humanity. He made up his mind that he would mobilize communities across towns and villages for an inclusive India.

“Only humanism can heal the world,” says Mangala, who shares the same vision as Meghwanshi. “Hate propagates hate, while love allows you to transcend yourself to really understand the pains and sufferings of others — that is what we call radical love.”

NRIs Reflect On India At 75!

Proud To Be The First Indian American Miss World America

Hello world!

My name is Shree Saini and I am so proud to be the first Indian American Miss World America and become Miss World 2022 1st Runner Up.

At Miss World, I spoke about my Indian heritage and how I am 100% Indian and 100% American. I have learned a great deal from my Indian heritage and as we celebrate India at 75, I would love to bring your attention to the values that unite us Indians deeply.

Being Indian, has taught me the true value of family unit, nonviolent approach, and having relentless work ethic.

1.)   From Family-unit, I have learned we are one big world family and we are responsible for each other’s wellbeing. Whenever I see a person struggling, I feel a sense of responsibility to reach out to them, lend them a listening ear, and help them find solutions to their problems. Even when situations arise that lead to miscommunication in relationships, I have learned from Indian culture the power of forgiveness, listening and finding solutions to rebuild the relationship.

2.)  Nonviolence approach has taught me the importance of endless kindness. Mother Teresa “Anyways” poem- reminds us that no matter what we do, we are bound to be judged. So, it’s important that we remain kind, built our lives anyways, because

“In the final analysis, it is between us and our God; It was never between us and society anyway.”

3.)   Relentless work ethic has taught me to go the extra mile in preparations and give more. When I prepared for Miss World, I was only required to speak about one charity, but I chose to serve with hundreds of charities because I wanted people to realize that “we should never limit ourselves with the love we give”. Seva is a privilege. Not everyone gets to do seva.

Shree Saini 

Miss World 2022 1st Run

Miss World America 2022

Miss World Beauty with a Purpose Ambassador

Heart Health and Emotional Health Advocate.


I Am So Proud To Be Part Of An Era, As India Is Ushering Into A New Age

Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav is a magnanimous initiative by the Government of India commemorating 75 years of Indian independence. This theme has helped us remember the sacrifices that led to our freedom, take pride in the milestones we have achieved, and implement ideas that would lead our nation  to a glorious future ahead.

With initiatives like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save Daughter – Educate Daughter), Swach Bharath (clean India), Infrastructure development, and technological advancement we are emerging into a new era.

At the same time, we are sharing with the world about our 5000-year-old rich culture and knowledge about yoga and Ayurveda.  When I went to India in January of 2022 as the Chair of AAPI’s Global Healthcare Summit, it was heartening to see the technological advancements in the medical field. Using telehealth now quality medical services are available even most rural parts of India.  Students are able to exchange ideas and collaborate on projects with doctors across the world.

I am so proud to be part of an era as India is ushering into a new age deep rooted in heritage culture, and values, while reaching the pinnacle of science and technological forefront

Udaya Shivangi

Chair of Women’s Forum, AAPI


Move Fast India, For There Is Great Potential To Be The World’s Super Power!

India at 75!

India is known as a robust, ambitious, and enterprising democracy, excelling in many sectors, such as nuclear & space technology to producing the largest pool of IT individuals heading the world’s largest tech companies and is being recognized as the fastest growing economy, while still has many challenges ahead.

Lacking in security for the female population, creating jobs for the young population who are emerging with a first-class education, should be on the list of priorities. Fighting corruption and having a competent judicial system to having single window clearances to entice foreign investors should also be looked upon seriously.

Disparity between the rich and poor is immense and should be curbed and free education for every child must be provided. Clean water is essential for healthy living and so every effort must be made to ensure that.

Much work is also needed in improving infrastructure and on promoting spiritual, medical and cultural tourism.

Move fast India, for there is great potential to be the world’s super power!

Nalini Raja

Freelance Journalist

TV & Print Media


Need To Maintain Unity, Without Undermining Diversity, Which Helps Enrich India As A Whole

Many thought that India@75 was a remote possibility – a distant dream. That India as a country was too diverse – linguistically, ethnically, in terms of religious beliefs etc. Yet here we are, a stronger and more cohesive nation that many had thought possible.

Yet what it means to be ‘Indian’ is different based on who each of us is – our identity, and our sense of individual self. And that to me, is the essential strength of India and what will carry us forward  – an over-arching sense of nation, which does not seek to subsume our many varied identities based on which god(s) we worship, what food we eat, what clothes we wear, and really, what we believe in. Fundamentally, it is this very ‘unity in diversity’ that is India’s greatest power.

My hope for the next 75 years and beyond is that we maintain this belief in unity, without undermining the core diversity which helps enrich this nation as a whole.

Sumani Dash (Ms.)

Managing Director

American Friends of HelpAge India (AFHI)


India Gave Me Roots And I Got My Wings In USA

India gave me roots and I got my wings in USA. Beautiful art & culture, love of family and friends, great food, gorgeous clothes, deep-seated familiarity will always India home for me.

I love the fusion of old India with its rich tapestry of tradition, temples, and forts beautifully blended in with the modern cyber cafes and state of art amenities. It is a place where road side dhabas coexist happily with five-star hotels and where classical music dance and music lives side by side with hip hop.

India at 75 is the fifth largest economy and I am proud to have been born in a country that always welcomes me with open arms and will always be home.

Manju Sheth

Board-Certified Internist Focusing On Women’s Health At Lahey Health

A Physician With A Passion For Media

President Of India New England Multimedia


Need To Continue To Empower And Strengthen Women

INDIA AT 75!

On behalf of Board of trustees, members of Indian American Forum and Indian American Community we want to wish every one Happy Independence Day on August 15. As we celebrate 75th year of independence of the country, we salute the freedom fighters and their sacrifices made. We pay tribute to the martyrs of the country and continue to develop india of their dreams. As we are all still facing challenges during the pandemic years, India and the whole world is working towards the prevention and treatment of the invisible COVID -19 virus.

India faces the biggest challenge for providing affordable and quality medical facilities and hospitals for its people. Our children are still suffering from malnutrition and poverty. We also need to continue to empower and strengthen women in the field of business, politics and other areas. We need to continue to introduce schools and colleges providing quality education in India. We also see that use of Ayurveda, Yoga, and holistic treatments originating from India are benefiting people all over the world. The Green revolution in India is also leading toward high yielding varieties of rice and wheat to increase food production in order to alleviate hunger and poverty.

As Mahatma Gandhi said Our greatest ability is not to change the world but to change ourselves. Peace is the most powerful weapon of mankind.

Once again Happy Independence Day. JAI HIND and VANDE MATARAM

Indu Jaiswal RDN

Chair, Indian American Forum


India Rose From The Ashes And Made Its Place As A Powerful, Progressing Country In The World

After years of struggle, India got its independence on August 15, 194. After independence, India rose from the ashes and made its place as a powerful, progressing country in the world.

Since India’s Independence from the colonial past, India has achieved a lot:

  • Indian Constitution launched on January 26 1951
  • Green Revolution was introduced in 1967 made India a self sufficient nation.
  • Polio eradication: WHO gave India “polio free certificate” in 2014
  • Space and technology: ISRO was launched on August 15,1969
  • In 1975, India launched its first satellite “Aryabhata” .Rakesh Sharma was the first Indian who went to space in 1986
  • In 2008, India set a world record of sending 10 satellites in orbit in a single mission through PSLV-C9. We successfully launched satellites like Chandrayaan to the moon and became the first country to reach Mars in our first attempt through Mangalyaan
  • Right to education, 2010 affirms education as a fundamental right of every Indian
  • India has the largest railway network in Asia
  • The Golden quadrilateral highway network connects the 4 metropolitan cities…. New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, and Mumbai
  • Various irrigation projects and dams have improved water connectivity in India
  • India has 40 heritage sites recognized by UNESCO
  • India has won 2 Olympic gold medals. Abhinav Bindra in men’s 10m air rifle 2008. Neeraj Chopra Men’s javelin throw 2020
  • India invented the number ZERO and the number system
  • India has become the largest Digital market in the world
  • India is now the fastest-growing startup ecosystem
  • India ran the worlds largest vaccine drive against Covid-19
  • India started Vivek express, the longest rail in India in 2011
  • Bhartiya Mahila bank, India’s first women’s commercial bank, began its functioning 2013
  • After independence, India strengthen its defense: In 1954, India launched the Atomic energy program, becoming the first nation to do so. In 1974, India conducted: smiling Buddha” the first nuclear test, making its place on the list of 5 nuclear-powered nations. India’s First nuclear bomb in Rajasthan Pokhram was experimented in 1974 and Pokhram 2 in 1998
  • Gender Justice: India has taken progressive steps to promote gender equality. The Dowry Prohibition act 1961 and Domestic Violence act 2005 have discouraged social evils. Programs such as the Beti bachao and beti padao work on eliminating gender bias.
  • Operation Flood or White revolution: India evolved into a self–sufficient milk producing country amongst the largest rural development agendas
  • Advancement of life expectancy because of tremendous improvement in health, as per WHO

India has come a long way since independence, but still needs to improve in the following areas:

  • Women safety: Respect and dignity for women
  • Corruption-free India
  • No female infanticide
  • Free and efficient healthcare for all
  • Retirement age for politicians
  • Eradicate black money with proper enforcements of laws
  • Stricter population control
  • Proper garbage/sanitation system
  • Improved roadways with no potholes, including villages should get roads just like in urban area
  • A streamlined traffic system
  • Improve drinking water quality
  • Improve environment and decrease pollution
  • No reservations for school/college admissions
  • Controlll inflations
  • Abolish begging
  • Proper disaster management system
  • Poverty eradication
  • Police should be well equipped and accountable
  • Non adultery milk/food
  • Responsible media
  • More fast track courts to resolve legal matters
  • Abolish child abuse and labor
  • Better emergency services at accidents etc
  • Abolish slums

We as Indians must understand that to bring change in the country , firstly we should bring a change in ourselves.

Vandana Aggarwal

Diplomate ABIM, Hematology, Medical Oncology

Why American Power Endures: The U.S.-Led Order Isn’t In Decline

For over a century, people around the world have lived through an American era: a period dominated by U.S. power, wealth, institutions, ideas, alliances, and partnerships. But many now believe this long epoch is drawing to a close. The U.S.-led world, they insist, is giving way to something new—a post-American, post-Western, postliberal order marked by great-power competition and the economic and geopolitical ascendance of China.

Some greet this prospect with joy, others with sorrow. But the story­line is the same. The United States is slowly losing its commanding position in the global distribution of power. The East now rivals the West in economic might and geopolitical heft, and countries in the global South are growing quickly and taking a larger role on the international stage. As others shine, the United States has lost its luster. Divided and beleaguered, melancholy Americans suspect that the country’s best days are behind it. Liberal societies everywhere are struggling. Nationalism and populism undercut the internationalism that once backed the United States’ global leadership. Sensing blood in the water, China and Russia have rushed forward to aggressively challenge U.S. hegemony, liberalism, and democracy. In February 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a joint declaration of principles for a “new era” when the United States does not lead the world: a shot across the bow of a sinking American ship.

But in truth, the United States is not foundering. The stark narrative of decline ignores deeper world-historical influences and circumstances that will continue to make the United States the dominant presence and organizer of world politics in the twenty-first century. To be sure, no one knows the future, and no one owns it. The coming world order will be shaped by complex, shifting, and difficult-to-grasp political forces and by choices made by people living in all parts of the world. Nonetheless, the deep sources of American power and influence in the world persist. Indeed, with the rise of the brazen illiberalism of China and Russia, these distinctive traits and capacities have come more clearly into view.

The mistake made by prophets of American decline is to see the United States and its liberal order as just another empire on the wane. The wheel of history turns, empires come and go—and now, they suggest, it is time for the United States to fade into senescence. Yes, the United States has at times resembled an old-style empire. But its role in the world rests on much more than its past imperial behavior; U.S. power draws not only on brute strength but also on ideas, institutions, and values that are complexly woven into the fabric of modernity. The global order the United States has built since the end of World War II is best seen not as an empire but as a world system, a sprawling multifaceted political formation, rich in vicissitudes, that creates opportunity for people across the planet.

Picture: FA

This world system whirred into action most recently in the global reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The struggle between the United States and its rivals China and Russia is a contest between two alternative logics of world order. The United States defends an international order it has led for three-quarters of a century—one that is open, multilateral, and anchored in security pacts and partnerships with other liberal democracies. China and Russia seek an international order that dethrones Western liberal values—one that is more hospitable to regional blocs, spheres of influence, and autocracy. The United States upholds an international order that protects and advances the interests of liberal democracy. China and Russia, each in its own way, hope to build an international order that protects authoritarian rule from the threatening forces of liberal modernity. The United States offers the world a vision of a postimperial global system. The current leaders of Russia and China increasingly craft foreign policies rooted in imperial nostalgia.

This struggle between liberal and illiberal world orders is an echo of the great contests of the twentieth century. In key earlier moments—after the conclusions of World War I, World War II, and the Cold War—the United States advanced a progressive agenda for world order. Its success rested somewhat on the blunt fact of American power, the country’s unrivaled economic, technological, and military capacities. The United States will remain at the center of the world system in part because of these material capabilities and its role as a pivot in the global balance of power. But the United States continues to matter for another reason: the appeal of its ideas, institutions, and capacities for building partnerships and alliances makes it an indispensable force in the years ahead. This has always been, and can remain, the secret of its power and influence.

The United States, despite repeated announcements of its demise as a world leader, has not truly declined. It has built a distinctive type of order in which it plays an integral role. And in the face of threatening illiberal rivals, that order remains widely in demand. The reason the United States does not decline is because large constituencies within the existing order have a stake in the United States remaining active and involved in maintaining that order. Even if U.S. material power diminishes relative to, say, China’s growing capabilities, the order the United States has built continues to reinforce its power and leadership. Power can create order, but the order over which Washington presides can also buttress American power.

Like an onion, the United States’ liberal internationalist order has several layers. At the outer layer are its liberal internationalist ideas and projects, through which the United States has provided the world a “third way” between the anarchy of states furiously competing with each other and the overweening hierarchy of imperial systems—an arrangement that has delivered more gains for more people than any prior alternative. Beneath the surface, the United States has benefited from its geography and its unique trajectory of political development. It stands oceans apart from the other great powers, its landmass faces both Asia and Europe, and it accrues influence by playing a unique role as a global power balancer. Adding to this, the United States has had critical opportunities following major conflicts in the twentieth century to build coalitions of like-minded states that shape and entrench global rules and institutions. As the current crisis in Ukraine shows, this ability to mobilize coalitions of democracies remains one of the United States’ essential assets. Beneath the realm of government and diplomacy, the United States’ domestic civil society—enriched by its multiracial and multicultural immigrant base—connects the country to the world in networks of influence unavailable to China, Russia, and other powers. Finally, at the core, one of the United States’ greatest strengths is its capacity to fail; as a liberal society, it can acknowledge its vulnerabilities and errors and seek to improve, a distinct advantage over its illiberal rivals in confronting crises and setbacks.

No other state has enjoyed such a comprehensive set of advantages in dealing with other countries. This is the reason that the United States has had such staying power for so long, despite periodic failures and disappointments. In today’s contest over world order, the United States should draw upon these advantages and its long history of building liberal order to again offer the world a global vision of an open and rules-based system in which people can work freely together to advance the human condition.

AMERICA’S THIRD WAY

For over a century, the United States has been the champion of a kind of order distinct from previous international orders. Washington’s liberal internationalism represents a “third way” between anarchy (orders premised on the balance of power between competing states) and hierarchy (orders that rest on the dominance of imperial powers). After World War II and again after the end of the Cold War, liberal internationalism came to dominate and define the modern logic of international relations through the construction of institutions such as the United Nations and alliances such as NATO. People across the world have connected to and built on these intergovernmental platforms to advance their interests. If China and Russia seek to usher in a new world order, they will need to offer something better—an onerous task indeed.

The first generation of liberal internationalists in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century were heirs to an Enlightenment vision, a belief that through reason, science, and measured self-interest, societies could build political orders that improved the human condition. They imagined that institutions and political orders could be devised to protect and advance liberal democracy. International order can be a forum not just for waging war and seeking security but also for collective problem solving. Liberal internationalists believed in peaceful change because they assumed that international society is, as Woodrow Wilson argued, “corrigible.” States could tame factious, belligerent power politics and build stable relations around the pursuit of mutual gains.

The essential goal of liberal order building has not changed: the creation of a cooperative ecosystem in which states, starting with liberal democracies, manage their mutual economic and security relations, balance their often conflicting values, and protect the rights and liberties of their citizens. The idea of building international order around rules and institutions is not unique to the United States, Western liberals, or the modern era. But U.S. order building is unique in putting these ideas at the center of the country’s efforts. What the United States has had to offer is a set of solutions to the most basic problems of international relations—namely, the problems of anarchy, hierarchy, and interdependence.

The prophets of American decline are wrong.

Realist thinkers claim that states exist in a fundamental condition of anarchy that sets limits on the possibilities for cooperation. No political authority exists above the state to enforce order or govern relations, and so states must fend for themselves. Liberal internationalists do not deny that states pursue their own interests, often through competitive means, but they believe that the anarchy of that competition can be limited. States, starting with liberal democracies, can use institutions as building blocks for cooperation and for the pursuit of joint gains. The twentieth century offers dramatic evidence of these sorts of liberal ordering arrangements. After World War II, in the shadow of the Cold War, the United States and its allies and partners established a complex and sprawling system of institutions that persist today, exemplified by the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions, and multilateral regimes in diverse areas of trade, development, public health, the environment, and human rights. Grand shifts in the global distribution of power have occurred in the decades since 1945, but cooperation remains a core feature of the global system.

Picture: Foregin Afairs

The problems of hierarchy are the mirror opposite of the problems of anarchy. Hierarchy is political order maintained by the dominance of a leading state, and at the extreme, it is manifest as empire. The leading state worries about how it can stay on top, gain the cooperation of others, and exercise legitimate authority in shaping world politics. Weaker states and societies worry about being dominated, and they want to mitigate their disadvantages and the vulnerabilities of being powerless. In such circumstances, liberal internationalists argue that rules and institutions can simultaneously be protections for the weak and tools for the powerful. In a liberal order, the leading state consents to acting within an agreed-upon set of multilateral rules and institutions and not use its power to coerce other states. Rules and institutions allow it to signal restraint and commitment to weaker states that may fear its power. Weaker states also gain from this institutional bargain because it reduces the worst abuses of power that the hegemonic state might inflict on them, and it gives them some voice in how the order operates.

Unique in world history, the U.S.-led order that emerged after 1945 followed this logic. It is a hierarchical order with liberal characteristics. The United States has used its commanding position as the world’s leading economic and military power to provide the public goods of security protection, market openness, and sponsorship of rules and institutions. It has tied itself to allies and partners through alliances and multilateral organizations. In return, it invites participation and compliance by other states, starting with the subsystem of liberal democracies mostly in East Asia, Europe, and Oceania. The United States has frequently violated this bargain; the Iraq War is a particularly bitter and disastrous example of the United States undermining the very order it has built. The United States has used its privileged perch to bend multilateral rules in its favor and to act unilaterally for parochial economic and political gains. But despite such behavior, the overall logic of the order gives many countries around the world, particularly liberal democracies, incentives to join with rather than balance against the United States.

The problems of interdependence arise from the dangers and vulnerabilities that countries face as they become more entangled with each other. Starting in the nineteenth century, liberal democracies have responded to the opportunities and dangers of economic, security, and environmental interdependence by building an international infrastructure of rules and institutions to facilitate flows and transactions across borders. As global interdependence grows, so, too, does the need for the multilateral coordination of policies. Coordinating policies does entail some restrictions on national autonomy, but the gains from coordination increasingly outweigh these costs as interdependence intensifies. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt made this case in his appeal to the delegates grappling with postwar financial and monetary issues at the Bretton Woods conference in July 1944. Great gains could be obtained from trade and investment across borders, but domestic economies had to be protected from destabilizing economic actions taken by irresponsible governments. Such logic is in wide application today within the U.S.-led liberal order.

In each of these areas, the United States sits at the center of a liberal system of order that offers institutional solutions to the most basic problems of world politics. The United States has been an imperfect champion of these efforts to shape the operating environment of international relations. Indeed, a great deal of the criticism directed at the United States as a global leader stems from the perception that it has not done enough to move the world in this “third way” direction and that the order it presides over is too hierarchical. But that is precisely the point—if the world is to organize itself to address the problems of the twenty-first century, it will need to build on, not reject, this U.S.-led system. And if the world is to avoid the extremes of anarchy and hierarchy, it will need more, not less, liberal internationalism. China and Russia have themselves benefited from this system, and their reactionary vision of a post-American order looks more like a step backward than a step forward.

THE ANTI-IMPERIAL EMPIRE

The United States is a world power like no other before it, a peculiarity that owes much to the idiosyncratic nature of its rise. It alone among the great powers was born in the New World. Unlike the United States, the other great powers, including China and Russia, find themselves in crowded geopolitical neighborhoods, struggling for hegemonic space. From the very beginning of its career as a great power, the United States has existed far from its main rivals, and it has repeatedly found itself confronting dangerous and often violent efforts by the other great powers to expand their empires and regional spheres of influence. These circumstances have shaped the United States’ institutions, its way of thinking about international order, and its capacities for projecting power and influence.

Distance from other powers has long given the United States space to build a modern republican-style regime. The Founding Fathers were quite conscious of this uniqueness. With the European powers an ocean away, the American experiment in republican government could be safeguarded from foreign encroachments. In The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton argued that the United Kingdom owed its relatively liberal institutions to its location. “If Britain had been situated on the continent, and had been compelled . . . to make her military establishments at home co-extensive with the other great powers of Europe, she, like them, would in all probability be at this day a victim to the absolute power of a single man.” The United States was similarly lucky. Its European counterparts had to develop the robust state capacities to swiftly mobilize and command soldiers and materiel to wage the continent’s endless wars; the United States did not. Instead, it began as a fragile attempt to build a state that was institutionally weak and divided—by design—to prevent the rise of autocracy at home. The United States’ isolation gave it the opportunity to succeed.

More prosaically, the vast natural resources of the continent gave the United States the capacity to grow. By the turn of the twentieth century, the United States had joined the world of the great powers, a peer of its European counterparts. But it had become powerful at great remove, unimpeded by the acts of counterbalancing so frequently evident in the relations between rival powers in Europe and East Asia.

The United States’ sheltered experiment in republican rule invariably shaped its thinking about international order. One of the oldest worries in the liberal-republican tradition, noted by theorists across the ancient and modern eras, is the pernicious impact that war, power politics, and imperialism have on liberal institutions. Historically, republics have been vulnerable to the illiberal imperatives and impulses generated by war and geopolitical competition. Warfare and imperial expansion can lead to the militarization and regimentation of a society, opening the door to the “garrison state” and turning a would-be Athens into a Sparta. The cause of protecting national independence curtails liberties. Indeed, the American founders argued for union among the colonies by insisting that if left unbound, the postcolonial states would fear each other and militarize their societies.

This concern, of course, did not stop the United States from joining the world of great powers or from ultimately becoming the world’s largest military power. Nonetheless, this republican worry kept alive the liberal internationalist notion, dating back to Immanuel Kant and other Enlightenment thinkers, that societies can protect their way of life best by working together and creating zones of peace that push tyrannical and despotic states to the periphery.

Such an orientation helped shape the United States’ response to the geopolitical circumstances it faced as a rising great power in the early twentieth century in a world dominated by empires. The United States, for a time, was itself engaged in empire building in the Caribbean and the Pacific, in part to compete with its peers. Indeed, every one of the United States’ great-power peers during this era was pursuing empire in one way or another. This global system of empire reached its zenith in the late 1930s when Nazi Germany and imperial Japan embarked on wars of territorial aggression. Add to that the Soviet Union and the far-flung British Empire, and the future appeared as one in which the world would be permanently divided into blocs, spheres, and imperial zones.

In this bleak mid-twentieth-century setting, the United States was forced to contemplate what kind of order it wanted to bring into existence. The question that U.S. strategists grappled with, particularly during World War II, was whether the United States could operate as a great power in a world carved up by empires. If vast stretches of Eurasia were dominated by imperial blocs, could the United States be a great power while operating only within the Western Hemisphere? No, policymakers and analysts agreed, it could not. To be a global power, the United States would need to have access to markets and resources in all corners of the world. Economic and security imperatives, as much as lofty principles, drove this judgment. U.S. interests and ambitions pointed not to a world where the United States would simply join the other great powers in running an empire but to one where empires would be swept away and all regions would be opened up to multilateral access.

In this way, the United States was unique among its peers in using its power and position to undermine the imperial world system. It made alliances and bargains with imperial states at various moments and launched a short-lived career of empire at the turn of the twentieth century in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. But the dominant impulse of U.S. strategy across these decades was to seek a postimperial system of great power relations, to build an international order that would be open, friendly, and stable: open in the sense that trade and exchange were possible across regions; friendly in the sense that none of these regions would be dominated by a rival illiberal great power that sought to close off its sphere of influence to the outside world; and stable in the sense that this postimperial order would be anchored in a set of multilateral rules and institutions that would give it some broad legitimacy, the capacity to adapt to change, and the staying power to persist well into the future.

The United States’ geographic position and rise to power in a world of empires provided the setting for a distinctive strategy of order building. Its comparative advantage was its offshore location and its capacity for forging alliances and partnerships to undercut bids for dominance by autocratic, fascist, and authoritarian great powers in East Asia and Europe. Many countries in those regions now worry more about being abandoned by the United States than being dominated by it. As a result, alliances with fixed assets, such as military bases and forward troop deployments, provide partners with not just security but also greater certainty about U.S. commitment. This confluence of geographic circumstances and liberal political traits gives the United States a unique ability to work with other states. The United States has over 60 security partnerships in all regions of the world, while China has only a scattering of security relationships with Djibouti, North Korea, and a few other countries.

COLLECTIVE POWER

The merits of the U.S.-led order don’t just lie in what Washington made but in how it brought this order into being. The United States did not become a great power through conquest. Rather, it stepped opportunistically into geopolitical vacuums created at the ends of major wars to shape the peace. These moments occurred after the two world wars and the Cold War, when upheavals in great power relations left the global system and the old world of empires in tatters. At these junctures, the United States demonstrated the ability to build coalitions of states to hammer out the new terms of world order. During the twentieth century, this settlement-oriented, coalitional approach to order building overwhelmed the aggressive efforts of rival illiberal great powers to shape the future. The United States worked with other democracies to produce favorable geopolitical outcomes. This method of leadership continues to give the United States an edge in shaping the terms of world order today.

At three pivotal moments during the last century—after the end of World War I, again in the wake of World War II, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union—the United States found itself on the winning side of major conflicts. The old order was in ruins, and something new had to be built. In each case, Washington aimed to do more than merely restore the balance of power. The United States saw itself in a struggle with illiberal great-power aggressors, contesting world order principles and defending the liberal democratic way of life. In each case, the mobilization for war and great-power competition was framed as a contest of ideas and visions. U.S. leaders sent a message to their citizens: if you pay the price and bear the burdens of this struggle, we will endeavor to build a better United States—and a more hospitable world order. The United States sought to better organize the world when the world itself was turned upside down.

The world cannot afford the end of the American era.

The United States chose to exercise its power in these crucial moments by working with other democracies. In 1919, 1945, and 1989, the United States was the leading member of a coalition of states (the Allies, the United Nations, the “free world,” respectively) that won the war and negotiated the terms of the subsequent peace. The United States provided leadership and material power that turned the tide in each war. U.S. officials emphasized the importance of building and strengthening the coalition of liberal democracies. A slew of U.S. presidents, including Wilson, Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and George H. W. Bush, argued that the country’s survival and well-being had to be premised on building and maintaining a critical mass of similarly disposed partners and allies.

In a world of despotic, hostile, and powerful rivals, the United States and other liberal democracies have repeatedly concluded that they are safer working as a group than alone. As Roosevelt put it in January 1944, “We have joined with like-minded people in order to defend ourselves in a world that has been gravely threatened by gangster rule.” Of course, liberal states have always been willing to ally with nondemocracies within larger coalitions. During the Cold War and again today, the United States has allied itself and partnered with authoritarian client states around the world. Nonetheless, in these eras, the core impulse has been to build U.S. grand strategy around a dynamic core of liberal states in East Asia, Europe, North America, and Oceania.

Democratic solidarity also creates a setting for generating progressive ideas and attracting global support. Collective security (defined by Wilson in his Fourteen Points speech as “mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike”), the Four Freedoms (Roosevelt’s goals for postwar order: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear), and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for instance, are all grand ideas forged out of great-power contests. The world order contest underway between the United States and its autocratic rivals China and Russia offers a new opportunity to advance liberal democratic principles around the world.

AT HOME IN THE WORLD

The United States is not just a unique great power, it is also a unique kind of society. Unlike its great-power rivals, the United States is a country of immigrants, multicultural and multiracial, or what the historian Frank Ninkovich has called a “global republic.” The world has come to the United States, and as a result, the United States is profoundly connected to all regions of the world through family, ethnic, and cultural ties. These complex and far-reaching ties, operating outside the realm of government and diplomacy, make the United States relevant and engaged across the world. The United States is more knowledgeable about the outside world, and the outside world has a greater stake in what happens in the United States.

The immigrant tradition in the United States has also paid dividends in building the country’s human capital base. Without this immigrant culture, the United States would be less affluent and distinguished in the leading fields of knowledge, including medicine, science, technology, commerce, and the arts. Of the 104 Americans who have been awarded Nobel Prizes in chemistry, medicine, and physics since 2000, 40 have been immigrants. Chinese students want to come to the United States for their university education; foreign students do not flock to Chinese universities at similar rates.

Just as the diversity of its population links it to the world, so, too, does the United States’ welter of civil society groups build an influential globe-spanning network. In the past century, U.S. civil society has increasingly become part of an expansive global civil society. This sprawling transnational civil society is an often overlooked source of American influence, fostering cooperation and solidarity across the liberal democratic world. China and Russia have their own political networks and diaspora communities, but global civil society tends to reinforce liberal principles, amplifying the United States’ centrality in global confrontations over world order.

Civil society comes in many guises, including nongovernmental organizations, universities, think tanks, professional associations, media organizations, philanthropies, and social and religious groups. In recent decades, civil society groups have proliferated and spread across the world. The most salient of these groups engage in transnational advocacy, focused on causes such as the environment, human rights, humanitarian assistance, the protection of minorities, citizenship education, and so forth. In fact, these activist groups are at least partially creatures of the postwar liberal international order. Operating in and around the United Nations and other global institutions, civil society groups have seized on the idealistic principles and norms espoused by liberal states—and endeavor to hold those states to account.

Global civic activism often targets Western governments, but with its focus on human rights and civic freedoms, autocratic and authoritarian governments find themselves most under pressure. By definition, civil society groups seek to function outside the reach of the state. Not surprisingly, both China and Russia have cracked down on the activities of international civil society groups within their borders. Under Putin, Russia has sought to extend state control over civil society, discrediting foreign-funded groups and using government tools to weaken civic actors and promote pro-government organizations. China has also acted aggressively to restrict the activities of civic groups and to crack down on democracy activists in Hong Kong. At the UN, China has used its membership on the Human Rights Council to block and weaken the role of NGO advocacy groups. Global civil society tends to stimulate reform within liberal democracies while threatening autocratic and authoritarian regimes.

A multicultural immigrant society is more complex and potentially unstable than more homogeneous societies such as China. But China is home to a number of ethnic and religious minorities, and despite the country’s putative communist commitment to egalitarianism and equality, such minorities suffer intense discrimination and repression. Even though the United States must work harder than China to be a stable and integrated society, the upside of its diversity is enormous in terms of creativity, collaboration, knowledge creation, and the attraction of the world’s talent. It is hard to imagine China, with a shrunken civil society that is closed to the world, as a future center of global order.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Given the country’s recent domestic convulsions, these exhortations for the centrality of the United States in the coming century might seem odd. Today, the United States looks more beset with problems than at any time since the 1930s. Amid the polarization and dysfunction that plague American society, it is easy to offer a narrative of U.S. decline. But what keeps the United States afloat, despite its travails, is its progressive impulses. It is the idea of the United States more than the country itself that has stirred the world over the last century. The country’s liberal ideals have inspired leaders of liberation movements elsewhere, from Mahatma Gandhi in India to Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia and Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Young people in Hong Kong protesting against the Chinese government have routinely waved U.S. flags. No other state aspiring to world power, including China, has advanced a more appealing vision of a society in which free individuals consent to their political institutions than has the United States.

The story that the United States presents to the world is one of an ongoing enterprise to confront and overcome painful impediments to a “more perfect union,” starting with its original sin of slavery. The United States is a constant work in progress. People around the world held their breath when Americans voted in the 2020 presidential election and again during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump. The global stakes of these moments were profound.

The United States is uniquely a global republic.

By contrast, in 2018, when Xi overturned the Chinese Communist Party’s long-standing rules and laid the groundwork to make him, in effect, dictator for life, the world simply shrugged. People across many parts of the world seem to expect more of the United States than they do of China, invariably measuring U.S. actions against the standard of avowed American principles and ideals. As the political scientist Samuel Huntington once observed: “America is not a lie, it is a disappointment. But it can be a disappointment only because it is also a hope.”

What will keep the United States at the center of world politics is its capacity to do better. The country has never fully lived up to its liberal ideals, and when it commends these ideals to others, it looks painfully hypocritical. But hypocrisy is a feature, not a bug, of liberal order, and need not be an impediment to making the liberal order better. The order over which the United States has presided since World War II has moved the world forward, and if people around the globe want a better world order that supports greater cooperation and social and economic advancement, they will want to improve on this U.S.-led system, not dispense with it.

The crises over Taiwan and Ukraine underline this fact. In both cases, China and Russia are seeking to draw unwilling open societies into their orbit. The people of Taiwan look at the plight of Hong Kong and, not surprisingly, are horrified at the prospect of being incorporated into a country ruled by a Chinese dictatorship. The people of an embattled democratic Ukraine see a brighter future in greater integration into the European Union and the West. That China is ramping up pressure on Taiwan and that Russia sought to yoke Ukraine to its sphere of influence does not suggest American decline or the collapse of liberal order. On the contrary, the crises exist because Taiwanese and Ukrainian societies want to be part of a global liberal system. Putin famously groused that the liberal idea is becoming obsolete. In reality, the liberal idea still has a long life ahead of it.

EMPIRE BY INVITATION

The United States enters today’s struggle to shape the twenty-first century with profound advantages. It still possesses the vast bulk of the material capabilities it had in earlier decades. It remains uniquely positioned geographically to play a great-power role in both East Asia and Europe. Its ability to work with other liberal democracies to shape global rules and institutions is already manifest in its response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and will stand it in good stead in any future collective response to Chinese aggression in East Asia. Although China and Russia seek to move the world in the direction of regional blocs and spheres of influence, the United States has offered a vision of world order based on a set of principles rather than competition over territory. Liberal international order is a way of organizing an interdependent world. It is, as the Norwegian historian Geir Lundestad called it, an “empire by invitation.” Its success depends on its legitimacy and appeal and not on the capacity of its patrons to force obedience. If the United States remains at the center of world politics in the decades to come, it will be because this type of order generates more supporters and fellow travelers around the world than that offered by China and Russia.

The U.S. confrontation with China and Russia in 2022 is an echo of the great-power upheavals of 1919, 1945, and 1989. As at these earlier moments, the United States finds itself working with other democracies in resisting the aggressive moves of illiberal great powers. The Russian war in Ukraine is about more than the future of Ukraine; it is also about the basic rules and norms of international relations. Putin’s gambit has placed the United States and democracies in Europe and elsewhere on the defensive. But it has also given the United States an opportunity to rethink and reargue its case for an open, multilateral system of world order. If the past is any guide, the United States should not try to simply consolidate the old order but to reimagine it. U.S. leaders should seek to broaden the democratic coalition, reaffirm basic values and interests, and offer a vision of a reformed international order that draws states and peoples together in new forms of cooperation, such as to solve problems of climate change, global public health, and sustainable

development. No other great power is better placed to build the necessary partnerships and lead the way in tackling the major problems of the twenty-first century. Other powers may be rising, but the world cannot afford the end of the American era. (Why American Power Endures: The U.S.-Led Order Isn’t in Decline (foreignaffairs.com))

India Is A Growing World Power And Partner

The United States-India relationship has transformed over 75 years, from one of simple recognition for their independence in 1947 to a period of mutual distance during the Cold War to a hyphenated connection to Pakistan during the 1980s and 1990s and finally to a “defining partnership for the 21st century” during the past two decades. It’s now time to fully implement the recently announced White House National Security Strategy based upon rapidly churning geopolitics, a universal recognition that India is an independent force and key player in solving world problems, and to effectively manage policy differences in the partnership when they threaten to divide us on the global stage.

