Indian Missions Across The Globe Celebrate Indian Constitution Day

Indian missions across the globe on Tuesday celebrated the 70 years of adoption of the Constitution as several world leaders congratulated Indians on the occasion, calling it a “landmark” document that reflects the country’s unique culture and history.

The Constitution of India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949 and came into force on January 26, 1950.

In Australia, celebrations were held at the premises of the High Commission in Canberra, where Professor Benedict Sheehy of the University of Canberra gave an insightful presentation on the Indian Constitution. Events were also organised in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne to mark the day.

In Perth, Premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan delivered a special message on the occasion.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated India on the 70th anniversary of adopting the Constitution, calling it a “landmark” document that reflects the country’s unique culture and history.

“Congratulations to my dear friend Prime Minister @Narendra Modi? and the people of India on the 70th anniversary of India’s Constitution Day”, Netanyahu tweeted.

Several other Israeli leaders, including President Rivlin, also released video messages congratulating India on the Constitution Day.

“Dear Friends all over India, Congratulations! Congratulations on your Constitution Day marking 70 years of a strong democracy, in the biggest democracy in the world,” Rivlin said.

In Sri Lanka, High Commissioner of India Taranjit Singh Sandhu led the reading of the Preamble of the Constitution on the occasion in Colombo.

Picture : HT

India’s High Commissioner to Singapore Jawed Ashraf and the mission staff read the Preamble. A photo exhibition on the Constitution of India was also organised on the occasion.

In Bhutan, Indian mission staff pledged allegiance to the Constitution.

“On the occasion of Indian Constitution Day, the Preamble of the Constitution was read out by the Ambassador and all officials of the Embassy today,” Indian Mission in Indonesia tweeted.

A special photo exhibition on Dr. B R Ambedkar was also showcased at the Embassy premises on the occasion, it said.

In Thailand, Indian Embassy staff in Bangkok read the Preamble of the Constitution. President of the Thai National Assembly Chuan Leekpai greeted the Indian people in a video message on the occasion.

In Kathmandu, a special programme to celebrate India’s Constitution day was attended by around 600 people including many from the Indian diaspora in Nepal. The programme began with taking oath of the Indian Constitution by the embassy staff and students who were present on the occasion.

In Islamabad, the Indian mission staff read the preamble and spoke about the salient features of the Constitution of India, the bedrock of the world’s largest democracy.

“Celebrating the spirit of #WeThePeople. Today, we pay homage to the framers of the #ConstitutionofIndia which guides the destiny of 1.3 billion people of India!” the Indian High Commission in Pakistan tweeted.

In London, the High Commission extended greetings to all Indians in the UK. The day was also celebrated in Paris, where French Member of Parliament and President of India-France Friendship Group of National Assembly spoke about India’s democratic traditions and the Indian Constitution.

Congratulating India on the occasion, the President of the UN General Assembly said the country’s Constitution is a “seminal document” which marked its emergence from the shadows of colonialism to the light of independence.

“This year we celebrate 150 years since the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, a figure most regarded for his contributions to the idea of non-violence and respect for human beings,” President of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande said.

“We also celebrate and mark the occasion of the 70th Constitution Day of India,” Muhammad-Bande said in a special video message congratulatory message to Indians on the occasion of the 70th Constitution Day of India.

Celebrations were also held at the Indian missions in Scotland, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Brunei, Bangladesh, Japan, Fiji, Cyprus, Myanmar, Iraq, Lebanon, Kenya, Mongolia, Russia and Turkey. (Courtesy: Business Standard

Reform Of UNSC And Terror Will Be Focus As India Assumes UNSC Chair

As India takes over the presidency of the UNSC on December 1, in the final month of its two-year stint in the council, it will double down on its core agenda of pushing UN reform and countering terror, media reports suggest.

India’s Permanent Representative to UN, Ruchira Kamboj met with the United Nations General Assembly President Csaba Korosi, according to his Spokesperson Paulina Kubiak. Kubiak said the meeting took place on Monday, November 28th with India set to take the rotating presidency of the Security Council for the month of December on Thursday.

Korosi tweeted, “Today’s discussions focused on India’s presidency of the Security Council. I look forward to the month ahead,” he added.

New Delhi has advocated closer coordination between the Council dominated — and often paralyzed — by the five permanent members and the General Assembly that where the 193 UN members are represented equally.

According to the UNSC rules of procedure, the Council presidency rotates between each of the 15 members of the UNSC, in alphabetical order.

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For us, in the December Presidency, our priorities will be countering terrorism for which we have very successfully built a good narrative in these past few months as well as a focus on reformed multilateralism, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj told PTI in an exclusive interview here.

India assumes the monthly rotating presidency of the Security Council from December 1, the second time after August 2021 that the country will preside over the Council during its two year tenure as elected UNSC member.

India’s 2021-2022 term on the Council ends December 31, with Kamboj, India’s first woman Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York sitting in the President’s seat at the powerful horseshoe table for the month. India will also take over the year-long G20 presidency from December 1.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will travel to New York to preside over “signature events in the Security Council on renewed orientation for reformed multilateralism on December 14 and on countering terrorism on December 15.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and President of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly Csaba Korosi are also expected to brief the UNSC meeting on December 14.

Kamboj said counter-terrorism was one of India’s top priorities when it entered the Council on January 1, 2021.

She underscored that from the eight-point action plan on combating terrorism outlined in the Security Council by Jaishankar in January 2021 to the October 2022 Special Meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee hosted by India during which the Delhi Declaration’ was adopted, India has been successful in demonstrating two things.

One that there can be no justification for terror, it is condemnable, it has to be called out and countries who seek to obfuscate that, seek to justify that should be called out, Kamboj said.

The second point is that all countries, importantly, should speak with a united voice. The problem (of terror) is transnational and we have to pool in our resources, knowledge and expertise to speak with a united voice, she said.

On October 28-29, the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee, currently chaired by India, organised a Special Meeting in New Delhi and Mumbai on the overarching theme of Countering the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes.

As an outcome of the special meeting, the Committee adopted the pioneer document Delhi Declaration’ on countering the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes.

The Delhi Declaration serves to focus attention on the scourge of terrorism and particularly the fact that it has raised its head in a new avatar where terrorists have been abusing, misusing virtual platforms to forward their narrative, Kamboj said.

She added that this message was taken forward in New Delhi this month through the No Money for Terror’ (NMFT) Ministerial Conference on Counter-Terrorism Financing that was addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“That was a continuation of what we have been doing, specifically where the CTC meeting in New Delhi and Mumbai left off and going forward, to complete the arc, during our term we will be having a focussed discussion on December 15 in the presence of the External Affairs Minister and other foreign dignitaries in the Council.

India has done everything that it could to fulfil the mandate of the CTC. All countries across the table, without exception, have complimented India for the Delhi Declaration, for the CTC event in Delhi and complimented the conference as being outstanding both in terms of logistics and substance. That is not insignificant and that must be noticed, Kamboj said.

Jaishankar had announced a voluntary contribution of USD 500,000 by India to the UN Trust Fund for Counter-Terrorism to augment the UNOCT’s efforts to build the capacity of member states to counter terrorism.

India is very strong on this narrative. We are very mindful that countries in Asia and Africa particularly” are facing the scourge of terrorism. “This is something that we’ll continue to keep our focus on while we’re in the Council, she said.

On December 2, Kamboj will brief the wider UN membership on the CTC meeting in New Delhi and our achievements, what that meeting achieved.

She said the issue of reformed multilateralism was among India’s key priorities as it entered the Council last year and we will keep a strong focus on that.

Kamboj said many countries have spoken that the system cannot continue as it is. It needs to be reformed. The architecture of 1945, the world of 2022, (both are) very different. It’s an anachronism the way the Security Council is configured, she said.

Kamboj underscored that India’s position is clear and well known. New Delhi wants early reform and the Security Council needs to be expanded in both permanent and non-permanent categories, improvement in working methods of the Council to make it more transparent, inclusive, improved relationship between the General Assembly and Security Council as well as the question of the veto.

India has highlighted the need for a consolidated text to serve as the basis for negotiations and this has been espoused by a majority of UN member states, Kamboj said.

With the PGA having appointed Permanent Representative of the Slovak Republic to the United Nations Michal Mlynar and Permanent Representative of the State of Kuwait Tareq M A M Albanai as co-chairs of the Intergovernmental Negotiations, Kamboj expressed hope that the discussion will lead us somewhere and hopefully move the dialogue towards achieving UNSC reform.

She stressed that when the Intergovernmental Negotiations process commences next year, India will be very active, will be reaching out to various groups and advancing discussions on UNSC reform.

India will be concluding its stint as an elected member of the Security Council next month presiding over the council for the second time during its two-year term. India last headed the Council in August 2021 with former UN Permanent Representative T.S. Tirumurti.