Picture: The Hill

India has radically changed from a country with little foreign policy confidence and even smaller opportunity to influence events outside their immediate neighborhood to a rapidly growing economy (fifth largest in the world), a forceful demographic dividend of a young, talented work force (the opposite of China), and a coveted partner around the world. India is the pivotal player on key transnational issues listed in the National Security Strategy, from climate change to COVID-19 to energy transitions to water policy. Where India lands on one of these issues can tip the balance of power toward the China-Russia axis or tilt it toward the American-European coalition. While the U.S. says it doesn’t want to carve the world into blocks of opposing sides, India can often set the stage and help build possible new coalitions of collaborators. Currently, the U.S. is in a precarious position of treating India too often like a permanent partner and always expecting cordial agreements and infinite consensus. We should show more flexibility such as we do with the “Quad” (including India, the U.S., Japan and Australia), propose more innovative initiatives like the Australia, United Kingdom and United States (AUKUS) partnership and broadening and deepening India’s inclusion in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework on digital trade, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity issues. Implementing and executing on these proposals is a first-tier foreign policy priority.  

Having lived in India, I’m aware their government is waking up each day to wrestle with immense domestic challenges and imminent outside threats to their existence. They must engineer the economy to elevate 290 million people out of poverty (a population almost equal to that of the entire United States) and provide affordable energy and food in an inflationary environment. Dealing with a population of 1.4 billion, India needs to create more than 8 million jobs per year to keep up with their growth. China is poised on their border building infrastructure into Indian territory, a nuclear-equipped Pakistan is next door going through volatile political and economic earthquakes, and Afghanistan presents a possible failed state on their doorstep. Iran and Russia are close neighbors. The U.S. has two wide oceans east and west to buffer direct military threats and two friendly partners to the north and south of its borders.

Picture: The Hill

India and the U.S. could not experience more contrasting national security interests and perspectives of international politics, given these vastly differing geographical locations. We must respect India’s national security policies and anticipate how they will deviate from ours in various regional situations. In fact, we must expect these differences and diplomatically communicate them without allowing other countries to exploit differences or harm our healthy bilateral relations.

For example, India is purchasing inexpensive oil from Russia to help reduce energy costs for their citizens thereby cashing in on a decades-old relationship going back to their initial dependency on the former Soviet Union. The U.S. and its allies have imposed a sanctions regime against Russia for their invasion of Ukraine and are outraged that India would buy Russia’s available oil. This has become a tender sore point, especially on Capitol Hill and with American public opinion throughout the country. From a realpolitik perspective, we should refrain from too much overt criticism and privately work behind the scenes to assist India with the larger policy dilemma about how to begin a transition into a cleaner, green economy and achieve it with American technology and private sector trade. America needs to play this strategically for the long term — and not push India into the powerful gravitation of the China-Russia orbit.

Cooperating on climate change, exchanging scientific data and diversifying our supply chains (especially away from China) are common national security policies for both our countries. Cooperating on international climate change goals and carefully integrating some of our energy policy objectives will benefit both our respective economies. And more importantly, this provides significant leadership around the planet for partners working together and forming diverse coalitions, especially with African and Latin American nations. The U.S. and India should write the roadmap together for “green lending” finance programs, transitions to building infrastructure to withstand extreme weather and developing water preservation policies.

The United States and India are both experiencing the coercion and aggression of a more militaristic China. India has been brutally attacked by China on its border, has witnessed the South China Sea islands become weaponized, watched Taiwan being terrorized by Chinese military drills and has been surrounded by China’s construction of blue water navy ports. China’s “wolf warrior” behavior is actually pushing America and India ever closer together on their strategic security interests. There are numerous opportunities to expand our defense weapons sales and security cooperation, deepen the Quad to include more integrated intelligence sharing and submarine technology, as well as increase naval exercises in the Indo-Pacific Ocean domain.

India must be a top priority for American presidents and foreign affairs experts in implementing our foreign policy. The war in Ukraine cannot delay decisions or divert our attention from India priorities. China is also a high priority (named as a “global competitor” in the National Security Strategy), mainly because we must install guardrails and protections in the relationship. We need to manage and secure this relationship that is likely to decline in strategic cooperation — yet urgently requires safeguards against conflict or accidental war.

India, on the other hand, has so many common interests and goals with the U.S. that the new policies, if properly prioritized and successfully managed, point toward a highly engaged and hopeful future. This is especially true if we remember that serious policy disagreements with India are expected given their rich history and unique location and consequently should be calculated into our long-term strategic objectives.

There will be bumps in the road and severe challenges to accomplishing this new national security strategy. Even though Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi castigated Russia President Vladimir Putin recently in a public meeting on the war in Ukraine, some claim it came too late.

The U.S. still does not have an ambassador in New Delhi more than 20 months into the Biden administration. And India is critical of U.S. F-16 fighter jet upgrades to Pakistan and the controversial departure from Afghanistan. Disagreements will flow in both directions.

Another pandemic will inevitably hit the world. Democracy will continue to face internal and external threats in both countries. Delivering educational opportunity and affordable health care will demand sharing best practices and safe technologies.

The Republic of India and the United States of America share the vision and values to solve many of these common problems of humanity. The world would directly benefit from their close cooperation and also learn from how these countries occasionally agree to disagree. That is the true art of the possible. (Courtesy: The Hill. Tim Roemer is the former U.S. ambassador to India and served in Congress as a Democratic representative from Indiana.)

NRIs Reflect On The Changing Landscape Of India After 75 Years Of Independence

On August 15th, 2022, as the nation celebrated its 75th anniversary of India’s Independence, a Letter was sent to the President of India, Droupadi Murmu, signed by 100  world renowned writers, journalists, creative artists, “to express our grave concerns about the rapidly worsening situation for human rights in India, specifically freedom of speech and creative expression, on the eve of India’s 75th anniversary of independence.”

Freedom of speech—the right to express opinions without government restraint—is a democratic ideal that dates back to ancient Greece. In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees free speech. When it comes to democracy, liberty of thought and expression is a cardinal value that is of paramount significance under our constitutional scheme.

However, this freedom of speech/expression, a fundament right enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution of India is being eroded, more in the recent past. The many measures restricting freedom of expression, punishing and intimidating those who report corruption in the government, and the many evils prevalent in society have become a common practice for those in power at many state and federal levels.

The authorities in power have used and abused various sections of the Law to intimidate and punish those who criticize the people and policies of the ruling Party. Reporters Without Borders ranked India in 15-th place out of 180 countries in its 2022 World Press Freedom Index.

Human Rights Watch reported in 2022 that “Critics of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in India including activists, journalists, peaceful protesters, and even poets, actors, and businesses increasingly risked politically motivated harassment, prosecutions, and tax raids. Authorities shut down rights groups using foreign funding regulations or allegations of financial irregularities.  ”

The Indian authorities routinely use vaguely worded, overly broad laws as political tools to silence and harass critics, Human Rights Watch said in a report. The government should repeal or amend laws that are used to criminalize peaceful expression, it stated. “India’s abusive laws are the hallmark of a repressive society, not a vibrant democracy,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Putting critics in prison or even forcing them to defend themselves in lengthy and expensive court proceedings undermines the government’s efforts to present India as a modern country in the Internet age committed to free speech and the rule of law.”

In addition to banning various authors and publications, “Charges of sedition have recently multiplied in India as a way to curb free speech and to intimidate government critics,” writes Mira Kamdar at the Pacific Council on International Policy. “India has become a dangerous place to be a journalist,” and adds, “India’s media has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of powerful. High-profile journalists whose views do not toe the new line have been pushed out or quit their jobs. Self-censorship by journalists is a growing problem. Those who do speak out regularly face harassment and threats.”

The Columbia Global Freedom of Expression pointed to the Supreme Court of India’s ruling that an indefinite suspension of internet services would be illegal under Indian law and that orders for internet shutdown must satisfy the tests of necessity and proportionality. The highest court in India ruled that “Restrictions under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure could not be used to suppress legitimate expression and are subject to judicial scrutiny.”

Romila Thapar, who has specialized in the study of early Indian history and historiography, and is a Professor Emerita at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, aptly describes the state of India at 75: “Some Indians in authority, seem averse to India being a secular democracy. Therefore, poverty and unemployment prevail, nationalism is being replaced by religious majoritarianism, freedom of expression is increasingly disallowed, the rights of citizenship have faded, and the security implicit in being a citizen is denied. How do we fulfill the aspirations of the national movement for Independence? That is the question we should be asking.”

At independence, India offered a beacon of hope—a secular society choosing democratic governance and a Gandhian vision of inclusion and tolerance. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of India’s ‘tryst with destiny,’ and the hope is that the country will live up to the dream of Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore: “Where the mind is without fear,‘…. ’into that heaven of freedom, let my country awake.”

Ajay Ghosh

Chief Editor, The Universal News Network


India Is A Global Player

As an Indian American, who had left India more than 40 years ago, it makes me extremely proud to see how my Motherland has progressed over the years, especially since 2014 when Prime Minister Modi took the helm of the country.

The Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav honors the advancement of India and the culture of our people. On Oct. 1st this year, Modiji launched 5G services in India! And he spoke of the common people of India adapting to new technology at a greater speed.

Not only is India the world’s largest democracy, but as The World Bank says, “Over the past decade, the country’s integration into the global economy has been accompanied by economic growth. India has now emerged as a GLOBAL PLAYER.”

Just a couple of weeks ago, India surpassed the United Kingdom to become the 5th largest economy in the world. And in terms of purchasing power parity, meaning how much a rupee can buy, it is the world’s third-largest economy, according to World Bank data.

India’s recent growth has been a significant achievement. And since independence, its agricultural revolution has made it self-sufficient and a net exporter of food!

Since 2001, India has built all-weather rural roads for millions of people living in 171,000 small villages and habitations around the country, so they can increase family incomes, reach markets, hospitals, schools and entertainment. It is building infrastructure like ports and ships, defense equipment, strategic alliances in the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere, space technology, the list is endless.

And Modiji’s “Make In India” initiative is strengthening the country towards economic growth and independence.

India has taken global leadership in areas such as health and climate change. During COVID, it has been manufacturing vaccines that can be distributed to countries in Africa and Latin America, and other parts of the world; it has been producing medicines for HIV, Rotavirus, and numerous diseases that are available at low prices so that poor can afford them around the world!

India has spread the message of Yoga for health, non-violence for a more peaceful world, and solar energy for a sustainable planet. Its space program is the epitome of what can be achieved by its people. Its scientists, engineers, doctors and entrepreneurs are the envy of the world.

And Prime Minister Modi plans to get to India 2.0, through his Atmanirbhar strategy of independence. His Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav initiative which officially began on March 12, 2021 and ends August 15, 2023 – is the symbol of all that makes India into the vibrant and progressive country it is today.

Sudhir M. Parikh, M.D.
Chairman & Publisher-Parikh World Wide Media; Chairman-ITV Gold (24/7 TV Channel)’; Chairman-Life Global; Chairman-Center for Asthma & Allergy; Secretary General of Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (GAPIO); Padma Shri Awardee 2010; Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awardee 2006; Ellis Island Medal of Honor 2005


Changing Landscape Of India After 75 Years Of Independence

From being an education hub of the world in ancient times to becoming the IT hub of the world today, the Indian landscape has come a long way.

The Landscape of Education and Health.

In 1947 India had a population of 340 million with a literacy rate of just 12%. Today it has a population of nearly 1.4 billion and a literacy rate of 74%. The average life expectancy has also risen from 32 years to 70 years in 2022. Even though India has shown remarkable progress in terms of literacy rate, the quality of higher education is still a cause of major concern.

However, some other fields like health and education still seem to be lacking behind as compared to the other developed countries. The health sector is also lacking behind. The doctor to patient ratio is merely 0.7 doctors per 1000 people as compared to WHO average of 2.5 doctors per 1000 people.

At present 65% of medical expenses in India are paid out-of-pocket by patients as per a recent study. The main reason behind this is that the patients have no alternative but to access private healthcare because of poor facilities in public hospitals.

The Economic Landscape.

India’s economy has expanded significantly in the 21st century. Under the Prime Ministership of Mr Narendra Modi many significant changes have taken place like the scraping of section 370, strengthening of the defense system, creating a startup-friendly environment, and much more.

In addition Mr. Modi’s administration launched several programs and campaigns, including ‘Make in India’, Digital India and the Swachh Bharat project. Today India is the fifth largest economy in the world with 147 lack crore GDP, accounting for 8% of the global GDP.

The Landscape of Defense Sector.

The Indian military is one of the largest Defense systems in the world because of the defense research and development organization established in 1958. In summary, analyzing the different landscapes of India we find that we have come a long way in our journey but still there is a lot to be done if we want to make India a superpower. A lot will depend on our people’s willingness to change, ensuring the equal participation of women in the workforce, including marginalized communities in our economic growth, and last, but not least is having a liberal and progressive and unbiased mindset.

Gautam Samadder, M.D

Past President, AAPI


Nurture Democracy To Be A World Leader

India Proudly celebrates Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav!

India @75 has emerged as the world’s largest sustainable democracy. A growing power with an aspiration to be the third largest economy after US and China.

For me, India’s biggest asset or strength is its constitution which talks about Unity in Diversity, which gives strength to live in an inclusive way in a diverse society and helps its people to rise not just at the national but international level.

Swami Vivekanand had rightly said: “The land where humanity has attained its
highest towards gentleness, towards purity, towards calmness – it is India.”

No doubt India has evolved since the Britishers left but it will be essential for India to stay focused on reducing inequality, nurture and value democracy, focus on proper education, and yes, check the growing population, which at present is 1.38 billion and will surpass China in 2023.

Ritu Jha

Chief Editor/Publisher, Indica News


I Am Proud Of India And I Am Proud As An Indian Immigrant.

Hearty congratulations to all Indians for a grand celebration of 75 years of independence!

India has achieved a lot during the last 75 years, especially during the last 25 years. India has become a world leader of Pharmacy and information technology. India has become one of the richest countries of the world. Infrastructure, Airline, Health, and travel industries have grown tremendously during the last 25 years.

India has produced some of the best Physicians, company CEOs, and great thought leaders.

Indian immigrants have done extremely well in several countries including the USA.

I am proud of India and I am proud as an Indian Immigrant!

Subrahmanya Bhat, MD, FCCP, FACP, DNBPAS

Board member, Georgia Composite Medical Board; Trustee, Clayton State University

Past President of the Association of Kerala Medical Graduates


This Century Belongs To India

August 15th, 1947! A day to remember all those who fought, laid their precious lives for us to enjoy this happy occasion.

Today is the day not to forget why they sacrificed their lives, their mission & purpose of the long struggle.

A day to reflect on what we can do so that each of our fellow citizens live a  life of respect dignity and prosperity.

In 75 years, we have achieved a lot.

At 75, India is full of energy, realizing it’s true potential, retaining its culture, and yet going modern. More needs to be done in the coming years so that India @ 100 will be a fully developed nation, the most powerful nation in the world and a Vishwa Guru.

This century belongs to India. In the coming years, India is going to be the manufacturing Hub . Also being the country with the youngest population, English Speaking population, and skilled labor, India is unstoppable. India will be the powerhouse of development. India@ 100 will be top three Economies in the world.

Vande Mataram! Happy Independence Day!

Jagdish Sewhani

President, The American India Public Affairs Committee


India Has A Rich History Engrossed With Thousands Of Years Of Civilization

I was born years after India gained independence. But so much have I heard from my grandfather, who was a freedom fighter too. He used to repeat that Gandhiji, Nehru, Netaji, Vallabhbhai Patel, and many others united the Indian people and fought to get India’s independence from the British. Later on, in school, it was the history of heroic stories of India. Looking back today, I am proud to be an Indian because India has a rich history engrossed with thousands of years of civilization and culture, absorbing and rise of religions and empires, British Rule, Revolution, Independence, and, no doubt, now emerging as a world power.

The world’s largest democracy and second-most populous country in this 21st century, India is a dynamic nation with a thriving economy, made up of a variety of beliefs and peoples united under one flag.

If small nations, like Japan could meticulously attain a leading position, India, with its large population and vast resources, could have emerged as number one by this time. For this world’s largest democracy, it is highly advantageous to remember that with British rule, English is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication, and we can have instant contact worldwide.

The country has gone from having a GDP of just Rs 2.7 lakh crore at the time of Independence to now sitting close to Rs. 150 lakh crore. India is now a healthcare hub with exporting affordable medicines worldwide. Indian students are flying off to all developed countries for higher education in engineering, advanced medical research and the latest information technologies.

The new plans and projects are changing INDIA, its roads, railways, and digital telecommunication, with solar-powered airports of the highest qualities across the nation, and have multiplied the image and status of the New emerging INDIA.

Though we beat our trumpets a lot on our achievements, India appears to be suffering from a stinking bureaucracy and corruption among the administration and high political leaders. Whereby the country’s resources are underutilized or exploited. We must revive its democratic syncretic and inclusive credentials to be on the top list. We need to trim or eliminate all weeds that eat up tender growths.

India is not that India that the British left on 1947.  With its incredible progress, India’s present history continues to be the most enviable topic for developing countries globally. As an Indian American, I am proud to see India making hope- step- and jump each day to become a leading nation in the world, while celebrating Azadi ka 75th Amrit Mahotsav

Dr. Mathew Joys, Author, Writer

BOD Member, Indo-American Press Club

Editorial Board Member, The Universal News Network

NRIs Reflect On India At 75!

Continuing with our series on sharing the diverse perspectives of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in the current issue of www.theunn.com, we are happy to present in this issue, the views/thoughts on India at 75 by Doctors, academicians, artists, business leaders, media personnel and executives.

We are excited and admire India, which has come a long way since it gained freedom from the British. The development and growth India has achieved in the past 75 years has been enormous, making us all proud. It was heartening to be witness several influential US lawmakers joining in India Day celebrations organized by AAPI on Capitol Hill in Washing DC last week. Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, recalled his visits to India, and said, he saw in action “the greatness of the largest democracy in the world in full action.”

US Congressman Pat Fallon (TX-04), while speaking to the AAPI delegates during the 75th anniversary celebrations at the Indian Embassy in the nation’s capitol, compared India and the United States, as both have gained independence from Britain. Both are today the greatest democracies of the world, he said and added that India at 75th anniversary of Independence Day is doing better and greater than how the US did at its 75th anniversary of its Independence.

True! However, in spite of the great achievements and progress by India, there are several indicators that make us all pause and think, if this is the India we want to have in the 21st century and beyond.

India, the world’s largest democracy ranks 46th in the Global Democracy Index 2021 due to a series of intolerant and repressive policies stifling free speech and true freedom to its 1.4 billion citizens. On the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2021, that assesses the gap between high-income, talent-rich nations and the rest of the world, which is widening, India ranks 88th among the nations of the world.

 The Human Development Index 2020 by the UNDP based on the three basic dimensions of human development- a long and healthy life, knowledge, and a decent standard of living, India ranks an abysmal 131st place, far below many Third World nations. The Global Hunger Index 2021 that is based on four indicators; Undernourishment, Child Wasting, Child Stunting, and Child Mortality, India has been placed 101st among the nations of the world.

American think tank Cato Institute and Fraser Institute in Canada placed India at 119th place, while measuring the performance of 165 countries, covering 79 indicators of Human Frwhichm Index 2021.

 World Happiness Report 2021 by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network by the United Nations, which measures the performance of 149 countries while surveying how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be, placed India at the very bottom with a ranking of 136th.

Not long ago, media reports pointed to business conglomerate Adani Group’s chairman Gautam Adani has become the world’s second-richest person after overtaking Louis Vuitton’s Bernard Arnault, according to Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaires List. Adani’s net worth was USD 153.9 billion, compared to Arnault’s net worth of USD 153.7 billion.

According to UNDP, while there is much to be done, there are promising signs that such poverty can be – and is being –  tackled. In India, the 271 million people moved out of poverty between 2005/06 and 2015/16, most of which occurred during Manmohan Singh’s regime. The poverty rate nearly halved, falling from around 55 percent to around 28 percent over the 10-year period.

While the rich like the Adanis grow richer every day, nearly 200 million people in India are living below the poverty line of $1.90 per person per day. The World Bank reports, poverty in India stood at 10.2 percent in 2019.

These measures and the rankings of where India stands today globally should lead us all to reflect on the reasons for its current lopsided growth. This calls for action on identifying implementing ways to make India great in its quest to be a world leader in the real sense.

While we are proud of India’s glorious past and its rich contributions to the world for centuries, we need to work hard to make the future of India even more glorious by making India a nation that cares for all of its 1.4 billion people, a model democracy that is inclusive, tolerant, and equitable where everyone can experience the fundamental values of true freedom, equality, and justice.

Ajay Ghosh

Chief Editor, www.theunn.com


Political Equality Requires Social Inclusion And Mobility

As a constitutional scholar, I see India’s greatest achievement as establishing a constitutional democracy that has been maintained for more than seventy years. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar believed that a secular constitutional democratic republic would be essential to India’s future – both on a domestic level and as a rising global partner. He ensured that both social and economic rights, along with civil and political rights were incorporated into the document.

After all, political equality requires social inclusion and mobility. It is important nevertheless to continue to reflect on the implementation of those principles to make sure gaps in social and economic inequality and political divisions do not undermine the important constitutional principles that have remarkably persevered for seven decades already, and continue to serve as the framework for the world’s largest democracy.

Dr. Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox

Associate Professor of Legal Studies, Chair of Justice and Law At Quinnipiac University

Democratic party candidate for CT Assembly


India Has Great Potential For Growth And Democracy

Congratulations to India on its 75th Independence Day! India, in the last 75 years is going from a developing country towards a developed country in a rapid fashion. India has great potential for growth and to be the greatest democratic country in the world.

The Indian diaspora extends to all over the world, and its members are involved in helping many nations in practically every field but especially that of technology and medicine.

This can be strongly attributed to the young population and the many great steps taken by the government over the last 25 to 30 years to open up the country to development opportunities.

In the United States, every sixth patient is being seen by a doctor of Indian origin, and a significant number of medical students are of Indian origin in medical schools as well.

In the business world, CEOs of Indian origin are heading a number of multinational companies.

We even have congressmen and women of Indian origin (jokingly referred to as the “Samosa Caucus”) and many legislatures at the state level. Given that the Vice President of the United States has Indian roots and there is great interest from second generation Indian-Americans to be part of the political system, I am sure we will see a President of the United States that is of Indian origin in the near future.

Thanks to the hard-working nature, emphasis on family and educational values, and a strong determination to succeed that has come to characterize many members of the Indian Diaspora, this group has increasingly been at the forefront as leaders of change and growth and has helped shape both their homeland and adopted land in their own way.

Jai Hind.

Sreeni R. Gangasani M.D.,FACC.

Member, Georgia Composite Medical Board, Founding Partner, Cardiovascular Group,

Chair, CME Committee AAPI 2022-23; Past Board of Trustee and Vice chair, AAPI

Chair, AAPI Convention 2019 & 2021


A Musical India

On this 75thAnniversary of Indian Independence it is a good time to reflect at how far the growth and influence of Indian Music has come in that time.  From music of Bollywood movies that were once low budget compared to western productions. To today where they are an influential powerhouse of production and music trends across the Globe. Bollywood, Bhangra , Desi Pop and Indian Music artist are crossing so many bridges into pop, hip hop, R&B, fusion and other genres. The artistic influence of India post Independence has slowly been unleashed around the world.

It has been a great journey to watch the explosion of the Indian culture through the music.  How it also keeps the culture strong in the NRI community.  How it keeps growing and expanding and pushing new boundaries in the young generations coming into their own. Blending their own integration into the Countries they live in today with strong cultural influences given to them by their families, communities and , many who still have the influence of music coming out of India. And also mainly the UK.

Which was probably compared to India itself a hub for the spreading the popularity and modernization of Bhangra into a mainstream accepted music.  The future is definitely looking bright for the NRI community in the Music and Arts scene. New Artists are coming out and bursting onto the scene everyday.  Over the years I have performed with many musicians, and brought many Artist to perform at events across the USA. From Sukhbir, Mika Singh, Bappi Lahiri, to newer generations like Jay Sean, Tesher, and Raghav.

Indian movies  and music continue to grow and spread globally through the 17.5 million NRIs , which are the largest Overseas Diaspora around the World.  They spread the musical influences and the culture around the World as it continues to blossom and grow with new generations.  Constantly pushing the boundaries of it’s sound and where it will go in the future.  I know I personally look forward to it’s continued growth and expansion of it’s influence.  I can see a day where it will become as common as English/Western, Latin/Spanish music is today internationally. We should all be very proud and supportive of the Music , Traditional , Classic and Modern.  And Supportive of our Indian and South Asian Artists that continue spreading and bringing the Indian culture and influence through the Music.  The Journey has only begun!

Mihir Marfatia aka.. DJ MAGiC MiKE

First Professional Full Time Indian DJ and Remix Producer in the USA and Global Pioneer.  Helped launch the Indian Wedding Industry and Event Party Industry in the West. www.magicmikedjs.com


India’s Middle Class Should Not Be Left Behind

Some of India’s greatest achievements are the monumental scientific and technological advancements it’s made. In my own lifetime, electricity and the internet have been made available throughout the country. India is a global leader in medicine on many fronts. It is called the pharmacy of the world, and much of the world’s medicine is made in India. During the global pandemic, India supported the world by manufacturing covid vaccines. India has also come leaps and bounds with its outer space program. The list could go on and on.

In this time of repair and recovery, I would like to see middle-class families and small businesses receive the support from the government that they deserve. During my visit to India, I came across many middle-class people who are suffering, especially due to the pandemic. During the pandemic, underprivileged people received aid from many government and private organizations. The rich had enough money to survive, but the middle class suffered the most. I met families that didn’t have dinner on their tables for days.  They were too embarrassed to stand in line for food.

Neeta Bhasin

President, ASB Communications, A Multicultural Marketing Company


An Honest And Transparent System Needed In India

India @ 75!

The greatest achievement for India lies in creating and maintaining the world’s largest democracy. We still have not achieved the “Swaraj” as envisaged by our freedom fighters.

India needs to curb corruption at all levels starting from the top.

The corrupt nexus encompassing politics – bureaucracy- judiciary – media – corporates need to be replaced by an honest and transparent systems to realize full potential and to be a world leader by India @ 100!

Shivender Sofat, CPA CFE FCA

President, GOPIO-Manhattan; COO/Partner, Goldfine & Co CPA PC


A Vibrant, Young, Confident, And Optimistic India

Congratulations to India on its tremendous social and economic progress over the last 75 years. Top of mind for me are technology, telecommunications, space exploration and education. Today when I visit India, I see a vibrant, young, confident, and optimistic workforce and I am particularly impressed with the growing number of women in the workplace and their passion and drive. With its entrepreneurial spirit, India minted its 100th unicorn this year and Indian talent has contributed to enterprises across the globe.

For continued future success, I believe India will need to be focused on ecosystems that will ensure clean water, renewable energy and most importantly education for every child.

I see improvements and optimism every time I visit India.  As an Indian American, I am proud of the achievements of my country of birth and I share the optimism on India’s future growth trajectory.

Abha Kumar

A board member at Vahanna Tech Edge Acquisition Corp and Bynry, Advisor Board Member at Shanti Bhavan, and previously served as CIO at Vanguard.


The Changes India Needs To Make

India @ 75!

I will let go about all the good things and the progress India has made since 1947.
I would like to touch on the topic of what changes India needs to make.

Senior politicians need to loosen their grip on the political power in the both houses of the Legislature. A younger generation needs to be given the opportunities.

Politicians need to have interest of common good of the society and not just count on the votes of the poor and uneducated people of the country.

Admission Quotas of minorities need to be abolished. This is resulting in a brain drain of young generation to other countries.  Because the majority of them cannot go to advanced education schools so they choose to leave India.

I will be very glad and appreciative of our Indian leaders,  if they could work on these above suggestions.

Dr. Vimal Goyle
Vice President, GOPIO Manhattan Chapter

NRIs Reflect On India At The 75th Anniversary Of Independence

Dark Clouds Hovering Over The Very Idea Of India And The Constitution It Embodies

We are proud of India as a democratic nation that is on its way to be a prominent and responsible world power, with its phenomenal economic growth, and high advancements in technological, scientific, healthcare, and educational realms. We are proud of the immense potential India and its 1.4 billion embody, with the well-educated and talented pool of workers, multi-billion corporations, digital and financial systems that are the envy of the world.

Together, these trends herald the true beginning of an Indian Century, as the CEO of McKinsey & Co Bob Sternfels said recently: “It will not just be India’s decade, but I truly assume it is India’s century, once we have a look at a few of the uncooked components right here. India is the longer-term expertise manufacturing unit for the world. By 2047, India would have 20 percent of the world’s working inhabitants.”

India’s population is growing to become the world’s largest, and it is enjoying a rate of economic growth that is admirable among the emerging countries commonly known as BRICs. With a GDP (PPP) of $10.5 billion in 2018, India is now the world’s third largest economy after China and the US, with many longer-term prognoses projecting it to become the world’s second largest economy within the next twenty years.

In spite of the many achievements, India appears to be “suffering from a perceptual gulf, whereby the country’s future potential frequently appears at odds with its current reality.” The country’s infrastructure is not able to sufficiently support India’s energy, trade, and business needs, which is affecting domestic production.

India is the world’s largest democracy, with an electorate of 900 million in 2019. However, as Chris Ogden, a Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor in Asian Security at the School of International Affairs, University of St. Andrews, describes:  “India does not appropriately defend minority, caste, and women’s rights, and has under-functioning institutions undercut by human rights abuses, corruption, and a reduced adherence to secularism.”

The people and the rulers of India need to recognize that India is bound together as a great nation by the strength and stability of its democracy, the rule of law and a breath taking diversity of its populace in terms of religion, language, culture, climate, history, geography and more.

When these factors of division, hatred, lack of freedom and free speech are overcome, the clouds will lift and India will be a shining star, a model democracy in every sense. That’s freedom our forefathers fought for and won for us 75 years ago. Happy 75th India Independence Day!

Ajay Ghosh

Chief Editor, www.theunn.com


India Progressing As A Democracy With A Free Press And The Rule Of Law

India has made significant economic and social progress in the last 75 years. This progress has improved the standard of living for hundreds of millions of people and created a vibrant middle class. India is ready for primetime with a younger, educated, and diverse workforce. It is also astounding how India has made this progress as a democracy with a free press and the rule of law. Other nations may have made such progress under authoritarian systems, which are not stable in the long run.

I left India 30 years ago to pursue graduate school. I have gone back regularly over these years, and I see and feel the change each time I visit. There is material progress, but more importantly, there is confidence and optimism, which is new. As an Indian American, I feel proud to see India – the country of my birth, make strides to become a leading nation in the world.”

Harry Arora

State Representative, Connecticut General Assembly


A Proud Moment For Every Indian

It is a proud moment for every Indian, in wherever and whatever part of the world they live,to see the tremendous progress their motherland has achieved in the last 75 years after independence.

It is hard to imagine or think, a country that was beyond 100th in the economic ladder a few years ago, now it is world’s 5th largest economy surpassing France, Italy and even United Kingdom as of today, a colonial power a few decades ago.

The new arrival of prosperity has changed INDIA, the roads, telecommunication, transportation with new airports of highest qualities across the nation reflect the image of the New INDIA. If one looks at our neighboring countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar one would appreciate the image of India.

Under the leadership of Hon Shri Narendra Modiji, INDIA is heading towards achieving the status of a Super power. An alliance with US, Japan and Australia in Quad Treaty is the biggest boon in Indo Pacific region and the need of the hour to combat the aggressiveness of rising superpower China in Indo Pacific region.

INDIA is a rising star and we are proud of the successes of post-independence INDIA and salute our motherland.  Jai Hind.

Sampat Shivangi MD
Member National Advisory Council
SAMHSA, Center for National Mental Health Services, Washington DC


India Is Stabile And Democratic

“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom,” Jawaharlal Nehru famously spoke, words that were heard over live radio by millions of Indians. Then he promised: “To the nations and peoples of the world, we send greetings and pledge ourselves to cooperate with them in furthering peace, freedom and democracy.”

Seventy Five years ago, India’s transition from a British colony to a democracy — the first in South Asia has been a proud moment for all people of Indian heritage across the world.  Ever since, India has since transformed from a poverty-stricken nation into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, earning itself a seat at the global high table and a model democracy and a youthful nation with over half India’s population is below 40 years old.

Hundreds of millions of Indians have benefitted from economic growth, rising above the poverty level. India, from being an importer of food, technology and military equipment has become an exporter to several nations. India has become a healthcare hub with exporting affordable medicines to countries.

On the world stage, India has earned a place as an important world leader, who is trustworthy and responsible. The U.S.-India strategic partnership is founded on shared values including a commitment to democracy and upholding the rules-based international system.

While there is much for every Indian to be proud of as India celebrates 7t5h anniversary of its Independence, India needs to work towards unity, true freedom, and an inclusive growth, where people of all creed, caste and background are respected and given due dignity and respect.

At 75, I salute and honor the people of India, who have not only been instrumental in bringing India thus far in it’s evolutionary journey but also hold within them the power and potential. Jai Hind!

Narendra Kumar

Past President, AAPI


India At 75, A Story Of Contradictions

On August 15, 1947, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said, “We made a Tryst with Destiny and we shall redeem our  pledge.” He also said, “We have to  build the noble mansion of free India where all her children dwell.” India has much to celebrate on 75Th year,  but still faces challenges some old and some new ones, which must be tackled squarely before it can reach its true greatness. We have come a long way but still long way to go.

India’s growth story has been remarkable but lop-sided and full of contradictions. India is the world’s fifth largest economy, but still a low middle income country. India has marked the highest growth rate, but the growth did not contribute to job creation, leading to high  unemployment rate among youth. India’s so called  “Demographic dividend” has turned in to a “Demographic burden.”

India is a space and nuclear power. It has reached the moon, but millions have no round the clock electricity, clean water, safe roads or connectivity. India is the largest exporter of  Healthcare  workers and has the worst health indices in the world. Its GDP is  the lowest in the world and out of pocket expenses are among the highest in the world plunging millions in poverty every year. India has powered the world with its soft power, but does not have the right infrastructure to utilize them at home.

This is time for sober reckoning and need for course correction.

Make in India and Hate in India will not work. Let us learn from History. We need to cultivate hope for all and not fear of the “other.”  The Need of the hour is to address its social, economic inequality and reign on culture wars created for naked lust for power. We need to revive its democratic , syncretic and inclusive credentials and be true to our original “Sanatana Dharma.” Otherwise, India’s greatness will remain elusive. India has no choice but move forward as well as keep our hard-fought freedom. If not, India will keep missing its appointment date with its  destiny.

Brahma Sharma MD FACC

Senior Faculty University of Pittsburgh VA Medical center

Former chair AAPI Charitable Foundation

Chair AAPI/ AHA South Asian heart disease committee


India Has Evolved From A Developing Country To A Global Power

Happy 75th Independence Day to all Indians in America and the entire world!

It was so amazing to celebrate “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” while participating in the historic India Day Parade in New York City.

It was said that this is not India’s decade, but India’s century! Over my lifetime, India has evolved from a developing country to a global power in technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

From infrastructure including roads and bridges to science, India has ascended steps beyond imagination. In 75 years since independence, India as a nation has shown massive growth. Now, India is an economic powerhouse with unparalleled progress made from agriculture to space technology, from manufacturing to services industries, from world class educational institutions to improving access affordability of healthcare for all and consequently lifting millions from extreme poverty.

Developing advanced passport to provide seamless entry to visitors from across the globe. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, India served as an example by supporting many countries in providing vaccinations to the masses. India’s public health efforts are commendable. Moving forward, more and more global Indians have been leading the way as role models to us all.

I’m very proud to say that most of the major technology companies in the USA are led by people of Indian origin. I feel very elated to represent 100,000 Physicians of Indian Origin in the USA, serving as the Treasurer of AAPI. It was equal pride and honor to be part of the team helping Covid Disaster during Delta Variant in India. India is evolving for the best. Let’s be part of it.  Jai Hind!

Sumul N. Raval, MD, DABPN 

Treasurer, AAPI, 2022-2023


India At 75 Achieved Several Milestones

Indeed, we have achieved several milestones and noteworthy achievements as a nation – a fairly, diversified economy which grew higher than few other countries in the world and with only few financial crises through the years, attainment of high literacy rates with a right to education, being a great hub for science and space technology, and having a powerful defense.

However, we will become a stronger economy if there is greater reduction in poverty, improvising agrarian sector into a higher yielding and better remunerative industry, government intervention for basic amenities to reach unfalteringly, even to remote areas.  Most importantly, expunging corruption and creating better infrastructure, and strongly nurturing and building the concept of cleanliness in every Indian mind will significantly improve our Country further.