IAMC Calls On UN Member States To Hold India Accountable For Violations Of Minority Rights

Washington, D.C. (November 9, 2022) – As India will undergo the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to examine its human rights record on Thursday, November 10, the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) Executive Director Rasheed Ahmed said:

“The current UPR of India comes at a time when human rights in India are dangerously ignored, minorities face discrimination, fundamental rights such as freedom of religion and freedom of the press are under attack, and hate speeches calling for the genocide of Muslims are at an all-time high. It is an excellent opportunity for the member states of the UN to formally recognize the gross human rights abuses India’s religious minorities face at the hands of the ruling Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Each member state must hold India accountable for failing to uphold basic human rights for minority citizens, whether that be targeting Muslims through discriminatory legislations such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) or Indian Christians who are being persecuted by the enaction of anti-conversion Laws.

Nations must also make recommendations that will help prevent the continuation of anti-minority discrimination pervasive in legislative, executive, and judiciary. We urge member states to provide recommendations that will encompass ignored recommendations from the previous sessions, such as the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment, which India is yet to ratify. This session provides member states with the opportunity to continue their ongoing dialogues with India regarding these issues, and to work to enable the Indian government to guarantee the fundamental rights of each Indian citizen, regardless of their faith.”

Tomorrow, a coalition of 18 American civil rights groups is holding a special congressional briefing, where prominent American and Indian civil society members, global human rights defenders and experts will analyze the human rights situation in India, examine the UPR, and the recommendations made by the member states.

Indian Economy Shows Great Resilience Post Covid; Marches Strongly Towards 2047 Goal

India has one of the most promising economies globally. India has surpassed Britain to become the world’s fifth largest economy. The manufacturing MSME- start-up ecosystem has boosted the economy and created new job opportunities.

As a result of these efforts, the Indian economy has recovered from the negative effects of Covid, and the country is on its way to becoming the world’s third and $5 trillion economy.

The good news is that the eight key industries that drive the country’s economy — coal, crude oil, natural gas, petroleum refinery products, fertilisers, steel, cement, and electricity — have grown by 4.5 per cent.

This simply means that the Indian economy has returned to normalcy and is progressing.

India has the big goal of becoming developed and self-reliant by 2047, when the country attains its 100th independence day.

The Indian economy has recovered from the pandemic and is back on track. In the first quarter of the current fiscal year, GDP increased by 13.5 per cent (April-June).

At constant prices, the country’s GDP was Rs 32.46 lakh crore in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2021-22, while it grew by 13.5 per cent to Rs 36.85 lakh crore in the first quarter of the current fiscal year.

Simultaneously, the common index of eight core industries, which contribute significantly to the country’s economy, has increased by 4.5 per cent since July 2021.

The final growth rate of the eight core industries was revised to 9.5 per cent in April 2022, up from 8.4 per cent previously.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing efforts to strengthen the economy are bearing fruit.

These latest figures show that the Indian economy has recovered from the pandemic’s negative effects.

The country is now rapidly moving towards becoming self-reliant.

Picture : Prescious Kashmir

India has surpassed Germany to become the world’s fourth largest automobile market. In 2021, India sold 37.6 lakh vehicles, while Germany sold 29.7 lakh vehicles. August is the fifth month in a row that more than 3 lakh cars have been sold in India.

In the global market, Indian products are now emerging as the first choice. India is the world’s leading exporter of electronics, petroleum, and engineering goods.

Exports of these products increased by 17 per cent this year compared to the same period in 2021 (April-August).

The Indian government recognised an important fact when Covid first appeared — the economic impact of this epidemic differed from the effect of the previous epidemic because the Covid epidemic was designed to have a negative impact on demand.

As a result, there was concern that the pandemic would have long-term economic consequences for the country.

However, the government’s tight machinery was in place to ensure that such a situation did not last long.

As a result, a number of reform initiatives were launched. Labour reforms, agricultural reforms, changing the definition of a micro, small, and medium-sized enterprise, and implementing the production-linked incentive scheme were among them.

These reforms attempted to formalise the country’s economy to a large extent.

The identification of shell units, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and the goods and services tax were all critical steps in bringing the economy under a set of rules and regulations.

The benefit of this was that there was an attempt to shape the economy in terms of shape, type, and behavior. Simultaneously, a focus on job creating industries was sought.

The government had a clear vision that the country needed to address not only the immediate challenges but also ensure the recovery of economy and infrastructure development, both of which are critical to achieving the objectives.

The new generation of the country is now taking the risk of innovation, learning from mistakes, and getting involved with new energy.

Employment in MSMEs has increased by 116 per cent as compared to 2019-20.

It is the charisma of the growing youth power that drives the small scale industry, that is, India’s MSME and start-up ecosystem is growing at the fastest rate in the world. (IANS)

India Assumes Leadership Of G-20 Presidency

Signaling the emergence of India as a significant player on the global scene, India will officially assume the Presidency of the G20 (Group of 20) countries, one of the most consequential amongst current-day multilateral bodies, on December 1st, 2022 at the conclusion of the Indonesian presidency.

Releasing the logo, theme, and website of India’s G20 Presidency, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on November 8th, 2022, “India’s G20 presidency is coming at a time of crisis and chaos in the world. The world is going through the after-effects of a disruptive once-in-a-century pandemic, conflicts, and a lot of economic uncertainty.’’

Picture : The Quint

The current G20 Summit is being organized in Bali, Indonesia from November 15-16, 2022. Heads of states from the world’s largest economies are attending – although Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided not to attend in-person. With unstable global political conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, energy issues, as well as global economic downturn, this is believed to be the most challenging G20 summit yet.

President Joe Biden is confronting competing issues at home and abroad while he’s at the Group of 20 Summit in Bali this week, using the moment on the world’s stage to lean into international support for condemning Russia’s aggression.

The G20 was conceived in 1999, while the repercussions of the Mexican peso crisis (1994), Asian financial crisis (1997) and the Russian ruble crisis (1998) were still being felt. The G20 forum was first established to respond to the global crisis, including the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the September 11 attacks in New York in 2001, the US subprime mortgage crisis in 2008, and the European debt crisis in 2011.

In a meeting of finance ministers and presidents of central banks of the G7, it was decided to expand the group and make it more representative in order to generate policies that would have a wider impact on the global economy. A group of key emerging economies was invited to a new forum of finance ministers and presidents of Central Banks. This became the G20.

The G20 was upgraded to the Summit level from the finance ministers and presidents of central banks, and became the main instrument to face the global financial crisis of 2007-’08 and beyond.

Picture : News 18

The G20 is an international forum that includes 19 of the world’s largest economies including both industrialized and developing nations, and the European Union. Its core mandate is to address the major challenges related to the global economy and financial architecture such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development among others. It seeks to evolve public policies to resolve them.

Together, the G20 members represent 85% of the global gross product; 75% of international trade; two-thirds of the world population; 80% of global investments in research and development, and 60% of the world land area.

Because the G-20 is a forum, its agreements or decisions are not legally binding but they do influence countries’ policies and spur global cooperation. The G20 is small and cohesive enough to allow concrete in-person discussions to find solutions to the new challenges on the international economic and financial agenda, and is broad and inclusive enough to represent the vast majority of world economic production.

While economic and financial issues tend to lead the agenda, other areas have gained prominence in recent years. New additions include participation of women in the labour market, sustainable development, global health, fight against terrorism and inclusive ventures, among others.

The group’s stature has risen significantly during the past decade. It is, however, also criticized for its limited membership, lack of enforcement powers, and for the alleged undermining of existing international institutions. Summits are often met with protests, particularly by anti-globalization groups.

The G20 seeks to enrich the content of its dialogues by encouraging the participation of civil society through affinity groups. Each of them focuses on an issue of global importance and meets independently throughout the year. From the dialogue in the various meetings, each group delivers a series of recommendations to the G20. Currently, the affinity groups comprise of: Business 20 (B20), Civil 20 (C20), Labour 20 (L20), Science 20 (S20), Think 20 (T20), Women 20 (W20), Youth 20 (Y20).

Modi, Biden review India-U.S. ties during their meeting in Bali

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden on Tuesday reviewed the state of India-US strategic partnership including in sectors like critical and emerging technologies and artificial intelligence.

The two leaders also discussed topical global and regional developments in their meeting that took place on the margins of the G-20 summit in this Indonesian city, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said. It is understood that the Ukraine conflict and its implications figured in the discussions.

The MEA said the two leaders expressed satisfaction about close cooperation between India and US in new groupings such as Quad and I2U2.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi met President of USA, Joseph R Biden on the margins of G-20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali today,” the MEA said.

“They reviewed the continuing deepening of the India – US strategic partnership including cooperation in future oriented sectors like critical and emerging technologies, advanced computing, artificial intelligence, etc,” it said in a statement.

The MEA said the two leaders discussed topical global and regional developments.

“PM Modi thanked President Biden for his constant support for strengthening the India-US partnership. He expressed confidence that both countries would continue to maintain close coordination during India’s G-20 Presidency,” it said.

While the Quad comprises India, the US, Australia and Japan, the members of the I2U2 are the US, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

India is currently part of the G20 Troika (current, previous, and incoming G20 Presidencies) comprising Indonesia, Italy, and India.

The prime minister is attending the summit at the invitation of Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Indonesia is the current chair of the G-20.

Reservation Policy Cannot Stay Indefinitely, Says India’s Supreme Court

Justice P.B. Pardiwala, who also formed the majority which upheld EWS quota, says real solution lies in eliminating causes that have led to the social, educational and economic backwardness of the weaker sections of the community

Three judges on the Constitution Bench, in views which formed both the majority and minority opinions, said the policy of reservation in education and employment cannot continue for an indefinite period.

Justice Bela M. Trivedi, who was part of the majority judgment, said reservation policy must have a time span. “At the end of 75 years of our Independence, we need to revisit the system of reservation in the larger interest of the society as a whole, as a step forward towards transformative constitutionalism,” Justice Trivedi said.

She pointed out that quota for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People and in State Legislative Assemblies would cease 80 years from the commencement of the Constitution. The representation of Anglo-Indian communities in Parliament and Assemblies has already stopped by virtue of the 104th Constitutional Amendment from January 25, 2020.

“Therefore, a similar time limit, if prescribed, for the special provisions in respect of the reservations and representations provided in Article 15 and Article 16 of the Constitution, it could be a way forward leading to an egalitarian, casteless and classless society,” Justice Trivedi observed.

Picture: The Hindu

Though not expressly said, Justice Trivedi’s view on stopping quota under Articles 15 and 16 would also encompass EWS reservation.

Justice P.B. Pardiwala, who also formed the majority which upheld the EWS quota, said “reservation is not an end but a means — a means to secure social and economic justice. Reservation should not be allowed to become a vested interest. Real solution, however, lies in eliminating the causes that have led to the social, educational and economic backwardness of the weaker sections of the community”.

He said “longstanding development and the spread of education” had resulted in tapering the gap between the classes to a considerable extent. Large percentages of Backward Class members attain acceptable standards of education and employment. They should be removed from the Backward categories so that attention could be paid toward those genuinely in need of help.

“It is very much necessary to take into review the method of identification and the ways of determination of Backward Classes, and also, ascertain whether the criteria adopted or applied for the classification of Backward is relevant for today’s conditions,” Justice Pardiwala said.

Jaishankar Meets Russian Leaders In Moscow

India’s External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday, during his first visit to Russia since the war in Ukraine began, and amidst a number of U.S.-based reports on a possible role for India to mediate in the conflict.

In his opening remarks, he also said that the Covid-19 pandemic, financial pressures and trade difficulties had taken a toll on the global economy.

“We are now seeing the consequences of the Ukraine conflict on top of that. There are also the more perennial issues of terrorism and climate change, both of which have a disruptive impact on progress and prosperity,” he said.

“Our talks will address the overall global situation as well as specific regional concerns,” he said.

Jaishankar arrived in Moscow on Monday evening on a two-day visit amid growing global concerns over increasing hostilities between Russia and Ukraine.

“India and Russia engage each other in an increasingly multi-polar and re-balanced world. We do so as two polities who have had an exceptionally steady and time-tested relationship. In that background, I look forward to our talks,” he said.

Dr. Jaishankar’s meeting with Manturov, who is also the Minister for Trade and Industry, focus sed on improving bilateral economic cooperation at a time when India-Russia bilateral trade has reportedly tripled, and Indian imports of Russian oil have grown more than 20 times in the past year.

Responding to a question on imports of Russian oil, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar Tuesday stated that buying oil from Moscow works to India’s advantage and asserted that he would “like to keep that going”. India’s procurement of discounted Russian crude oil has seen a massive increase in the last few months, despite rising disquiet in many Western capitals. Jaishankar’s remarks came in the backdrop of his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.

According to the latest figures for October, Russia is now India’s largest supplier of oil, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Iraq, leaping from 43,400 barrels per day (bpd), which made up just 0.2% of total exports last year, to 9,35,556 bpd which is about 22% of the total intake this year. Indian and Russian Central banks have also been in talks in the past few months about developing the Rupee-Rouble payment mechanism that will allow them to circumnavigate U.S. and European Union sanctions on Russia over the war.

Cooperation at multilateral formats, including the UN, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), G-20, and Russia-India-China dialogues will also be on the agenda for talks. India’s steadfast refusal to vote against Russia at any of the United Nations votes on the war in Ukraine has been appreciated by Moscow, and President Vladimir Putin praised India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi twice in the past few weeks, for India’s “talented” population, and the “independent foreign policy” it has chosen. Mr. Putin also said Russia had increased fertilizer supplies to India “7.6” times after a request from Mr. Modi.

“Our meeting today, is of course, devoted to assessing the state of our bilateral cooperation; exchanging perspectives on the international situation and what that means to our respective interests,” Jaishankar said.

“Our position on the conflict in Ukraine is pretty clear. We have always emphasised on the need for return to dialogue and diplomacy. I’m sure that External Affairs Minister would certainly be reiterating. But beyond that, I cannot say what they will discuss or what not,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, when asked about whether Dr. Jaishankar would speak to Mr. Lavrov about ending the war.

“Russia and India stand for the active formation of a more just and equal polycentric world order, and proceed from the inadmissibility of promoting the imperialist diktat on the global arena,” the Russian Foreign Ministry added, in a veiled reference to Western countries, which are working on the next round of economic sanctions against Russia. In a meeting last week, G-7 countries announced a coordination mechanism for efforts to support Ukraine, and France plans to host an international conference on December 13 to discuss the war.

UN Counter-Terrorism Council Adopts Delhi Declaration

A two-day meeting of the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee in India has ended with the adoption of a document committing Member States to prevent and combat digital forms of terror, notably using drones, social media, and online terrorist financing.

The non-binding document, known as The Delhi Declaration on countering the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes was adopted in the Indian capital on Saturday, following a series of panels that involved Member States representatives, UN officials, civil society entities, the private sector, and researchers. 

The declaration aims to cover the main concerns surrounding the abuse of drones, social media platforms, and crowdfunding, and create guidelines that will help to tackle the growing issue.

“The Delhi declaration lays out the foundation for the way ahead,” said David Scharia from the Counter-Terrorism Executive Committee. “It speaks about the importance of human rights, public-private partnership, civil society engagement, and how we are going to work together on this challenge. It also invites the CTED [the Secretariat for the Committee] to develop a set of guiding principles, which will result from intensive thinking with all the partners.”

Human Rights at the core

Respect for human rights was highly stressed in the document, and during the debates. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, underscored that there must be “concrete measures to reduce these vulnerabilities while committing to protect all human rights in the digital sphere.” 

In a video message, Mr. Guterres added that human rights could only be achieved through effective multilateralism and international cooperation, with responses that are anchored in the values and obligations of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Picture: Indiua TV News

Representing the Human Rights Office, Scott Campbell, who leads the digital technology team, echoed the Secretary-General, explaining that “respecting rights when countering terrorism is fundamental to ensuring sustainable and effective efforts to protect our security.”

“Approaches that cross these important lines not only violate the law, but they also undermine efforts to combat terrorism by eroding the trust, networks, and community that is essential to successful prevention and response,” he said.

Mr. Campbell argued that international law and human rights present many answers to the issue, recalling that the Member States have a duty to protect the security of their population and to ensure that their conduct does not violate the rights of any person.

Regulation and censorship

He also stressed that companies and States should be cautious when filtering and blocking social media content, as it can “affect minorities and journalists in disproportionate ways.”

To overcome the issue, Mr. Campbell suggested that restrictions should be based on precise and narrowly tailored laws, and should not incentivize the censoring of legitimate expression. He argued that they should have transparent processes, genuinely independent and impartial oversight bodies, and that civil society and experts should be involved in developing, evaluating, and implementing regulations.

During the closing session of the meeting, the Committee chairperson, Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj of India, stated that the outcome document takes note of the challenges, and proposes “practical, operational, and tactical possibilities of addressing the opportunities and the threats posed by the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes.”

 She added that the global policymaking community “must be agile, forward-thinking, and collaborative” to meet the changing needs of States facing new challenges from digital terror.

Delhi Declaration highlights:

In the Delhi Declaration, Member States agree that guidelines and implemented actions should be based on international law and human rights.

Members of the Committee will draft recommendations to counter the terrorist exploitation of Information and Communications Technology, such as payment technologies and fundraising methods and misuse of unmanned aerial systems (UAS, or drones).

The body will assist Member States in the implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions to countering the use of technologies for terrorist purposes, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

A new set of non-binding guiding principles to assist Member States in countering the digital terrorism threat will be issued, with a compilation  of good practices on the opportunities offered by the same set of technologies to tackle threats.

The relevant offices will commit to deepening engagement and cooperation with civil society, including women and women’s organizations, relevant private-sector entities, and other stakeholders, and build partnerships.

India’s Congress Party Votes To Elect New President In Over A Quarter Century

India’s main opposition Congress party voted to elect a new president Monday, with members of its dominant Nehru-Gandhi dynasty staying out of the race.