Asha Ramesh

CEO-USA, SABINSA Corporation


Let Our Next Generation Not Die From Intolerance But Live In Unity

India is the birth place of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism and home to almost all religions in the world. Atheism never thrived in India, hence most people in India believe and practice religions of their choice. India is called a secular country where people are free to profess, practice and propagate any religion. That is the beauty of India. Unity in diversity. This aspect of the plurality of religions is that keeps India stand out from all other nations in the world.

However, the past few decades this unity in diversity is not accepted. As India progressed in many ways, we have become more and more narrow minded. We have become intolerant to other religions and religious practices. A mentality of intolerance to people who do not think, behave and act like oneself is thriving in India.  Let our next generation not die from intolerance but live in unity. Vasudev Kodambakkam!

Dr. Tomi Thomas

Former Director General of the Catholic Health Association of India( CHAI)

Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV), Vatican, Rome


Amazing Growth Of India At 75

It is true honor to witness and cherish India’s anniversary of 75th Independence. India’s progress has been phenomenal, especially in the past two decades. I remember of the India when I had left 40 years ago, and now when I visit India, it is entirely different. The education, health care, telecommunications, roadways and air travels, mushrooming of hotels and convention centers are just the tip of iceberg.

I am proud to be an Indian by birth and American as a professional. God bless India and God Bless America!! Vandemataram!!

Krishan Kumar, MD, FACEP, FAAP, FAEMS

Clinical Prof. of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine, NY College of Osteopathic Medicine, NY

Former Chair and Program Director, Dept. of Pediatrics, Nassau University Medical Center, NY

Former Medical Director, Fire Police EMS Academy, County of Nassau, NY

Sonia Gandhi Urged To Help Elect Shashi Tharoor As President, AICC

Hon. Sonia Ji:

It is with sadness that I write this letter as we watch several stalwarts who labored for the Congress party over the years say goodbye. The 2024 national elections are fast approaching. The Congress party has a monumental task ahead if we are to stand any chance against the Modi juggernaut.

Since Mr. Rahul Gandhi has resolved not to run for any party post, I make the following case below. Without allocating blame against anyone for the current fiasco, let me state that INC can redeem itself in the nation’s eye while giving a fresh start if we select/elect someone of a great stature who can make an immediate impact. That person is none other than Dr. Shashi Tharoor. Anyone else selected from the inner circle will have minimum impact and will be perceived only as an underling of the current system of governance. The Congress party can ill-afford to keep losing the perception battle.

Why should Shashi Tharoor be a candidate for the president of the AICC?

First and foremost, the road to Delhi for the next non-BJP Government runs through South India. The Hindi belt is irretrievably lost for now and will take decades of work to rebuild. Therefore, selecting a leader like Mr. Shashi Tharoor from the South will only be advantageous in coalescing other reluctant leaders of the regional parties in the South and the East to join the fray.

Mr. Shashi Tharoor is considered by many to be a dynamic leader with scholarship, charisma, a pan-Indian appeal, and the wisdom to lead the party from the current doldrums. Shashi is a true admirer of Jawaharlal Nehru and a great proponent of the Nehruvian vision for India. He is a great advocate of secularism and argues strongly for a pluralistic India as a foundational philosophy for the society-at-large. He is known as a thinker in the Nehruvian mode and has authored several books and written extensively through articles and columns in several countries.

He is a master communicator who speaks several languages, including Hindi and Bengali, other than his native tongue Malayalam. His linguistic skillset in English is quite unrivaled. He is known to speak French as well. His oratorical skills are unmatched by very few, even in the international arena; his speech at Oxford stands out as a masterpiece. His debating skills and way with words are pretty evident across the visual and social media worldwide and will give any opponent a run for the money.

He has proved himself a great parliamentarian willing to do the research necessary to debunk many of the Government's assertions. His learning skills are spectacular, and his speeches at the Lok Sabha reflect how well he analyzes data and disseminates the information for easy consumption by the public. No wonder he has won three times from a parliament seat in Kerala that the CPM could have easily captured.

We all know that he is someone who has run for the office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and has a wealth of knowledge and experience in world affairs with friendship with several world leaders who are his peers. He possesses strong leadership skills as he has administered the international peacekeeping operation under Secretary- General Kofi Annan and was the head of the Department of Public Information for the United Nations before leaving the U.N.

He is considered a mass leader who would attract a crowd anywhere he appears. The great demand for his participation during campaigns across India clearly indicates his mass appeal. His possible appointment will motivate millions of young people to take a fresh look at the Congress party and may sway others who were estranged during the last decade.

He is a 24×7 workaholic with the willpower to outwork any opponent or adversary toward achieving goals. He appears to be willing to delegate and is not at all defensive about issues as regards public policies. He relates well to people with diverse backgrounds in society and is empathetic to the plight of the poor and disadvantaged.

He maintains excellent relationships with all religious groups and heads of religious organizations and firmly believes that a secular India is not hostile to any religion. Although religion is no bar to holding the title, he considers himself a proud Hindu while rejecting the exclusive Hindutva philosophy promoted by ultra-nationalists and Hindu fundamentalists.

Finally, he is considered a man of integrity and honor who has served his constituency with ultimate dedication with a proven track record of an impressive body of work with a long-lasting impact on the lives of the common citizen. He has the maturity, knowledge, and skillset to lead the Congress party to a new horizon. It will also forever put to rest the dynasty and nepotism issue BJP is counting on exploiting to garner votes.

Yours and Rahul Ji's support is crucial in this regard, and Mr. Tharoor can never shadow your position and influence in the party, but rather it would be complementary. Mr. Tharoor, by nature, is a trust-worthy individual who has spoken of the deep respect he has for you, has defended Mr. Gandhi on several occasions, and believes in the dream of your husband, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and his dream of “an India, strong, self-reliant and in the front ranks of the nations of the world.”

This dream is systematically being demolished by those in the sitting Government with a reckless disregard for the sacrifices of not just our founding fathers but also Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was the last of the foundation layers of modern India.

After speaking with many people both in India and abroad and gathering their personal views, I am writing to share a nation’s hopes, aspirations, and pulse at a precipice. Congress must lead the way forward out of the deep abyss the country is sliding into near destruction of our most cherished democratic principles.

I personally beseech you, on behalf of a nation under siege, to consider Mr. Shashi Tharoor as a candidate for the position of the Presidency of the AICC and urge, guide, and lead the Congress party to support Mr. Tharoor. Time is of the most critical essence. The Congress party must be audible and visible in the nation’s mind for all the right reasons. The news media are now abuzz with what they describe as a dysfunctional’; party that learns no lessons. Mr. Tharoor becoming President of AICC will start to turn the tide of perception in favor of the Congress party.

Mr. Tharoor is Gandhian in principle, Nehruvian in vision, Patel-esque in will, and all of these traits will endear him to the masses, the daughters of India, the young, the aspiring, the creative, the captains of industry, and the reasonable thinkers who are aghast at the demolition of our hard-fought democratic, secular republic.

We must do all we can to strengthen the Congress party so that it presents a formidable alternative before the 2024 elections. Congress will not survive another loss. And India will change its face as we know it. Congress must lead the way. Mr. Tharoor’s Presidency of the AICC will be a step in that direction. India is pining. India is waiting. If not now, then when? If not Congress, then who?

Thank you.

Yours Sincerely,
(sd)
George Abraham, Vice-Chair- Indian Overseas Congress, USA
917-544-4137

Non-Resident Indians Reflect On India At 75

Among the Sliver Lining, There Are Dark Clouds Hovering Over The Very Idea Of India And The Constitution Embodies

India has come a long way since it attained freedom on August 15th, 1947. As people of Indian heritage, spread across every corner of the world celebrate the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, it is also time to take stock. The India we see and are proud of is the result of decades of deliberate planning, benefitting hundreds of millions of rural and urban population in every part of India.

The India we see and are proud of is a result of decades of consciously focused planning towards an all-inclusive growth by several governments led by visionary leaders. Quoting Ambassador A. R. Ghanshyam, who wrote in a previous edition of theunn.com, pointing to the vibrancy of Indian democracy. He wrote: “Independent India has witnessed seventeen free and fair Parliamentary Elections with fifteen Prime Ministers at the helm – each contributing his/her mite to the growth, stability and development of the Indian Nation, its society and economy. How individual Prime Ministers of India tried to build a modern India from the debris of two centuries’ rule by the British Empire is in itself a great story and has been narrated by many authors, Indian and foreign.”

India was primarily an agrarian economy in 1947The contributions to Indian GDP by agriculture, industry and services sectors were 56%, 15% and 29% respectively. Agriculture employed the largest workforce of 72% with Manufacturing and Services providing 10% and 18% jobs respectively.

Today, the service sector accounts for 54% of Indian GDP. The Industry and agriculture follow with 25.92% and 20.19% respectively. Life expectancy on the eve of independence was 32 years. It has now gone up to 70 years.

In 1950, infant mortality rate in India was 145.6/1000 live births and maternal mortality ratio in the 1940s was 2000/100,000 live births which declined to 1000 in the 1950s. There were just 50,000 doctors across the entire country and the number of primary healthcare centers was 725. Today, infant mortality is 27.7 per 1000 births and maternal mortality rate is 103 per 100,000. India now has more than 1.2 million doctors. There are 54,618 Sub-Health Centers (SHC), 21,898 Primary Health Centers (PHC) and 4,155 Urban Primary Health Centers (UPHC), as on December 8, 2021. There are as many as 70,000 public and private hospitals. As of April 5, 2022 there were 117,771 Ayushman Bharat-Health and Wellness Centers (AB-HWCs) are operational in India apart from 748 e-Hospitals established across the country as part of the ‘Digital India’ initiative of the government.

And we salute and honor this India, where people belonging to different faiths, languages, and social strata live together, peacefully. The forces of division will fail, while diversity and the rich cultural heritage of India where people of all walks of life are respected and given due dignity.

While we are proud of India’s accomplishments and realizing that India is emerging as a world leader on its own merits, it is at the same time, an occasion to remember all those who laid down their lives during a long struggle to make India free from the yoke of colonial rule. It is a call for all of us to ponder as there are dark clouds that are hovering over the very idea of India that the freedom fighters stood for and the constitution embodies.

We continue to share in this edition, reflections from eminent Indian Americans on India and what they perceive India to be “Today – Tomorrow:”

Happy 75th Anniversary of India’s Glorious Independence Day!

Ajay Ghosh, Chief Editor, www.theunn.com


It’s A Mile Stone With Mixed Feelings

India @ 75! It’s a mile stone with mixed feelings, one with a sense of pride and joy for all the accomplishments and progress we have made, while preserving our integrity, unity, core values of freedoms, democracy and respect for different cultures and the groups that live and thrive  in our beloved motherland.

Recently while in India on August 15th, I witnessed the spectacular and proud display of the tricolors. I also saw scrawny and swarthy street kids hawking flags at the traffic light stops to wealthy fatcats chauffeured in big SUVS. That was a jarring scene and would love to see that relegated to distant history.

So I also have this sense of impatience and expectations for the nation, aspiring for greater heights and successes in lifting the entire population out of the poverty and in providing all the basic necessities of health, education, opportunities equitably to realize our fullest human potential in all realms of and walks of life.

We now have the cultural resurgence and the national determination, to take our rightful place in the world and history and to contribute  and  to lead the global humanity to end sufferings and bring peace and prosperity to one and all. It is our destiny and destination. I have no doubt we are fully capable of accomplishing that goal. We shall continue to be vigilant and jubilant going forward. Happy 75 th Anniversary to Independent India!!

Ravi Kolli, President, AAPI


No Citizen Should Be Denied Of Healthcare

India in the last few decades made great progress on digital technology and energy industries. But Health sector development still seems to be at snail pace, post 75 years of independence! No citizen should be denied of healthcare due to lack of access or lack of facilities.

India spends only 1.3% of GDP on public health sector which is very low compared to most developed nations. Why small sight to health sector? Public healthcare is both inefficient and inequitable and it is still not reachable to the rural population who constitute 60-70 % of Indian population. Non communicable diseases (Diabetes, Hypertension, Heart disease, Anemia, Kidney diseases are at its worst and have become a healthcare burden. Spending out of pocket for poor man is burdensome.

American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has initiated preventive health screening camps in 75 villages to emphasize “ Prevention is better than Cure “ and the data obtained will give more outlook of Rural health in India. India should develop Preventive Task Force guidelines with mandatory annual healthcare screenings and divert healthcare model more towards prevention than disease cure model.

In contrast, India has become a hub for Medical tourism for out of country residents which is driving  Indian Doctors to practice more in corporate setup in urban cities and doctors are reluctant to work in government healthcare facilities in rural PHCs. More innovative changes in healthcare are needed to address rural India using digital technology.

Looking forward for more accessible and affordable Healthcare to every rural citizen and better and safer provisions for young doctors to work at PHCs by 2047!  Thank you and Jai Hind!

Anupama Gotimukula

Immediate Past President, AAPI (2021-22)


Soon, India Is Going To Be A Super Power.

As a young physician in the early 1980s, I left India seeking greener pastures to earn a living and to find ways to grow professionally. I came to the United States with an ambition to succeed. As a beginner in the US, the land of opportunities, I was paid $20  a month in foreign exchange for pocket allowance.  Today, $15,000 foreign exchange is being provided by Indian government to their citizens.

Thousands of my colleagues, who came to the US seeking professional achievements and a better living have similar stories to share. However, now, as we celebrate India’s 75th anniversary of obtaining freedom, India has grown tremendously in every field.

Physicians of my time, wanted to leave India and go overseas for name and fame and fortune. However, today I meet physicians in India who are highly successful and have careers that are noteworthy and successful. Healthcare in India is fast growing.

From being an importer of healthcare services, India has become a maker and supplier of healthcare services. India leads the world in providing cheap and affordable medicine to the world. India has become a hub for alternate medicine.

Kudos to the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and past Indian Prime Ministers, who have helped develop the country beyond, with their vision, and imagination for a better India for all.  I am confident, soon, India is going to be a Super Power.

Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalgadda, Past President of AAPI.


Stand United And Work In A Cohesive Manner As A Nation

India celebrated its 75th Independence Day on August 15th 2022, which marked its Independence from British rule and is indelible in history and in people’s collective memories.

We are blessed to have our independence and have the right to speak and be heard because of the sacrifices made by our past leaders who let nothing deter them from their goals of seeking and acquiring independence for our future generations.

Our tribute to our freedom fighters will be to always stand united and work in a cohesive manner as a nation. May this spirit of freedom lead our nation to all success and glory. Once again saluting our entire nation and Happy Independence Day.

Anjana Samadder, President-Elect, AAPI


Need For Fertile Soil In India For The Growth Of Its Seeds Within Its Boundaries

As India celebrates its 75th Independence Day, those of us who left India due to lack of opportunities to pursue our passions and professions, heartfully wish that the twenty-first century India focuses on making its soil fertile for the growth of its own seeds within its boundaries, so that they need not go to other countries to grow into trees.

That needs development of institutes and systems which can function autonomously and responsibly promoting the meritorious. Then only India becomes a major world power.

BK. Kishore, M.D., Ph.D., MBA

Academician, Innovator, & Entrepreneur


India’s Tricolor Flag Is Unique; Should Be Displayed In Every Home

I am very proud to be celebrating the 75th Independence Day of India, which achieved Freedom led by a peaceful non-violent method, led by Mahatma Gandhi.  India’s 75th Independence celebration is followed by Indian citizens and others all over the world. It brings pride and joy to all of us.

At this time, I proudly would like to add that the First Flag that was hoisted at Delhi Red Fort and by the Madras Government, now Tamil Nadu, was woven by one of my husband’s relative Mr. R. Venkatachalam, owner of Hindustan Fabrication at my husband Jagadeesan Poola’s hometown of Gudiyattam in Vellore District, in Tamil Nadu. The company was also given huge order to weave flags at that time.

India’s Tricolor flag is so unique and should be displayed in every home in India and Indian Homes outside of India. This unites all of us without prejudice of religion and language. India is a Union of people belonging to many languages and Religions. This should be followed by the Government also in every state and Delhi. The Governments are elected to serve the people without discrimination.

India is self-reliant in many ways but needs to go much further. If the present Government of India is taking the honor of Economic stability –  why is the value of  Rupee is highest ever – Rs 79 to $1. The value of Indian Rupee keeps falling.

Happy 75th Independence Day To Everyone of INDIAN origin!

Kanchana Poola, Past President of Tamil Sangam, Philanthropist, and Community Leader


A Tribute to Indian Healthcare Professionals

As we proudly celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Indian Independence, we need to continue strengthening international collaborations and partnerships in the healthcare sector in this day and age of globalized medicine in order to eradicate pandemics such as COVID-19 and enhance outcomes in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as well.

One of the biggest, current global healthcare challenges is heart disease (# 1 global killer). Indians and Indian immigrants are especially vulnerable.

As a visiting university professor, I have worked closely for a number of years with Indian physician peers involved in medical university resuscitation education and training, community healthcare and cardiac arrest research projects.  I genuinely admire and appreciate their contributions to the rapidly advancing global medicine.

Diseases have no geographical barriers, and neither should our efforts to eradicate or mitigate them. Internationally shared evidence-based knowledge and medical practices through global collaborations have a proven track record of enhancing healthcare outcomes.

While celebrating our Indian heritage and independence on this occasion, let us recognize and thank our Indian Physicians and other healthcare professionals for their ongoing, valuable global contributions. Their selfless efforts and personal sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic can’t be thanked enough.

Finally, let us look forward to more Indo-US governmental and non-governmental collaborations in the healthcare sector cementing our existing relationships!

Vemuri S Murthy, MD, A Global Champion of Resuscitation Medicine


A Self-Reliant India Is A Strong Successful India

India is celebrating it’s 75th birthday! To commemorate this proud and happy moment, the Government introduced Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. This highlights the glorious past, celebrates the present groundbreaking achievements and points towards the bright future. This comprises of 5 pillars a) Freedom struggle b) Ideas@75 c) Resolve@75 d) Actions@75 e) Achievements@75. 

Har Ghar Tiranga: A bold vision, this ignites the spirit of patriotism and nationalism, and is part of the Government of India’s campaign to have the Indian tricolor in 20 crore houses! This may garner a spot in the Guinness World Records!!

A self-reliant India is a strong successful India. A 20-lakh crore economic package will help in Atma Nirbhar Bharat. Multiple programs are in place across the country, designed to empower citizens, especially women and give them technical expertise.

Basic Vocational tailoring, teaching Areca Leaf Plate making, professional cake training, women farmers recycling domestic waste, getting a computer into the hands of every student, aiming for a tobacco free India (with the proper education and tools), an innovative wrist band to help senior citizens, these are some of the programs helping folks in rural and urban areas.

Jai Hind!

Bhavani Srinivasan MD MPH, Chair Women’s Affairs AAPIQLI; Vice President NIAASC;

President GMC Alumni USA Inc.


Freedom Is, In Fact, The Autonomy To Express One’s Views In Public Without Fear

As India is celebrating its 75th Independence Day, the Diaspora worldwide is joining in the festivity with parades, proclamations, and plays. Undoubtedly, there is so much to celebrate for getting freed from the yoke of colonialism and the clutches of the British. They all who had fought for our freedom deserve our eternal gratitude for their grit and ceaseless efforts that brought us victory.

However, becoming independent necessarily doesn’t mean that one is free. Freedom is, in fact, the autonomy of expressing views in public places against the government and having the right to go everywhere with anyone, wear anything of their own choice, and believe or not to believe in any religion while affording protection from the state for life and property. Are these true in Today’s India?

As India celebrates its 75th Independence Day, there is little doubt that individual liberties guaranteed under the constitution are steadily vanishing while the judiciary that is supposed to protect personal freedom and the rule of law is finding common ground with the Executive branch that is increasingly set on a  path towards majoritarian authoritarianism. It has been said that “democracy dies in darkness,” and the provisions in India’s constitution, like the one in the U.S., are like “parchment barriers – fragile bulwarks intended to preserve liberty. To be effective, these barriers need to be respected by the government and ordinary citizens alike both in law and custom.”  Wishing the nation a happy 75th Independence Day.

George Abraham, vice-chairman, Indian Overseas Congress, USA

Voices From The Non Resident Indian

Thousands of miles away from India, our hearts long for India, our motherland. A land with rich traditions, history and culture. A land that gave to the world so much and welcomed everyone with open arms. The generosity and spirit of warmth that we all inherited for centuries from generation to generation, with its unparalleled glorius past makes us all stand tall.

Today, after centuries of enslavement, plundering, destruction and marginalization, India has begun to raise its head, seeking and finding its rightful seat among the nations of the world. We are an young nation, full of energy and power; talent, skills and education; future-oriented and willing and able to accomplish our goals.

India Today gives us hope. The vibrant and the largest democracy makes us all proud even though it has its own limitations, with certain groups trying to abuse power and threaten the very foundation of democracy and equality. In India, transfer of power happens peacefully through ballots at local, state and federal levels. And, not by force and intimidation.

The people of India are rising. They have made a name for themselves across the globe, wherever they went, and wherever they made their homes. They are appreciated for what they are and what they bring to their adopted lands. They are much sought after for their integrity and caliber.

The President of the United States, Joe Biden on the occasion of India’s 75th anniversary of India’s Independence Day hailed India as an “indispensable partner” He said, “The United States joins the people of India to honor its democratic journey, guided by Mahatma Gandhi’s enduring message of truth and non-violence.” Biden expressed his commitment to further strengthen the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership that is formed on the ideals of law and democracy and most importantly on their people-to-people ties.

Here are some reflections from some eminent Indian Americans on India and what they perceive India to be “Today – Tomorrow:”

Reflecting On How The Great Accomplishments Of India Are Impacting The Rest Of The World

“As the first elected AAPI Legislator in Middlesex County, representation has always been important to me. It reflects achievements made here in America as well as in India. On the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence Day, we celebrate how far we have come as a community and a nation. It is our job to look back and reflect on all of the great accomplishments India has made to impact the rest of the world and remember we are always moving forward.”


Assemblyman Sterley Stanley

New Jersey General Assembly

18th Legislative District, New Jersey


India – Past – Present – Future

India is an exceptional nation with a civilizational history of 5,000 years old, with a rich tapestry of cultures, religions, and peoples, and a strong economy that was unparalleled by all means. India’s glorious past and profound diversity make it unique. India had a robust economy, having almost one third of the total world’s GDP. India was advanced in almost all fields of science, Medicine, Engineering, Architecture, Literature and Public Administration. Wikipedia notes that the engineering skills of the people were “remarkable”, with great achievements in measurement accuracy and craftsmanship. The subcontinent boasts the longest history of jewelry making in the world, stemming back 5,000 years.

However, with the invasion and rule by the Islamic and British rulers, in the past 1,000 years, India’s wealth was plundered. People were killed. Temples were destroyed. The freedom and the lifestyle along with the remarkable advancement in science and technology were stalled.

India became the 1st nation in the world to attain freedom with a peaceful means, Satyagraha, from the British rulers. While India made moderate progress in the past few decades, the pace of progress accelerated under the dynamic leadership of Shri Narendra Modi, India is today stronger than ever, well respected among the nations of the world. India’s economy is growing faster than ever, and the many programs are benefiting the people of India evermore. India has earned its rightful place in the world. We are proud of India and what India has accomplished, its contributions to the world and I look forward to a brighter and stronger India.

By Dr. Vinod K Shah

Founder, Medstar Shah Medical Group

Past President of AAPI


The Ancient Indian Values Of Respect For Diversity, Peaceful Coexistence, And Respect For Nature Are Needed More Urgently Than Ever

On the 75th anniversary of India, so many Indian American organizations and the Consulate General of India in New York, organized a series of programs showcasing India’s cultural diversity, antiquity, and contemporary relevance. Participants in New York or online anywhere in the world, are able to enjoy music concerts, literary gatherings and dance performances throughout the year as part of the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.

Seventy-Five years ago, when India became an independent country after centuries of colonial rule, all eyes were on India. As a new society, the Gandhian message of Ahinsa, freedom through to non-violence, and its ancient message of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, that the world is one family became the new Mantra.

Today, in our world of polarization, increasing tribalism, new conflict and extreme environmental degradation, the ancient Indian values of respect for diversity, peaceful coexistence, and respect for Nature are needed more urgently than ever.

These activities aim at bringing the Indo-American bonds closer, with cultural exchanges.

Please participate in the programs like the parade along with family and friends and experience the wondrous imagination and inspiring dynamism of the Indian arts to the fullest. Please join us in wishing India a joyous 75th birthday and a bright future ahead. Jai Hind

Anil BansalPresident of First National Realty Management; Founder of Bansal Charitable Foundation; BOD Member of IAAC; Past President of FIA NY/NJ/CT


India Today and Tomorrow

As we celebrate this year India@75, Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, India as a multi cultural, diverse nation has emerged as a significant respected player on the world stage. With its highly successful vaccination program, more than 2 billion doses of vaccines have been administered in the last 18 months. India is the third largest energy consuming country in the world and also ranks third as the world’s largest renewable energy producer. It hopes to meet fifty percent of its electricity requirements by 2070 from renewable energy. Like any other country, the pandemic has taken a severe toll on the economy along with rising inflation and unemployment crisis. But there is a silver lining and according to the projections by the economists at Morgan Stanley, India’s GDP growth is expected to be at 8%-8.5% for 2022-2023 making it as Asia’s strongest economy. However, unless there is gender parity, there can be no sustained economic growth. and India has one of the worlds’ lowest female workforce participation.

Fast forward to India 2040 and beyond we will see it as one of the world’s largest working age population with growing urbananization.  Some of the crucial challenges will be to address gender inequities, sustain the momentum of its economic development and trade, accelerate expansion of higher education and build smart cities with digital technologies. I dream of India that resonates with Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of   Truth and Non Violence— where there is peace, harmony and justice for all. Happy 75th anniversary India.

Dr. Renee Mehrra, Eminent Journalist, TV Anchor, Community Leader


A Dream For the Medical Fraternity

Enhancing national unity and democracy are amongst the great achievements of the people of India. To augment medical education, patient care and research the Government of India should take services of the willing US doctors of Indian origin, who are over 100,000 practicing US Physicians are of Indian origin.

I have lobbied fa or such program for many years. Hope the Health Ministry will initiate and funds for such a project. It will help all parts of india, as these US Doctors hail from all parts of India and they want to effectively serve their motherland, India.

Navin shah  MD
Founder and former President, AAPI


My Small Hope For India

Independence Day is a reminder of the sacrifices for valiant freedom fighters. We have come a long way in the last 75 years. However, to fulfill the dreams of our founding fathers and see a prosperous India, we will need to work hard and contribute towards most successful and vibrant India.

Vishweshwar Ranga MD

Chairman, BOT, AAPI

Voices From The Non-Resident Indians

Thousands of miles away from India, our hearts long for India, our motherland. A land with rich traditions, history and culture. A land that gave to the world so much and welcomed everyone with open arms. The generosity and spirit of warmth that we all inherited for centuries from generation to generation, with its unparalleled glorius past makes us all stand tall.

Today, after centuries of enslavement, plundering, destruction and marginalization, India has begun to raise its head, seeking and finding its rightful seat among the nations of the world. We are an young nation, full of energy and power; talent, skills and education; future-oriented and willing and able to accomplish our goals.

India Today gives us hope. In India, transfer of power happens peacefully through ballots at local, state and federal levels. And, not by force and intimidation. The vibrant and the largest democracy makes us all proud even though it has its own limitations, with certain groups trying to abuse power and threaten the very foundation of democracy and personal freedom and liberty.

The people of Indian origin are rising. They have made a name for themselves in India across the globe, wherever they are today, and wherever they made their homes. They are appreciated for what they are and what they bring to their adopted lands. They are much sought after for their integrity and caliber.

The President of the United States, Joe Biden on the occasion of India’s 75th anniversary of India’s Independence Day hailed India as an “indispensable partner” He said, “The United States joins the people of India to honor its democratic journey, guided by Mahatma Gandhi’s enduring message of truth and non-violence.” Biden expressed his commitment to further strengthen the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership that is formed on the ideals of law and democracy and most importantly on their people-to-people ties. I echo these positive sentiments and hope foir better future for all Indiuans, and peoples of all nations, all faiths and all humanity,

Happy 75th Anniversary of India’s Glorious Independence Day!

Sharing here with our readers reflections from some eminent Indian Americans on India and what they perceive India to be “Today – Tomorrow:”

Ajay Ghoish

Chief Editor, Theunn.com

Reflecting On How The Great Accomplishments Of India Are Impacting The Rest Of The World

“As the first elected AAPI Legislator in Middlesex County, representation has always been important to me. It reflects achievements made here in America as well as in India. On the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence Day, we celebrate how far we have come as a community and a nation. It is our job to look back and reflect on all of the great accomplishments India has made to impact the rest of the world and remember we are always moving forward.”
Assemblyman Sterley Stanley

New Jersey General Assembly

18th Legislative District, New Jersey

India – Past – Present – Future

India is an exceptional nation with a rich civilizational history dating back over 5,000 years, and includes a rich tapestry of cultures, religions, peoples, and a strong economy. India’s glorious past and profound diversity make it unique. Its robust economy, having almost one-third of the total world’s GDP, despite its infancy as an independent nation speaks volumes of the determination of its people. India continues to be advanced in almost all fields of the Arts, Science, Medicine, Engineering, Architecture, Literature, and Public Administration. It is noted that the engineering skills of its people were “remarkable”, with great achievements in measurement, accuracy, and craftsmanship. The subcontinent boasts the longest history of jewelry making in the world, stemming back 5,000 years.

However, with the invasion and subsequent rule by Islamic and British forces, India’s richness in society and wealth was plundered away over the last 1000 years. People were murdered, Temples were destroyed. The freedom and the lifestyle along with the remarkable advancements in science and technology was stalled.

India became the 1st nation in the world to attain freedom by peaceful means, or Satyagraha, from the British empire. While India made gradual and moderate progress over the past seven decades, the pace of advancement accelerated under the dynamic leadership of Shri Narendra Modi. India is today stronger than ever, and well respected among the nations of the world. India’s economy is growing faster than ever, and many programs and initiatives are benefiting the people of India even more. India has earned its rightful place in the world. We are proud of our mother nation of India and what it has accomplished in the span of 75 years. India’s contributions to the world will continue to make our planet a better one and I look forward to a brighter and stronger India, a nation that will be looked upon as a world leader in the years to come.

By Dr. Vinod K Shah

Founder, Medstar Shah Medical Group

Past President of AAPI

The Ancient Indian Values Of Respect For Diversity, Peaceful Coexistence, And Respect For Nature Are Needed More Urgently Than Ever

On the 75th anniversary of India, so many Indian American organizations and the Consulate General of India in New York, organized a series of programs showcasing India’s cultural diversity, antiquity, and contemporary relevance. Participants in New York or online anywhere in the world, are able to enjoy music concerts, literary gatherings and dance performances throughout the year as part of the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.

Seventy-Five years ago, when India became an independent country after centuries of colonial rule, all eyes were on India. As a new society, the Gandhian message of Ahinsa, freedom through to non-violence, and its ancient message of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, that the world is one family became the new Mantra.

Today, in our world of polarization, increasing tribalism, new conflict and extreme environmental degradation, the ancient Indian values of respect for diversity, peaceful coexistence, and respect for Nature are needed more urgently than ever.

These activities aim at bringing the Indo-American bonds closer, with cultural exchanges.

Please participate in the programs like the parade along with family and friends and experience the wondrous imagination and inspiring dynamism of the Indian arts to the fullest. Please join us in wishing India a joyous 75th birthday and a bright future ahead. Jai Hind

  • Anil Bansal, President of First National Realty Management; Founder of Bansal Charitable Foundation; BOD Member of IAAC; Past President of FIA NY/NJ/CT

India Today and Tomorrow

As we celebrate this year India@75, Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, India as a multi cultural, diverse nation has emerged as a significant respected player on the world stage. With its highly successful vaccination program, more than 2 billion doses of vaccines have been administered in the last 18 months. India is the third largest energy consuming country in the world and also ranks third as the world’s largest renewable energy producer. It hopes to meet fifty percent of its electricity requirements by 2070 from renewable energy. Like any other country, the pandemic has taken a severe toll on the economy along with rising inflation and unemployment crisis. But there is a silver lining and according to the projections by the economists at Morgan Stanley, India’s GDP growth is expected to be at 8%-8.5% for 2022-2023 making it as Asia’s strongest economy. However, unless there is gender parity, there can be no sustained economic growth. and India has one of the worlds’ lowest female workforce participation.

Fast forward to India 2040 and beyond we will see it as one of the world’s largest working age population with growing urbananization.  Some of the crucial challenges will be to address gender inequities, sustain the momentum of its economic development and trade, accelerate expansion of higher education and build smart cities with digital technologies. I dream of India that resonates with Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of   Truth and Non Violence— where there is peace, harmony and justice for all. Happy 75th anniversary India.

  • Renee Mehrra, Eminent Journalist, TV Anchor, Community Leader

A Dream For the Medical Fraternity

Enhancing national unity and democracy are amongst the great achievements of the people of India. To augment medical education, patient care and research the Government of India should take services of the willing US doctors of Indian origin, who are over 100,000 practicing US Physicians are of Indian origin.

I have lobbied fa or such program for many years. Hope the Health Ministry will initiate and funds for such a project. It will help all parts of india, as these US Doctors hail from all parts of India and they want to effectively serve their motherland, India.
Navin Shah  MD
Founder and former President, AAPI

My Small Hope For India

Independence Day is a reminder of the sacrifices for valiant freedom fighters. We have come a long way in the last 75 years. However, to fulfill the dreams of our founding fathers and see a prosperous India, we will need to work hard and contribute towards most successful and vibrant India.

Vishweshwar Ranga MD

Chairman, BOT, AAPI

10 Years After Shooting, Wisconsin Sikhs Lead Interfaith Conversation On Safety

(Interfaith America) — On the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the fatal mass shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, more than 100 interfaith leaders, policymakers, White House officials, law enforcement officials and educators convened Thursday night (Aug. 4) at city hall in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, for an interfaith panel discussion on protecting places of worship from hate crimes.

The panel was a part of the Healing from Hate & Protecting Places of Worship Forum, a memorial of the tragedy at the gurdwara (as Sikhs call their houses of worship) organized by the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee in partnership with the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, Sikh Coalition and Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

The forum was a part of a series of events these groups are hosting this week to honor the victims of the shooting: Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39; Paramjit Kaur, 41; Suveg Singh Khattra, 84; Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65; and Baba Punjab Singh, 72.

“Being here is incredibly moving because people have turned their pain into purpose in a way that none of us could have predicted,” Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said after the forum.

The interfaith panel, moderated by former U.S. attorney James Santelle, included Pardeep Kaleka, executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee; Walter Lanier, CEO of the African American Leadership Alliance of Milwaukee; Ahmed Quereshi, president of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee; and Ari Friedman, director of security and community properties at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

In the decade since the Oak Creek shooting, hate crimes against places of worship have been on the rise. Between 2018 and February 2020, mass shootings caused by religious hate increased by 17%.

As attacks have increased, synagogues, churches, mosques, gurdwaras and other places of worship have increased surveillance and security at their doors.

“We’ve developed an usher and greeters’ program where volunteers, who are not security people, but an extra set of eyes and ears, are trained to interact with the people as they come in, in a friendly manner,” Friedman said. The volunteers, he said, look out for nonverbal cues and other indicators to gauge if there is any need for concern.

In addition to securing their gates, the faith leaders said it’s important to include their congregations in conversations about safety and security.

Lanier said he uses biblical references to emphasize the importance of protecting oneself from harm.

“There’s a New Testament narrative where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead,” Lanier told the gathering. “Some religious leaders were mad … and they said we’re going to move off. We’re not going to put ourselves in the way of danger. But we’re going to use wisdom in this moment, and pull ourselves back. It was really important to frame up for the congregation that this is biblical, this is within the wheelhouse of our faith.”

Not every place of worship can afford to hire security, and, the Milwaukee Islamic Center’s Quereshi noted, in some cases it’s even illegal to do so. Quereshi added that many faith leaders face the challenge of balancing a fundamental belief that places of worship should welcome everyone with an urgent need to protect themselves and their community.

Lanier said it’s important for people to look out for not just their own but other communities as well. “It’s like being in a neighborhood. It can’t be that I’m just going to look out for my house and not worry about what’s happening at your house … let’s get together like this evening so that we can share resources, information, best practices, collaborate and have a narrative and have a critical mass of people who are on the same page and sharing similar messages.”

Kaleka, whose father was one of the seven victims at Oak Creek a decade ago, said one of the lessons the Sikh community learned that day was how everyone can keep moving forward with compassion while also learning to fortify their walls.

“In all communities who are targeted, we have been blessed to be surrounded by love, by compassion, by kindness,” Kaleka told the audience. “We could have left whatever happened as whatever happened, but you all made the conscious choice of being here because of seven people who died, but you would not let hope die. And we’re here 10 years later, simply because of that.”  (A version of this article originally appeared on Interfaith America magazine.)

Assault On The Media Continues Across The Globe

There are many forces that are assaulting journalism around the world: misinformation, intimidation, pressures on revenue models, and a growing trend of autocrats attacking press freedom

“Finally it is also an important right in a free society to be freely allowed to contribute to society’s well-being. However, if that is to occur, it must be possible for society’s state of affairs to become known to everyone, and it must be possible for everyone to speak his mind freely about it. Where this is lacking, liberty is not worth its name,” Peter Forsskål, a philosopher, theologian, botanist and orientalist wrote in his pamphlet, Thoughts on Civil Liberty, published in Stockholm in 1759.

And, it’s noteworthy that The World Press Freedom Day in Helsinki in 2016 adopted the Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms, which is the right of every human being around the world, and its three perspectives: freedom of information as a fundamental freedom and a human right; protecting press freedom from censorship and surveillance overreach; and ensuring safety
for journalism online and offline.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and a prerequisite for several other democratic rights. It is a right, but it implies responsibility and respect for the rights of others. The role of media has been changing rapidly, especially in recent times, with the advent of social media platforms where not only the news and views of the trained and well-established journalists are published, but anyone has the right reports, post a comment and be appreciative or critical of people, programs and policies for their worth.

The media is expected to be the “watchdog” of the other three branches of the government. Promoting the safety of journalists and combatting impunity for those who attack them are central elements within UNESCO’s support for press freedom on all media platforms. Media is described as the Fourth Estate after the executive, legislature, and judiciary and

However, media has been constantly criticized, intimidated and their rights taken away for being the “watchdog.’ There are many forces assaulting journalism around the world: misinformation, intimidation, pressures on revenue models, and a growing trend of autocrats attacking press freedoms. Journalists are attacked, and imprisoned and their rights to disseminate news and views taken away in numerous countries across the globe.

According to UNESCO, on average, every five days a journalist is killed for bringing information to the public. Attacks on media professionals are often perpetrated in non-conflict situations organized crime groups, militia, security personnel, and even local police, making local journalists among the most vulnerable. These attacks include murder, abductions, harassment, intimidation, illegal arrest, and arbitrary detention.”

The 2020 UNESCO Director-General’s Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger Impunity stated that with 22 killings each, Latin America and the Caribbean, together with Asia and the Pacific, registered the highest number of fatalities among journalists.

These organized crimes and strategies to prevent journalists, media and media platforms are not unique to the Third World or autocratic/tyrant rule d states alone. They are occurring on a daily basis well-established democracies, using so called “democratic laws” as well as in those nations and their rulers who have no regards for freedom of speech and do not tolerate dissent or criticism.

It’s noteworthy, after four years of contestant attacks on the media by his predecessor, President Jose Biden of the United States has kept the media at arm’s length while being decidedly less combative than his predecessor with reporters, an approach that was on display when he attended the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner this year.  It’s an approach that administration officials say is deliberate, and that Democrats say is part of Biden’s effort to return the White House to a more normal rapport with the media.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) under the Trump and Biden administrations are now going after tech giants in antitrust lawsuits, based on deals that were solidified under Obama’s watch. The FTC’s case against Facebook seeks to undo the company’s acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram that were approved under the former president.

Filipino American media executive and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, founder of the digital media outlet Rappler in the Philippines in 2012, has become the target of a series of attacks. Ressa has been arrested several times. This month, with the new administration of Bongbong Marcos in place, Rappler was ordered to shut down, for being the voice of the people.

Rana Ayyub, a senior journalist summarized the state of today’s journalistic fraternity: “The burden of bearing witness and speaking truth to power comes at great personal risk for journalists in many countries around the world. They live a relentless struggle, slapped with lawsuits and criminal cases for sedition, defamation, tax evasion and more. Their lives, and too often the lives of their families, are made miserable.”

Ayyub points to the heinous crimes inflicted on “Gauri Lankesh, Daphne Caruana Galizia and Jamal Khashoggi—all journalists with a profile, all brazenly killed in broad daylight. Their murders dominated the front pages of international publications. But their killers, men in power, remain unquestioned not just by the authorities but often by publishers and editors who develop a comfortable amnesia when meeting those in power. They do not want to lose access to them.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Termed the recent murders of British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous issues expert Bruno Pereira, whom police suspect were killed by people with ties to illegal fishing in the Amazon, amounted to a “nightmare” come true. “Central African Republic authorities should investigate the threats made against journalist Erick Ngaba and ensure his safety,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in Durban, South Africa. “The security situation in the Central African Republic is worrisome enough for media professionals without additional online harassment.”

India’s record on violations against Journalists has been among the worst in recent times. A nation, said to be the “beacon of hope” and the “largest democracy” in the world dropped eight laces to 150 — out of 180 countries — on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for 2022. The index’s report notes that “with an average of three or four journalists killed in connection with their work every year, India is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the media.” In the current year alone, it states, while one journalist has been killed, another 13 are behind bars.

In fact in the last 20 years, India, which was ranked 80th on the index in 2002, has seen its press freedom ranking progressively plummet. The country profile by RSF on India also says that “the Indian press used to be seen as fairly progressive but things changed radically in the mid-2010s, when Narendra Modi became prime minister and engineered a spectacular rapprochement between his party, the BJP, and the big families dominating the media.”

Twitter’s latest transparency report, for July-December 2021 says that the country made the highest number of legal demands to remove content posted by verified journalists and news outlets on Twitter. Of the total 326 legal demands Twitter received globally, against 349 accounts of verified journalists, India sent in 114 legal demands. India in fact also raised the second highest number of information requests, after the US, accounting for 19% of global information requests and 27% of the global accounts specified. Information requests seek details about an account and are issued by law enforcement or government agencies.

Terming the Indian press as “a colossus with feet of clay”, RSF adds that Indian “journalists are exposed to all kinds of physical violence including police violence, ambushes by political activists, and deadly reprisals by criminal groups or corrupt local officials” by “supporters of Hindutva” with the situation “very worrisome in Kashmir where reporters are often harassed by police and paramilitaries.”

If the powerful rulers of the countries use their power to intimidate the media world, the public are not immune to such ill thought out and narrow views. For some it’s their ideology that motivates them, for others it’s the belief in their “leader” who spreads lies and the flock follow them blindly, and for some who are so called well educated and well informed, it’s their goals to attain power, position and prestige in the society.

Recently, I came across on a WhatsApp media posting, where a picture of half a dozen veteran, well respected and award-winning journalists meeting with a Justice of the Supreme Court of India were called as “traitors of India” because they criticize and point to the the ruling party for its policies that do not benefit the people of India, but the members of the ruling regime.

Speaking at a Stanford University event, former US President Barack Obama called the present as “another tumultuous, dangerous moment in history,” where social media platforms are well-designed to destroy democracies. “Disinformation is a threat to our democracy, and will continue to be unless we work together to address it,” he said.

According to analysts, while free speech is protected by both the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, these legal instruments offer governments much greater leeway than the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when it comes to defining categories, such as hate speech, that can be regulated.

Reports state. the European Union is in the midst of finalizing the Digital Services Act (DSA), an ambitious legislative attempt to create a “global gold standard” on platform regulation. After five trilogues, on April 23, the European Parliament and European Council reached a provisional political agreement on the DSA. As such, the DSA is likely to affect the practical exercise of free speech on social media platforms, whether located in Silicon Valley or owned by American tech billionaires.

Freedom of expression is a vital part of democracy, considering it does not cross the “Lakshman Rekha” of public order and morality, said former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
Gogoi, while expressing his views on action against individuals over social media posts, said, “Now on social media — is a critical part of healthy democracy, so long as it does not cross the Lakshman Rekha of public order and morality, be it against an individual or an institution. If the opinion is within the line (of public order), it should not be restrained…,” said Gogoi.

Adding that such an opinion should be based on facts and bonafide information, the former CJI said, “If it is an opinion not based on facts and disturbs public order and transgresses morality or creates distrust among the public for the institution, posing a threat to national interest, action needs to be taken. Nothing can be bigger than national interest.”

Gogoi also said that the present generation youth in the country are fortunate to have the power of social media. “It is a powerful tool, but it can be misused, which is unfortunate… Youth today, who wish to enter public life or politics must be aware that they cannot be successful unless they work hard and base their journey on facts. This is because it is very easy for misinformation to be spread…”

Media reports pointed out that in the first quarter of 2018, Facebook removed 2.5 million pieces of content for the transgression of community standards on hate speech. By the third quarter of 2021, the number had increased almost tenfold to 22.3 million. This was mainly the result of increased reliance on AI-based content-filtering algorithms. In 2018, AI caught 4 out of 10 transgressions before any user complaint, but in the third quarter of 2021, this rose to 96.5 percent.

“We’ve come a long way towards realizing freedom of expression, and other fundamental freedoms. The right to access to information is entrenched in law in over a hundred countries,” said Secretary-General Guterres of the United Nations during the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Association of UN Correspondents (ACANU). “But despite these advances, in recent years, civic space has been shrinking worldwide at an alarming rate.”

In the midst of all these, some recommend a model that would “encourage the implementation of human-rights standards as a framework of first reference in the moderation practices of large social media platforms. This would result in a social media environment that would be both more transparent and protective of users’ free speech on categories such as hate speech and disinformation. Using human rights law as the standard of content moderation would also provide platforms with norms and legitimacy to resist demands to censor dissent made by authoritarian states keen to exploit the well-intentioned but misguided attempts by democracies to rein in harmful online speech.”

Stating that Journalism and the media are “essential to peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights for all – and to the work of the United Nations,” Guterres noted, paying tribute to reporters who “go to the most dangerous places on earth, to bring us important information, to give a voice to people who are being ignored and abused, and to hold the powerful to account. Your work reminds us that truth never dies, and that our attachment to the fundamental right that is freedom of expressions must also never die… Informing is not a crime.”

The Democratic Paradox The Right To Say Anything Has Been A Challenge To Every Democracy That Has Ever Existed

On Jan. 6, 2021, a group of self-professed patriots stormed the U.S. Capitol, a building last raided by the British during the War of 1812. Some in the group were spangled with face paint and wore military garb. Some were toting Confederate flags. Many were taking selfies or livestreaming the rebellion. They erected a gallows and smashed up media equipment outside, then roamed the halls of Congress, screaming, “Stop the steal!” Offices were destroyed. A member of the mob was shot and killed. A Capitol Police officer died. It was a remarkable assault on the foundation of American democracy, staged at the very moment a peaceful transfer of power was under way.

We can now add the United States to the list of Athens, Rome, France, Spain, and Peru, among others, as democracies that have experienced a self-coup attempt. The people who invaded the Capitol did so because they believed—truly believed—that then-U.S. President Donald Trump had won a landslide victory in the 2020 presidential election, which subsequently was stolen.

This article is adapted from The Paradox of Democracy: Free Speech, Open Media, and Perilous Persuasion by Zac Gershberg and Sean Illing (University of Chicago Press, 320 pp., $30, June 2022).

Trump had raised over $200 million in the month after the election by alleging voter fraud—what some termed the “Big Lie,” which gained widespread purchase in the United States’ fragmented information space and particularly in conservative media across radio, cable television, and social networking. Dozens of lawsuits echoing these charges struggled to gain standing in U.S. state and federal courts. Trump and his advisors then suggested the possibility that Vice President Mike Pence and Congress could overturn the election on Jan. 6, whereupon the president instructed his supporters to march on the Capitol, telling them to “fight like hell.”

American democracy is fortunate that the insurrection failed; that it happened at all is instructive. The event exposed the paradox at the center of every democratic culture: a free and open communication environment that, because of its openness, invites exploitation and subversion from within. This tension sits at the core of every democracy, and it cannot be resolved or circumnavigated. To put it another way, the essential democratic freedom—the freedom of expression—is both ingrained in and dangerous to democracy.

The belief that democracy is a fixed system with inherent features has led to a lot of confusion. Many still hold what’s often called the “folk theory of democracy”: Ordinary citizens have preferences about what the government ought to do, and they vote for leaders they think will carry out those preferences. The result of this process is a government that serves the majority. And all of this is supposed to take place in a culture of rules and norms that privileges minority rights, respects the rule of law, and welcomes peaceful transitions of power.

But that culture is precisely what we call “liberalism”—it is not democracy as such. Confusion on this point has obscured the nature and demands of democratic life.

Despite its flaws, democracy still affords freedom of expression and the possibility of confronting power in all its forms—that is democracy’s claim to superiority over all other political cultures. But democratic freedom contains the seeds of its own destruction. This is something the ancient Greeks understood long before us, and they even developed two frameworks for free speech that highlighted the problem. Isegoria described the right of citizens to participate in the public debate; parrhesia described the right to say anything one wanted, whenever one wanted, and to whomever one wanted. Isegoria created the political environment of democracy, while parrhesia actualized it.

But the right to say anything opened the door to all manners of subversion, and this has been a challenge to every democracy that has ever existed. The emergence of isegoria in Athens, for instance, was accompanied by the joint rituals of ostracism and tribalism. In today’s language, you might say that Socrates was the first notable citizen to be “canceled” by the same democratic forces that made his speech free in the first place. This is the defining tension of any democratic society.

Citizens, philosophers, and politicians have always fretted about democracy for exactly this reason. While it facilitates a culture in which deliberative discourse and collective judgment are possible, it can also be gamed and exploited, prompting crises from within. The panic today over democracy is no different. A whole genre of literature has emerged seeking to explain how democracies fall or why Western liberalism is in retreat. The consensus is that if democracy isn’t quite dead, it’s certainly under attack.

There’s no point in diminishing the reality of the crisis. We are surely living through a period of intense democratic disruption. All over the world, from the United Kingdom to Hungary to Poland to Brazil to the United States, populist insurgents are disordering democratic cultures. Liberal democracy, as a culturally dominant period, has died. So have many of the norms and institutions that undergird it.

But the discourse around this problem is far too circumscribed. To read many of the current books about democracy is to walk away with the impression that we’re in the midst of something new, something unique to our moment. It’s as though the default state of democracy is stability, and periods of disruption are the exception.

The reverse is much nearer to the truth.

To function properly, democracies require more than just voting. Citizens need comprehensive, accurate information as well as a healthy, open system of debate. But throughout history, when new forms of communications arrive—from the disingenuous use of rhetorical techniques developed in Athens to the social media-enabled spread of fake news today—they often undermine the practice of politics. The more widely accessible and democratic the media of a society, the more susceptible that society is to distraction, spectacle, and demagoguery. We see this time and again throughout history: Media continually evolve faster than politics, and the result is recurring patterns of democratic instability.

Classical rhetoric was a necessity for the early democratic cultures of Athens and Rome, but sophistry, a form of deceptive, crowd-pleasing speech, overwhelmed both societies and hastened their collapse. The printing press allowed for the mass production of books and the creation of newspapers, which ushered in the Enlightenment and the democratic revolutions of the 18th century, yet these public networks also sowed chaos in the aftermath of the American and French Revolutions. The former dealt with a deeply partisan press that threatened the viability of the United States in its infancy, and France exploded into the violence of the Reign of Terror.

In the 19th century, the telegraph’s speedy dissemination of news collapsed geographical distances and helped spread the norms of liberal society across Europe, but it also fomented nationalist discourses. Political leaders and news outlets generated narratives full of nativist fears and petty resentments to gain traction in place of actual debate, and the appeals of this mediated rhetoric would eventually speed Europe toward World War I. While cinema and radio further democratized media and created a more accessible mass culture, they also provided essential platforms for European fascists who were able to bypass traditional gatekeepers.

Television transformed politics so citizens could directly see and listen to representatives, with many positive results, but the imperatives of the medium also reshaped politics. To succeed, politicians in the TV era had to adapt to a new incentive structure in which branding, sound bites, and optics reigned.

The public sphere of the 21st century is more democratic and open than ever before. Political leaders communicate directly with the public; citizens provide immediate feedback and can publish or broadcast to mass audiences on their own. Yet the democratic openness of communication in the 21st century has destabilized political conversations. There are no longer any controls on the flow of information, and that has short-circuited a system built largely on the control of information. The public is now angry, distrustful of whether their representatives can even make sound decisions. That may be healthy from a democratic perspective, but with so much noise on social media and so many news outlets disseminating contradictory information, citizens are justifiably confused and cynical.

Liberal democracies have long been sustained by traditional mass media, such as newspapers and later radio and network television. Citizens remained somewhat passive while media gatekeepers and politicians hashed out a norm-driven discourse of information and debate in the public sphere. People absorbed what they read, listened to, and watched, then registered approval at the polls.

Then something changed. The rise of polarizing cable television news, the blogosphere, and the outrageous flows of social networking, now hooked to our palmed smartphones, let citizens in on the act of forging discourses and choosing what news they prefer. The result is a more democratic and less liberal world.

The belief that the democratic experiment was destined to end in something like liberal democracy was just that: a belief. It turns out there is nothing inexorable about the logic of democracy; it is just as likely to culminate in tyranny as it is freedom. And the rise of illiberalism foregrounds a crucial point: Our present crisis is as much about culture as it is politics.

Despite all our assumptions about the inherent value of democracy, a democratic culture guarantees no outcome. Democratic cultures can support liberal democratic governments, or they can just as easily spawn plutocratic or authoritarian systems. It might seem counterintuitive to think of democracies as breeding grounds for tyranny, but it’s no contradiction at all.

Democratic theorists often miss the depth of the connection between communication and political cultures. So many accounts of democracy emphasize legislative processes or policy outcomes. When culture is discussed, it’s often in the context of liberal democratic values. But we should always ask: What determines the valence of those values? If a democracy stands or falls on the quality of the culture propping it up, then we ought to know under what conditions those values are affirmed and rejected.

Those conditions are determined largely by a society’s tools of communication, facilitated through media. Indeed, democracies are defined by their cultures of communication. If a democracy consists of citizens deciding, collectively, what ought to be done, then the process by which they do so determines nearly everything else that follows. This is the key insight of media ecologists like Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman, both of whom warned of the impending disaster that was the age of television and the image. They sensed that the media environment decides not just what people pay attention to but also how people think and orient themselves in the world. For every form of media has its own epistemology, its own biases, and favors certain cognitive habits over others.

People like Postman were commenting on the sovereignty of television in American culture and how it transfigures everything it touches. But the internet and social media have now been added to that wasteland of spectacle, compounding the problem in a million different ways. The obsession with drama and entertainment is now buttressed by curated news feeds that carve out epistemological bubbles and foster tribal impulses. The United States and many other countries are now confronting the greatest structural challenge to democracy the world has ever seen: a truly open society. Without gatekeepers, there are no constraints on discourse. Digital technology has changed everything, and, consequently, reality is up for grabs in a way it never has been before.

To restate the paradox: Democracies cannot exist without an open communication environment; otherwise, citizens cannot carry out their deliberative responsibilities. This condition of informational freedom is central to any democratic culture worthy of the name. But this environment, precisely because it is free, is constantly exploited by demagogues and other anti-democratic actors. Democracies are thus constantly undermined by their constitutive conditions.

It’s not easy to live in this state of tension, especially in the wide-open rhetorical cultures we see in many countries around the world today. New media technologies have altered the social and psychic environment—and, by extension, the values and institutions that ground society. There is no going back; the winds of technological change will keep blowing whether we want them to or not.

The real challenge right now is not an absence of democracy. On the contrary, we’re confronting the true face of democracy: a totally unfettered culture of open communication. Nearly all democracies up until now have been democracies in name only; they’ve been mediated by institutions designed to check popular passions and control the flow of information. But those institutional walls were weakened by the electric revolution and later shattered by digital technology. It’s no longer possible to limit access to information or curate what is and isn’t news. The test is whether democratic institutions can withstand this kind of pressure—whether we can, somehow, keep pushing that democratic boulder up the hill. And that remains an open question.

Zac Gershberg is an associate professor of journalism and media studies at Idaho State University.

Modi’s Multipolar Moment Has Arrived India, Now Courted By All Sides, Is The Clear Beneficiary Of Russia’s War

In every crisis, someone always benefits. In the case of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that someone is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. By refusing to condemn Moscow and join Western-led sanctions, Modi has managed to elevate India’s global stature. Each of the other major powers—the United States, Russia, and China—are intensely courting India to deny a strategic advantage to their adversaries. Relishing the spotlight, Modi and his Hindu-nationalist government will surely look to keep the momentum going. Their likely goal is to carve out an independent superpower role for India, hasten the transition to a multipolar international system, and ultimately cement its new status with a permanent United Nations Security Council seat for India.

None of this negates the fact that the United States has become India’s most important strategic partner. The two nations have made enormous progress in recent years. Since 2018, New Delhi and Washington have held annual summits and signed numerous groundbreaking security agreements. Both nations are part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (known as the Quad), along with Australia and Japan.

At the Quad summit in Tokyo last month, Modi met U.S. President Joe Biden in person for the second time, complementing the two nations’ ongoing virtual discussions. New Delhi also joined Washington’s recently unveiled Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, which aims to intensify economic relations in the region short of a formal trade treaty. Throughout their blossoming partnership, India and the United States, as the world’s two largest democracies, have pledged to channel their shared values (and strategic interest in containing China) into upholding the rules-based liberal international order.

But when Russia invaded Ukraine, India decided to pursue an ultra-realist policy and protect Indian interests above all else—not least its deep dependence on Russia for military equipment. Rather than condemning one sovereign nation for invading and seeking to destroy another—an indisputable violation of the rules-based order—India demurred. At first, the Modi government’s strategy appeared destined to damage the U.S.-India partnership. In March, Biden described India’s commitment on punishing Russia as “somewhat shaky.” In early April, U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh visited New Delhi and warned of potential “consequences” for countries that attempt to undermine U.S. sanctions.

By mid-April, however, the Biden administration had dramatically changed its tune. Biden and Modi met virtually during the kickoff of the so-called 2+2 dialogue in Washington. Following the meeting, it was clear that Biden had accepted Modi’s position. The U.S. readout noted the two leaders would continue their “close consultations” on Russia, with no indication that Washington was prepared to take any action against New Delhi. Additionally, India did not have to condemn Russia or make any other concessions, such as curbing or terminating its import of cheap Russian oil.

Subsequent statements from the White House clearly indicate that Washington will not be pushing New Delhi any further, probably for fear of ruining cooperation on countering China in the Indo-Pacific. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, for instance, said in April that “India has to make its own decisions about how it approaches this challenge.” And in Tokyo last month, Biden said, “I am committed to make the U.S.-India partnership among the closest we have on Earth” in spite of differences regarding Russia. In their joint statement, only Biden condemned Russia; Modi did not. It was the only instance of glaring daylight between the two leaders’ positions.

Over the last few months, India has also preserved its close ties to Russia by repeatedly abstaining at the United Nations when Western countries tabled resolutions against Russia. Russia and India have a long-standing partnership that dates back to the Cold War, when New Delhi believed Washington was actively supporting archrival Pakistan. India has always appreciated Russian support, particularly in the U.N. Security Council, where the territorial status of Jammu and Kashmir has routinely come up.

India also has a long history of leveraging its partnership with Russia against its other archrival, China, with which it has ongoing border tensions. For decades, India has purchased Russian arms. According to one recent estimate, approximately 85 percent of India’s military hardware is Russian. As of last month, the Biden administration was reportedly considering $500 million in military financing to India to wean it off of Russian-made equipment. Washington has also, thus far, looked the other way on enforcing the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act for New Delhi’s purchase of Moscow’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system, suggesting India is simply too important to the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy to risk angering it with sanctions.

India has further benefited from discounted Russian oil and coal since the outbreak of war. Although Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar quipped in April that India probably imports less Russian oil in a month than Europe does in an afternoon, New Delhi’s oil imports from Russia rose sharply following Western-led sanctioning of Moscow. The same is true for coal, where India’s stocks may be running alarmingly low. India is certainly grateful to have Russian energy to fuel its development. Western criticism of these imports, coming after decades of haranguing India on fossil fuel emissions, has only irritated the world’s largest post-colonial state—one that still holds deep sensitivities when rich, majority-white nations appear to tell it to abandon its national interest in energy security and energy-fueled development.

To thank New Delhi for its unwavering support in shielding Moscow at the United Nations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited India in April. While there, he praised the rupee-ruble currency exchange system, which provides an alternative means of conducting transactions with sanctioned Russian banks. Additionally, Lavrov said, “We will be ready to supply any goods which India wants to buy.” And given Modi’s ongoing discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the war, Lavrov even raised the possibility of India playing a mediator role in the Russian-Ukrainian war, which would place India in a very prominent position on the world stage.

Because India’s neutral stance is so obviously at odds with U.S. policy, Beijing has also sensed a strategic opportunity to engage New Delhi—with the primary goal of prying it from Washington’s tightening embrace. In March, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was the first senior Chinese official since 2019 to visit India, where he made Beijing’s courtship explicit. “If the two countries join hands, the whole world will pay attention,” he said. In the runup to Wang’s visit, the Chinese Communist Party’s English-language mouthpiece, the Global Times, also struck an unusually conciliatory tone, writing: “China and India share common interests on many fronts. For instance, the West recently pointed the finger at India for reportedly considering buying Russian oil at a discounted price. But it is India’s legitimate right.”

Indian officials, however, were not prepared to cozy up to China in part because of the benefits they were receiving by staying neutral, most notably from the United States. After Wang’s visit, Jaishankar rhetorically asked: “Do the Americans distinguish and differentiate between India and China over [their] respective stands on Russia amid [the] Ukraine crisis? Obviously, they do.” Notwithstanding closer U.S.-Indian ties, preserving India’s strategic autonomy through a nonaligned policy remains a long-standing objective for New Delhi. In the Russia context and as great-power competition intensifies, that stance is proving especially beneficial vis-à-vis China. Furthermore, China and India have a lingering border conflict that New Delhi has argued must be resolved prior to normalizing bilateral ties. Wang did himself no favors by stopping in Pakistan first and making anti-India comments about the status of Jammu and Kashmir. Rather than agree with Beijing’s openly pro-Russian stance, New Delhi decided to move ahead on a different Chinese request: Modi’s continued participation in the BRICS forum, which joins Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Beyond the great powers, India has essentially won the argument with key countries in Europe and the Indo-Pacific. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for example, visited India in April and remarked, “Russia-India ties are historically well-known, and [New Delhi’s actions] are not going to change that.” Modi’s three-nation tour through Germany, Denmark, and France last month further demonstrated that India won’t be sidelined by its Russia policy. To the contrary, in all three nations, Modi received the red-carpet treatment. In the case of Germany, Modi remains on the guest list to join the G-7 nations later this month in the Bavarian Alps.

And in the Indo-Pacific, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, when asked about India at last month’s Quad summit, said: “Each country has its own historical developments as well as geographical situation. Even amongst like-minded countries, the positions may not agree fully. That is only natural.” Although Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has only been on the job for a few weeks, he met with Modi on the sidelines of the Quad summit and boasted that bilateral relations “have never been closer” in spite of what Albanese said were “strong views” exchanged on Russia during the Quad’s proceedings.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has undoubtedly benefited India as great powers are competing more vigorously for New Delhi’s affection, particularly the United States and China. India has also prevented its Russia policy from spoiling partnerships with key European and Indo-Pacific partners. These trends, if sustained, will contribute to India’s rise to great-power status and, in turn, shift the global system toward even greater multipolarity. What could derail New Delhi’s success is a serious escalation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which might finally force India to choose sides among great powers. Partners that have so far tolerated India’s aloof, realpolitik approach could become frustrated that New Delhi is refusing to carry its weight as an emerging great power. But unless or until this happens, Modi’s India is set to continue benefiting from this horrific crisis.

Derek Grossman is a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corp., an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California, and a former daily intelligence briefer to the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs. Twitter: @DerekJGrossman

Choosing The West Over Russia Could Make New Delhi A Great Power

India’s neutrality over the war in Ukraine has exposed its vulnerability. New Delhi depends on Russia for military supplies, and so, even though Russia is blatantly violating Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty in an attempt to re-create its erstwhile empire, India has opted to stay silent. It has done so even though India, as a former colony, knows all too well what it’s like to be the victim of imperialism. It has done so even though its own territorial integrity is threatened by another authoritarian power—namely, China. India, it seems, feels caught in a vise grip by Moscow.

To some extent, New Delhi’s concerns are understandable. Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been shy about cutting trade with states that condemn his invasion. But viewed more broadly, New Delhi’s approach is shortsighted and risky. It ignores the dangerous precedent that Russia’s reckless behavior is setting in other parts of the world. It provides diplomatic cover to China—Moscow’s most conspicuous international backer—to also ignore Russia’s bad behavior. And although criticizing the invasion might worsen relations with Russia, refusing to take a stand could alienate an even more powerful country: the United States.

The prospect of upsetting Washington should be particularly concerning for Indian policymakers. The United States has become one of New Delhi’s most important partners, particularly as India tries to stand up to Chinese aggression in the Himalayas. But although Washington is not happy that New Delhi has refused to condemn Russian aggression, Indian policymakers have calculated that their country is so central to U.S. efforts to counterbalance China that India will remain immune to a potential backlash. So far, they’ve been right; the United States has issued only muted criticisms of Indian neutrality. Yet Washington’s patience is not endless, and the longer Russia prosecutes its war without India changing its position, the more likely the United States will be to view India as an unreliable partner. It may not want to, but ultimately New Delhi will have to pick between Russia and the West.

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In-depth analysis delivered weekly. It should choose the West. The United States and its allies can offer India more—diplomatically, financially, and militarily—than can Russia. They can better help New Delhi stand up to China. In the short term, this reorientation may make procurement difficult for India’s military, but Russia’s invasion has already weakened Moscow’s ability to provide India with supplies. New Delhi, then, has little to lose by throwing its lot in with the United States and Europe, and it ought to use Russia’s invasion as an opportunity to boldly shift away from Moscow.

GO WEST

When it comes to the war, India is something of an outlier among the world’s democracies. The United States, Canada, almost all of Europe, and multiple countries in Asia and the Pacific—including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan—have condemned and sanctioned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. India, by contrast, has remained neutral.

Indeed, New Delhi has arguably even supported Moscow. Unlike most of the world, it has actively increased its economic ties to Russia since the war began. According to The New York Times, India’s crude oil purchases from Russia went from 33,000 barrels per day in 2021 to 300,000 barrels a day in March and then to 700,000 a day in April. Indian importers are purchasing Russian liquified natural gas on the so-called spot market at reduced prices. India’s buys are still far smaller than those made by European countries, but the latter states are working to drastically reduce their dependence on Moscow. India, by contrast, has handed Russia a possible lifeline. It’s no surprise, then, that Moscow has praised New Delhi for, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov put it, “taking this situation in the entirety of facts, not just in a one-sided way.”

For now, U.S. officials have been tolerant of India’s behavior. They understand that the country relies on Russian military hardware, and they recognize that India cannot break its dependence overnight. But there’s a difference between neutrality and support, and as Russian atrocities mount and India continues to import large amounts of Russian crude oil and gas, Washington may begin to see New Delhi as an enabler. To preserve the United States’ deepening relationship with India, U.S. policymakers will want to ensure that India is not facilitating Russia’s invasion.

They will also want New Delhi to turn to other military suppliers. If India doesn’t do so, it will become more difficult for the United States to increase its transfer of sophisticated defense technologies to New Delhi, since Washington cannot expose its high-tech equipment to Russian systems. Under the U.S. Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, India could even face economic penalties for its ties to Moscow. India recently purchased an S-400 air defense system from Russia, and unless U.S. President Joe Biden decides to waive the penalties for national security reasons, Indian officials could be hit with restrictions on access to U.S. loans from U.S. financial institutions and prohibitions on bank transactions subject to U.S. jurisdictions, among other sanctions. The White House appeared to be on a path to waive the sanctions, but that was before Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. Now, it is no longer clear what the administration will do.

New Delhi has arguably supported Moscow.

Thankfully for Indian-U.S. relations, there are signs that India may be starting to reduce its military ties with Moscow. The country has been gradually cutting its defense imports from Russia over the last several years, and Indian media recently reported that the country has cancelled plans to upgrade its Russian Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft because the war has made it harder for Moscow to supply New Delhi with spare parts. This month, India halted negotiations with Russia to acquire ten Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters, also over concerns about Moscow’s ability to fulfill the order. But 80 percent of the country’s current military stocks still consist of Russian-origin equipment.

For India, curtailing dependence on Russian military gear is not just the right move for moral reasons. Ultimately, it will also help advance the Indian’s military modernization goals. As Russia becomes poorer and increasingly isolated, it will be less and less able to assist the Indian military (a fact that the canceled orders illustrate). That’s because Russia will have fewer high-quality weapons to sell, and it will need to focus more on replenishing its own military stocks, particularly as it loses access to critical Western technologies. New Delhi, then, should move quickly to find other countries that manufacture spares and upgrades for Russian-made equipment. And over the long term, India should focus on building up domestic military production so that it becomes less dependent on other countries for its national defense.

CARROTS WITHOUT STICKS

India has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion for reasons beyond just its military needs. Moscow has long offered diplomatic support to India, including over the issue of Kashmir, and New Delhi is reticent to antagonize a friend. But in recent years, Russia has become far less dependable. For example, Russia has recently made overtures to Pakistan, perhaps India’s biggest antagonist. Last year, Lavrov visited Islamabad, and he pledged that Moscow would boost military cooperation and construct a $2.5 billion gas pipeline between Pakistani cities—Russia’s first major economic investment in Pakistan in 50 years.

Even more alarming for New Delhi was the release of Beijing and Moscow’s historic joint manifesto. Announced on February 4, following a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the 5,000-plus word document heralded an era of newly deep Chinese-Russian relations. For India, this partnership could not come at a worse time. In June 2020, Beijing and New Delhi came to blows after China spent months deliberately building up its forces at several points along the Line of Actual Control that divides the two nations. The resulting fight killed 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops—the first deaths along the disputed border since 1975.

Following the clash, New Delhi turned to Moscow for diplomatic assistance, hoping that Russia could defuse tensions and prevent an all-out conflict. Indian officials calculated that Russia had more influence and leverage with Beijing than did any other country, and that it might therefore be able to get China to step back. And Moscow did host a virtual Russia-China-India trilateral meeting of foreign ministers shortly after the fight.

Moscow has long offered support to India, and New Delhi is reticent to antagonize a friend.

But ultimately it was Washington that backed India with robust material and moral support in its time of crisis. It publicly vowed to stand with India in the country’s efforts to protect its territorial sovereignty, and it expedited the leasing of two MQ-9B surveillance drones. It gave winter military gear to Indian troops. Most important, Washington enhanced information and intelligence sharing with New Delhi. This marked a turning point in Indian-U.S. relations. Before the clash, Indian policymakers had actively debated whether India could count on the United States for support in a conflict with China. Washington’s response made it clear that the answer is yes.

In the years since, ties between the two countries have only grown stronger. The U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, released in mid-February, made clear that India plays a critical role in Washington’s efforts to compete with Beijing. The Biden administration further affirmed U.S.-Indian ties in April by hosting a 2+2 dialogue between the U.S. secretary of state, the U.S. secretary of defense, and their Indian counterparts. It added a virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the last minute, further signaling the importance of U.S.-Indian relations.

The United States’ allies have largely followed its lead. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a visit to India in April to advance negotiations on a British-Indian trade deal and to streamline licensing for British military exports. Three days later, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited New Delhi, where she and Modi agreed to establish a joint trade and technology council and to resume negotiations on an EU-Indian free trade agreement.

Washington should not pressure India to criticize Russia.

These steps have all signaled to India that it is welcome to partner with the West. But if the United States wants to move New Delhi further into its camp and away from Moscow’s, it should take additional measures. Washington could give New Delhi even more access to sensitive U.S. technologies that would enhance Indian defense capabilities. It could also provide incentives to U.S. private companies to co-develop and co-produce additional high-tech military equipment in India. It might make its military gear more affordable for India. Recent media reports indicate Washington may be getting ready to take a step in this direction by providing a $500 million Foreign Military Financing package to incentivize India to purchase U.S. weapons. (Given India’s robust defense requirements, however, this is still a small amount.)

What Washington should not do is pressure India to criticize Russia. New Delhi strongly values having an independent foreign policy, and so it would bristle at being told how to act. But U.S. officials can be clear that they will offer India more help, more quickly, if the country reduces its reliance on Russian military systems.

The United States can also help woo India by encouraging the Quad to cooperate on Ukraine in policy domains where all members can agree. During the 2+2 talks, for example, Indian and U.S. officials discussed how to deal with global fuel and food shortages stemming from the war. Biden, Modi, and the Quad’s other two leaders (the prime ministers of Australia and Japan) should also discuss these brewing crises. Talking about such issues will be productive—every member of the Quad has a strong incentive in stopping famines—while avoiding excoriations of India for its neutral position on the war. India wants to be engaged, not shamed, and so this lighter approach is Washington’s best bet for bringing India’s response to the war in Ukraine into alignment with its own.