Sonia Gandhi, the interim party president, was among the nearly 9,000 party delegates who were entitled to vote on the matter.  “I have been waiting for this for a long time,″ she said after voting in the party’s New Delhi office.

Although the party has historically been led by the family, Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul Gandhi, decided to bring in a new face after suffering crushing defeats in national and state elections since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party came to power in 2014. 

Eighty-year-old Mallikarjun Kharge from southern Karnataka state appears to be the frontrunner with the party’s top leaders backing him during campaigning ahead of the vote. He has been described by Indian media as the “official candidate.” His main challenger is Shashi Tharoor, 66, who spent nearly 30 years at the United Nations before joining the Congress party in 2009.

As voting for the Congress presidential election is underway Monday, one of the candidates and party MP from Kerala Shashi Tharoor said the future of the Congress is in the hands of the party workers who will vote for the day’s electoral process.

After casting his vote at the party state committee office in Thiruvananthapuram, Tharoor, 66, told the media the Congress workers would decide on the next leadership. This election would only benefit the Congress party, he added. “Like the Bharat Jodo Yatra, this presidential election was also meant to revitalise the party. New energy is required to fight the BJP as well as to face the next Lok Sabha elections. We are going to face a big challenge from BJP in the next elections. I hope this presidential election has served that purpose,” he said.

Tharoor also said Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had messaged him Monday morning to say the election to choose the Congress president has benefited the party and that she also thanked him. “That is what we want to know. Now, people have a feeling that there is some mobility in the party. With regard to the stand of the Gandhi family, I have been told right from the beginning that they are impartial in the presidential elections,’’ he said.

“It has been 22 years since the presidential election was held in the party. Hence, the election has got its own problems. I think within the last 16 days I could take my message to the maximum number of party workers,” he added.

This will be the sixth time in its nearly 137-year-old history that an electoral contest would decide who would take up the mantle of the party’s president. Tharoor has faced an uphill task in his home state Kerala, where most of the senior leaders stood with Kharge. The result of the Congress presidential polls will be declared on Wednesday, October 19.

India – US Partnership for Innovation Summit 2022 Held In Boston

The Consulate General of India in New York in partnership with the Center for Emerging Markets, Northeastern University (NU), Boston, organized an India – US Partnership for Innovation Summit on 14th Oct, 2022. 

The Summit held to celebrate 75 years of India’s independence – Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav – was attended by leading business leaders, think tank members, scholars, researchers and students. Inaugurating the day-long conference, Ambassador of India to the United States H.E. Taranjit Singh Sandhu highlighted how high value and cost effective innovations in India were bringing value to India-US ties – in the fields of pharma, health-care, clean energy, start-ups, digital education and other segments of bilateral engagement. 

Talking of innovations in India in the field of sustainability, he underlined the need for the global community to adopt Mission LIFE – i.e. lifestyle for environment – called for by Honb’le Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi.

Special Ministerial remarks at the summit was made by Honb’le Minister of Health & Family Welfare, and Chemicals & Fertilizers of India – Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya. He focused his address on India’s recent developments in the India-US health sector, especially the close collaboration in vaccine development. Minister Mandaviya noted that India had vaccinated over 95 % of its adult population distributing 2.19 billion doses, as also supplied COVID vaccines to over 100 countries.

Other speakers in the summit included former Minister of Civil Aviation, Railways, Commerce and Industry – Mr. Suresh Prabhu who mentioned the innovative steps taken by India in providing better services to rail passengers. Mr. Bharat Lal, Director General, National Centre for Good Governance, who earlier spearheaded the Jal Jeevan Mission (clean drinking water mission) talked about the success of this project in India, noting that the percentage of households with clean tap water connection in India had gone up from 17% in 2019 to over 55% by Sept., 2022. 

He also stressed that the Mission would be completed by 2024 where 100% coverage of clean tap water connection would be achieved. Dr. Umamaheswaran, Director, Human Space Flight Center, ISRO, spoke about India’s progress in the space sector achieved in the most cost effective manner. 

Sumant Sinha, Chairman & CEO, Renew Power, gave a detailed account of the remarkable progress in India in harnessing renewable energy. Renew Power is India’s leading solar and wind energy company with across geography collaboration including with the United States. Mr. Phalgun Kompalli, Co-founder, upGrad, a leading ed-tech company spoke about the growth of digital education and the value company like his bring to the US higher education landscape. 

Deepak Bagla, MD & CEO, Invest India, gave an impressive presentation on India as the most preferred destination for investment. India received record FDI in 2022 of US$ 82 billion in 57 different sectors. Mr. Josh Foulger, MD Bharat FIH Ltd, made a presentation on the success of electronics manufacturing and the value MAKE IN INDIA brings to global supply chain.  

Ms. Pamela Reeve, Chair of the Board, American Tower Corporation, a Boston based global major noted the journey of the company in India where it owns over 75000 telecommunication towers and how Digital India program was transforming lives of people in the country. Mr. Krish Nangegadda, Member, IDEA Advisory Board, NU, made a presentation on the start-up collaboration between GITAM University in India and NU.

Consul General of India, New York – Mr. Randhir Jaiswal showcased India’s achievements in the recent past and highlighted the importance of Indo-US partnership for the future. Prof. Ravi Ramamurthy, Director, Center for Emerging Markets, Northeastern University, who anchored the summit elaborated how innovations in India could be most relevant for countries such as United States. 

The Consulate conveyed its deep appreciation to Prof. David Madigan, Provost, NU and Dean Emery Trahan of D’Amore-Mckim School of Business, NU for hosting the summit.

India To Priorities Strengthening Of Multilateral Bodies During Its G-20 Presidency

Strengthening multilateral institutions will be a priority for India in the year-long presidency of the G-20 group of the developed and developing nations that it assumes in coming December, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at the US think tank on Tuesday.

The minister, who is in Washington DC for the annual meetings of the World Bank Group, spoke on a wide-range of issues including India’s growth, whose robustness was testified in an IMF report released earlier in the day, the future of reforms and challenges and risks facing India, primarily, in her telling, energy prices and the supply of fertilizers.

“Multi-lateral institutions need to be strengthened, their capacity to deal with pandemics or any such future stressful global developments will have to be battered,” Sitharaman said. India takes over the rotational presidency from Indonesia.

In the last few decades, she added, “institutions existed but problems remain and solutions are not coming through them”.

Asked if she would like to see newer institutions instead, Sitharaman said that she is not against new institutions but she would like to see the improvement of the effectiveness of the existing bodies based on lessons learnt.

India has been calling for the reform of the global multilateral platforms such at the UN Security Council, the IMF and the World Bank to accord more authority and importance to emerging powers. India is seeking a permanent membership in a reformed and expanded UNSC, for instance.

The minister also stressed the need, in the context of the G-20 presidency, for finance to deal with natural disasters that are “far more frequent than we could imagine”. She brought the issue of climate finance, which required developed countries to contribute to the fund that will help developing and less developed countries deal with carbon gas emissions.

Sitharaman said that the climate finance “has not been smooth” despite many meetings. She was referring to the Green Climate Fund, which was created at the Cancun COP (Conference of the Parties) in 2016. But the developed countries have been slow to honour their commitments.

The G-20 group had proven effective in the past. She cited the two-pillar solution to global taxation of multinational companies as an example. (IANS)

China Has Lost India: How Beijing’s Aggression Pushed New Delhi to the West

In June 2020, the Chinese and Indian militaries clashed in the Galwan Valley, a rugged and remote area along the disputed border between the two countries. Twenty Indian and at least four Chinese soldiers were killed, and debate flared about the long-term implications of the skirmishes. Some analysts believed the Sino-Indian relationship would soon return to normal, with regular high-level meetings, increased Chinese investment in India, defense exchanges, and multilateral coordination. Record-high bilateral trade and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s trip to India in March 2022 seemed to support the notion that the two countries could set aside the border dispute and keep strengthening ties. So, too, did Chinese and Indian officials’ agreement in September to pull back from confrontational positions along one of the sections of the border in the Ladakh region where the militaries had been facing off since 2020.

That appearance of rapprochement obscures real ruptures. Indian policymakers were shocked by the outbreak of the border crisis in 2020, which they blamed on Chinese aggression and which remains an ongoing source of tension and concern. India’s domestic and foreign policies have shifted in significant ways in response to the perceived threat of China, and any restoration of the prior status quo in the bilateral relationship is unlikely. For the foreseeable future, India’s approach to China has moved from what can be described as competitive engagement to one of competitive coexistence—if not “armed coexistence,” as former Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale put it. Two years ago, I had suggested in Foreign Affairs that China’s actions could result in Beijing “losing India.” Now, it’s safe to say that China has lost India.