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

For India, closely embracing the West may be discomforting. New Delhi has a proud tradition of strategic autonomy, and it prefers a multipolar world in which it does not have to choose between major geopolitical blocs. Beijing knows this and has been happy to play into India’s concerns. It relishes the current situation in no small part because it views the conflict as an opportunity to woo India with promises of a multipolar world while at the same time driving a wedge between New Delhi and Washington.

But India should recognize that it would be a loser in such a system. China and Russia’s version of multipolarity would make it easier for authoritarian powers with revisionist goals to redraw borders, as China hopes to do in the Himalayas. Beijing and Moscow’s manifesto should underscore these risks. As part of the document, both states criticized the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy—which promises stronger cooperation with India.

But the best way for the country to protect itself is to not play into China’s and Russia’s hands. It is, instead, to exude strength—including by speaking out against Russian aggression, rather than being cowed by Moscow. And that means New Delhi should deepen its partnership with the United States, the country best positioned to help India achieve its great-power ambitions.

Fighting Inflation Excuse For Class Warfare

A class war is being waged in the name of fighting inflation. All too many central bankers are raising interest rates at the expense of working people’s families, supposedly to check price increases.

Forced to cope with rising credit costs, people are spending less, thus slowing the economy. But it does not have to be so. There are much less onerous alternative approaches to tackle inflation and other contemporary economic ills.

Short-term pain for long-term gain?
Central bankers are agreed inflation is now their biggest challenge, but also admit having no control over factors underlying the current inflationary surge. Many are increasingly alarmed by a possible “double-whammy” of inflation and recession.

Nonetheless, they defend raising interest rates as necessary “preemptive strikes”. These supposedly prevent “second-round effects” of workers demanding more wages to cope with rising living costs, triggering “wage-price spirals”.

In central bank jargon, such “forward-looking” measures convey clear messages “anchoring inflationary expectations”, thus enhancing central bank “credibility” in fighting inflation.

They insist the resulting job and output losses are only short-term – temporary sacrifices for long-term prosperity. Remember: central bankers are never punished for causing recessions, no matter how deep, protracted or painful.

But raising interest rates only makes recessions worse, especially when not caused by surging demand. The latest inflationary surge is clearly due to supply disruptions because of the pandemic, war and sanctions.

Raising interest rates only reduces spending and economic activity without mitigating ‘imported’ inflation, e.g., rising food and fuel prices. Recessions will further disrupt supplies, aggravating inflation and worsening stagflation.

Wage-price spirals?
Some central bankers claim recent instances of wage increases signal “de-anchored” inflationary expectations, and threaten ‘wage-price spirals’. But this paranoia ignores changed industrial relations and pandemic effects on workers.

With real wages stagnant for decades, the ‘wage-price spiral’ threat is grossly exaggerated. Over recent decades, most workers have lost bargaining power with deregulation, outsourcing, globalization and labour-saving technologies. Hence, labour shares of national income have declined in most countries since the 1980s.

Labour market recovery, even tightening in some sectors, obscures adverse overall pandemic impacts on workers. Meanwhile, millions of workers have gone into informal self-employment – now celebrated as ‘gig work’ – increasing their vulnerability.

Pandemic infections, deaths, mental health, education and other impacts, including migrant worker restrictions, have all hurt many. Contagion has especially hurt vulnerable workers, including youth, migrants and women.

Workers’ share of national income, 1970-2015

Ideological central bankers
Economic policies by supposedly independent and knowledgeable technocrats are presumed to be better. But such naïve faith ignores ostensibly academic, ideological beliefs.

Typically biased, albeit in unstated ways, policy choices inevitably support some interests over – even against – others. Thus, for example, an anti-inflation policy emphasis favours financial asset owners.

Politicians like the notion of central bank independence. It enables them to conveniently blame central banks for inflation and other ills – even “sleeping at the wheel” – and for unpopular policy responses.

Of course, central bankers deny their own role and responsibility, instead blaming other economic policies, especially fiscal measures. But politicians blaming central bankers after empowering them is simply shirking responsibility.

In the rich West, governments long bent on fiscal austerity left the heavy lifting for recovery after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis (GFC) to central bankers. Their ‘unconventional monetary policies’ involved keeping policy interest rates very low, enabling corporate shenanigans and zombie business longevity.

This enabled unprecedented increases in most debt, including private credit for speculation and sustaining ‘zombie’ businesses. Hence, recent monetary tightening – including raising interest rates – will trigger more insolvencies and recessions.

German social market economy
Inflation and policy responses inevitably involve social conflicts over economic distribution. In Germany’s ‘free collective bargaining’, trade unions and business associations engage in collective bargaining without state interference, fostering cooperative relations between workers and employers.

The German Collective Bargaining Act does not oblige ‘social partners’ to enter into negotiations. The timing and frequency of such negotiations are also left to them. Such flexible arrangements are said to have helped SMEs.

Although Germany’s ‘social market economy’ has no national tripartite social dialogue institution, labour unions, business associations and government did not hesitate to democratically debate crisis measures and policy responses to stabilize the economy and safeguard employment, e.g., during the GFC.

Dialogue down under
A similar ‘social dialogue’ approach was developed by Australian Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke from 1983. This contrasted with the more confrontational approaches pursued in Margaret Thatcher’s UK and Ronald Reagan’s USA – where punishing interest rates inflicted long recessions.

Although Hawke had been a successful trade union leader, he began by convening a national summit of workers, businesses and other stakeholders. The resulting Prices and Incomes Accord between the government and unions moderated wage demands in return for ‘social wage’ improvements.

This consisted of better public health provisioning, pension and unemployment benefit improvements, tax cuts and ‘superannuation’ – involving required employees’ income shares and matching employer contributions to a workers’ retirement fund.

Although business groups were not formally party to the Accord, Hawke brought big businesses into other new initiatives such as the Economic Planning Advisory Council. This consensual approach helped reduce both unemployment and inflation.

Such consultations have also enabled difficult reforms – including floating exchange rates and reducing import tariffs. They also contributed to the developed world’s longest uninterrupted economic growth streak – without a recession for nearly three decades, ending in 2020 with the pandemic.

Social partnerships
A variety of such approaches exist. For example, Norway’s kombiniert oppgjior, from 1976, involved not only industrial wages, but also taxes, salaries, pensions, food prices, child support payments, farm support prices, and more.

‘Social partnerships’ have also been important in Austria and Sweden. A series of political understandings – or ‘bargains’ – between successive governments and major interest groups enabled national wage agreements from 1952 until the mid-1970s.

Consensual approaches undoubtedly underpinned post-Second World War reconstruction and progress, of the so-called Keynesian ‘Golden Age’. But it is also claimed they have created rigidities inimical to further progress, especially with rapid technological change.

Economic liberalization in response has involved deregulation to achieve more market flexibilities. But this approach has also produced more economic insecurity, inequalities and crises, besides stagnating productivity.

Such changes have also undermined democratic states, and enabled more authoritarian, even ethno-populist regimes. Meanwhile, rising inequalities and more frequent recessions have strained social trust, jeopardizing security and progress.

Policymakers should consult all major stakeholders to develop appropriate policies involving fair burden sharing. The real need then is to design alternative policy tools through social dialogue and complementary arrangements to address economic challenges in more equitably cooperative ways.

The Hinduization Of India Is Nearly Complete

When the british withdrew from the Indian subcontinent in 1947, paving the way for the independence of the newly partitioned nations of India and Pakistan, the Muslims of the region had a choice. They could resettle in Pakistan, where they would be among a Muslim majority, or remain in India, where they would live as a minority in a majority-Hindu but constitutionally secular state.

 

For Shah Alam Khan, whose great-grandparents were among the roughly 35 million Muslims who opted to live on the Indian side of the Radcliffe Line in the aftermath of Partition, his family’s decision was in many ways a political gamble. “They didn’t want to go to a theocratic state,” Khan told me from his home in Delhi. Indeed, when Pakistan finally adopted a constitution, nine years after Partition, it enshrined Islam as the state religion. For his family, the promise of a pluralist India, as envisaged by the country’s founders, trumped the warnings of the pro-Partition Muslim League (which went on to become the party of Pakistan’s founders) that a Muslim minority would inevitably be subordinate to the Hindu majority.

 

Seventy-five years later, those warnings have gained a new prescience. Nominally, India remains a secular state and a multifaith democracy. Religious minorities account for roughly 20 percent of the country’s 1.4 billion people, who include about 200 million Muslims and 28 million Christians. But beneath the country’s ostensible inclusivity runs an undercurrent of Hindu nationalism that has gained strength during the eight-year rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The concern shared by many among the country’s religious minorities, as well as by more secular-minded liberals within the Hindu majority, is that the country’s secular and inclusive ethos is already beyond repair.

 

Muslims and Christians alike have faced a surge in communal violence in recent years. A raft of new laws has reached into their daily lives to interfere with the religious garments they wear, the food they eat, where and how they worship, and even whom they marry. Many of the Indian journalists, lawyers, activists, and religious leaders I’ve spoken with for this article say that the institutions on which the country once relied to keep this kind of ethnic supremacism in check—the courts, opposition parties, and independent media—have buckled.

 

To Khan, it feels as though the India he has inherited is gradually becoming another version of the theocratic state his family turned away from all those years ago. “They were promised a secular nation,” he said. For them, and for the country’s religious minorities today, “the unmaking of secular India is a betrayal.”

 

This ideal of a pluralist, secular India is popular not only among its religious minorities. A 2021 study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that by a wide margin, Indians of all faiths consider religious tolerance an essential part of what it means to be “truly Indian.” This civic value is as old as the country itself: Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, rejected any concept of the nation as Hinduism’s answer to Pakistan. His India would not be “formally entitled to any religion as a nation,” he said, but a placewhere all faiths could coexist and be celebrated equally.

 

That founding ideology, however, has long been disputed by Hindu nationalists. “To be a Hindu means a person who sees this land, from the Indus River to the sea, as his country but also as his Holy Land,” wrote the politician and activist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his 1923 book, Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu? (Hindutva, meaning “Hindu-ness,” has become shorthand for Hindu nationalism itself.) In Savarkar’s view, only those who regard India as both their country and their sacred Hindu homeland could be truly Indian. While Christians and Muslims could fulfill the first requirement, of patriotism, they would never be able to achieve the second. “Their holyland is far off in Arabia or Palestine,” Savarkar wrote. “Consequently their names and their outlook smack of a foreign origin. Their love is divided.”

 

Modi’s own Hindutva credentials run deep. Before he went into mainstream politics with the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, he cut his teeth as a member of its allied paramilitary organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS. After his landslide reelection victory in May 2019, one of the first things he did with his new mandate, in August of that year, was to fulfill a long-standing demand of the RSS by revoking the special autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s sole Muslim-majority territory (over which Pakistan also claims sovereignty).

 

That same month, the northeastern BJP-led state of Assam published a national registry that left nearly 2 million people, many of them Muslim, off the list, casting their Indian citizenship into doubt. Perhaps the most contentious decision came at the end of the year, when Modi’s government pressed through a new law granting non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan the right to seek fast-tracked citizenship in India. Critics likened the move to a religious test for citizenship, and warned that it would open the door to additional forms of legal discrimination against Muslims.

 

These events loom large in Indian politics, but when I spoke with members of India’s Muslim and Christian communities about how life in India has changed under Modi’s rule, they rarely came up. People attested instead to the smaller, often more insidious ways in which the experience of India’s religious minorities has been altered.

 

To belong to a religious minority in India today is to feel “there is no future,” an Indian Muslim from Kashmir, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government retaliation, told me. That sentiment is echoed by Ajit Sahi, a former journalist who left India for the United States days after Modi’s reelection. “I have friends who are desperate to get out,” Sahi, a secular-inclined Hindu who now serves as the advocacy director of the Indian American Muslim Council in Washington, D.C., told me. “There is no future for somebody like me back in India.” Nandita Suneja, who moved from her native Delhi to Australia in 2019, told me that the communal tensions made her Hindu family’s decision to leave much easier. She didn’t want to raise her daughter in an “atmosphere of stifling freedom and hate.”

 

For Indian Muslims, in particular, the situation is dire. During the recently passed holy month of Ramadan, they saw their houses and shops bulldozed, their businesses boycotted, and their religious gatherings heckled by Hindu-nationalist mobs. Open calls for genocide against Muslims have become commonplace, as have violent clashes and lynchings. Although the authorities generally avoid the appearance of explicitly endorsing these kinds of actions, they rarely go out of their way to condemn them. A recent open letter signed by more than 100 former civil servants accused the Indian government of being “fully complicit” in the subordination of the country’s religious minorities as well as in the undermining of the country’s constitution.

 

Shah Alam Khan, who teaches orthopedic medicine at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences, considers himself relatively privileged compared with most Indian Muslims, who tend to be among the country’s poorer and more marginalized citizens. But even for him, he says, the country’s majoritarian turn has forced a change in his quotidian habits. He thinks twice before using the greeting Assalamualaikum, or using any other obviously Islamic phrase, in a crowded public space. Asked for his name, he typically offers only Shah, because it’s more common and less identifiably Muslim than his surname.

 

This type of self-surveillance has affected other members of his family. “Whenever I used to go meet my mom, she used to give me food,” Khan said. “But ever since [Modi] came to power, she stopped giving me that food, because a large part of that food used to be meat.” Cows are considered sacred to the Hindu faith, and their slaughter has been proscribed in most states—a rule often enforced by vigilante mobs. If Khan were stopped by a hostile crowd on suspicion of carrying beef, his mother feared, he could be arrested, even lynched.

 

Akif—who asked to be identified by only his first name for fear of persecution—grew up in what he describes as comfortable circumstances in Aligarh, southwest of Delhi. But that comfort has slipped in recent years. He won’t leave home wearing traditional Islamic attire if he is going to an unfamiliar neighborhood. His wife, who works in academia, has been asked by colleagues about why she wears a hijab, the Muslim headscarf, and why she doesn’t work at an Islamic institution. Some of the most incendiary comments, Akif says, have come from people he considered friends.

 

These restrictions, compounded by public debates at the local, state, and even national levels over whether Muslim students should be allowed to wear headscarves in school or how loudly mosques should broadcast the call to prayer (known as the azaan), have left many Indian Muslims feeling unwelcome in their own country. “Initially, they came for our dietary habits, now the azaan,” Rana Ayyub, an Indian Muslim journalist and author, told me. “Every day you wake up and it’s like, ‘Okay, what part of our identity are you going to attack today?’”

 

Indian Christians face similar hostility. Attacks on Christians have been rising steadily since 2014, and 2021 was the most violent year on record for the community: The United Christian Forum, an ecumenical organization based in Delhi, reported a tally of more than 500 violent incidents—an 80 percent increase over the previous year. A human-rights lawyer who works on minority-rights and religious-freedom cases, who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly about their work, told me that most of these incidents originate with Hindu-nationalist mobs, which descend on religious gatherings at churches and in homes to accuse those involved of forcing Christianity upon unsuspecting Hindus, in violation of the country’s anti-conversion laws. In the violence that ensues, pastors have been beaten, churches vandalized, and religious schools attacked.

 

In many cases, rather than intervene to maintain public order, police officers join the mobs, ready to arrest the suspected Christian proselytizers. In one incident, on April 14, dozens of worshippers were gathered at a church in the state of Uttar Pradesh to observe Maundy Thursday when a mob showed up with police. “Everyone was arrested,” the lawyer told me. “‘Who are you converting? Everyone is detained.’ It was a little bizarre.” That case is still pending.

 

Hindu-nationalist groups and BJP lawmakers claim that forced conversions are rampant in the country. But there is little evidence for this. None of the arrests have yet resulted in a single conviction, A. C. Michael, a former member of the Delhi Minorities Commission and the national coordinator of the United Christian Forum, told me. But if the real purpose of the harassment is to intimidate members of a religious minority, it has already had its desired effect. “Earlier, we were very proud to display our faith, like wearing a cross or, if we were traveling, we would say our prayers aloud,” Michael said. “All that has now stopped.”

 

This is so far from the India that Nehru’s vision promised that Muslims and Christians now have little expectation that the state will protect not just their rights but their very lives. “The year I left India, in 2015, there were several attacks on churches in Delhi,” Dominic Emmanuel, a former spokesperson of the Delhi Catholic Church who is now based in Vienna, Austria, told me. When he and his fellow congregants staged a protest against attacks within their church compound, they were arrested.

 

Modi’s ruling bjp has no incentive to change course. In March, the party won a resounding victory when it held on to power in Uttar Pradesh, where the government is now led by Yogi Adityanath, a hard-line nationalist and former monk widely seen as Modi’s likely successor. The main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, was once the standard-bearer of secularism in India, but it has failed to mount a strong defense of the country’s religious minorities. Analysts I spoke with attribute part of that failure to the opposition’s fears of alienating a Hindu majority that has been swayed by Hindutva ideology.

 

If the political system is no longer a check on majoritarian rule, neither is the legal system. Just as the authorities fail to protect minorities from communal violence—or even participate in the violence themselves—the legal system fails to hold officials to account. Worse, a series of draconian and discriminatory laws have recruited both police and courts to efforts to silence government critics and advocates for India’s religious minorities. (The Indian government did not respond to requests for comment.)

 

At grave personal risk, several Indian journalists have shed unflattering light on Modi’s majoritarian rule. Some have been jailed for their reporting. One is Siddique Kappan, who was charged with sedition and conspiracy to incite violence for trying to report on the gang rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman. (Dalits, pejoratively known as the “untouchables,” are at the bottom of India’s caste system.) Others, like Ayyub, have been hit with spurious fraud and money-laundering charges; their cases are laborious and expensive to defend. The BJP-controlled state does not need to worry about time or money, so the process is the punishment.

 

“There is no one left,” Ayyub said, noting that as the country’s high-profile figures in politics, law, and the media have been largely silenced, so, too, have celebrities in India’s entertainment industry. The most prominent example is Shah Rukh Khan, one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, as well as one of the country’s most influential Muslim figures, whose films portray India’s pluralism at its best. Last year, the actor’s son was embroiled in allegations of drug use—a charge seen by some as part of a broader effort by the government to crack down on its critics in the film industry, as well as an attempt to discredit Khan personally.

Khan not only embodies that anathema to the BJP of being a Muslim married to a Hindu, but he has also spoken out against religious intolerance in the country. By attacking a personality like Khan, Ayyub said, the government’s message was clear: “If it can happen to Shah Rukh Khan, the biggest superstar,” she said, “imagine what happens to a regular Muslim without the access.”

  

That Modi feels emboldened enough to take on a movie star like Khan is telling. Modi “is popular because of the fact that he’s a bigot,” Aakar Patel, the chair of Amnesty International’s India Board and the author of The Price of the Modi Years, told me. “He is seen as somebody who has put Muslims in their place.” Despite rising inflation and high unemployment, as well as the government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and democratic backsliding, the prime minister still enjoys widespread popularity with his own BJP-supporting constituency. For most Indians, he is an Indian success story.

 

“Modi has been a real son of the soil for young Indians and they see themselves in him,” Vivan Marwaha, a researcher in emerging markets and the author of What Millennials Want, told me. If the son of a tea seller can become prime minister and command an international stage, the logic goes, so could they. “His appeal is in his personality,” Marwaha added. “Foreign leaders have to listen to him speaking in Hindi. He sells out stadiums in New York, London, and Sydney.”

 

Many Hindu Indians also appear comfortable with Modi’s ethnonationalist aims, despite the outbreaks of communal violence. “The whole religious agenda is not seen as something radical because, at the end of the day, something like 80 percent of India’s population is Hindu,” Marwaha said. “People just believe, ‘Well, why can’t they just live with our rules? Why can’t they not eat beef? Why does the azaan need to be played in public places?’ Things like that.”

 

If no check to the Hinduization of state and society comes from within India, then what about from without? So far, India’s international allies have shown little inclination to call Delhi out over the treatment of its religious minorities, largely because they see India as too important a partner to alienate. This is especially true of the Biden administration, which counts its relationship with India as a strategic asset in its Indo-Pacific strategy.

 

When Washington has voiced concern about the treatment of religious minorities in India, it has done so in private. That could be starting to change. In April, at a joint press conference with the Indian foreign and defense ministers, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that the United States is monitoring the rise of human-rights abuses in the country. That same month, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal body created by Congress in 1998, designated India as a country of “particular concern” for the third year in a row in its annual religious-freedom report, placing India alongside countries such as Afghanistan, China, Iran, Russia, and Pakistan. In India’s case, the commission recommended imposing targeted sanctions against those responsible for severe religious-freedom violations.

 

Although the commission has no power to enforce such measures, its condemnations may have some cumulative effect. “When your own agency is recommending a policy move for three years in a row, it becomes harder to ignore with each passing year,” Pranay Somayajula, an advocacy and outreach coordinator at Hindus for Human Rights, a group based in Washington, D.C., told me.

As menacing as the persecution of religious minorities has become, for most Indians, emigrating is not an option. Only about 5 percent of citizens have a passport, and those who leave the country tend to be among the wealthiest. “If we decide to abandon the ship, what will happen to people who do not have the resources to go out? That is a very big concern,” Akif told me. As the last of his siblings still living in India, he can’t bring himself to leave his parents behind.

 

For Shah Alam Khan, remaining is a point of principle too. Because he spent several years working as a doctor for the National Health Service in Britain, he could emigrate there. But doing so would hand the nationalists who don’t see him as a true Indian a win. “It’s like running away. I won’t do that,” he said. “This is my country at the end of the day.” (Yasmeen Serhan is a staff writer at The Atlantic.

Rise of the Super Rich & Fall of the World’s Poor

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term Mayor of New York city and a billionaire philanthropist, was once quoted as saying that by the time he dies, he would have given away all his wealth to charity – so that his cheque to the funeral undertaker will bounce for lack of funds in his bank account.

Sounds altruistic – even as the number of billionaires keep rising while the poorest of the world’s poor keep multiplying.

The latest brief by Oxfam International, titled “Profiting from Pain” and released May 23, shows that 573 people became new billionaires during the two-and-a half-year Covid 19 pandemic —while the world’s poverty stricken continued to increase.

“We expect this year that 263 million more people will crash into extreme poverty, at a rate of a million people every 33 hours,” Oxfam said.

Billionaires’ wealth has risen more in the first 24 months of COVID-19 than in 23 years combined. The total wealth of the world’s billionaires is now equivalent to 13.9 percent of global GDP. This is a three-fold increase (up from 4.4 percent) in 2000, according to the study.

Asked about the philanthropic gestures, Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International, told IPS wealthy individuals who use their money to help others should be congratulated.

“But charitable giving is no substitute for wealthy people and companies paying their fair share of tax or ensuring their workers are paid a decent wage. And it does not justify them using their power and connections to lobby for unfair advantages over others,” she declared.

Oxfam’s new research also reveals that corporations in the energy, food and pharmaceutical sectors —where monopolies are especially common— are posting record-high profits, even as wages have barely budged and workers struggle with decades-high prices amid COVID-19.

The fortunes of food and energy billionaires have risen by $453 billion in the last two years, equivalent to $1 billion every two days, says Oxfam.

Five of the largest energy companies (BP, Shell, Total Energies, Exxon and Chevron) are together making $2,600 profit every second, and there are now 62 new food billionaires.

Currently, the world’s total population is around 7.8 billion, and according to the UN, more than 736 million people live below the international poverty line.

A World Bank report last year said extreme poverty is set to rise, for the first time in more than two decades, and the impact of the spreading virus is expected to push up to 115 million more people into poverty, while the pandemic is compounding the forces of conflict and climate change, that has already been slowing poverty reduction.

By 2021, as many as 150 million more people could be living in extreme poverty.

Yasmeen Hassan, Global Executive Director at Equality Now, told IPS Oxfam’s report demonstrates systemic failings in the discriminatory nature of countries’ economies and underscores the urgent need for financial systems to be restructured so that they benefit the 99%, not the 1%.

“As with any crisis, Equality Now foresaw that gender would influence how individuals and communities experienced the pandemic, but even we were shocked at how exceptionally and intensely pre-existing inequalities and sex-based discrimination has been exacerbated”, she said.

While billionaires — the vast majority of whom are men — continue to amass vast sums of wealth, women around the world remain trapped in poverty. Wealthy elites are profiting off women’s labor, much of which is underappreciated, underpaid, and uncompensated, she pointed out.

“Economic hardship and inadequate policy responses to the pandemic have eroded many of the hard-won gains that have been achieved over recent years for women and girls. From increases in child marriage, sexual exploitation and human trafficking, to landlords demanding sex from female tenants who have lost their job, and domestic workers trapped inside with abusive employers, women and girls around the world have borne the brunt of the pandemic,” Hassan declared.

The Oxfam study has been released to coincide with the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting—which includes the presence of the rich and the superrich—taking place in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland from 22-26 May. The meeting, whose theme is ‘Working Together, Restoring Trust’, will be the first global in-person leadership event since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020

“Billionaires are arriving in Davos to celebrate an incredible surge in their fortunes. The pandemic, and now the steep increases in food and energy prices have, simply put, been a bonanza for them. Meanwhile, decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive,” said Oxfam’s Bucher.

She said billionaires’ fortunes have not increased because they are now smarter or working harder. But it is really the workers who are working harder, for less pay and in worse conditions.

The super-rich, she argued, have rigged the system with impunity for decades and they are now reaping the benefits. They have seized a shocking amount of the world’s wealth as a result of privatization and monopolies, gutting regulation and workers’ rights while stashing their cash in tax havens — all with the complicity of governments.”

“Meanwhile, millions of others are skipping meals, turning off the heating, falling behind on bills and wondering what they can possibly do next to survive. Across East Africa, one person is likely dying every minute from hunger. This grotesque inequality is breaking the bonds that hold us together as humanity. It is divisive, corrosive and dangerous. This is inequality that literally kills.”

Elaborating further, Hassan of Equality Now said women are more likely to be informally employed, low-wage earners, and this disadvantaged position has resulted in higher rates of women losing their jobs, particularly in sectors that were not prioritized in government relief packages.

“Women are also more likely to be primary caretaker and many have had to absorb increases in unpaid duties while schools and nurseries shut down. As a consequence, some women have been forced out of jobs as they found it impossible to juggle full-time work while also providing full-time childcare. This loss of income has been especially catastrophic for women in poverty and has made them more vulnerable to a range of human rights violations.”

She said world leaders must stop pursuing policy agendas that benefit the rich and hurt the poor.

“Instead, we urgently need a committed and coordinated response from governments and policymakers to reduce inequality and poverty, and address discrimination that is holding women and girls back while allowing the super-rich to get richer still,” she added.

The Oxfam study also says the pandemic has created 40 new pharma billionaires.

Pharmaceutical corporations like Moderna and Pfizer are making $1,000 profit every second just from their monopoly control of the COVID-19 vaccine, despite its development having been supported by billions of dollars in public investments.

“They are charging governments up to 24 times more than the potential cost of generic production. 87 percent of people in low-income countries have still not been fully vaccinated.”

“The extremely rich and powerful are profiting from pain and suffering. This is unconscionable. Some have grown rich by denying billions of people access to vaccines, others by exploiting rising food and energy prices. They are paying out massive bonuses and dividends while paying as little tax as possible. This rising wealth and rising poverty are two sides of the same coin, proof that our economic system is functioning exactly how the rich and powerful designed it to do,” said Bucher.

Oxfam recommends that governments urgently:

–·Introduce one-off solidarity taxes on billionaires’ pandemic windfalls to fund support for people facing rising food and energy costs and a fair and sustainable recovery from COVID-19. Argentina adopted a one-off special levy dubbed the ‘millionaire’s tax’ and is now considering introducing a windfall tax on energy profits as well as a tax on undeclared assets held overseas to repay IMF debt. The super-rich have stashed nearly $8 trillion in tax havens.

  • — End crisis profiteering by introducing a temporary excess profit tax of 90 percent to capture the windfall profits of big corporations across all industries. Oxfam estimated that such a tax on just 32 super-profitable multinational companies could have generated $104 billion in revenue in 2020.

— Introduce permanent wealth taxes to rein in extreme wealth and monopoly power, as well as the outsized carbon emissions of the super-rich. An annual wealth tax on millionaires starting at just 2 percent, and 5 percent on billionaires, could generate $2.52 trillion a year —enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough vaccines for the world, and deliver universal healthcare and social protection for everyone living in low- and lower middle-income countries.

India’s Attempt To Marry Biometric And Voter ID Databases

Over the past decade, the Indian government has assembled a sprawling biometric database designed to improve the delivery of social services to the country’s more than 1 billion citizens. The Aadhaar database is one of the world’s largest biometric identity programs and has been credited with making it easier for Indians to access subsidies and pension payments. Using fingerprints and iris scans, Aadhaar has made it possible for the government to verify the identity of the country’s residents with relative ease. Now, the Election Commission of India wants to link their voter registration database with Aadhaar, a move that would have profound consequences not only for the privacy of Indian citizens but for the future of biometric databases worldwide.

As it stands, the Election Commission of India (EC) stores its voter registration information in its own database and has its own verification tools. However, the Election Commission of India believes Aadhaar can offer increased protections against fraud and registration errors. In August, the Government of India, on behalf of the EC, approached the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the body that administers Aadhaar, with a proposal to integrate the two databases. In December 2021, the Lok Sabha passed the Election Laws Amendment Bill, which creates a legal framework for integrating the two systems. Opposition groups argue that the bill will face serious legal hurdles.

The Aadhaar-EPIC controversy illustrates the serious problems that can arise when large biometric identity databases are expanded beyond their remit. Far from making India’s elections more secure, the marriage of the two systems could lead to disenfranchisement and increased voter microtargeting. With countries around the world launching or already administering biometric databases, India’s efforts to marry its biometric identification system to its voter registration database will provide an important precedent for how governments deploy such systems. India’s experience with biometric identification systems should be a lesson for policymakers overseeing similar efforts about the importance of investing in the security of the information ecosystem in which biometric and voting data is housed, how access to this data is regulated and monitored, and how the technology is actually deployed in voter registration and identification.

A global democratic leader

As the world’s largest democracy and an exporter of voting technology, India’s approach to electoral management is likely to influence how other countries run their elections. It was a mere decade ago that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described India’s election commission as the “the global gold standard for running elections” and observed that the commission “is already sharing best practices with counterparts in other countries, including Egypt and Iraq.” Today, India is an exporter of technology used to administer elections, and decisions made in India regarding the administration of domestic elections are likely to influence its peers.

The Aadhaar-EPIC controversy touches on two issues of concern to policymakers and scholars interested in the ways that biometric technologies are being integrated into electoral processes and democratic governance more broadly. The first is the global spread of biometric identity databases. According to the World Privacy Forum, 160 countries collect biometric data for national ID systems. Even when these systems work as intended, critics argue that they become tools of state surveillance creating “risks to privacy and anonymity” and conditioning “citizens into participating in their own surveillance and social control.” And these systems often do not work as intended. Their data ecosystems are often insecure and unregulated, consisting of multiple private and public actors, networks, and databases. This creates opportunities for private actors to access personal data, making them an attractive target for malicious hackers. They can also be exclusionary, placing undue burdens on rural and urban poor to take time off work, travel, and produce papers in order to get IDs. When biometric indicators change, a person’s identity could effectively be lost.

The second issue is the integration of biometrics into voter registration and identification systems. According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 50 of the 176 democracies in their database use some form of biometrics to verify the identity of voters. The reasons for using biometrics are straightforward. Ideally, they curb fraud, eliminate multiple registrations, and make elections more secure and efficient. In practice, however, the utility of these systems depends on the context in which they are deployed, such as the independence of a given country’s electoral management body, poll policy and training, civic education and voter confidence, and overall cost. Moreover, election management bodies often do not have the expertise or resources to design and implement their own biometric systems and are thus reliant on private actors to install and manage these systems. These private actors further complicate the information ecosystem in which personal data circulates.

The EC argues that integrating Aadhaar and EPIC is important for two main reasons. First, it will eliminate fraudulent and duplicate registrations, which can bog down electoral administration, slow voting times, and in some cases affect electoral outcomes. Second, it will make it easier for migrant laborers to vote as it would allow them to walk into any polling station, have their identity verified, and then cast a ballot in their home election.

Critics of the move contend that the union of the two systems poses major risks. Civil society actors and journalists have argued that not only is the move unnecessary, but that it could also threaten voter privacy and lead to mass disenfranchisement and fraud. Most recently, a group of 500 prominent citizens and 23 civil society organizations signed a statement decrying the EC’s proposal, calling it “a dangerous idea which can fundamentally alter the structure of our democracy.”

The Aadhaar ecosystem

Launched in 2010 by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Aadhaar was initially designed as a voluntary system for verifying the identities of Indian residents. Explicitly not a citizenship card, Aadhaar aimed to ease access to welfare services such as pension systems, cooking gas subsidies, and income taxes by providing people a simple mechanism for confirming their identity. Enrollees receive a unique 12-digit ID number in exchange for some simple demographic information and two forms of biometric identification: a fingerprint and an iris scan.

But Aadhaar quickly expanded past its initial remit and became a quasi-mandatory form of identity for accessing social services. Aadhaar’s rapid and largely unregulated expansion has resulted in data leaks, an inability to access government services, and degraded biometrics and loss of identity. Aadhaar’s rapid expansion spurred a series of legal challenges that were resolved in 2018, when India’s Supreme Court validated Aadhaar’s constitutionality but limited its use to certain kinds of welfare programs. Critics of Aadhaar continue to attack the system’s security and data gathering procedures and argue that Aadhaar is a tool of state surveillance that makes it harder for the poor to receive benefits. (For an in-depth history of the Aadhaar controversy see here.)

Researchers have identified myriad issues with Aadhaar but two are particularly relevant to its integration with EPIC. The first is the lack of data standards in Aadhaar’s enrollment process. This process usually involves three actors: the UIDAI, registrars, and enrollment agencies (EA). First, the UIDAI signs a memoranda of understanding with a government agency, a public service undertaking (a company that’s ownership is split between the state and private entities), or other organization granting them the authority to enroll people in Aadhaar. Registrars then farm out enrollment to an EA. These agencies use UIDAI-approved software and biometric devices to register people for Aadhaar. While EAs use certified equipment and software, there is no standardized approach to data collection. EAs have significant discretion as to what kinds of documents they can accept to identify someone for Aadhaar enrollment. This creates possibilities for data-entry errors and corruption in the Aadhaar registration system, causing a host of issues that range from failure to receive pension payments and other welfare benefits to identity theft and the public exposure of personal information.

The second relevant issue is a lack of transparency and accountability in how Aadhaar’s data is handled when it is seeded with other databases. In 2017, for example, in a report for the Center for Internet and Society, Amber Sinha and Srinivas Kodali analyzed publicly available datasets from four schemes seeded with Aadhaar. They found 100-135 million Aadhaar numbers and 100 million bank account numbers disclosed across the four schemes. Incidents such as this emphasize that Aadhaar’s insecure ecosystem creates real-world harms for Indian citizens. The original intent behind Aadhaar was to create a simple system for verifying the identity of Indian citizen’s trying to access government services. However, data leaks and inappropriately handled data have led to many accounts of personal information being exposed. A recent audit of the UIDAI by India’s Comptroller and General Auditor (CAG) found that the organization had failed to properly regulate its client vendors and ensure the security of their data vaults. The report also found many instances of duplicate and incomplete registrations. The audit also criticized the UIDAI for failing to ensure the quality of biometrics and making cardholders responsible for fees associated with updating poorly taken biometrics. “The lack of accountability is an inherent feature of the Aadhaar system,” Apar Gupta of the Internet Freedom Foundation, said in reacting to the audit. “The findings of the CAG audit confirm ground level studies of junk enrollments, faulty and low-quality demographic and biometric data.” The insecurity of the Aadhaar system along with the UIDAI’s lack of accountability should make the Election Commission wary of partnering with them.

Aadhaar, the EC, and mass disenfranchisement

Aadhaar’s insecure ecosystem, lack of data standards, and the UIDAI’s lack of transparency and accountability have led researchers like Vibhav Mariwala and Prakhar Misra to argue that the marriage of Aadhaar and EPIC will exacerbate the principal problem it is intended to solve: voter disenfranchisement and registration irregularities. Mariwala and Misra’s concerns stem not just from the extant issues with Aadhaar, but also from the Election Commission’s first attempt to combine the databases. In 2015, the Election Commission launched its first attempt to marry Aadhaar and EPIC—an initiative known as the National Electoral Roll and Purification Program (NERPAP). NERPAP only operated for a few months before being halted by a Supreme Court decision that limited the use of Aadhaar to four specific welfare schemes. In the brief period it was operational, NERPAP linked the registration information of 320 million voters to their Aadhaar number—but also disenfranchised 3 million voters.

In the aftermath of NERPAP, controversy arose over whether or not the EC had actually received consent from voters to link their EPIC data with Aadhaar. At the time, the Election Commission claimed that the only mechanism for linking the two systems was the National Voters Service Portal. When voters logged in, they could voluntarily choose to link their accounts to Aadhaar. Four years later, these claims were challenged when over 3 million voters showed up to cast ballots in the state of Telangana only to find their names deleted from the polls. In the ensuing scandal, multiple right to information requests filed after the election in four states revealed that the EC pursued several tactics to rapidly seed the EPIC database with Aadhaar. According to reports in Scroll.in and The Wire, these tactics included accessing other national databases, enlisting local election officials to gather Aadhaar numbers during registration processes, and using the UIDAI’s DBT Seeding Data Viewer (DSDV) tool, which allowed the EC to search Aadhaar records and view non-biometric Aadhaar data side by side with voter ID information. In each of these cases, consent was sketchy at best and was certainly not attained in the straightforward way that the EC claimed.

The controversy also forced the EC to admit that voter names were deleted during NERPAP in 2015. In this case, the software that was used to link Aadhaar and EPIC deleted supposedly duplicate voters without verifying that they were in fact duplicate registrations. In the ensuing controversy, the EC did not reveal how its software identified duplicate registrations and insisted that despite the mass deletion, this type of de-duplication process needed to be carried out across the country. Critics of the government’s effort to marry Aadhaar and EPIC fear that another such mass deletion could take place if the government is allowed to once more attempt to combine the two databases. While it is difficult to gauge the likelihood of another mass deletion, the Election Commission’s lack of transparency about the first linkage, their continued unwillingness to spell out how EPIC will be connected to Aadhaar certainly raises red flags. These concerns are heightened by the serious security concerns plaguing the Aadhaar ecosystem.

Aadhaar, EPIC, and microtargeting

As it stands, voter data in India is easily available online, but because it isn’t machine readable, it is difficult to microtarget voters. The lack of machine-readable data is exacerbated by the fact many people have the same name, and sometimes those names are spelled differently across different databases. Marrying EPIC and Aadhaar would solve both these problems. As Anuj Srivas writes in The Wire, it would make matching one’s voter information with information in a wide array of other databases easy because Aadhaar allows identification across databases. The marriage of the two databases could thus lead to increased opportunities for microtargeting by the sitting government.

The possibility of microtargeting in India would seriously threaten the secrecy of the ballot. Each polling station in India serves approximately 3000 voters, and polling stations have to be within two kilometers of a voter’s home—making it fairly easy to determine whom a given voter cast their ballot for if microtargeting data is available. Moreover, microtargeting at this level could allow government actors to direct specific policies toward groups of local beneficiaries, as Aadhaar is primarily used to deliver government services. For example, these techniques could potentially allow a ruling party to target welfare schemes and infrastructure projects to specific polling communities. This might sound far-fetched, but in the run-up to the 2019 general election, the ruling BJP openly engaged in poll-based, benefit-focused campaigning. If the BJP were able to further tailor this kind of campaigning to smaller communities, it would allow them to consolidate their base and gain new voters.

Researchers warn that political microtargeting could result in a loss of privacy and exposure to selective information, providing fertile ground for mis- and dis-information to spread and polarization to increase. The fact that voters are typically unaware that they are being targeted undermines their ability to determine which information is relevant to them. Private companies often carry out microtargeting on behalf of political parties, and as digital intermediaries, the companies are not subject to the transparency and accountability mechanisms assigned to traditional political actors. It is important to note, however, that the actual efficacy of political microtargeting is debatable. As Jessica Baldwin-Philippi, the political communications scholar, notes, it is important to separate theoretical concerns about microtargeting from analyses of their actual impact. With that distinction in mind, marrying EPIC with Aadhaar has the potential to facilitate problematic forms of microtargeting. Or as Retired Supreme Court Justice, B.N. Srikrishna provocatively summed up these concerns: “Instead of having a Cambridge Analytica you’ll have a Delhi Analytica, a Mumbai Analytica, a Calcutta Analytica. That is the danger.”

Conclusion

The EPIC-Aadhaar controversy has serious implications for global actors interested in identification technologies, e-governance, and electoral processes. First, it provides additional evidence that national biometric identity databases are at best problematic, especially when they expand far past their initial remit. Second, it adds a list of contextual factors that need to be considered when gauging the utility of using biometrics in electoral processes. These factors include the security of the information ecosystem in which biometric voting data is housed, how access to this data is regulated and monitored, and how the technology is actually deployed in voter registration and identification. Finally, the introduction of biometrics into electoral processes could lead to their integration into the actual voting process. For example, the EC revealed that it was developing blockchain voting technology with the Indian Institutes of Technology in Madras and Chennai for use as early as the 2024 general election. Blockchain voting technology would use biometric data to confirm voter’s identity, meaning that they would need an Aadhaar number to cast their ballot. Using biometric data in this way would heighten concerns about mass disenfranchisement and electoral transparency.

Patrick Jones is a scholar of emerging media and digital technologies and received his PhD from the University of Oregon in 2020.

Jaishankar’s Tough Talk On India’s Foreign Policy Priorities

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has had geopolitical, military, and economic consequences for every nation on earth. The economic consequences is impacting every market and causing disruptions that will take time to recover. More than anything else, the invasion is causing a massive humanitarian crisis. Over two months into the war, with no end to the war in sight, the impact of the war has been felt in every corner of the earth.

As in any war, uncertainty of the outcome of this violent conflict is high. The escalation of conflict has triggered an immediate and steep rise in humanitarian needs as essential supplies and services are disrupted and civilians flee the fighting. The UN estimates that 12 million people inside Ukraine will need relief and protection, while more than 4 million Ukrainian refugees may need protection and assistance in neighboring countries in the coming months.

“I am here to focus on ways on how the UN can expand support for the people of Ukraine, saving lives, reduce suffering and help find the path of peace. I want the Ukrainian people to know that the world sees you, hears you, and is in awe of your resilience and resolve, UN Secretary-General António Guterres in remarks at a press encounter with the President of Ukraine in Kyiv, said on April 28th.

Countries across the globe have reacted to this situation in ways that suit their interests, based on their long standing relationship with Russia and the Western Alliance led by the United States. The message of the United Nations General Assembly is loud and clear:  End hostilities in Ukraine — now. Silence the guns — now. Open the door to dialogue and diplomacy — now.

President Joe Biden has condemned Russia for an “unprovoked and unjustified attack” on Ukraine while promising that his country and its allies “will hold Russia accountable”.

The Group of Seven industrialised nations strongly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said they would bring forward severe and coordinated economic and financial sanctions against Moscow.

“This crisis is a serious threat to the rules-based international order, with ramifications well beyond Europe,” the G7 leaders said in a joint statement, adding Russian President Vladimir Putin had re-introduced war to the European continent.

A majority of the nations at the United Nations were  unanimous in their condemnation of Russia’s unprovoked invasion and the implications of its war crimes on the innocent. However, India, the rising power on world stage, abstained on all the 12 United Nations resolutions condemning the invasion. Its initial statements at the UN Security Council were decidedly mild, while the Indian ambassador did not even mention Russia by name, and avoided criticizing Russia for the invasion. Another major world player, China rejected calling Russia’s moves on Ukraine an “invasion” and urged all sides to exercise restraint.

There has been mounting pressure on India to condemn Russia. The Western nations have implied that there could be consequences for India’s ambivalence. Shortly after the invasion, U.S. President Joe Biden warned, “Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association.” During a virtual meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in early April, Biden pressed India to align itself with the Western nations in condemning Russia. Despite leaders from several Western during their recent visits to New Delhi expressing understanding for the Indian position, India has not heeded to the wishes of the West.

India has been focused on seeking to establish itself as a major player on the world stage, trying to be a moderate voice on international affairs, responding to the new realities of the world, establishing friendship with the US, sometimes in its own terms, less reliant on Russia and diversifying its dependence for military needs and trade with multiple nations.

India’s career diplomat turned politician, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has been talking tough on India’s position on Russia-Ukraine conflict. While responding to questions from world leaders on the crisis Jaishankar pointed to challenges in Asia and India’s neighborhood — in Afghanistan, and from China — and said it was a “wake-up call” for Europe to look at these instances where “problems have been happening”.

For instance, in response to Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi last week, Jaishankar said, “You talked about Ukraine. I remember less than a year ago what happened in Afghanistan, where the entire civil society was thrown under the bus by the world. We in Asia face our own sets of challenges, which often has an impact on the rules-based order.”

“For India, the past week, without a doubt, belonged to external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. It is hard to recall another foreign affairs minister who articulated India’s views so firmly and well in international for a,” Sandipan Deb  wrote in the popular magazine, The Mint.

“In recent weeks, Jaishankar has been sharp in his comments on Europe. In Washington DC, he said India’s total purchase of Russian energy for the month was “less than what Europe does in an afternoon”. Days earlier, speaking on the issue of sanctions as British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss listened, he said “it looks like a campaign,” Deb pointed out.

According to Jaishankar, India is prepared to take a much bigger role in global affairs and would help the world with more supplies of wheat to tame food inflation if WTO rules allow. He asserted the West has been oblivious to the pressing challenges facing Asia including last year’s events in Afghanistan and the continuous pressure on the rules-based order in the region.

However, while refraining from condemning Russia and not offering to mediate in the conflict just as some other neutral nations have done, it has been noted by analysts on foreign policy that  India is abdicating its rising role as a model democracy and world leader.

“Despite the rhetorical care the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has adopted to appear neutral, the time may have come for India, in its own interest, to rethink its stance,” Shashi Tharoor, an opposition member of India’s Parliament, a former Undersecretary General of the United Nations, who has served as Minister of the Government of India and Chair of the Indian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in “Foreign Affairs.”

In recent days, India, still without naming Russia has criticized what is being done in Ukraine, in an effort to uphold the principles of international law India has traditionally upheld, especially, respect for the UN Charter and the sovereignty of states, the inviolability of borders, and opposition to the use of force to resolve political issues.

While pointing to the remarks by diplomat Shivshankar Menon, who stated, “Asia’s sense of its own difference—its focus on stability, trade, and the bottom line that has served Asian countries so well in the last 40 years,” Tharoor rightly says, “But it would be wrong to look at the reluctance to take sides that India and other developing countries in Asia have shown and conclude that a faraway war in Europe simply does not matter to the rest of the world. India’s dilemma is more complicated than its repeated abstentions on the Ukraine question imply, and it illustrates why the world order cannot simply remain what it was before the invasion.”

While describing India’s growing importance on world stage, Tharoor pointed out how in recent years has gained prominence and admiration. Tharoor wrote, India became a founding member of the G-20 when that organization was established in 1999; concluded a nuclear deal with the United States in 2005 that was portrayed as enshrining an “Indian exception”; took over the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2006, dubbing itself “the world’s fastest-growing free market democracy”; won then President Barack Obama’s endorsement of India’s claims to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2010; got the UN to adopt an International Day of Yoga in 2015, showcasing its cultural soft power; and joined the quadrilateral security dialogue with the United States, Australia, and Japan known as the Quad.

With India’s recent stand in failing to condemn and isolate Russia, there are fears that India may face consequences for its ambivalence. Shortly after the invasion, U.S. President Joe Biden warned, “Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association.”

“India’s lack of influence on Russia and failure to take a clear stand on the war have also undermined its case for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council,” Tharoor writes.

One way for India to salvage its reputation in the West would be to leverage its nonaligned position to play peacemaker on Ukraine. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba had asked “India to use all influence in its relations with Russia to force it to cease military aggression against Ukraine.”

I am reminded of what Jaishankar elaborated in what has come to be called the “Jaishankar doctrine” in his 2020 book The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World. “Asserting national interests and securing strategic goals through various means is the dharma of a state,” he wrote. India must discard “political romanticism” and think in realpolitik terms. There are no true friends or allies; the world is a “transactional bazaar”, a fact that India has long been in denial of. In this marketplace, India must advance and maximize its “national interests by identifying and exploiting opportunities created by global contradictions,” he wrote.

If that principle “no true friends or allies” in the world market place, it is time for India to come out of the shadow of past dependence on Soviet Union and show the world that India stands with truth, condemn aggression, deny autocracy and tyranny, respect true freedom, human rights and true democracy, and stand with and lead by example in India and around the world, India respects and appreciates freedom and democracy in letter and spirit.

When The World Is On The Brink, Neroes Of Washington Are Fiddling!

The war between Russia and Ukraine is in its second month, and apparently, there is no end in sight! Where are all the peace seekers and peacekeepers? Why is the Secretary-General of the United Nations not shuttling between Kyiv and Moscow? How come there is little interest in finding a peaceful solution to this crisis? It is quite bizarre to think that after witnessing the destruction, atrocities, and mayhem at the battleground, it is business as usual for the rest of the world!
The Washington elites, led by Neocons, are cheerleading from the sidelines and egging the Ukrainians to continue with the fighting. Yet, they are reluctant to give the Ukrainians the necessary offensive firepower to win a war. Sitting in their comfortable multi-million abodes in the Washington suburbs, they are toying with the lives, property, and the future of the nation of Ukraine. It is another smart move in their geopolitical games where they would never let a severe crisis go to waste.

With the recent sinking of the Russian warship Moskov, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukraine president, has upped the ante. To the western media, Zelensky is this great war hero fighting the evil forces from the trenches. He conducts press conferences or addresses various legislative bodies across the west in his military fatigues, often echoing the speeches of Winston Churchill, coaxing the rest of the world to join him in his fight with the Russians.

‘However, one wonders how a genuine national leader could allow the subjugation of his people to this level of destruction and suffering and let his motherland be laid to ruins.’ He has been urging women and children of Ukraine to welcome the Russians with Molotov cocktails while lamenting the toll of the civilian deaths. Now that he has succeeded in keeping Russia’s army at bay from taking Kyiv, he must be dreaming about becoming the ultimate warrior who has saved Europe from the Russians. Of course, the power elites in Washington must be reassuring him of their unflinching support and are delighted to see the travails of the Russians on the battlefield.

However, it is a sad spectacle for the rest of the world where innocent people, some of them with their hands tied to their back and shot with their bodies strewn across the street in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv. More and more, cities across Ukraine resemble Dresden, Germany, during World War II, where allied planes obliterated cities with fire bombings. In many cities, including Mariupol, the absolute magnitude of this great human tragedy is yet to be unfolded.

Looking at the reports from the battlefield, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, may have committed war crimes targeting innocent civilians as a strategy to terrorize the citizenry and bring them into submission. Shelling the residential buildings and destroying the ecosystems of civilian life, Putin is presiding over a despotic regime that is authoritarian, vengeful, self-serving, and may stoop down to any low level to achieve his nefarious objectives. He has miscalculated the resilience and underestimated the willpower of the Ukrainians while exposing the weak links in his mighty military machine the U.S. has long been touting to increase the Pentagon budget.

Whether a country is not directly affected, the economic consequences of harsh economic sanctions of this disastrous war are felt across the globe. The conflict has already triggered turmoil in the financial markets. In addition, it has drastically increased the uncertainty about the recovery of the global economy after the Covid Pandemic. Due to the high commodity prices, the inflationary pressures may well lead to a recession and even social unrest.

Russia is the world’s 3rd oil producer and 2nd natural gas producer. Ukraine is a key producer of Corn, wheat, and sunflowers. Therefore, continuing this war will disrupt the energy and essential commodities marketplace and may also intensify the risk of stagflation in both advanced and emerging economies. In a prolonged conflict,  tough western sanctions and disruptions of Russia’s oil and gas exports might blow global markets with higher interest rates and slow down the world economy. The slide in Russia’s ruble has been expected, but this could also put the dominance of the U.S. dollar in question as the world’s reserve currency.

Most importantly, according to various press reports, Russia has warned the U.S. and NATO this week that “unpredictable consequences” could be if they continue sending Ukraine “sensitive” weapons. In response, Ukrainian President Zelensky said in an interview with CNN on Friday that the world should be prepared for the possibility of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons. What should we conclude about these threats and counter-threats?

Undoubtedly, our world is at an inflection point. One may not dismiss the possibility that the Russian bear being pushed to the wall through western sanctions and battlefield losses due to the constant funneling of advanced weapons from NATO countries might react even more destructively. The world might pay even a heavier price. Ukrainians are proud people who may want to have assurances of no more wars in the future while protecting their independence and way of life.

Many would argue that the creation of the Taliban and subsequent attack on 9/11 by the Al Qaeda from the safe haven in Afghanistan was the direct result of the American foreign policy run amok after the Soviet invasion of that country. Is history about to repeat itself? Why is the world watching and waiting instead of actively engaged in finding a peaceful solution?
Today, we live in a global village without any boundaries to communication and relationships. It is in the interest of the world citizenry to keep the faith and persevere for peace to avert a potential carnage the world has never seen before! (George Abraham is a former Chief Technology Officer of the United Nations)

How Putin Underestimated Ukraine

In the eyes of the Kremlin leadership, the basic precondition of the successful war against Ukraine has been the perceived power of the Russian Armed Forces and possible superiority over the Ukrainian forces.

This idea is clearly visible in the numerous pre-war statements in which it was assumed that Ukrainian people would not fight, that they would welcome Russians, and that they would and should be ‘liberated’ or ‘protected’.

The reality showed the opposite. Not only did Ukrainian Armed Forces fight back, but Ukrainian society demonstrates unity and resistance, something that definitely contradicts the notion of a ‘divided East and West’ promoted by Russian propaganda for years.

Do Ukrainians still have different views regarding politicians, economic development, and even the state of their foreign policy? Yes, absolutely, as any other democratic nation should.

Still, according to the latest sociological surveys (March), 76 per cent of Ukrainian think that their country is going in the right direction, in February, this number was just 25 per cent.

Moreover, Ukrainians are not ready to give up Crimea and the occupied territories of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions: 86 per cent think that Ukraine should use all means necessary to return Donbas, and 80 per cent – to return Crimea – these numbers are also higher than they were before the war started.

A united Ukrainian people

The imperative of the Russian leadership was that Russian-speaking cities such as Kharkiv and Odesa would surrender first. Just before the invasion, there had been rumours in Odesa’s social networks that a mayor bought one million roses to greet Russian soldiers.

Moreover, Kharkiv appeared in the Ukrainian president’s interview with the Washington Post as a city that has the potential to be occupied by the Russian Federation. The latter provoked strong opposition among the local politicians and activists who have been publicly confirming the readiness to resist and the pro-Ukrainian mood of the city.

Some experts now consider that the brutal Russian shelling of Kharkiv is a punishment for that January position. In Odesa too, sociological polls on the third week of the war demonstrated that 91 per cent agreed that Russia is at war with Ukraine, 74 per cent absolutely disagreed that Russia is liberating Ukraine from ‘nationalists’, and 93 per cent supported the actions of President Zelenskyy.

Moreover, an initial plan that these occupied cities would quickly follow ‘the Crimea scenario’ of the fake referendum and the instalment of proxies as heads of the municipality did not work out.

The occupied cities of Kherson, Kahovka, and Energodar have seen daily participation of pro-Ukrainian demonstrations against the Russian forces. Mayors of several towns in Eastern Ukraine, including Melitopol, were kidnapped, but local inhabitants still did not support a new ‘leadership’.

In 2013, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians came to the Maidan after the brutal attack against a small group of students. In 2022, millions of Ukrainians, despite ethnicity, religion, or language preferences, came out in support of the towns that have been under constant attack.

While in January, the newly established Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine was trying to attract 100 thousand reservists, in March, it is almost impossible to join the TDF because of quantity of applications.

These volunteers now have an experience of eight years of continuous war with Russia and bring both humanitarian aid and military supply. But what is most important is that people believe in the Armed Forces, and this trust and support is what makes the situation so difficult for the Kremlin.

2014 is not 2022

In the development of different strategic documents for the Armed Forces or diplomats of Ukraine, we always emphasised an important element – personnel and their motivation. Air superiority or outnumbering in personnel and missiles are important, but only if you have personnel ready to fight and with an understanding for what the country is fighting.

After three weeks of the Russian invasion, it seemed that despite military superiority, the Russian army is confused and demoralised. But unfortunately, not their leadership.

These examples clearly demonstrate the how the Russian leadership underestimated Ukraine’s military, as most conclusions were based on the 2014 situation. Ill-equipped Armed Forces, significant support of the pro-Russian political parties, misunderstanding of the undemocratic processes happening in Russia itself have diminished gradually after eight years of the occupation of Crimea and the war in Donbas.

The desire for peace cannot be confused with the willingness to surrender, and the desire for stability should not be confused with willingness to suppress a democratic and sovereign choice of people.

‘It is our land, it is our home’. ‘We are not contesting anybody or disputing over something. We defend our family’. ‘Don’t ask how is my family, my family is 44 million Ukrainians’. These are the most popular slogans these days. It is not nationalism or excessive patriotism.

This is the type of resilience which experts and politicians have been discussing during the last years. Ukraine adopted its first National Resilience Concept in September 2021. Six months later came a reason to check its validity.

Dr. Hanna Shelest is editor-in-chief of Ukraine Analytica and heads the security policy department at the Ukrainian think tank Ukrainian Prism. Source: International Politics and Society (IPS), published by the Global and European Policy Unit of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin.

United Nations & Its Leadership Challenged By An Existential Crisis

The other day a friend asked me “Can Russia be expelled from the General Assembly by a two-thirds majority?”  Almost impossible to do that, I responded.

Two of the articles of the Charter of the United Nations relate to the issue of possible exclusion of Russia from the United Nations. Article 5 talks about suspension and Article 6 talks about expulsion. According to those articles, the action needs be taken by the General Assembly with two-thirds majority, upon the recommendation of the Security Council. That recommendation of the Council cannot be made as it is subject to veto by the Russian Federation as one of the five Permanent Members.

The obvious follow-up question was “Has any country been ever expelled or suspended from the General Assembly?”  The U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) has effectively excluded a state on three occasions: Cambodia in 1997, Yugoslavia in 1992 and South Africa in 1974.

UNGA Resolution 47/1 was adopted on 22 September 1992 expelled Yugoslavia from the UN General Assembly. In this case, the Security Council by its Resolution 777 (1992) recommended action under Article 6 of the UN Charter, considering that the nation known as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had ceased to exist and therefore recommended to the General Assembly to exclude Yugoslavia from General Assembly and asked the country as constituted to apply for membership in the United Nations.

Some countries tried to expel South Africa, which was one of the 51 founding members of the United Nations in 1945, because of its policy of apartheid, but the three permanent members of the Security Council – France, UK, and US – used their veto power to block that move.

After the Council informed the General Assembly on its failure to adopt a resolution, the then President of the General Assembly, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, ruled that the delegation of South Africa should be refused participation in the work of the General Assembly. His ruling was upheld by 91 votes to 22, with 19 abstentions on 12 November 1974.

Although remaining a member of the UN, South Africa was not represented at subsequent sessions of the General Assembly. Following South Africa’s successful democratic elections of May 1994, after 20 years of refusing to accept the credentials of the South African delegation, the General Assembly unanimously welcomed South Africa back to full participation in the United Nations on 23 June 1994. It also deleted its agenda item on “the elimination of apartheid and the establishment of a united, democratic and nonracial South Africa.”

It is also important recall that in 1962, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling on all member states to impose a trade boycott against South Africa. A US Congressional legislation aimed to ban all new U.S. trade and investment in South Africa and that acted as a catalyst for similar sanctions in Europe and Japan. In 1963, the UN Security Council called for partial arms ban against South Africa, but this was not mandatory under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Deadlock but not dead-end – other courses of action

As mentioned earlier, the suspension or expulsion of Russia is “almost impossible” according to the UN Charter. To that, I would add that it is a deadlock but not a dead-end.

Some UN watchers are of the opinion that there are still ways to limit Russia’s presence in the U.N. beyond the Security Council as has been decided today (7 April) by the UNGA to suspend its membership in the UN Human Rights Council.

According to the General Assembly’s 1950 resolution 377A (V), widely known as ‘Uniting for Peace’, if the Security Council is unable to act because of the lack of unanimity among its five veto-wielding permanent members, the Assembly has the power to make recommendations to the wider UN membership for collective measures to maintain or restore international peace and security.

For instance. most frequently, the Security Council determines when and where a UN peace operation should be deployed, but historically, when the Council has been unable to take a decision, the General Assembly has done so. For example, in 1956, the General Assembly established the First UN Emergency Force (UNEF I) in the Middle East.

In addition, the General Assembly may meet in Emergency Special Session if requested by nine members of the Security Council or by a majority of the Members of the Assembly. To date, the General Assembly has held 11 Emergency Special Sessions (8 of which have been requested by the Security Council).

On 1 March 2022, the General Assembly, meeting in emergency session, adopted a resolution by which it deplored “the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of Article 2 (4) of the Charter. Can any other process feasibly be exploited to suspend a state in such circumstances, as a way of circumventing article 5? Yes, there is a way to try that.

Though the General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, but they are considered to carry political weight as they express the will of the wider UN membership.

Some UN watchers believe that Article 5 of the Charter is not completely the end of the road on suspension. They are of the opinion that that there are two dimensions to a state’s participation in the UN: the actual membership of the state (the subject of article 5 of the Charter); and the representation of that state at the General Assembly’s sessions.

Matters of representation are considered in the context of the General Assembly’s credentials process, which is the process by which the Assembly assesses the eligibility of individual delegates to represent their states at the Assembly’s annual sessions. The process is essentially procedural in nature. It is regulated not by the UN Charter but by the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure.

While the credentials process is usually a procedural one, the credentials process effectively gives the General Assembly the power to decide which authority should be regarded as the legitimate representative of the state – at least so far as the UN is concerned. UNGA could vote to suspend Russian delegation from participating in the General Assembly, a step that does not require the Security Council.

In this context, it has been asserted that “ This move, which would strip Russia of its right to speak or vote at the UN but allow it to retain membership, previously happened in 1974, when diplomats voted to suspend South Africa for its apartheid system.”

Veto is the Chief Culprit

The headline of my opinion piece for the IPS wire of 8 March 2022 argued that “Veto is the Chief Culprit” emphasizing that “Expulsion or Suspension is Not the Remedy”. Since 1946, all five permanent members have exercised the right of veto at one time or another on a variety of issues.

To date, approximately 49 per cent of the vetoes had been cast by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and thereafter the Russian Federation, 29 per cent by the United States, 10 per cent by the United Kingdom, and six per cent each by China and France.

I repeat my main contention in that opinion as “The chief culprit in the failure of unified global action by the UN is the continuation of the irrational practice of veto. As a matter, I have said on record that, if only one reform action could be taken, it should be the abolition of veto. Believe me, the veto power influences not only the decisions of the Security Council but also all work of the UN, including importantly the choice of the Secretary-General.”

Further, I added, “I believe the abolition of veto requires a greater priority attention in the reforms process than the enlargement of the Security Council membership with additional permanent ones. Such permanency is simply undemocratic. I believe that the veto power is not “the cornerstone of the United Nations” but in reality, its tombstone.”

Proactive UN leadership missing

Amid all these legal explanations, diplomatic exchanges, and diverse conjectures, it is unfortunate that questions have been raised about the reticence of the UN Secretary-General in getting his hands dirty and in getting more actively involved in towards ending the Russian aggression and promoting peace in Ukraine.

As much as I recall, this is first time the world public has done that about the role of the UN leadership so vocally. The UN website mentions “near daily press stakeouts by the Secretary-General” on the war in Ukraine. Is this the extent of his active role and involvement?

Well-respected UN watcher and former high UN official Kul Chandra Gautam in an opinion piece recently even exhorted the SG “not to hide behind the glasshouse at Turtle Bay and go beyond invisible subtle diplomacy to more visible shuttle diplomacy.” That is the way to go.

On 3 April, the UN website publicized a Twitter message from the SG saying: “I am deeply shocked by the images of civilians killed in Bucha, Ukraine. It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability.”

Just two pitiable sentences in Twitter (I wonder how many of the global population has a Twitter account). His operatives – the UN secretariat – misled the world by the trick headline: “UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday called for an independent investigation into the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, a suburb of the capital, Kyiv.”

Which official language(s) of the UN would interpret “It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability” as “called for an independent investigation”? This is the height of public deception. I wonder why this is necessary.

The Ukraine President lamented on 5 April about the failure of UN Security Council saying that the Council can “dissolve yourselves altogether” if there is nothing it can do other than engage in conversation. First time, a UN Member State has spoken so frankly, so openly, so rightly in a speech before the Council which was at an impasse to stop the aggression in his country.

Unfortunately, it is widely understood that for the UN system, more so for the SG, the dominant instinct for being pro-active in any crisis situation is “the fear of failure.” That “fear” determines the process of decision-making in a big way. A global organization like UN should be smart and mature enough to understand the value of critical opinions to improve its efficacy. Unfortunately, we are not there.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury is Former Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN; President of the UN Security Council (2000 and 2001); Senior Special Adviser to UN General Assembly President (2011-2012) and Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN.

Credible Opposition In India: A Far Cry

The fact that the BJP managed to get into power in four Assembly elections out of five gave a jolt to the Opposition. It had hoped that lack of governance, anti-incumbency, politics of hatred and division, inflation, unemployment, and a poorly managed pandemic would relegate them into a corner. But precisely, the opposite happened.

India’s voters have changed. All these crucial issues did not weigh in during the polls. The most eloquent example is Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state. In rally after rally, the Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, said that this election would determine who would win — the Hindus or the Muslims. It was one of the most polarising elections in recent history. Hate speeches were the highlight of the campaign.

Journalists who traveled extensively into the Hindi heartland say that they found the voters constantly complaining about lack of jobs, high inflation, cooking gas, petrol prices, and many other issues. But when asked who they would vote for, their choice was unanimous: BJP. What was the rationale? They said that Modi was in for the big fight, so they wanted to support him and his party. What they meant by the big fight was Hindus versus Muslims.

Let us not miss this new political culture that has whipped India by storm. For the opposition to change the BJP narrative of Hindutva being supreme and the formation of what they call the Hindu Rashtra is not easy now as it has taken roots in the last seven years.

Even in a state like Kerala, where communalism could not be easily ignited, there are clear signs of how right-wing groups are growing. It is another story that the BJP has not been able to make electoral inroads. The party does not have a single Assembly seat or an MP in Lok Sabha.

No Opposition party in India, including the Congress, has organisational support like the BJP, which has the RSS, the VHP, Bajrang Dal, and numerous other organisations that work for it round-the-year, building grassroots and working on systematic propaganda.
Politics in India is also about perception. Look at what Modi has done with calibrated propaganda along with his leaders to show that no one else can succeed like them in politics and governance.

No more is it just caste groupings that are going to work. Nor is anti-incumbency a factor. Yogi Adityanath, Pinarayi Vijayan, Navin Patnaik, Arvind Kejriwal, and Mamata Banerjee have shown they can ride back to power again, reinforcing that good governance has a role to play in the future. Kerala has never seen a Chief Minister come up with a repeat performance. But, in the last elections, Vijayan broke that record primarily due to the excellent management of the pandemic and floods that ravaged Kerala despite little help from the Centre.

Is the Opposition Ready?

How is the Opposition planning to fight the BJP, which today is the wealthiest party with the enormity of funds no party can imagine? Elections in India demand hordes of cash. Most parties today are struggling to attract funds.

According to the Election Commission, more than Rs 6,500 crore was spent in elections between 2015 and 2020 by 18 political parties. These included seven national parties and seven regional parties. Rs 3,400 crore, or 52.3 percent, was spent on publicity alone.

Audit reports show that when it comes to election expenditure, the BJP spent over Rs 3,600 crore of the total election outlay by all 18 parties in five years. In contrast, the Indian National Congress spent over Rs 1,400 crore. While the BJP itself spent over 56 percent of the total amount, the Samajwadi Party spent 3.95 percent, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) spent 3.06 percent, Bahujan Samaj Party spent 2.04 percent, and the Trinamool Congress spent 1.83 percent. How are these parties ever going to catch up as election expenditures soar? The new norm is to advertise heavily and aggressively using digital media.

Look at the kind of digital reach that the party today has. When the Election Commission banned campaigning due to the Covid-19 protocol, parties like the Samajwadi Party in UP realised that they were checkmated by the digital reach of the BJP and were unable to match it.

According to the EC data, of the total electoral bonds sold in 2019-20, the BJP got over 75 percent, while the Congress could manage just 9 percent. Other parties like the Trinamool Congress, DMK, NCP, AAP, and RJD could mop comparatively minuscule amounts.

New Strategies Needed

The Congress decided to give tickets to women, but it could win just two seats; one was a female who had won numerous elections earlier. At one time, UP was a stronghold of Congress. Today, it has two seats in an Assembly of 403. It fielded 160 women out of its 401 candidates, something of a first in Indian elections, but only one of them won as she had won earlier too. What did Priyanka Gandhi, in-charge of the UP elections, expect in an intensely feudal and patriarchal state? So, strategies have to be dramatically different. It has to be workable to win elections and not just look politically correct.

Can the rag-tag Opposition of India take on the BJP in the next parliamentary elections? It indeed cannot if we take the current scenario into account. The Opposition is currently disunited, insecure, and has no shared vision that can even sound like an excellent alternative to the high-pitched BJP propaganda. More importantly, it does not have a single leader who has emerged with the personality that Indian voters would like to look at or trust. The Opposition has done little to catch the electorate’s imagination in the last seven years.

Which Opposition leader can carry disparate parties with different ideologies on one platform? They cannot agree even on a standard programme. All of them have burning ambitions and are vying for the top post.

Hurt and False Egos

Mamata Banerjee has been fearless and combative more than any other leader. She has made some feeble attempts at cobbling up an alternative front but has not succeeded. She does not get along with the Congress leadership, and it is well-known that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi do not want to give the leadership mantle to her.

Mamata did not even attend a recent meeting called by the Congress of Opposition leaders. She has said that Congress is no more able or fit to lead the Opposition in the country as it has lost credibility. The Congress did toy around with having a joint meeting with Opposition parties after the recent elections.

Still, even Mallikarjun Kharge, the Opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha, was apprehensive that some parties might not join and would send a wrong message about opposition unity. He is right as in the present circumstances, both TMC and AAP are eyeing the space of the Congress in various states wanting to capture it as they did successfully in West Bengal, Delhi, and Punjab. After the recent elections, Congress alleged that the TMC and AAP had split opposition votes in Goa, helping the BJP.

Many Congress leaders have joined the TMC, while others are now looking at AAP and assessing their future as politicians as India’s grand old party plummets to a new low. Mayawati, the Chief Minister of UP for four terms, chose not to campaign as she does. Her Bahujan Samaj Party was virtually non-existent in the high-decibel campaign. Political onlookers suspect that she had opted to become the B-Team of the BJP and help it win. They suspected that a deal was thrashed out between her and the BJP.

The BSP, which once ruled UP, got just one seat. Mayawati is ambitious, and in these circumstances, she will have to join the Opposition bandwagon though not much will come out of it as the BJP and the Samajwadi Party have made inroads into her traditional strongholds. The SP will now not want to do anything with her.

Just Regional Satraps

The Trinamool Congress is strong in West Bengal, but that is it. While it is a critical state that sends many MPs, the fact is that it has no significant presence anywhere. Mamata Banerjee also does not have the persona to emerge as a national leader. She is seen as an aggressive street fighter, but that is not enough. Not many regional leaders like her style of functioning.

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has its presence only in Tamil Nadu. Though Stalin is surprising everyone with his astuteness and vision to change the future of Tamil Nadu, the fact is that he has no pan-India appeal. Nor has his party. At least the AAP and the TMC are trying to contest in other states to make a dent or impression. The TMC contested in Goa for the first time and managed to get 6 percent of the vote share.

The Telugu Desam Party also has its presence only in Andhra Pradesh and in Telangana. The same goes for the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, where it has developed strong roots in the last fifteen years. As the elections in Punjab demonstrated, the Shiromani Akali Dal, which once ruled Punjab, is a spent force and will make little difference. The RJD is also a regional party with its primary influence in Bihar and Jharkhand.

That leaves the Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar, a part of the ruling coalition in Maharashtra. It has grown in strength and has an influence also in some other states in the north-east. The Shiv Sena is not likely to ever join the BJP as a coalition partner as they have figured out that it would not get the space it deserves. They are a formidable force, and the BJP will have to fight hard to get back to Maharashtra.

Congress not a Force

Congress is no more seen as a party that can bind the Opposition. It is caught in the whirlpool of its own making. It does not have decisive leadership. It cannot even enforce discipline. It has not had a full-time president for a long time. Look at how the Congress chief in Punjab, Navjot Singh Sidhu, behaved throughout the campaign. He was virtually destroying what little support Congress had. He was not reprimanded or punished. Even after losing the election, he continued to work against his party’s interests. He has already started flirting with the AAP as he has no political future.

One would have expected Sonia Gandhi to step down from interim president, but the Congress Working Committee asked her to stay on as they had complete faith in her. The party has become a laughing stock, and no one seems to care. Gandhi’s loyalists attacked those who demanded inter-party democracy and elections along with restructuring. It will be surprising if the party does not split, as patience is dying among party workers who do not see any future.

How does Opposition unity work here in such a grim political situation? No one seems to understand that the only way to dislodge the BJP is to band together to form a genuine united front. It should be such that voters feel that there is a viable alternative. The BJP knows how weak the Opposition is today.