CLASHING IN THE KARAKORAM

India has perceived China as a threat since at least the late 1950s when their differences over Tibet (the Himalayan state China annexed in 1951) and their undemarcated border came to the fore. These disputes precipitated a full-blown war in 1962 that ended disastrously for India, with the loss of territory. But following a crisis in 1986–87, the border remained relatively peaceful, a state of affairs facilitated by several agreements that New Delhi and Beijing negotiated over a 25-year period. This detente also enabled broader Sino-Indian engagement, particularly in the economic and multilateral arenas. It was only after Chinese President Xi Jinping took office that the boundary situation reared up again, with military standoffs in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017, and with China and India also competing more intensely elsewhere, jockeying for position in South Asian countries and within international organizations.

Even given this context, events in Ladakh in 2020 did not just constitute another border spat. The violence crossed several thresholds, including the first fatalities in 45 years, and the first known shots fired in decades. The standoffs occurred at more locations, at greater scale, and over a longer period of time than in previous crises. India has accused China of violating the border agreements, and consequently Indian policymakers worry about the prospect of Chinese forces taking further military action. This breakdown of trust has long-term implications for the unsettled border and the broader relationship between the two countries.

Beijing has called for the border crisis to be set aside and for diplomatic, defense, and economic cooperation to resume now that Chinese and Indian troops have disengaged at some of the points of friction. But New Delhi has called for further disengagement—the standing down of troops from more flash points—and for de-escalation—that is, a reversal of the military and infrastructure buildups that have taken place on both sides of the border over the last two and a half years. China is unlikely to agree to the latter, and India will not unilaterally de-escalate. Moreover, India does not believe the border issue can be set aside. It sees peace and tranquility at the border as a precondition for a normal Sino-Indian relationship. Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not meet with Xi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in September, the first time such a meeting did not occur—a clear signal that India is not yet willing to return to business as usual with China.

The 2020 clash hardened official and public views of China in India, including among a new generation for whom the 1962 Sino-Indian war had been a distant memory. Coupled with China’s lack of transparency about the COVID-19 pandemic, the fighting on the border has left many Indians convinced that China poses an imminent and acute challenge to their country. These developments put an end to the idea that the two countries could alleviate political strains through border agreements and broader—especially economic—cooperation. They also reduced the reluctance in India, stemming from concern about provoking China, to strengthen certain kinds of military capabilities, infrastructure, and partnerships, particularly with the United States.

The appearance of rapprochement between China and India obscures real ruptures.
The perception of China as an adversarial and untrustworthy actor has, in turn, produced changes at the border that will likely outlast this crisis. Both sides have beefed up their military presence at the border, with many more forward-deployed troops—the Line of Actual Control between Indian-held and Chinese-held territories now looks more like the heavily militarized Line of Control between India and Pakistan. India has also redeployed some forces from facing Pakistan or engaging in counterinsurgency operations in northeastern India toward defending the border with China. It is building up both military and dual-purpose infrastructure across the entire border region to match Beijing’s equivalent buildup. These efforts will persist regardless of any bilateral agreement to resolve the current border crisis because India will remain concerned about further Chinese attempts to seize Indian land.

The heightened concern about China has also manifested in domestic policy. The Modi government has gone from initially seeking increased economic ties with China to imposing restrictions or extra scrutiny on a range of Chinese activities in India. It does not seek to decouple from China so much as it wants to disentangle India from China—an approach designed not to eliminate economic ties but to identify and reduce India’s vulnerabilities in critical sectors. Skeptics point to record-high bilateral trade as a measure of the failure of this approach, but India’s trade with China has grown nearly 15 percent more slowly than its trade with the rest of the world over the last year. Moreover, an accurate assessment of the approach will have to wait a few years. Indian officials have placed restrictions on Chinese investment, Chinese access to Indian public procurement contracts, and Chinese companies’ or organizations’ activities in critical economic, technology, telecommunications, civil society, and education sectors. Indian state governments and state-owned companies have suspended or withdrawn from some agreements with Chinese companies. India has banned several popular Chinese apps, including the social media platform TikTok, and excluded Chinese telecommunications companies from its 5G network. And Indian enforcement authorities are targeting Chinese companies for alleged tax or data transfer violations.

Tensions with Beijing have also driven New Delhi to try to reduce India’s economic dependence on China and take advantage of other countries’ desire to do so, as well. The Modi government has moved from criticizing trade agreements on the grounds that they adversely affected Indian businesses, farmers, and workers to exploring or signing deals with Australia, Canada, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. India is also seeking greater investment from alternate sources, not just in the West but also in the Indo-Pacific and Middle East—particularly in sectors such as solar power, pharmaceuticals, and electronics where it is trying to boost domestic production and reduce overreliance on imports from China.

On broader foreign policy choices, the border crisis has resulted in India further aligning with countries that can help strengthen its position in relation to China in the defense, economic security, and critical technology arenas. Such partners include Australia, France, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

TAKING SIDES

India has long sought to maintain its strategic autonomy, refusing to be drawn into alliances. Now, however, it is at least aligning with countries to address the threat China poses. India is willing now to cooperate more closely with the United States, even at the risk of angering China. It signed a geospatial intelligence agreement with the United States in October 2020; is conducting high-altitude exercises with the U.S. army near the Chinese-Indian border this month; has become more involved in the Indo-Pacific partnership known as the Quad (that features Australia, India, Japan, and the United States) despite Chinese and Russian objections; has participated in a range of maritime exercises with its Quad partners; signed a logistics-sharing agreement with Vietnam in June 2022; and in January 2022 reached a deal to sell BrahMos missiles (jointly developed by India and Russia) to the Philippines.

India once tiptoed around China’s sensitivities regarding perceived threats to its sovereignty. New Delhi is no longer being as deferential. Modi has publicly acknowledged calls he has made with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, a departure from his past reluctance to do so. And the Indian Air Force facilitated the Dalai Lama’s month-long visit to Ladakh in July 2022. In a departure from common practice, the Indian foreign ministry in September did not punt on a question about Xinjiang, the Muslim-majority province in the west of China. It twice noted that a UN human rights report had highlighted “the serious maltreatment of minorities” inside China. In recent weeks, the Indian government has also spoken critically about the “militarization of the Taiwan Strait,” refused to reiterate a “one China” policy (that would acknowledge Taiwan as a part of China and the People’s Republic of China as the only legal government of China) despite Beijing’s calls to do so, and urged restraint and warned against any unilateral change to the status quo after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August.

The border crisis has also encouraged India’s more receptive view of U.S. power and presence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. In recent years, New Delhi has welcomed a U.S.-Maldivian defense agreement, permitted the refueling of an American reconnaissance aircraft in the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, backed the U.S.-Nepalese Millennium Challenge Corporation compact that seeks to facilitate infrastructure development, and helped block Chinese attempts to sink the security partnership among Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States known as AUKUS. Moreover, India is cooperating with the United States and other partners such as Japan to offer diplomatic, security, and economic alternatives and counter growing Chinese influence in neighboring South Asian countries.

At the same time as India has drawn closer to the United States and traditional U.S. allies, its ties with China and Russia-backed groupings are stalling. The border crisis has made apparent the limitations of associations such as BRICS (featuring Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), RIC (Russia, India, and China), and the SCO. As non-Western platforms, they were useful for India when it felt ignored by the West. But today, India sees China posing a greater constraint on its regional and global interests than any Western country. Moreover, Beijing and Moscow’s efforts to reshape these associations into anti-Western platforms limit their utility for India. That does not mean India will exit these groupings—it will not want to leave a vacuum for China to fill—but it has been more concertedly deepening its own relations with countries in the “global South,” outside of any groupings with China and Russia.

NOT SO FAST

Western policymakers, however, will have to reckon with the factors that could limit the speed and extent of Indian alignment with countries such as the United States against China. For one, India prioritizes Chinese threats differently than do its partners. Even as the latter focus on maritime challenges in the Indo-Pacific, India will devote considerable attention and resources to meeting the Chinese and Pakistani challenge at its border. This continental imperative will shape India’s approach to other Indo-Pacific issues. For instance, New Delhi remains cautious about making statements about Taiwan with other countries out of a concern that they could provoke China into putting more pressure on the border or on restive Indian regions such as Kashmir and in the northeast of the country. Indian officials also do not want China to see their border dispute through the lens of U.S.-Chinese competition; Beijing’s decision to go to war with India in 1962 was motivated by its sense that New Delhi and Washington were colluding to undermine Chinese interests in Tibet.

India’s dependence on Russia as a defense trade and technology partner will also slow any swift realignment. New Delhi’s initial cautious response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine was in no small part shaped by its concerns about potential Chinese escalation at the border. New Delhi has not wanted to jeopardize its military preparedness by upsetting Russia, a key defense supplier. Moreover, it does not want to push Russia from a position of relative neutrality to China’s side in the event of another Sino-Indian crisis. New Delhi also wants to give Moscow some alternatives to partnership with Beijing to delay or even disrupt the further deepening of Sino-Russian ties.

Another impediment to India’s realignment might be if its economic and technology regulations that target China deliberately or inadvertently reinforce protectionism. This could limit Indian economic and technological cooperation with Western and Indo-Pacific partners.