United Opposition a Must

Democracy can flourish only with a vibrant and robust Opposition fighting to protect the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. They should be guarding the rights of people. They should be raising their concerns and aspirations of the people to the government. They should be correcting the government’s flaws and scrutinising legislation and policies. It must hold the government accountable and play a vital role in various committees so that the powers do not steamroll whatever it wants or what its political agenda is dictating. In a way, the Opposition is an alternative government keeping an eye open for any discrepancy. It must be credible and not just hungry for power, as we see in India.

Many regional parties like the DMK, BJD, SP, NCP, TDP, RJD and some others may be able to win seats in the next parliamentary elections. Still, the moot question is whether they will be able to band together as one force with a joint programme that would force the electorate to think twice before voting the BJP back to power.

Putin’s Unkindest Cut of All

Nikita Kruschev, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s predecessor, even though not immediate, is known to have said that he accepts every single teaching of Jesus except the one in which Jesus tells his disciples that if anyone slaps on one cheek, he/she should offer the other cheek instead of retaliating, and hitting back. Kruschev’s way of going about, if anybody would slap him, would be, to hit back with such force that the head of the aggressor would fall off! That is how far Kruschev was from Jesus and His teachings.

Now, Putin seems to have gone even further than Kruschev when he started an undeclared war, and invaded Ukraine. It is an unprovoked war, and therefore, unjustified on every count. He has not been slapped by anyone on his cheek, but he is out to destroy a democratic free country. Kruschev would be lagging far behind, as an opponent of Christ, having been put to shame by Putin with this act of aggression against Ukraine, not to be justified by anyone.

With great anxiety and with a prayer in my heart I have been reading newspapers and watching news in the last few weeks, as tension had been building up between Russia on one side, and the U.S.A., NATO and Ukraine on the other side. Everybody had been wondering why Russia had deployed 1,50,000-plus troops around Ukraine, if they had no intention of annexing Ukraine, as they claimed.

In fact, the Russians were talking about a hysteria of the West for fear of the annexation of Ukraine which, they said, was never on their mind, but only a fiction of the hysterical minds of the West. And then came the onslaught on Ukraine and the Ukrainians, turning the seeming glimmer of goodness and hope into a lie. And what a lie it was! The reports are that, as I am writing this, over 2 million of Ukrainian refugees have sought refuge in neighbouring countries like Poland, Moldova, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania. Besides, millions of people have been displaced within the country, and they are going about helplessly trying to find a safe place for themselves.

My heart weeps when I see those poor people leaving their homes and heading towards unknown destinations. It is particularly painful and heart-wrenching to see little children walking or being carried by their mothers. In most cases the mothers are left alone to fend for themselves in this task, because the Ukrainian authorities have ordered the men-folk to stay back and defend their country from the Russian aggressor. And they are heroically doing this for the love of their country.

I am asking myself if the aggressors and their bosses do not know what kind of suffering they are giving these poor people. So many are getting killed, so many are getting injured. Do the aggressors not have hearts of flesh? Are their hearts of stone? Or do they not have hearts at all? Not even the sight of little children dragging their suitcases, bigger than themselves, seems to melt the heart of Putin and his men. Expecting Putin to know how Jesus loved little children, and always wanted them to be brought to him (Mt. 19:14), is perhaps too much?! But then Putin is a Christian, belonging to the Orthodox Church, and so he should have known this. I am wondering why the leaders of his Orthodox Church are not opening their mouths to teach Putin what Jesus would have liked to teach him.

Unlike Pope Francis, who has condemned this war without mincing words, we are yet to hear the voice of the Orthodox Church!

I wonder if President Putin has seen the picture of a mother carrying a little child, which has gone viral these days. It is the picture of Putin’s mother carrying Putin in her arms. The story is that a soldier came home from the front-lines for a brief break, during the World War II. He reached his house to see people loading dead bodies onto a truck. Sticking out of the pile of bodies, the soldier saw the leg of a lady with a pair of shoes, which he recognised as his wife’s shoes. He had to plead and fight with the men who were loading the dead bodies onto the truck, so he could hug the body of his wife. The reluctant men relented and let the man pull the body of his wife out from the pile of dead bodies. To his and everybody’s surprise, he realized that the woman was still alive and breathing. He carried her home, and nursed her to, what could be called, a new life.

A few years later, a son was born to the couple. And that was Vladimir Putin! How I wish I could go and put this picture in front of Putin’s eyes to remind him that it was God’s mercy that had kept his mother alive, and given him the gift of life. I would also like to remind him that he had to show the same mercy towards one and all, rather than be a cause of sorrow and suffering for others.

It is difficult for me to understand how the man’s heart does not melt to see those women and children fleeing their homes, knowing that, in all probability, they will not live to see their beloved ones back at home. Not everybody can have the same good fortune that Putin had. How can anyone be so untouched by the heart-wrenching scenes we see on TV unless one has no heart at all?

We are reminded of similar scenes we saw some time back here in our own country, when our roads were filled with thousands of people, migrant workers, returning to their homes, having lost their jobs, sometimes mothers delivering babies along the roads, and many people breathing their last on the roads. At that time, too, we had felt that those who were responsible to inflict these sufferings on the poor people had no hearts. Unfortunately and sadly, we are made aware that there are such people in this world even today.

I started by saying that both Kruschev as well as Putin are far away from Jesus and His teachings. Those who act and behave like this, with no feelings of love and mercy in their hearts, like many of our own leaders, are far removed from the teachings of Jesus.

The Gospels present Jesus as a loving and merciful teacher, who always thought of others, rather than of himself. Why would he, otherwise, even though he was God, “not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but rather empty himself, taking the form of a servant?” (Philippians 2:6) And, therefore, his teaching was always “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). I can well imagine Jesus weeping with all those who are suffering now because of this senseless and unjust war inflicted upon the poor people of Ukraine. In fact, his infinite love and mercy, even in this situation, says to the Ukrainians: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Rom. 12:14).

A glimmer of hope

In the darkness and hatred of this war, there is a glimmer of light and hope because there are people who see evil in it and condemn it. One such powerful and shining beacon is Pope Francis who had been raising his voice against the dangers of this war. And once it had unfortunately started, he went to the Russian Embassy in Rome to plead for peace and negotiations across the table. Here is a man, who is a true disciple of Jesus, who is prepared to go to any extent, to live the message of Jesus and to propagate it. And he is aware that all over the world people are hungering for love and peace. Therefore, he has taken it upon himself to promote love, peace, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation. He has knocked at the doors of embassies and fallen at the feet of leaders pleading for peace.

Pope Francis shows and teaches that one has to be prepared to turn the other cheek, and live the message of Jesus in its entirety. He has often said that wars never solve problems, but only bring about misery upon the people who are involved in them. The Pope always harps upon the theme of God’s mercy to such an extent that it led a prominent Italian clergy-man to say that he seems to be exaggerating on the mercy of God. But I countered him by asking him how he could talk about exaggerating on God’s mercy, when we know that God’s mercy is infinite. How does one exaggerate on something which is infinite?

What Putin and his stooges are very much in need of, at this juncture, is God’s Mercy. They must be prepared to humble themselves, and cease hostilities acknowledging that these are purely based on their lies and on their selfishness and pride. This may seem difficult and even impossible now. But we know that for God nothing is impossible. And we know that people all over the world are praying for peace. With the prayers of millions of people God can change the heart of Putin and his advisers. As it is rightly said, a Church kneeling in prayer is more powerful than an army on its feet.

There are many who consider this war as an evil, and condemn it. We know that there are thousands of people all over the world, and even within Russia, who are protesting against this unjust war. This gives us another glimmer of hope. The hardened heart of dictator Putin has clamped down upon them, and locked them up in prison. However, as our own Father Stan Swamy, of happy memory, said, when he was put behind bars, “a caged bird can still sing”. So, they will continue to protest against Putin and his actions. May they and millions of people all over the world continue to condemn the dictator of Russia. And may their protesting voices continue to resound and eventually touch and change the hardened heart of Putin. Let us remember that The Lord is the one who said to His people: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

Let us remember that the Lord came to the rescue of Israelites when the powerful Egyptians pursued them. The book of Exodus tells us that “in the morning watch, the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked upon the host of the Egyptians, and discomfited the host of the Egyptians, clogging their chariot-wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said: “let us flee from before Israel; for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians” (Exodus 14: 23-25). We also have the case of David and Goliath, when a shepherd’s sling proved to be mightier than a sword (1 Sam. 17:48). God is almighty, and He is always in command.

Why India Repeatedly Abstains Against Russian Invasion Of Ukraine?

In the midst of the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine, India abstained from a United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC’s) resolution sponsored by the United States that deplores Russia’s actions in the strongest terms. Explaining its abstention, India’s permanent representative at the UN, T S Tirumurti said, “India is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of events in Ukraine.”

“Dialogue is the only answer to resolve differences and controversies, but it can be daunting at this point. It’s a shame that the diplomatic path has been abandoned. We have to go back to it. For all these reasons, India has chosen to refrain from this resolution, “said Tirmulti.

Russia vetoed the resolution as expected, but China and the United Arab Emirates also abstained from voting, with the remaining 11 members of the UNSC voting in favor of the resolution.

India’s abstention is described by experts as a balanced act of maintaining friends and partners on both sides. It is also a legacy of the non-aligned NeHrvian foreign policy and the way the two countries interacted in the United States. United Nations.

India’s inclination towards the Soviet Union

After independence, India has followed non-aligned policies and maintained a neutral position in the bipolar world. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a group of 120 countries in developing countries and is inconsistent with the major power blocks. It was founded in 1961 under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru with the leaders of Yugoslavia, Egypt, Ghana and Indonesia. Despite the official non-aligned policy, a slight inclination towards the Soviet Union was noticeable during this period.

In December 1971, India and Pakistan fought for 13 days—one of the shortest wars in history—over the humanitarian crisis in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. India had, for months, been trying to convince the world that West Pakistan’s subjugation of East Pakistan was an emergency. Refugees from East Pakistan were pouring into India, and the situation would only be improved with a resolution of the political predicament between West and East Pakistan.

The Soviet Union was the only country that listened. In August of that year, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi signed the India-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation. Gandhi had held off on completing the agreement for domestic political reasons; she had not wanted to give fodder to those political opponents who accused her of being too cozy with the Soviet Union. But international concerns were soon more pressing: With the signing of the treaty, the Soviet Union provided India both the diplomatic and arms support it needed for the war Gandhi knew was coming, helping India over Pakistan.

While the world in 2020 is in many ways changed from that time, 1971 looms large in the India-Russia relationship today. Moscow was a reliable partner for New Delhi when no one else was. And the United States, meanwhile, actively ignored India’s pleas to deal with the situation in East Pakistan: President Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger considered Pakistan a key go-between in opening relations with China.

In a 2018 research paper, Professors Sanjay Kumar Pandy and Ankur Yadav suggest that the foundation of India’s affinity for the Soviet Union can be explained through the profound influence that socialist and Marxist ideas have had on many leaders of the free struggle. increase. “Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose’s ideological devotion, the formation of the Socialist Republican / Army, and the adoption of socialism and national planning by India are the links between socialist thought and the Soviet Union in India’s post-independence history. It’s a proof of sex,” TThey write.

Another reason India seeks intimacy with the Soviet Union is often cited as the growing proximity between the United States and Pakistan. “The true foundation of this relationship was laid when Nehru visited the Soviet Union in 1955 and the Soviet leaders Khrushchev and Bulganin visited again.” Write Pandey and Yadav. Since the 1950s, the Soviet Union has been closely involved in India’s industrial development, including the construction of the Birai and Bokaro steelworks and the establishment of public sector companies such as Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL) and oil and natural gas. Co., Ltd. (ONGC).

The deterioration of Sino-Soviet relations during the war between India and China in the 1960s brought the two countries closer together, leading to the signing of the Indo-Soviet Peace and Friendship Treaty in 1971. The basis of cooperation provided by the Soviet Union in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. This was important to ensure India’s victory.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, relations between India and Russia deteriorated, and Russia recognized the need to build close ties with the United States in order to rebuild economically and politically. In the 1990s, there was a change in India’s idealistic position.

However, by the mid-1990s, Russia had warmed up to India again as expectations for Russia’s western aid did not come true. When Russian President Boris Yeltsin visited India in January 1993, he claimed that both countries had ended a long-term suspension. Over the next few years, several treaties and agreements have been signed between the two countries to establish trade, diplomatic, military, industrial, scientific and technological cooperation. India is currently the second largest market for Russia’s defense industry. Indian military hardware cents are known to be imported from Russia.

In his dissertation, Pandey and Yadav suggest that the joint declaration and agreement between India and Russia shows that the two countries are in much the same position on many global and regional issues. .. Based on the prominent role of the United Nations and international law, common interests, equality, mutual respect, and non-interference in national affairs, “they write.

India and Russia at the United Nations

India’s devotion to Russia was evident in the way the two countries interacted at the United Nations. In an ORF article written by Aparajita Das in 2017, “Subtle balance: India’s voting record at the UN General AssemblyThe author wrote that during the 69 years since India’s independence, India’s voting pattern at the United Nations was the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation for only four years, 1946, 1948, 1950 and 1962.

“It had little to do with the Soviet Union because it was about ideologies such as anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, anti-apartheid, and pro-Palestine, which were the basis of non-allied nations. We also supported the Soviet block, “explains TP Sreenivasan, India’s former Deputy Standing Representative for the United Nations in New York. In her article, Das writes that the tendency towards the Soviet Union is likely to be partly due. “India and the former Soviet Union share a position as an economically developing country rather than an inherent idealistic affinity.”

Since the 1970s, India has approached the Soviet Union and moved away from the United States. India supported the Soviet Union or refrained from voting on many issues such as the Czechoslovak intervention in 1968 and the invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Srinivasan, who abstained from India’s vote against the invasion of Afghanistan, said the sentiment within India’s political corridor was to oppose the Soviet Union, including then Prime Minister Charan Singh. The Soviet Union resulted in India abstaining from UNGA when all other non-allied and Western nations voted against it.

At the same time, India was the beneficiary of Russia’s veto in some cases. The Soviet Union was the only country to reject a UN Security Council resolution against UN intervention in Kashmir in 1957, 1962, and 1971. Friendship with the Soviet Union began in 1955 when Nikita Khrushchev, the secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, came to Kashmir and declared it an integral part of India. Near that, call us from the top of the mountain and we will appear by your side. But in recent years, even Russia has changed its position slightly to argue that the Kashmir issue needs to be resolved through bilateral dialogue. “

Yet another example of Russia’s veto support for India was during the 1961 Gore liberation movement. The United States, Britain, France and Turkey have accused India of invading Goa and proposed a UN resolution calling on the country to withdraw its troops. The veto from the Soviet Union destroyed the resolution. Historian SR Sharma, who writes about Russia’s support for India in the case of Goa, states in his book “India-USSR Relations” (Volume 1): The situation when the West decided to pass a veto and withdrawal resolution at the Security Council. “

Russia’s veto was once again important in determining India’s victory in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. The United States has passed a Security Council resolution calling for the suspension and withdrawal of troops by India and Pakistan. The Russians again vetoed the resolution allowed India to continue fighting for the cause, which ultimately led to the liberation of Bangladesh.

Sreenivasan states that despite the clear affinity between the two countries at the United Nations, there are some differences to remember. The Soviet Union also opposed India on many other issues. Most importantly, India will conduct a nuclear test in 1974. “Although not as loud as the Western nations, the Soviet Union did not agree with the violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” Sreenivasan said. As a result, India and the Soviet Union differed in voting on the disarmament issue.

Another issue that the Soviet Union severely opposed was the expansion of the Security Council. Brijesh Mishra, India’s permanent member of the UN Security Council, proposed in 1979 to expand the number of non-permanent members of the Security Council. While also a permanent member of the Security Council, India opposed the Soviet Union on the issue of collective security in Asia.

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: How to Reunite India

Unity in diversity is a phrase we all picked up in our school years. Enjoying the Ramlila festivities for the ten days to Vijayadashami ran parallel to watching the Tazia processions or the Jaina processions with slogans of Vande Viram (Hail Lord Mahavira), the celebrations of Dalits on the day Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism, and the celebration of Christmas. These diversity experiences were deeply rooted in how Indians marked various festivals—it was experiential, not just in the realm of theory.

In Indian society, diversity goes as far back as the imagination can. Christianity is older in India than many countries with far larger Christian populations. Right in the seventh century, Islam became a part of this land. The Shaka, Kushana, Hunas, and Greeks added their flavours to our culture. How did diversity become so deep-rooted in our culture? While there was ethnic strife, the social conditions settled into coexistence and harmony between religious streams.

The Ashokan edicts ask for mutual respect between members of different religions (which included Buddhism, Brahmanism, Jainism, and the Ajivikas). Much later, the Mughal ruler Akbar promoted Deen-e-Ilahi and Sulh-e-Kul. In his book Majma Ul Baharayn, Dara Shukoh described India as a vast ocean made of two seas, Hinduism and Islam.

The Bhakti saints such as Kabir, Ramdeo Baba peer, Tukaram, Namdeo and Narsi Mehta drew followers from Hindus and Muslims. Sufi saints such as Nizamuddin Auliya, Muin al-Din Chishti, and Haji Malang became part of the Indian ethos. These saints embraced all the people irrespective of their religion and caste. They melded with the local culture fully.

 During the colonial period, divisive tendencies in the name of religion reared their head due to the British policy of divide and rule. The elite sections of society initiated and encouraged these tendencies. However, they were overshadowed by the integrative and all-inclusive freedom movement. It is here that the magical interpretation of Hinduism by Gandhi succeeded in mobilising people of all religions within the single thread of Indian nationalism. The charisma of Gandhi’s movements left a deep impression on people of all faiths. People recited shlokas from the Gita and verses from the Koran and the Bible in his prayer meetings.

During this period, we saw Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Shaukatullah Shah Ansari, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Allah Bakhsh, and many others rubbed shoulders with Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and other leaders of the freedom movement. Diversity added richness and strength to the composite notion of Indian nationalism.

Cultural values drew heavily from interactions in subtle and profound ways, influencing all aspects of our life from food habits, literature, art, music, architecture and what have you. For the last few decades, events in India appear to be moving in the reverse direction, detrimental to peace and harmony. On the positive side, we witness the bubbling up of integrative efforts within and beyond religion. We had eminent social workers such as Swami Agnivesh and Asghar Ali Engineer, who promoted interfaith dialogue and sought to remove misunderstandings between members of different faiths. Many crusaders are silently working in society—Martin McWan, John Dayal and Cedric Prakash come to mind—who dedicated their lives to promote harmony. Such movements of interfaith dialogue went a long way in reducing theological and social misunderstanding among Hindus and Muslims and members of other faiths. Their initiative contributed in profound ways to maintaining amity between diverse groups. Each in their own way has come to imprint harmony on all of society.

Faisal Khan revived Khudai Khidmatgar, the organisation Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan founded. This grassroots organisation promotes amity and the spirit of mutual respect between Hindus and Muslims. They launched an open house—Apna Ghar—a system wherein members from all communities can live together and share their practices with others in a respectful way. Noted film maker Anand Patwardhan wrote, “…the Khudais have touched people’s hearts across the country and membership has swelled to 50,000. Today it has many Hindus, including a few who had once been in the RSS.”

India has been the site of many ghastly lynchings. The families of the victims have no social support and are desperately helpless. To empathise with them, social activist Harsh Mander started the Karwan-e-Mohabbat—Caravan of Love—that reaches out to the families of the victims of lynching to extend moral and social support. It has come as significant assistance to families and communities.

Many cities have communal harmony groups today and charity groups that help all, even though we may not hear about them much. These groups are working silently, unnoticed, while the violence of groups that promote divisiveness always hog the limelight. Even the farmer movement, the most significant post-independence mass movement, has promoted communal amity in a big way. Similarly, the Shaheen Bagh protests strengthened intercommunity amity.

The deeper problem is the global rise of those who believe in the “clash of civilisations” thesis and promote divisive tendencies. India is no exception. A United Nations-sponsored high-level committee when Kofi Annan was Secretary-General put forward the notion of an ‘Alliance of Civilisations’. This is the guiding principle of many groups who wish to revive India’s syncretic traditions. In the current troubling scenario, these rays of hope are lesser-known but critical for a peaceful future.

The Acquittal Of Kerala Bishop Is Best Example Of A Bad Judgement

It is good that an official appeal is to be filed against the judgement of the Additional Sessions Judge in Kerala exonerating Bishop Franco of all charges of multiple rape of a nun who was his subordinate. Hopefully, the appeal will lead to a restoration of justice and dignity to not only the complainant in this case, but also to all survivors of rape.

Too often in the recent past have survivors of sexual assault found themselves repeatedly victimised by what can be termed a judicial default setting which sets a false and utterly bigoted standard of how a rape survivor is supposed to behave; if she conducts herself differently, her testimony is not considered credible. Why did she smile the day after she was raped? How could she travel in the same car as the accused? Why did she take so long to speak about it? We have heard these questions too many times.

According to case law and many more sensitive judgements, the sole testimony of a rape survivor must be given due weightage as often there are no direct witnesses. Special consideration to the statement of the survivor helps the processes of justice. However, this is also linked to the satisfaction of the court of the credibility of the statements and of the survivor herself.

This has led in case after case to the subversion of justice. It is open season for destroying the survivor’s credibility and her narration of the facts. It is not the rapist but the survivor who becomes the accused, having to prove herself credible. Thus a direction to give special consideration to a survivor’s testimony is turned into a legal instrument against her. The onus shifts to the survivor to prove that she is credible as a “sterling witness.” When the eyes and ears of the law are not tuned in to hear the survivor, or to understand her circumstances or how the world appears to her, when the law fails to see in her silences the power of the perpetrator, then you can be sure that justice will be a long time coming.

The 250-page judgement reads more like an investigation into the complainant rather than the accused and ends up a hit job against her. The judgement holds that she is a liar, that she is inconsistent, that she has ulterior motives, that she is part of a power play within the specific congregation to which she belongs; worst of all, there is the damning indictment of her character, in which the judgement finds “credibility” in the outright malicious libelous charges made by the accused against her of having an affair and fabricating the entire charge against the Bishop to conceal this. The judgement deserves to be taught in law schools as an example of a really bad judgement.

After decades of struggle, sacrifice and suffering by survivors of sexual assault, the laws concerning definition of and punishment for sexual assault were amended in 2013 to look at issues from the survivor’s point of view. For a woman, any invasion of her bodily integrity is equally horrific, and the narrow definition of rape as penile penetration disregarded and downplayed that horror. The amended laws recognised the different levels and forms of sexual assault, including forced oral sex, use of fingers, or any instrument without consent as rape.

But the judgement displays an extraordinary obsession with proving that the survivor never mentioned “penile penetration” – although she had on several occasions – and reams are devoted to this, while ignoring the detailed descriptions by the survivor of what she went through, all of which are clearly within the legal definition of rape. Going by the judgement, a survivor of rape has to use very precise language. On several occasions, the survivor had spoken about her fear that she would be forced to “sleep with him”, to “share his bed”, but the judgement, while bringing this on record, does not consider this evidence because the word “rape” is not mentioned. Presumably there are reasons other than sex as to why a Bishop would force a woman to “share his bed.” It is on such flawed grounds that a woman complainant is described as not being “credible.”

What is striking in the judgement are its double standards. It plays down glaring lies by the accused. For example, on the day that the first assault was made in May 2014, the accused denied that he was there at all. His alibi unravelled in the face of documentary and witness evidence which conclusively established his presence on that day in a room on the same floor where the complainant resided. It was also established that the other residents were on another floor.

Why did he concoct an alibi if he had nothing to hide? But there is no reference at all in the judgement’s conclusions that he had tried to build a false alibi, that he had lied. This is of no importance to the judgement. There is a charge made against the accused by another witness nun that he had tried to get physical with her. This is brushed aside as “behaviour of accused towards this witness is not relevant.

” There are sexually colored and vulgar messages sent by the accused which were printed out and are on record, but the judgement hardly gives credence to them. When the complainant warned him that she would leave the convent if he visited it again, he sent her the following message: “With heavy heart I am joining with your decision. I want to see you, I want to need you, call me.” Is it normal for a superior to send such an objectionable message to his subordinate? Doesn’t it raise questions at least about inappropriate behaviour and give an indication of something which requires answers? But the judgement finds nothing odd in this. On the contrary, it is quoted as proof in the judgement that there were no “threats” to the complainant.

The survivor’s every word, gesture, smile is under the scanner. The judgement in the section on photographic evidence goes out of the way to mention how carefully the videos were studied to reach a conclusion. The day after the first sexual assault took place, the survivor and accused had to attend a function of first communion for the child of her elder sister where the accused was the chief priest. She puts up a brave face and yet the camera shows her “gloomy”, a word frequently favored in the judgement, to describe grief and sadness. The judgement says “she can be seeing crying sitting on the back bench of the church”…”victim looks gloomy, but the very next minute, the victim can be seen smiling.” So the counter to the charge that she behaved “normally”, which apparently proves she was not traumatized, is dismissed – because she smiled. On other occasions where her colleagues in the Convent noticed how upset she used to get when news of the Bishop coming to the convent was conveyed to her, the judgement finds fault with the survivor. It says “though she was asked repeatedly about her gloominess, her replies were evasive.”

In December 2014, six or seven months after she was first sexually assaulted, she narrated all that had happened to her spiritual mother. This was the first time she had spoken to another. The statement of how they “wept together” is part of the record, and gives an indication of the trauma. Soon after, she also spoke to a priest who heard her “confession.” Then she went on a retreat and there, too, she spoke of her ordeal to a priest. She was wrestling with the nightmare the best way she could. From her own statements, she was hoping the issue could be resolved within the church. For any woman, it is difficult enough to deal with repeated assault by a man who uses his power for sexual gratification. For a woman who had chosen to live her life as a nun with a vow of chastity, dealing with such a situation was even more difficult. Her younger sister was also in the same congregation. Her elder sister was concerned that if the sisters left the congregation as the complainant thought of doing, “parishioners would make fun of them…All the problems could be resolved within the Church itself.” In fact, she did write several letters to the authorities. These too are criticized by the judgement as not being explicit enough. The fear of social disapproval and acrimony is a heavy burden on the shoulders of a survivor. But these realities are ignored in the judgement.

Once she decided to file a police complaint, all statements of those to whom she had spoken were recorded. Shockingly, each of her witnesses was dismissed in the judgement as unreliable. The spiritual mother’s witness was dismissed as being “planted”, the statement to the priest was not followed up “as he can’t reveal what she said”, the statement at the retreat was similarly dismissed. The statements of her colleagues were also not considered reliable – and then the conclusion is reached that the inordinate delay in reporting the crime is inexplicable, and is held as a major finding against her testimony. In contrast, a statement admittedly manufactured by a relative, who herself retracted the charge, accusing her of having an affair with her husband, is taken as the basis for the entire case. In other words, if the judgement is to be believed, a woman starts building up her defence from 2014 to conceal an affair that she has three years later! Anything becomes possible except the facts narrated by the survivor.

The prosecution has expressed disbelief and shock at the outcome. The nuns who stood by her have issued similiar statements pledging to appeal against the judgement. There are those who would like to use the case to defame the Church. They should desist from doing so. This is a struggle for justice, and has little to do with religion. This is equally a fight against insensitive and patriarchal judicial blinkers that dehumanise a survivor of rape and expect her to abide by a preconceived code of conduct as a “sterling witness”. In the light of this judgement, the issue of educating the judiciary on amended laws concerning sexual assault also has an added urgency.

India: A Nation In Disharmony With Its Philosophical And Constitutional Values

The values that are glorified today ironically are those that were always held anathema by classical Hindu society – majoritarianism, intolerance, hatred, and revanchism, writes Tarun Basu for South Asia Monitor

If there is despair and dark foreboding at the turn of the year in India, it is not just because the pandemic has engendered in all a feeling of existential confusion, or the political and social discourse is becoming more caustic by the day, but the spreading clouds of hate and inter-community ill-will that has taken hold of a nation always held up to the world as an exemplar of democratic pluralism and inter-faith harmony.

Hinduism, an eternal and inclusive religion, has been figuring in the global media for all the wrong reasons — lynching, hate speeches, attacks on minority institutions and places of worship, obstruction of their religious practices, call to violence against minorities – particularly Muslims who comprise over 14 percent of India’s 1.4 billion population and are the third-largest Muslim population in the world.

Although these actions and utterances go against the country’s secular constitution and violate some of its sacred principles, like freedom of worship, there has been no condemnation of these from anyone in the government, and in most cases the offenders have got away with impunity or slapped with mild charges that have not held up in courts.

What Bhagavad Gita says

Most hate actions and utterances have been in the name of protecting Hinduism, a religion practised by 82 percent of the nation and whose most sacred text, the Bhagavad Gita, is known for its wide catholicity and against absolutism.

“The Gita does not speak of this or that form of religion but speaks of the impulse which is expressed in all forms – the desire to find God and understand our relation to HIm,” Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the nation’s second President, one of its foremost thinkers and a renowned exponent of Hindu philosophy and its ancient texts, says in his scholarly work The Bhagavadgita.

“Hindu thinkers are conscious of the amazing variety of ways in which one may approach the Supreme, of the contingency of all forms….no manifestation is to be taken as absolutely true from the standpoint of experience; every one of them has some validity….The same God is worshipped by all….All manifestations belong to the same Supreme,” Radhakrishnan says.

Radhakrishnan, whose birthday on September 5 is celebrated as Teachers’ Day all over India, goes on to say that “(Only) the spiritually immature are unwilling to recognize other gods than their own. Their attachment to their creed makes them blind to the larger unity of the Godhead. The Gita affirms that though beliefs and practices may be many and varied, spiritual realization to which these are means is one.”

What Ramakrishna preached

Radhakrishnan’s interpretations have validation in the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, the 19th-century mystic saint who personally experienced all  the major religions and came to the conclusion that the world’s various religious traditions represented “so many paths to reach one and the same goal.

“Never insist what you profess is the sole truth and rest all fallacy. Hindus, Muslims, Christians – all are travelling in the same direction, albeit on different paths (Jato moth, too poth) – I have tried all known paths to God, and I accept them all,” Ramakrishna famously said.

That Hindu-majority India would travel down a path quite contrary to their sages’ teachings has confounded the cognoscenti, but has been debunked by the Hindu right and its vocal proponents who see the present sectarian politics as a chance to assert its majoritarianism, overturn the country’s secular constitution, which they say is an anachronism, reassert what they hold is the Hindu pride that they say was crushed by centuries of Muslim rule and “appeasement” of minorities under successive Congress-led governments since independence.

His disciple, Swami Vivekananda, in his famous speech at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. said,”I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.”

Ruling party’s silence

The present assault on minorities is seen to have the tacit support of the ruling BJP leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has remained enigmatically silent despite a spate of anti-minority actions and utterances. These include shocking calls from self-proclaimed Hindu religious leaders calling for a “genocide” against Muslims, community support promised for such attackers, dubbing of Mahatma Gandhi as a “traitor”, and the spreading virus of degradation and vilification of Muslims, including its women, that has led to an atmosphere which analysts see as the cynical exploitation of a society’s fault lines for political gain, especially as the BJP faces crucial state elections in the coming months.

“That is not Hinduism. Hindutva is fundamentally the most un-Hindu set of beliefs and practices that you can imagine. And that they call themselves Hindutva which means Hindu-ness is an absolute travesty…,” rued opposition politician Shashi Tharoor, a former UN civil servant and author on books of Hinduism.

The values that are glorified today ironically are those that were always held anathema by classical Hindu society – majoritarianism, intolerance, hatred, and revanchism with the Hindu reactionary forces using the majority muscle to snuff out any opposition to what has been often called by those opposing such religious extremism as the “Talibansation of Hinduism”. It is a testing time for India, and the kind of country that future generations will inherit will depend a lot if the “silent majority” is able to assert itself.

As the scholar Rajmohan Gandhi wrote of his grandfather, the Mahatma’s core beliefs that in India, a person of any religious belief – a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, a Sikh, a Jew, a Zoroastrian, a Jain, a Buddhist, an atheist, an agnostic, whatever – had an equal right to India. Religion was one thing, national another.

Vice President is upset  Even India’s Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, a former BJP president, was constrained to call out the hate mongers, saying in a recent speech that “Hate speech and writings are against (the country’s) culture, heritage, tradition and Constitutional rights and ethos” and expressed his “disapproval of attempts to ridicule other religions and create dissensions in society”.

“What we are witnessing today is a deliberate and cynical attempt to resurrect painful wounds of the past, re-enact past contestations and prevent the consolidation of a common and equal citizenship, which is the foundation of a democracy,” India’s former Foreign Secretary and respected public intellectual Shyam Saran wrote recently in The Tribune.

“If these vile threats are tolerated and go unpunished and unchecked, the very idea of India that we have inherited and nourished through many challenges will cease to exist. This is a moment of peril for all Indians,” Saran warned.

India Remains A Work In Progress At 75

It would not be an exaggeration to say that independent India has witnessed a policy meandering during its 75 years of eventful journey as a free and democratic nation.

At the time of independence, India was still being pulled by two different ideological camps: one a Hindu majoritarian ideology that wanted the new nation to be a theocratic state like Pakistan, the other a liberal democracy with religious and cultural plurality.

The ideological struggle was quite palpable even during the debates in the Constituent Assembly where there were strong voices supportive of turning India into a Hindu nation.

However, between these two opposing ideologies, a majority of the assembly members opted for a democratic republic that would respect all the varied cultures and religions of the country.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, played a crucial role in leading India on the path of secularism. Although Vallabhbhai Patel had huge success as the party chief, Mahatma Gandhi chose Nehru to succeed him and also as the first prime minister of the country.

“Nehru was cultured and refined. Patel was coarse to a degree. Nehru had a worldview. Patel was ignorant of world affairs. Nehru was great despite his serious flaws and grave failures. Patel was small and mean despite his admirable qualities. Nehru’s foreign policy was seriously flawed. But what an image he projected to the world for years as prime minister of newly independent India,” says A.G. Noorani, a constitutional expert.

Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy, which means a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life

If Nehru had a strong proclivity for promoting secularism which would encompass all religious traditions in India as valid but none of them would be privileged by the state, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar augmented his efforts by introducing social reformation both through the legislative route as well as social mobilization.

Ambedkar was a staunch believer in secularism and democracy. As someone who played a pivotal role in the drafting of India’s constitutions, he wanted to establish political democracy in all earnestness because that alone would, according to him, ensure social justice for all sections of society, particularly the socially ostracized segments.

While addressing the Constituent Assembly on Nov. 25, 1949, he asserted: “Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy, which means a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life.”

The secular spirit found in the constitution wasn’t an alien concept inserted into it but rather it was the natural reflection of the larger national ethos of according respect to all religions.

However, that spirit of secularism was being undermined by certain right-wing political and social organizations, creating fissures among various religious communities.

They went as far as to denounce the secular character of the constitution as a creation of Western political and social systems alien to the Indian ethos. It is this motivated campaign of right-wing Hindu organizations and political parties that has put the ideal of secularism under severe strain.

They have caricatured it to such an extent that it is being portrayed as pseudo-secularism, practiced by the leftist parties as well as those left of center.

Commenting on the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ram temple held in Ayodhya town, The Hindu newspaper wrote that the “ceremony itself manifested multiple possibilities for the country’s future. In symbolism and rhetoric, the line of separation between state and religion was crossed, notably by the role of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in it.”

If Indian policies on secularism have been meandering during the last seven decades of independence, there is another equally important policy matter — affirmative action — that has repeatedly been subjected to the rigorous scrutiny of various sociopolitical organizations.

The constitution made provisions for affirmative action with a view to bringing the hitherto socially and economically marginalized sections of Indian society to the mainstream.

Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Indian constitution, was instrumental in ensuring affirmation action for the benefit of the oppressed classes of India categorized as scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SCs/STs) and constituting nearly one quarter of the country’s population. That he belonged to a scheduled caste himself made him convinced of the fact that constitutional sanction must be provided in order to ensure social justice.

Although the reservation for the SC and ST sections of Indian society was initially meant for only 10 years as some claim, Ambedkar had not put a timeline on it. He probably wanted it to continue until the oppressed classes of Indians got their sociopolitical and economic justice fully redressed.

Reservation in India has now been turned into a political weapon that is often deployed during state and central elections

One could ask the question: have these stated objectives of reservation been met during the last seven decades? It would be awfully wrong if we were to say a total no for an answer; for the reservation policy has brought in both quantitative and qualitative changes in the lives of marginalized groups.

For instance, due to the reservation policy in education, enrolment of SC and ST students in colleges has substantially increased. Similarly, in employment there is a significant rise in the presence of these groups who otherwise have totally been out of the organized job market.

While the reservation policy was truly a shot in the arm of the SCs and STs, it served as a precursor for similar demands from other sections of society that were not sufficiently represented in the education and employment sectors. It is in this context that we need to view the 27 percent of reservation granted to the other backward castes (OBCs) in both education and employment.