India may also be slow to take the right steps to address the threat posed by China in the security and economic domains due to domestic or other security priorities. It could try to buy time (or stability) with China that could curb the pace, albeit not the trajectory, of its cooperation with like-minded partners. Indian policymakers also harbor doubts about how willing and able many of its partners will continue to be to balance against China. Moreover, the Indian debate about China might have narrowed considerably, but the debate continues about how far and fast to deepen relations with the United States, in particular, and about the balance to strike between the desire for strategic autonomy and the need for alignment.

TACKING WEST
With its 2020 actions at the border, Beijing has stalled, if not reversed, years of deepening Sino-Indian ties. It has also, counterproductively, facilitated the strengthening of Indian partnerships with many Chinese rivals. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the Indian foreign minister, recently alluded to the broad scope of competition between the two countries, sketching a very different vision of Asia than the one proposed by Beijing. On their part, India’s partners, including the United States, have wondered to what extent India can be brought onside in an alignment against China. These countries should approach India with both pragmatism and ambition. They should have realistic expectations about what New Delhi might be able to do in the Indo-Pacific, given its border-related, regional, and domestic priorities. And they should recognize that while India will compete with China, it will not compete in exactly the same way as the United States or Japan do. But they should not have too little ambition, assuming India will reject deeper cooperation—after all, New Delhi’s traditional diffidence has turned to more willing engagement in recent years. India will steer its own ship, but it is tacking in the direction of those interested in balancing Chinese power and influence in the region and around the world.

(Courtesy:https://www.eurasia.ro/2022/10/05/china-has-lost-india/)

India Can Lead G20 On Education, Climate And Debt Sustainability: World Bank President

World Bank President David Malpass points to India’s involvement in restructuring debts in Sri Lanka and it being a major creditor to African nations; calls the country a leader in education 

Debt sustainability, education, and climate action are three areas of potential for India when it takes on the presidency of the Group of Twenty (G20) in December this year, according to World Bank President David Malpass.

“There’s a potential focus on debt,” Mr. Malpass told reporters on a Friday morning briefing call ahead of the World Bank IMF Annual Meetings here in Washington.

“I think the world is at a point where there can be progress made for a more effective common framework,” he said, highlighting the fact that India is a creditor for Sri Lanka and also some of the “heavily indebted countries of Africa”. India has provided some $4 billion in assistance to Sri Lanka this year and is involved with restructuring its debt.

“So as G20 Chair [sic] India has an opportunity there,” Mr. Malpass said. His comments on debt sustainability being a priority echo remarks made by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar during his United Nations and U.S. visit that concluded last week.

“I’ve spoken with Prime Minister Modi about that and …he… and India is aware of there being debt distress in countries near it as well, so it’s very relevant to India,” Mr. Malpass said.

The World Bank’s president said there had been a very concerning increase in education poverty — with 70% of children in developing countries unable to read the basic texts — and that India could play a leadership role in education. He went on to describe the backsliding in education caused by COVID-19 school closures, including children losing interest because they could not keep up with their grade/class, and the decline in educational spending.

“For India’s G20, this is a big opportunity. India’s been a leader in education,” Mr. Malpass said, adding that climate too would be a major focus, as advanced and developing countries work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate issues 

“You’ll see the importance of [climate change] adaptation for many of the countries in terms of saving lives on the ground. That’ll be a focus of [the November 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference in] Sharm el Sheikh and it’s also incredibly important for India and for the G20 as a whole,” Mr. Malpass said.

In terms of his assessment of the Indian economy, Mr. Malpass said India had suffered from rising interest rates and inflation, globally, as well as climate events . However, expansion of the social safety net during the COVID pandemic was a mitigating factor as was digitisation, Mr. Malpass said. The World Bank has downgraded India’s growth estimate for FY22-23 by 1 percentage point to 6.5%.

UN Official Calls For UNSC, UNHRC Probe In Persecution Of India’s Minorities

The United Nations Security Council and the United Nations Human Rights Council must both step up and investigate the widespread religious persecution and human rights violations in India just as they did with Syria, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Ethiopia, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Minority Rights Fernand de Varennes have said.
“Nothing short of an international investigative mechanism – as has been done by the UN Security Council, and Human Rights Council for countries such as Syria, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Ethiopia – may be necessary,” to reverse the trend of violence against minorities in India, de Varennes said at an international webinar this week.

“The international community needs to step up to the task if we’re serious about reversing the trend – a trend of a systemic pattern where certain minorities are targeted, marginalized, demonized,” he added.

Citing several of India’s most alarming human rights violations, de Varennes criticized Hindu extremists for engaging in increasingly violent hate speech, using legislation “to shut down and shut up critics,” sexually harassing Muslim women through mock auction apps, celebrating 11 Hindu men convicted of gang-raping a Muslim woman in 2002, policing religious belief through anti-conversion laws, and stripping Kashmir of its semi-autonomy in 2019.

De Varennes also slammed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled (BJP) Assam state for its National Register of Citizens (NRC) as well as the nationally-implemented Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which he described as “excluding mainly Muslims” and creating the risk of “statelessness for millions and millions.”

“The scale of denial of the human rights of these minorities, even through legislation and its application in the judicial system, is systemic and national,” de Varennes said.. “[There is the] refusal of authorities to engage fully with global human rights mechanisms, including Special Procedures. The rising brutality and incitement of hatred and violence against minorities are of such gravity and magnitude.”

The webinar, held Monday, was organized by an interfaith coalition of six human rights organizations: Open Doors International, The World Evangelical Alliance, International Commission for Dalit Rights, Hindus for Human Rights, Indian American Muslim Council, and Justice for All. It was held in conjunction with the 51st Session of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, and ahead of India’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

Andrea Benzo, Italy’s Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Protection, and Interreligious Dialogue, said that at India’s last UPR in 2017, “Italy formulated a recommendation on abolishing anticonversion laws and granting access to justice to victims of religious violence and discrimination. Five years later, there are still challenges that need to be addressed to ensure all persons can fully enjoy all their rights under the law, irrespective of their religion or belief.”
Benzo said the term ‘minority’ “should not be misused to claim that members of a certain community are not fully part of the nation of its history and its culture. When it comes to religious intolerance, the distance between words and deeds – that is, between hate speech and physical violence – is very short. Therefore, we need to tackle the former before it rapidly evolves into the labs.”

Sunita Viswanath, the Executive Director of Hindus for Human Rights, said “Modi’s strategic silence allows him to deny the well-documented fact that the Indian government persecutes these minorities.”
“The Indian government must be forced to denounce, on the record, the political movement that drove it to power and the anti-minority violence we all know that it encourages,” Viswanath said. “Member states should ask the Indian government as well to repeal the many laws that restrict the abilities of minorities to exercise their full rights as Indian citizens.”

Ajit Sahi, Advocacy Director, Indian American Muslim Council, warned that India faced a “collapse of democracy,” and that the nation’s backsliding on democratic values had already been noted by global watchdogs, Sweden-based V-Dem Institute, and the US-based Freedom House.
“You are looking at a completely authoritarian country that is being shaped into existence under the leadership of Narendra Modi, India’s current prime minister. It is absolutely of great significance to all Western countries. If you do not stop India right now, India will destroy peace and democracy in the rest of the world,” he said.

Hena Zubairi, Washington DC Director of Justice For All, expressed concern over the ongoing threats of violence against Muslim women from Hindu supremacists across India: “Combine this with the threats of sexual violence coming from genocidal conferences being held by people who lead temples, not one, not to the lead of this genocidal conference that took place in December. Yati Narsinghanand, [one of the hate speakers at the event,] leads 4000 temples. That is not fringe, that’s mainstream.”
She added that India was at risk of sparking another wide-scale refugee crisis. “As the Holocaust Museums Early Warning project predicts the mass killings in India, what will happen? Where will these refugees go? Bangladesh? Pakistan, when one-third of Pakistan is underwater? There’s too much at stake.”

Reverend Gideon Gibamani, representing the International Commission for Dalit Rights, pointed out the “intersectional vulnerabilities” faced by Muslims and Christian Dalits, who suffer from discrimination by the state, society, and their own faith groups due to being excluded from protections offered to Dalit Hindus.

“This discriminates Dalit Christians and Muslims from access to education, development, and political representation, thereby discriminating further on the basis of religion,” he said. “This protection given through the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act is denied in its application for Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims, thereby denying access to justice.”

 

India’s Socialist Leader Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav Passes Away At 82

Mulayam Singh Yadav, India’s former defense minister and a veteran socialist leader, founder of  Samajwadi Party, three-time chief minister of India’s largest state of Uttar Pradeshdied in Gurugram on Monday, October 10, 2022 after a prolonged illness. Yadav was 82 and was on life support for a week. He was admitted to the Medanta hospital in Gurugram on August 22.

The 82-year-old Samajwadi Party patriarch was facing difficulty in breathing and was under the supervision of an internal medicine expert at the Medanta Hospital, as per sources. Singh was suffering from a urinary infection as well, hospital sources had said. On Sunday, Medanta Hospital had put out a health bulletin stating that the veteran leader’s condition was quite critical and that he was on life-saving drugs.

His mortal remains will be taken to his native village Sefai in Etawah in Uttar Pradesh later on Monday. Meanwhile, thousands of supporters gathered outside the Medanta hospital in Gurugram, grieving Yadav’s death.  In a tweet, his son Akhilesh Yadav said, “My respected father and everyone’s leader is no more.”

The founder of the Samajwadi Party was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Medanta hospital in Gurugram on October 1, with breathing problems and was later shifted to the ICU of the hospital due to his critical condition. He was later placed on life-supporting drugs.

Yadav, a three-time chief minister of India’s most populous Uttar Pradesh state, was a former wrestler who rose in politics in the 1980s when a federally appointed commission set up to identify the “socially backward classes” in the country led to a nationwide agitation. It was during these protests Yadav emerged as a socialist leader by defending the demands of the so-called backward castes and religious minorities.

In 1990, when Yadav was Uttar Pradesh state’s chief minister, he ordered police firing on Hindu protesters in the northern Ayodhya city when they were marching towards the 16th-century Babri mosque to reclaim it as a grand temple for the Hindu god Ram. At least 16 people were killed in police action.

When the mosque was eventually razed to the ground by Hindu mobs in 1992, sparking massive communal violence across India, Muslims credited Yadav for having saved it two years before. The community became his party’s major voting bloc.

A year later, he became the state’s chief minister for the second time after stitching an alliance with a regional party after Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was gaining ground on the back of Hindu nationalism. In 1996, Yadav rose to national prominence when he became India’s defense minister in a United Front coalition government.

The news of the death was met with howls of grief and tears from the crowd of supporters outside the hospital. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the tributes, tweeting that Mulayam Singh Yadav’s death had left a huge loss in Indian politics.

“He was our beloved leader who played a major role in the development of Uttar Pradesh. His contribution towards the development of UP cannot be forgotten,” a supporter of the leader outside the hospital said.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled Yadav demise and called him an icon of the socialist movement. He wrote a letter to Akhilesh Yadav and expressed grief: “He was a leader of high esteem who was respected by everybody irrespective of party lines. He was an Icon of the Socialist Movement and had been elected to the Uttar Pradesh State Assembly and to the Lok Sabha several times. He served as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and also Union Minister many times. He was a great Parliamentarian and a distinguished administrator who devoted his whole life to the service of the poor and other backward communities.”

He added, “My wife joins me to convey to you and other members of your family our deepest condolences on this sad occasion. May God give all of you the strength to bear this great loss with courage and fortitude,” he added.

President Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari expressed condolences on the demise of Samajwadi Party leader and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.

President Murmu in a tweet in Hindi described Yadav as a tall grassroots level leader who rose to prominence from a simple background. She described the former defense minister as a leader with extraordinary abilities and said that his demise was a “great loss” to the nation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was pained by Yadav’s demise and recalled his long association with the socialist leader. “I had many interactions with Mulayam Singh Yadav Ji when we served as Chief Ministers of our respective states. The close association continued and I always looked forward to hearing his views. His demise pains me. Condolences to his family and lakhs of supporters. Om Shanti,” he tweeted.

“He was widely admired as a humble and grounded leader who was sensitive to people’s problems. He served people diligently and devoted his life towards popularising the ideals of Loknayak JP and Dr. Lohia,” the Prime Minister wrote further.

Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari offered his condolences to Yadav’s family and recalled that he personally received lots of affection from the departed leader.
Gadkari said that he got Yadav’s full support for his policy initiatives on regularising e-rickshaws in the country.

Congress Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh described Mulayam Singh Yadav as a stalwart Lohiaite, who had admirers across the political spectrum.

Former Defense Minister A.K. Antony of the Congress said Yadav, who had served in the same portfolio before him, was a far-sighted politician and statesman. “Even though Yadav was the Defense Minister for a brief period, none can forget his far sightedness as during every discussion on defence in Parliament, he had just one thing to say ‘be wary of China’, if not, it will be difficult to tackle. See how right he was,” the country’s longest serving Defense Minister said.

A teacher by profession and a trained wrestler, Yadav belonged to a family of farmers with no political background. He became influenced by the writings of socialist Ram Manohar Lohia.

In his long career, Yadav was known to have allies on all sides of the political spectrum and was often projected as a candidate for the job of India’s prime minister.  Even though he never came close to becoming the prime minister, his party remained a major partner to many coalition governments, as Uttar Pradesh sends the highest number of lawmakers to the lower house of India’s parliament.

In 2012, Yadav handed the charge of his political party to his son, who became the state’s chief minister for five years. Yadav will be remembered by as a “soldier for democracy” and a “grassroots leader” who stood for a secular India.

Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra Completes 1 Month On The Road

Rahul Gandhi, former President of Congress Party-led Bharat Jodo Yatra, launched on September 7th, 2022 at Kanniyakumari, the southern tip of India has completed a month, having covered a distance of over 700 kms across Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.

Congress Party said in a series of tweets that the former party chief made the “first call to unite India” when he launched the Yatra on September 7 from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. The party also shared several videos of the Yatra as well as people joining Gandhi on his journey. On Saturday, Gandhi stated that the goal of the Bharat Jodo Yatra was to unite the people of the country rather than to fight “violence and hatred” spread by the BJP-RSS.

Starting the Karnataka leg of the padayatra by walking alongside a young girl dressed as Bharat Mata (Mother India) at Mandya district, Mr. Gandhi was joined by the late Gauri Lankesh’s mother, Indira, and sister in the evening.

“Gauri stood for Truth. Gauri stood for Courage. Gauri stood for Freedom. I stand for Gauri Lankesh and countless others like her, who represent the true spirit of India. Bharat Jodo Yatra is their voice. It can never be silenced,” Mr. Gandhi tweeted while sharing the picture of him walking with Ms. Indira, holding her hand.

In the next 120 days, the Congress is not only hoping that the padayatra would become a path to its political revival revival by raising issues like inflation, unemployment and communal polraisation through ‘divisive’ politics but also repackage Mr. Gandhi as a people’s politician.

“It’s a transformation of the Congress party and it shows the real Rahul Gandhi coming out. I would not say it is the new Rahul Gandhi but the real Rahul Gandhi that is being seen,” Congress communication chief Jairam Ramesh told PTI, adding that Mr. Gandhi’s interactions with civil society, party workers and his super fitness are what comprises the “real Mr. Rahul Gandhi”.

The Congress has carefully showcased the compassionate side of Mr. Gandhi by sharing images of him tying the shoe laces of his mother and party chief Sonia Gandhi, delivering a speech in Mysuru despite a heavy downpour and enthusiastic interactions with youngsters in the past 30 days.

Apart from the image make-over, the party has also aimed to bring together different factions in States like poll-bound Kerala.

“We are on the roads, on the streets, we are fighting the BJP. We are taking the battle to their camp. We are raising issues. We are not reacting. Now, the BJP is reacting to us and that I think is the greatest contribution of the yatra. It’s psychological rather than electoral,” Mr. Ramesh added.

In a tweet, the grand old party of India stated: “It was our resolve to question the fascist govt. Within a month, it has truly taken shape of a large-scale movement. Across states, similar Yatras are taking shape. It will go down in history as a pivot in Indian politics. This is only the beginning.”

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. [email protected] 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

India Abstains Again From Condemning Russia’s Aggression In Ukraine

India has abstained on a draft resolution tabled in the UN Security Council which condemned Russia’s “illegal referenda” and annexation of four Ukrainian territories.

The UNSC called for an immediate cessation of violence while underlining the need to find pathways for a return to the negotiating table.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj said that India was deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine and New Delhi has always advocated that no solution can ever arrive at the cost of human lives.

“We urge that all efforts are made by concerned sides for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities. Dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment,” she said.

“The path to peace requires us to keep all channels of diplomacy open,” she said, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “unequivocally conveyed” this in his discussions with world leaders, including with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

She also referred to statements made by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Ukraine during the high-level General Assembly session last week.

Referring to Modi’s remark to Putin on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand that “today’s era is not an era of war”, Kamboj said New Delhi sincerely hopes for an early resumption of peace talks to bring about an immediate ceasefire and resolution of the conflict.

“India’s position has been clear and consistent from the very beginning of this conflict. The global order is anchored on the principles of the UN Charter, international law and respect for sovereignty and the territorial integrity of all states. Escalation of rhetoric or tension is in no one’s interest,” she said.

“It is important that pathways are found for a return to the negotiating table. Keeping in view the totality of the evolving situation, India decided to abstain on the resolution,” Kamboj said. The draft resolution was tabled by the US and Albania which condemns Russia’s “organization of illegal so-called referenda in regions within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.”

The 15-nation UN Security Council on Friday voted on the draft, of the 15-nation Council, 10 nations voted for the resolution while China, Gabon, India and Brazil abstained. The resolution failed to get adopted as Russia vetoed it.

The resolution declares that Russia’s “unlawful actions” with regards to the “illegal so-called referenda” taken on September 23 to 27 this year in parts of Ukraine’s regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya that are under Russia’s temporary control can have “no validity” and cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of these regions of Ukraine, including any “purported annexation” of any of these regions by Moscow.