Reservation in India has now been turned into a political weapon that is often deployed during state and central elections. No political party in India can afford to antagonize the large section of voters who continue to benefit from reservation facilities. As a matter of fact, there is a clamor from many more communities that want to be included in the OBC category in order to reap the benefits of reservation.

The reservation conundrum has been deepened with the Narendra Modi government introducing 10 percent reservation in 2019 for the economically weak forward castes of India. It is a fact that not all socially forward castes are economically sound and they have no access to any government grants; therefore, a new provision is made to absorb them as well into the reservation orbit.

As India turns 75 as an independent nation on Aug. 15, 2022, we have reasons to be proud of what we as a nation have achieved. But we also have some legitimate concerns regarding the direction the nation is taking, particularly under a political dispensation that seems to share very little with an inclusive social vision, equitable economic development and concern for the less fortunate sections of society.

We have miles to go if we are to achieve what Pandit Nehru said at the dawn of Indian independence: “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.” His words couldn’t be truer as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of Indian independence.

Modi’s Christmas Shocker Hurts The Poor And Disadvantaged In India During The Covid

“These calls have an eerie familiarity with what has happened to the Jews in Germany during World War II. Even Hitler has used euphemism instead of direct appeal to annihilate a community. However, the religious extremists in India have gone even a step further and made their open call. Undoubtedly, India is at an inflection point in history, and the question is whether the current leadership acquiesce to the sounds and fury from these diabolical mindsets by keeping their deafening silence!”

Like many other nations globally, India has been navigating through an economic crisis while battling an onslaught of Covid-19 and its variants. However, one may find it hard to pin down a leadership anywhere bent upon augmenting that misery for its own people through arbitrary and quirky actions. That is probably what the Modi administration has done by canceling about 6000 of FCRAs (Foreign Currency Remittance Act) of NGOs and various religious organizations that serve the poorest of the poor and disadvantaged in the educational, charitable, and healthcare arena.

These leaders appear to be unimpressed with the vital work done by many of these civic organizations in blunting the fury of the pandemic by providing food and assistance when the government was found missing in action. Missionaries of Charity, an organization founded by Mother Teresa, is one of the impacted organizations and might have garnered the most attention. However, so many of those organizations on that list might soon be depriving a dying patient of urgent medical care due to their inability to pay or denying a meal to a hungry person from the ranks of the poor and disadvantaged.

It is bizarre to learn that one of the reasons for cutting off funds for the Missionaries of Charities was that the inspectors had found copies of Bibles on the premises! Missionaries of Charities have had a long record of distinguished humanitarian service that began in 1950 on the streets of Calcutta. The group is revered worldwide for its work under Mother Teresa, an Albanian Christian nun who made India her home. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her dedicated work over a lifetime, and her legacy inspires so many to carry on with similar missions.

The published list contains organizations belonging to various religious affiliations. Although one can fully understand the need for transparency and accountability in these organizations, this discretionary decision may have a far-reaching effect of closing their doors for good, resulting in a denial of services to the most vulnerable needy. Moreover, by releasing this list on the eve of Christmas, the Modi administration may also be sending a clear message to the Christians in India that you are no longer welcome as a partner in the social development arena. They may look at the Christian community as having undue influence in the society-at-large through their educational and charitable work and are determined to shut it down. While people worldwide are on edge dealing with variants of this virus, only a wicked mindset could think of this type of ordinance in a time such as these.

Thanks to the rising antagonism of the authorities towards minorities, we have also seen a spate of attacks on Christians during this holiday season. The right-wing extremists, who are emboldened by the words and deeds of the current leadership, went on a rampage disrupting Carol services and destroying church properties in several parts of India. A group of men led by a politician barged into a Gurgaon private school and disrupted the Christmas carnival. They also chanted slogans of “Jai Shri Ram and Bharat Ki Jai,” and the videos of the incident show a man addressing the gathering, stating that “Christianity is not acceptable here.”

In another incident, a statue of Jesus Christ was vandalized at the Holy Redeemer Church entrance, a century-old building with great historical importance. In the Chandmari district of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, a group of right-wing men carrying saffron flags protested outside the Matridham Ashram before a Christmas event was to take place. The group of 20-30 people raised the “Jai Shri ram” slogan along with “Church murdabad” (death to the church) and “stop conversion.” In Assam, the Bajrang Dal was also involved in impeding the Christmas midnight mass celebrations in Silchar. The men allegedly forced their way into the church and demanded that the celebration be shut down because it was also ‘Tulsi Diwas.’

The action against Missionaries of Charity also happened in the backdrop of an anti-conversion bill passed in the Karnataka Assembly that has stoked anxieties among Christians in that southern state, the IT hub of India. The first anti-conversion law was passed in Odisha in 1967, leading to an attack on Christians, culminating in the Kandhamal violence in 2008. Six other states followed suit resulting in increased violence against Christians. Rev. Peter Machado, Archbishop of Bengaluru, summed up his heartfelt feelings this way: “This is frightening and a sad commentary on secularism, signals are suggesting it is not a good time to be a Christian in Karnataka.” One also wonders that if there is such a rampant conversion as alleged, why has the Christian population in Karnataka decreased from 1.91% as per the 2001 census instead of 1.87% as per the 2011 one?

Why are these attacks occurring at an increased frequency now? For those observers, it becomes apparent that it is part of the BJP efforts to promote their long-cherished goal of a majoritarian rule under the banner of a Hindu Rashtra. The recently held Dharam Sansad in Haridwar in the name of Sanatana Dharma indicated what extent they are willing to go to accomplish that goal. One of the main organizers of the Sansad, Prabodhhanand Giri, was heard praising the Myanmarese people for killing and driving out Rohingya Muslims. The Swami wants the Hindus in India to imitate the Buddhists and drive out the Muslims from the country. A female speaker went even further, asking every Hindu to wield the sword and start killing Muslims. Christians may be considered collateral damage in their quest to fulfill that dream in the whole scheme of things.

These calls have an eerie familiarity with what has happened to the Jews in Germany during World War II. Even Hitler has used euphemism instead of direct appeal to annihilate a community. However, the religious extremists in India have gone even a step further and made their open call. Undoubtedly, India is at an inflection point in history, and the question is whether the current leadership acquiesce to the sounds and fury from these diabolical mindsets by keeping their deafening silence!

Tools For Peace: Pope Francis Presents Three Points To Ponder

Every year on the New Year’s Day, the Church celebrates the World Day of Peace. Each year the Holy Father sends a message for the celebration of this day. This year, on the 55th World Day of Peace, Pope Francis had this message for us: “Dialogue Between Generations; Education; and Work: Tools for Building Lasting Peace.”

In his introductory remarks, Pope Francis expresses his sadness over the fact that the path of peace which St. Pope Paul VI called by a new name of integral development, “remains sadly distant from the real lives of many men and women and thus from our human family, which is now entirely interconnected.” Despite numerous efforts, wars and armed conflicts, diseases of pandemic, effects of climate change and environmental degradation, hunger and economic slowdown add up to disruption of peace in the world.

The Pope reminds us that peace is both a gift from high and the fruit of a shared commitment. All of us, therefore, must contribute our mite towards peace beginning with our own individual hearts and families, then within the society and all working up to relationships between peoples and nations.

Pope Francis proposes three paths for building lasting peace. First, Dialogue between Generations, second, Education and third Work. A word on each:

Dialogue Between Generations to Build Peace: In a world beset with untold problems, two common reactions of people are, either to flee from reality or to react with destructive violence. But the Pope says that there is another possible option: “Yet between selfish indifference and violent protest there is always another possible option: that of dialogue. Dialogue between generations”. He goes on to explain: “Dialogue entails listening to one another, sharing different views, coming to agreement and walking together.” This sounds very much like the way we are to be involved in the current synodal process on Synodality.

We must note here that the Pope does not merely preach but works to promote peace. We recall with great admiration how a couple of years ago the Pope brought leaders of two warring factions of South Sudan together and even knelt down and kissed their feet to broker peace.

Stressing the urgent need for an inter-generational partnership, Pope Francis affirms: “Young people need the wisdom and experience of the elderly, while those who are older need the support, affection, creativity and dynamism of the young.” The Pope is of the opinion that “the global crisis we are experiencing makes it clear that encounter and dialogue between generations should be the driving force behind a healthy politics, that is not content to manage the present with piecemeal solutions or quick fixes, but views itself as an outstanding form of love for others, in the search for shared and sustainable projects for the future”.

For such lasting endeavours, dialogue between the elderly (“keepers of memory”) and the young (“those who move history forward”) is necessary. Each must be willing to make room for others and not to insist on monopolizing the entire scene for pursuing their own immediate interests.

Such inter-generational dialogue is also necessary when we think of care for our common home. The environment, the Pope reminds us, “is on loan to each generation, which must then hand it on to the next.”

Teaching and Education as Drivers of Peace: To build paths of peace together we cannot ignore education which is a privileged setting and context for integral development. “Education provides the grammar for dialogue between generations,” observes the Holy Father.

However, the Supreme Pontiff laments that “In recent years, there has been a significant reduction worldwide in funding for education and training; these have been seen more as expenditures than investments. Yet they are the primary means of promoting integral human development; they make individuals free and responsible, and they are essential for the defence and promotion of peace. In a word, teaching and education are the foundations of a cohesive civil society capable of generating hope, prosperity and progress”.

While there is a significant reduction in the funds for education, on the other hand, military expenditures have increased and they seem certain to grow exorbitantly, says the Holy Father. He goes on to call governments to “develop economic policies aimed at inverting the proportion of public funds spent on education and on weaponry”.

The Pope hopes that “investment in education will also be accompanied by greater efforts to promote the culture of care…. A country flourishes when constructive dialogue occurs between its many rich cultural components: popular culture, university culture, youth culture, artistic culture, technological culture, economic culture, family culture and media culture”.

Pope Francis says that it is essential then “to forge a new cultural paradigm” through “a global pact on education for and with future generations, one that commits families, communities, schools, universities, institutions, religions, governments and the entire human family to the training of mature men and women”.

It is by investing in the education and training of younger generations, we can help them, through a focused programme of formation, to take their rightful place in the labour market, affirms the Pope.

Creating and Ensuring Labour Builds Peace: “Labour is an indispensable factor in building and keeping peace”. Humans are social animals. We always work with or for someone. Hence the work place enables us to learn to make our contribution towards a more habitable and beautiful world.

The Pope is well aware that the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected the labour market. Millions of economic and productive activities have failed. Migrant workers have suffered particularly with no system of welfare or social security for them. Violence and organized crimes are on the increase in many countries. The only answer to this is “an expansion of dignified employment opportunities” according to the Holy Father.

“Labour, in fact, is the foundation on which to build justice and solidarity in every community. Peace is not possible without justice and solidarity. Efforts must be made to encourage a renewed sense of social responsibility, so that profit will not be the sole guiding criteria.” The fundamental human rights of the workers must be respected. When justice is ensured and human rights are respected, the workers will themselves contribute to building peace.

Holy Father concludes his World Day of Peace Message with the following appeal to government leaders, those with political and social responsibilities, priests and pastoral workers, and to all men and women of good will: “Let us walk together with courage and creativity on the path of intergenerational dialogue, education, and work.

May more and more men and women strive daily, with quiet humility and courage, to be artisans of peace. And may they be ever inspired and accompanied by the blessings of the God of peace”. Let us pay heed to the Holy Father’s appeal and to his peace message. Let us use the three tools proposed by him and contribute our share in building world peace. Peace be with you!

Unisex Public Schools In Chicago

Paris, often referred to as the ‘City of Light’ (La Ville Lumière), has always fascinated me for its clean roads and fashion shops. Surprisingly, a few years back, while in the international airport, I was in a Uni-sex toilette with no astonishment of passengers of either sex running up and down in it. Earlier, I felt as if I had done some sinning entering a Ladies’ restroom.

However, after a few hours, while sitting on my flight to New Delhi, my senses became diluted when I used the same bathroom both genders were using. So there is absolutely nothing special about Unisex public toilets (also referred to as gender-inclusive, gender-neutral, mixed-sex or all-gender, or without any prefix at all) are public toilets that are not separated by gender or sex.

Thinking about Gender equity, of course, the problem may be that genders are different and not equal. Somehow the custom and cultural ideologies kept them separate- at least for using the restrooms, and nothing wrong in that practice for many reasons.

But the latest news in the USA that Chicago expels sex-specific restrooms from public schools is a whistleblower for a provocative issue indeed.So far, boys and girls were using their specific restrooms in their own privacy and had no fear of peer pressure from the other gender. However, public school bathrooms will now be “gender-neutral,” a reform that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) boasts of as a “big step forward for gender equity.”

This reformative initiative requires the schools to display language outside of restrooms, informing students, whether male or female, that they may use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity. CPS prompted others, “We require all schools to adopt new signage to make our restrooms more inclusive. This is a big step forward for gender equity for our students and staff.” Is it going to influence the schooling practices themselves, or will it just be ignored?

This initiative not only impacts school children but also the school staff initially. As per CPS, the signage will “make it clear that all restrooms are open for use by anyone who feels comfortable.” It is also stated that the move is to “increase gender equity for all.”

One example of signage that will be displayed at schools reads: “This is a gender-neutral restroom with multiple stalls. It is open to users of any gender identity or expression.”

Is the School system meticulously worried about the health and safety of all students?. If so, Schools need to rip out the existing restrooms and replace them with single-user toilets. It will take up more space, but everyone’s privacy will be protected with no fear of peeping toms!

This is not what they are implementing in Chicago, and it is not a private restroom; it is the standard multi-stall bathrooms. We are really worried about the teens with all confused inhibitions and early sexual emotions.

We agree that all children need to be safe in the bathroom. Lack of safety and lack of comfort may be the two different concerns, which need to be clarified by the school administrators. Across our country, many students avoid using bathrooms fearing that another student might mistreat or harm them emotionally or physically.

Most of them will try to hold it till they reach home because, as we are talking about pre-teens and teens. Middle & high school students are very sensitive and insecure and shameful about their changing bodies and the opposite sex. So, a young girl getting her period for the first time or any girl needing to take care similar situation might have real embarrassment if there is a boy in the next stall; that is the reality. The consequences of these fears can be severe, impacting a child’s health, well-being, and ability to concentrate on learning.

If the real issue is on how to protect and respect individuals with a different gender than one assigned at birth, we need to recognize them. The emotionally disturbed trans may be less than 1%. Why do we change everything for the 1%? – that is what the average parent does not understand. Maybe, rather than designating all bathrooms gender-neutral, they should have at least one set for girls or boys only as well.se

“While the binary male/female gender paradigm is no longer sufficient for understanding gender identity and gender expression, this perspective is new to many people. Therefore, school leaders can reduce misunderstanding and conflict by raising awareness and educating constituencies about gender diversity, including transgender status.” (NAIS- Fox News).

We are apprehensive about the ever-increasing sexual assaults going on in many schools. Having gender-specific toilets will not necessarily stop teenage sexual assaults in school. Instead, how many of those implementing this reforming program would be comfortable in a restroom with someone of the opposite gender in the next stall?. Apart from that, usually, girls spend as much as twice as long in the bathroom as men, and that’s because they have physiological changes, and they have more layers of clothes to remove before using the toilette. Boys waiting outside usually show their impatience, ending up with angry words or shoutings. Needless to affirm that this setup is ripe for bullying, which is already out of control.

Why are so many throwing away gender norms for everyone else, making the majority uncomfortable so the one or two students in question can feel comfortable?.

Neither schools nor parents can assume that every child knows appropriate behavior with unisex concepts. When a school conveys what behaviors are and are not acceptable, the issues related to bathrooms move from assumptions and misperceptions about an individual’s intent and instead focus-on their observable act. Question remains – Is this a “big step forward,” and gender-neutral bathrooms in schools are of the utmost importance now?

Prevention Is Better Than Cure The Significance of Your Annual Physical Exam

Advika was in her late forties. Despite feeling tired and noting some abnormal pains during her monthly cycle, she declined to go to the doctor. The cost of traveling to the doctor was expensive and she didn’t have the extra funds or time to take a day off work for the trip. Eventually, she started feeling so bad that working was almost impossible. Finally, she went to the doctor, only to find out that she had an advanced stage of cervical cancer.

While we would all wish that her story was rare, the truth is that undiagnosed cancer happens frequently in India. Advanced stages of cancer are less likely to be cured and have a greater chance of relapse. In stage one, for instance, the cure rate is around 85% but that number falls dramatically for those in stage 3. Cancer patients who are diagnosed with stage 4 cancer are not likely to survive for more than five years.

The World Health Organization says that cancer is diagnosed in more than 14 million people worldwide annually and ends up killing approximately 8.8 million. What is most shocking is that two-thirds of these deaths are in low-middle income countries where diagnosis is found to be inadequate.

Indian system of modern medicine does not promote an annual preventive physical exam for patients even though several private hospitals promote comprehensive executive check ups for the wealthy.  Its time to change that. Identifying chronic diseases like Diabetes, Hypertension, and heart diseases early and managing them is a lot more effective than managing and treating its complications.

In the United States, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in disease prevention and evidence-based medicine. The Task Force works to improve the health of people nationwide by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services. “The Prevention TaskForce” application assists primary care clinicians to identify the screening, counseling, and preventive medication services that are appropriate for their patients. Government of India could implement a similar project and use the lessons learned in the United States and other countries.

If all patients in India have access to complimentary annual preventive physical exam, including routine lab tests and cancer screenings, this will increase the chances of finding cancer and deadly diseases earlier and will enhance the likelihood of a cure. The cost to the taxpayers of India will eventually be far less as we prevent long term complications of Cancer and Chronic diseases.

For the individual patient who is covering the costs of seeing a doctor, the idea of annual physical examination when they feel fine seems like a waste of financial resources. As has become the case in countries around the world, primary care and annual physical examinations are beginning to disappear. As telehealth and digital medicine options have continued to increase in use, particularly during the pandemic, the idea of a traditional physical exam has come under greater scrutiny. A combination physical exam and telehealth might be the way of the future in keeping our nation healthy.

The annual physical exam is part of the larger discussion about primary care and whether it is necessary. In the U.S., India, and other countries around the world, medicine has become the way you manage disease, not prevent it. Primary care, on the other hand, is a way to prevent disease by talking with patients about their potential health risks and giving them practical advice on how to care for their health, while considering their unique lifestyle challenges.

Unfortunately, there is little discussion about how focusing on primary care, including the annual physical exam, could positively impact the costs of healthcare. Far too often, individuals throughout the world find themselves waiting to seek medical attention until they are much sicker, simply because they do not have the funds to afford basic preventive primary care or may struggle to stick with prescribed preventive health measures and lifestyle changes due to costs or social status.

While telemedicine does offer a way for physicians to connect with their patients in a cost-effective manner, there is something to be said for having a patient in front of you, where you can physically examine them. When a patient disagrees with their doctor, for instance, having a physical exam can give you data that informs the discussion and could be helpful in getting the patient on board with the treatment options available.

A patient who might be looking for antibiotics to treat a respiratory infection might feel better about not needing medication when they know that their lungs are clear, and their oxygen saturation levels are within normal range.

Telehealth does offer a means for doctors to understand the home environment of their patients and give them the opportunity to connect more frequently with their patients throughout the year. Virtual visits can also respect the patient’s time, as well as the doctor’s. Plus, technology is continuing to improve the ways available for doctors to collect physical data from their patients without physically having them in the office.

End stage renal diseases can be prevented by preventing or managing health conditions that cause kidney damage, such as diabetes and high blood pressure The costs for cancer treatments increase dramatically at later stages, as your medical team deals with the cancer and its side effects. Families often see any cancer diagnosis as a huge financial blow, meaning that they are also willing to make choices between treatment and caring for family needs. Annual physical exams, which include routine tests and screenings, could be a way to save individuals and their loved ones the financial and emotional costs of cancers and many other preventable diseases.

How can we make this happen in an affordable way using digital technology platforms like Telehealth? India being a leader in digital technology- this can be implemented more efficiently and make healthcare more accessible to common man especially in rural areas across the nation.

American Association of Physicians  of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic physician organization in the United states, representing over 100,000 Indain American Physicians, has initiated preventive healthcare screenings in 75 villages to understand the concept of preventive screenings help to diagnose any silent diseases which are causing premature deaths from Coronary heart disease and cancers like Breast cancer, cervical cancer which are preventable if diagnosed early through these annual screenings as mentioned above.

During the annual Global Healthcare Summit AAPI has planned to organize in India at Hotel AVASA in Hyderabad from January 5th to 7th, 2022, physician leaders from the United States and India will have an opportunity to brainstorm and explore ways to focus on the theme, “Transformation of Healthcare through Telehealth and Technology usage during this post Covid Era” recommend possible ways to plan and implement preventive medicine that will save resources and precious human lives.

It’s our hope that Government of India will appoint an expert panel of nationally recognized experts in the disciplines of preventive medicine and primary care, including internal medicine, family medicine, geriatrics, pediatrics, preventive medicine, behavioral medicine, public health, obstetrics and gynecology, and nursing to create an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF) recommendations should be promoted and Implemented as part of the Free annual physical exam or telemedicine visit at Government Hospitals and Primary care centers. Private hospitals and Insurance companies should be encouraged to provide Annual Physical exam or Telehealth visit, following IPTF recommendations for free or at affordable cost. Many of the routine lab tests, vaccinations, blood pressure checks and some cancer screenings like self-breast examination can be done remotely and event at patient’s home with the help of Asha workers. The annual physical exam is a critical part of quality primary care and one that needs to be automatically covered as part of Indian healthcare system.

To shift our healthcare from being disease and treatment centered, we need to elevate the value of primary care, particularly the annual physical exam and recognize how critical this is to having a healthy nation and a healthier world.

With one of the largest populations in the World, India could lead the World in providing quality health care to all its citizens and the recent COVID-19 vaccination drive is a great example. The biggest democracy in the World needs urgent Investment in the health of all its citizens and reform the public healthcare system.

*Dr. Anupama Gotimukula is the President of American Association of Physicians  of Indian Origin (AAPI), resides in San Antonio, TX. A board certified Pediatric Anesthesiologist, practicing since 2007, Dr. Gotimukula is affiliated with Christus Santa Rosa, Baptist and Methodist Healthcare systems in San Antonio.

*Prof. (Dr.) Joseph M. Chalil is an Adjunct Professor & Chair of the Complex Health Systems advisory board at Nova Southeastern University’s School of Business; Chairman of the Indo-American Press Club and The Universal News Network publisher.

*He recently published a Best Seller Book – “Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: Envisioning a Better World by Transforming the Future of Healthcare.”

Glasgow, Greta, And Good Intentions

Both anxiety and hope are increasing in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. There is anxiety because, barring a handful of the willfully blind, we can all see the damage we are doing to the planet. Fires, floods, and rising sea levels are creating havoc around the world, while environmental destruction and the resulting conflict are triggering large-scale refugee movements that evoke biblical images.

But there is also hope, because some—not least the climate activist Greta Thunberg, with her longstanding and heartening call for more ambitious action—recognize the scale of the challenge facing humanity. In that spirit, the European Union has launched the European Green Deal, which aims to make the EU carbon-neutral by 2050.

The United States also aims to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century, and recently announced that it would double its financial contribution to help developing countries tackle the climate crisis, to $11.4 billion per year. Some U.S. lawmakers, notably Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, have proposed a Green New Deal, an ambitious plan to redesign the U.S. economy and eventually eliminate all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.

When we see climate action trail so far behind rhetoric, we inevitably wonder if all the talk is just hypocrisy. But it need not be.

Yet, despite these efforts, the fact is that we started out late in combating climate change and now need to accelerate corrective action if humans are not to go the way of the dinosaurs. The climate crisis is a global issue and requires action from all countries, but many developing economies, including some of the most climate-vulnerable ones, lack the financial wherewithal to do enough on their own. Some emerging economies, including South Africa and much of South and Southeast Asia, are hugely reliant on coal, and will have to undergo a disruptive green transition.

We therefore need a collective commitment to design support systems—financial and scientific—to help all countries do their part. The 2015 Paris climate agreement was a diplomatic success, marshaling the support of almost 200 countries. But the world is falling woefully short of meeting the target—limiting global warming to 1.5º Celsius, relative to preindustrial levels—that was agreed in Paris.

Will the gathering in Glasgow catalyze genuine action? Thunberg recently warned that “the leaders will say we’ll do this and we’ll do this, … and then they will do nothing.” And the widespread frustration at leaders’ insufficient climate ambition is not limited to young people. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II expressed a similar sentiment, saying that “it’s really irritating when they talk, but they don’t do.”

Such despair is natural. When we see climate action trail so far behind rhetoric, we inevitably wonder if all the talk is just hypocrisy.

But it need not be. If we want to bequeath a livable planet to future generations, it is crucial to understand why there may be a disjuncture between what each person intends to do and what the group actually delivers. Iconic games like the prisoner’s dilemma have shown this to be the case in the domain of selfish decision-making. Mobilizing the determination and commitment needed to address the climate crisis is a problem for the social sciences and moral philosophy as much as it is for politicians.

Contrary to what neoclassical economics would have us believe, the modern economy does not operate as a series of impersonal markets driven purely by the aspirations of individual actors. Rather, as Mariana Mazzucato notes in her book “Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism,” markets are “embedded in rules, norms, and contracts affecting organizational behavior, interactions, and institutional designs.”

It is therefore a mistake to equate collective action with the sum of individual intentions. When people say they want to do everything to avert climate disaster but do little, this may not be hypocrisy. They may be in the grip of what I have described in a recent paper as “Greta’s Dilemma.”

In this game, a group of people initially pursue their own interests, with no concern for how the environmental damage caused by their actions will harm future generations. If people then become environmentally conscious and take corrective action, traditional economic models would predict that such a shift will lead to improvements in future generations’ welfare.

But in the complex, strategically connected world that we inhabit today, the outcome may be different. Greta’s Dilemma illustrates the paradoxical result whereby individuals who become environmentally conscious collectively do greater damage to the environment. Akin to one of those paradoxical paintings by M.C. Escher, it is the intertwining of small individual steps that lead the group to a destination they did not seek. Far from helping future generations, they end up hurting them.

Admittedly, this game is crafted deliberately to highlight the paradox. But it shows that, in today’s complex global economy, we need to devote much greater attention to the strategic foundations of human interaction in order to design policies that can help us turn away from the brink of climate disaster.

This may sound like a narrow academic argument, but it is not. If we are to realize Thunberg’s ambition, which I believe many people—including many leaders—genuinely share, we need to use Greta’s Dilemma as a basis for designing the policies and institutions we need.

So, although we are right to fret that leaders may not do enough at COP26, we also have to be aware that there is a scientific problem here. On climate change and other issues, we need to understand the social and economic game we are playing, and try to alter its rules so that our individual moral intentions are reflected better in collective outcomes.

Glossing Over in Glasgow – Some Thoughts on COP26

A week has gone by since COP 26 with 197 Parties ended in the Scottish city of Glasgow on extended time last Saturday. Climate change which covers wide array of issues affecting all living beings engaged the people around the world for COP 26 in a way never experienced since COP1 was held in Berlin in 1995.

Extensive and round-the-clock media coverage, huge presence of the civil society, activism by the young people, substantive advocacy by large number of non-governmental organizations, even the creatively decorated conference venue – all gave COP 26 a profile never seen before.

Before Glasgow, 25 annually convened sessions of COPs have been held by Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted in New York in May 1992 which “determined to protect the climate system for present and future generations”. But never in the history of COPs there was an occasion when the Parties publicly negotiated to change the outcome document which was televised around the world as in the Glasgow COP.

As is natural for such multilateral gatherings, reactions to the question whether COP 26 was successful were different from the Parties and other entities engaged in the process. Efforts to gloss over following COP 26 left the common people uncertain and unsure whether there was really any forward movement in Glasgow.

Contradictions

What was somewhat intriguing that speaking for the United Nations system as a whole, the Secretary-General expressed his disappointment about the compromise reached in the outcome commenting “…unfortunately the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions.”

He even warned “It is time to go into emergency mode — or our chance of reaching net zero will itself be zero.” At the same time, Secretary-General’s rather confusing, ill-composed comment in his remarks at the conclusion of COP 26 that “We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe” left many wondering what he was trying to convey.

Even more intriguing is that where was his leadership as the universally accepted global leader in getting rid of those contradictions he was complaining about.? On the other hand, the Executive Secretary entrusted with the responsibility of organizing COPs was upbeat about the outcome and may be reflecting another contradiction in Glasgow. COP 26 also invited the UN Secretary-General to convene world leaders in 2023 to consider ambition to 2030 dangling the traditional carrot of expectation to the people of the world.

Alok Sharma touch

Let me bring out a very uniquely remarkable thing that happened in COP 26 as its UK-appointed full-time President Alok Sharma openly and visibly choked back tears saying “I am deeply sorry” as he banged his gavel for the adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact.

His emotions and true feelings came out spontaneously as he was considerably upset by the proposal of India, joined by China, to change the expression “phase out” relating to coal consumption as agreed to by all till the moment of adoption.

India replaced that phrase with “phase down” thereby watering down the consensus intent of the Parties at COP 26. President Sharma expressed his apologies for the way things evolved in changing the agreed COP 26 outcome negotiated under his leadership and which he was about to gavel down. In my half a century of engagement in multilateral diplomacy,

I am not aware of any conference chair apologizing ever for his inability to protect the best interest of the participants in the outcome. Bravo to Alok Sharma for that honesty and integrity! He has shown the way to all future chairs that they can openly and courageously pronounce their failure identifying those who are dragging their feet destroying a forward-looking outcome.

It was also impressive the way President Sharma asserted the reality with his pithy comment that we have kept 1.5 Celsius alive “but its pulse is weak”.

Loss and Damage

The insensitivity of the Parties and their self-centered policy positions were starkly manifested in the decision relating to a major issue known as “Loss and Damage”. Not much media highlight was given to this very relevant item on COP 26 agenda. Even the UN’s Climate Change website does include in its list of topics.

I am sure many readers are picking their brains trying to recall the issue. “Loss and damage” is used within the COP process to refer to the harms caused by anthropogenic climate change. Establishing liability and compensation for loss and damage has been a long-standing goal for vulnerable and developing countries in the Alliance of Small Island States and the Least Developed Countries Group in negotiations.

However, developed countries have resisted this. At Glasgow, the developing countries lamented the outcome on loss and damage. They had called for a financial mechanism for loss and damage, but the outcome on loss and damage only included strengthening the existing technical support functions, and expectedly more empty and rejectionist talks to convene from 2022 to 2024.

The existing UNFCCC mechanism created by COP 19, the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, focuses on research and dialogue rather than liability or compensation.
Tasneem Essop, Executive Director, Climate Action Network succinctly described COP 26 as “a clear betrayal by rich nations – the US, the EU and the UK- of vulnerable communities in poor countries.”

She went on to say that by blocking the proposal of the developing countries representing 6 billion people, on the creation of a Glasgow Loss and Damage Finance Facility “rich countries have once again demonstrated their complete lack of solidarity and responsibility to protect those facing the worst of the climate impacts.

Referring to close-door pressure tactics, Saleemul Huq, Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) regretted that “The COP Presidency has overnight been bullied into dropping the Glasgow Loss and Damage Finance Facility. The UK’s words to the vulnerable countries have been proven to be totally unreliable.”

Natalie Lucas, Executive Director, Care About Climate very forcefully spoke about the loss and damage issue and expressed total disappointment commenting that “Developed nations, including the US, have not risen to the challenge to do what is necessary to protect people. We have missed the train on mitigation, on adaptation, and now it is colliding into the most vulnerable people.”

At the end the Glasgow Climate Pact pitifully agreed “to enhance understanding of how approaches to averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage can be improved”. It clearly reflects how the “powerful” of the world impose their totally irrelevant and illogical position on the poorest and most vulnerable humanity.

About the Glasgow outcome, globally respected eminent economist Jeffrey Sachs rightly opined “That leaves us stuck between the reality of a devastating global climate crisis and rich countries’ nationalist politics…” He articulated further that “The financial failures at COP26 are both tragic and absurd … Financing for “losses and damages,” that is, to recover and rebuild from climate disasters, fared even worse, with rich countries agreeing only to hold a “dialogue” on the issue.”

Kowtowing to the obstinacy of the developed countries, UN Secretary-General insensitively tried to console the developing world by his non-committal words saying “I want to make a particular appeal for our future work in relation to adaptation and the issue of loss and damage.”

He was oblivious that the Climate Change Convention of 1992 of which he is the depository asserts that “The extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country Parties of their commitments under the Convention related to financial resources and transfer of technology and will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.”

Civil society

At Glasgow, the civil society engagement and advocacy for forward-looking actions fell on deaf ears of the leaders and negotiators. The civil society was separated from the so-called Blue Zone at the conference center where the wheeling-dealing was taking place.

If the civil society seriously wants a space to be heard and make an impact on the outcome of COP processes, it should ask for that opportunity clearly offered to them in all future climate negotiations. Protesting outside and commenting on the social media have limited value in influencing the decision-makers.

Even Greta Thunberg’s disparaging slogan “blah, blah, blah …” was laughed away by the leaders. COP 26 outcome proves that in a terribly frustrating manner. For COP 27 next year, the mode of operations for the civil society participation needs to change.

American climate scientist and author Peter Kalmus articulated that “The one thing the climate summit in Glasgow made clear is that human society remains in business-as-usual mode, with no meaningful curb on fossil fuel use. The soft pledges made at COP 26 might have been acceptable decades ago, but not now.”

He went on to highlight that “Unless COP26’s failure is recognized as failure, there is no way to learn from it. Allowing global leaders to feel that what happened in Glasgow was acceptable – and spinning it as some sort of success – would be a disastrous mistake.”

The whole COP process is flawed if the powerful Parties can brush aside the wishes of countries representing a huge majority of the world population just like that. Developing countries need to join together to stop this circus and find another approach.

“Phase down” – the new mantra

There has been strong criticism of the last-minute and veto-like proposal to replace “Phase out” by “Phase down” at the final moments of the Glasgow gathering. But “phase down” has always been the position of the worst and historically responsible polluters of the world who would prefer to follow their own pace for addressing the climate crisis.

Be it emissions control, be it fossil fuels, be it financing, be it adaptation, be it mitigation, be it loss and damage, be it transfer of technology, “phase down” mode has always been the preferred way of doing business by the developed world. India has only taken a dubious lead in actually introducing the phrase in a formal COP outcome.

The global community would find more and more such instances as the climate change negotiations evolves in the coming years. “Phase down” is the new mantra of the climate change negotiators. Be prepared for that. Sorry!  (Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury is former Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations and former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations.)

Climate Talks Draft Agreement Expresses ‘Alarm And Concern’

Governments are poised to express “alarm and concern” about how much Earth has already warmed and encourage one another to end their use of coal, according to a draft released Wednesday of the final document expected at U.N. climate talks.

The early version of the document circulating at the negotiations in Glasgow, Scotland, also impresses on countries the need to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about half by 2030 — even though pledges so far from governments don’t add up to that frequently stated goal.

In a significant move, countries would urge one another to “accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels” in the draft, though it has no explicit reference to ending the use of oil and gas. There has been a big push among developed nations to shut down coal-fired power plants, which are a major source of heat-trapping gases, but the fuel remains a critical and cheap source of electricity for countries like China and India.

While the language about moving away from coal is a first and important, the lack of a date when countries will do so limits the pledge’s effectiveness, said Greenpeace International Director Jennifer Morgan, a long-time climate talks observer.

“This isn’t the plan to solve the climate emergency. This won’t give the kids on the streets the confidence that they’ll need,” Morgan said.

The draft doesn’t yet include full agreements on the three major goals that the U.N. set going into the negotiations — and may disappoint poorer nations because of a lack of solid financial commitments from richer ones. The goals are: for rich nations to give poorer ones $100 billion a year in climate aid, to ensure that half of that money goes to adapting to worsening global warming, and the pledge to slash emissions that is mentioned.

The draft does provide insight, however, into the issues that need to be resolved in the last few days of the conference, which is scheduled to end Friday but may push past that deadline. Still, a lot of negotiating and decision-making is yet to come since whatever emerges from the meetings has to be unanimously approved by the nearly 200 nations attending.

The draft says the world should try to achieve “net-zero (emissions) around mid-century.” That means requiring countries to pump only as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as can be absorbed again through natural or artificial means.

It also acknowledges “with regret” that rich nations have failed to live up to the climate aid pledge.

Poorer nations, which need financial help both in developing green energy systems and adapting to the worst of climate change, are angry that the promised aid hasn’t materialized.

“Without financial support little can be done to minimize its debilitating effects for vulnerable communities around the world,” Mohammed Nasheed, the Maldives’ parliamentary speaker and the ambassador for a group of dozens of countries most vulnerable to climate change, said in a statement.

He said the draft fails on key issues, including the financial aid and strong emission cuts. “There’s much more that