Earlier, Russian President Putin on Friday had proclaimed the annexation of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

The announcement came a day after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “any annexation of a State’s territory by another State resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the Principles of the UN Charter and international law.”

“Any decision to proceed with the annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned,” Guterres said.

“It cannot be reconciled with the international legal framework. It stands against everything the international community is meant to stand for. It flouts the purposes and principles of the United Nations. It is a dangerous escalation. It has no place in the modern world. It must not be accepted,” the UN chief said.

The resolution also calls upon all States, international organisations and specialised agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of Ukraine’s regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson or Zaporizhzhya on the basis of Russia’s “unlawful actions” with regards to the illegal so-called referenda taken on September 23 to 27, and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognising any such altered status.

It also decides that Russia shall “immediately, completely and unconditionally” withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders, which includes those regions addressed by the “illegal so-called referenda” to enable a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine through political dialogue, negotiation, mediation or other peaceful means. 

Foreign Policy In A Divided World: Will India Rise To The Occasion?

By, Ambassador Amit Dasgupta

Today, several other countries are gaining greater respect and acceptability in the comity of nations. India, certainly, is one of them. What is perhaps likely to happen is that global leadership would be a shared responsibility.

We are living in difficult times. The global community is confronted by extraordinary and unprecedented turbulence that has divided rather than united them. The world order is increasingly characterized by deep insecurity, resulting in polarization, insularity, instability, and xenophobia.

The conduct of foreign policy in such a scenario can be daunting, especially for developing countries, such as India, which needs to tread carefully, so that it might avoid being caught in the crossfire between opposing powers. New Delhi is acutely aware that a strong foreign policy, based on the pursuance of national interests, is going to be increasingly challenging. The Russia-Ukrainian war, for instance, tested India’s ability to maintain its strategic autonomy. In the process, New Delhi was able to import the S 400 missile systems and much-needed energy resources from Russia. But when it was in India’s overall interest to gently convey its misgivings to President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Modi did so, when the two leaders met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand.

By refusing to take sides in the Great Power rivalry, New Delhi has retained flexibility and more importantly, the ability to persuade where others have failed. Putin understood that Modi spoke as a friend and well-wisher. Quiet diplomacy is often far more persuasive than aggressive posturing.

Perceptions matter 

In a deeply divided environment, India knows that the cold calculus of diplomacy needs to be based on realism, pragmatism, and perceptions. Human behaviour is largely a derivative of perceptions, which, in turn, are based on experiential evidence.  This, in turn, impacts expectations and finally, output.

Consider New Delhi’s perception of Pakistan, for instance. Decades of cross-border terrorism, death of innocent civilians, the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, the disclosures of the arrested terrorist Kasab, and a whole range of other acts committed with the full support of the Pakistan government and military naturally create the perception that Islamabad is driven by an anti-India psyche. This perception is based on experience and would necessarily impact expectations. In other words, it would influence the thinking that dialogue with Islamabad would be unproductive. The output, consequently, is status quo. Indeed, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had once famously said that it was difficult to talk with someone who shakes your hand above the table, while kicking you from underneath.

India realizes that, despite global condemnation of terrorism and Islamabad’s poor track record in this regard, Pakistan enjoys emphatic support from Beijing. China has put on hold, for instance, a US proposal in the UN Security Council to designate Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) handler, Sajid Mir, as a global terrorist. China today counts for 72 per cent of major arms supplies to Pakistan. But then, US actions are equally strange. In a bizarre move recently, when Pakistan is reeling under ravaging floods, Washington supplied it with F16s.

Take the case of China. New Delhi’s perception, which is shared by the global community, is that under Xi Jinping, China has become belligerent, antagonistic, and hegemonic. Several countries, ranging from the US to Australia, recognize that a rising China would threaten the global order. Yet, they do business with them, as indeed does India. Australia’s two-way trade with China is $250 billion in comparison to $25 billion with India. In 2020, the two-way US-China goods trade was $560 billion. According to data from the Indian Commerce Ministry, bilateral trade in 2020-21 between India and the US stood at a little under $120 billion, almost equivalent with China, which stood at $115.42 billion.

China matches its economic clout with its military ambitions. The South China Sea dispute, its treatment of the Uighur Muslim population, the crushing of internal threats and dissidence, its unequivocal support to Pakistan, its wooing of India’s neighbours, and its August 2020 misadventure to alter the status quo on the border with India are prime examples of China’s perception of its national interest. New Delhi is acutely aware that it lives in a troubling and troubled neighbourhood. Credible perceptions of Beijing’s behaviour, both past and present, make it amply clear that dialogue between the two countries needs to be based on pragmatism and limited expectations.

National interest and ethics 

National interest has always been the prime focus of foreign policy, especially of the Great Powers. Developing countries, on the other hand, were forced to compromise and adjust to externally imposed decisions or face dire consequences, which included the assassination of their leaders, and the replacement of their governments with a more pliable leadership. The CIA’s activities in this regard are well documented.

While no country would admit to conducting an unethical foreign policy, the fact is that national interest and ethics are not always compatible. The great champions of democracy, for instance, prefer to deal with dictatorships and autocracies and are accepting of extreme violations of human rights and civil liberties. The US involvement in Vietnam, the imposition of ruthless dictators in Latin America, regime change in Iraq, the hasty and unilateral withdrawal from Afghanistan, to name a few, can hardly be classified as being ethical or morally justified. Indeed, even a former British prime minister was frustrated enough to refer to the American exit from Afghanistan as “imbecilic”. Similarly, the recent visit by US President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia to discuss with the monarchy, despite CIA reports that the Crown Prince was personally involved in the killing of the Washington Post reporter, an American citizen of Saudi descent, reflects the primacy of national interest. Ethics plays no part in this and is, at best, an inconvenience.

India realizes that in the fractured world we live in, the strength of a nation lies in its ability to safeguard its national interest. India has refused to outsource this and consequently, Is not a member of any security alliance. If there is military aggression by Pakistan and China, India needs to rely on its own resources. As part of its national interest, therefore, India needs to enhance its military capability while, simultaneously, keeping channels of communication open to ensure that armed confrontation may be avoided or entered into only as a last resort.

The safeguarding of national interest assumes that the threats to national interest are minimized and finally, eliminated. Consequently, the core emphasis of Indian diplomacy has been to win friends across the globe. This, in fact, has been the building block of Indian foreign policy since independence. It has served us well and continues to be relevant.

Leadership in a disorderly world

The world is in chaos and faces a leadership vacuum. US influence is declining, and it is no longer seen as a reliable partner. Russia appears to be teetering on the brink of collapse. China’s rise is increasingly perceived as a global threat. Europe continues to remain disunited. The UN has, for all practical purposes, lost its utility. Uncertainty hangs over the global community like a shroud. There is, consequently, anxiety as to how the prevailing disorder may be stemmed, especially in the face of multiple challenges and new threats.

Around a hundred years ago (in 1923), British philosopher Bertrand Russell had written in one of his essays, “America controls the world and will continue to do so, until Russia is prosperous and Europe united”. This prediction is increasingly coming to be proved wrong. Today, several other countries are gaining greater respect and acceptability in the comity of nations. India, certainly, is one of them. What is perhaps likely to happen is that global leadership would be a shared responsibility. During the pandemic, for instance, India established its leadership role, which earned it the title of ‘pharmacy of the world’. 

On solar power, India has leapfrogged and is set to achieve ambitious targets. On the manufacture of semiconductors, recent initiatives suggest that India might well overtake China as a global supplier. At the same time, New Delhi is conscious that a successful foreign policy is entirely dependent on the number of friends it has around the globe.

These are difficult times for any county and the crafting of its foreign policy in complex and complicated terrain will be challenging. It requires patience and perseverance. As the great chess grandmaster, Alekhine, once said, “When you make your first move on the chessboard, you must already know how you plan to end the game”. A strong foreign policy requires a long-term vision, critical to which is the way a nation projects itself and is perceived by others, both in terms of domestic policies and governance, as also its conduct on the international stage and global affairs.

(Ambassador Amit Dasgupta is a former Indian diplomat. This article is based on a talk delivered by him on August 29 2022, at Christ University, Bengaluru, at an event sponsored by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. Views are personal. Read more at: https://www.southasiamonitor.org/spotlight/foreign-policy-divided-world-will-india-rise-occasion

India ‘Matters More,’ Seeks To Be The Bridge & The Voice For The Developing World

By, Arul Louis

For India, global governance reform starts with Security Council reforms and here New Delhi got support across blocs at the General Assembly meeting from both the US and Russia, as well as other countries. It is the only country to get the backing of both Washington and Moscow.

India emerged as the voice of the South, speaking up on issues hitting them the hardest, during the high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), reclaiming the leadership role but in a changed global context with a focus on development and cooperation, trying to be a bridge between blocs in the polarized world.

The ‘New India’ “really matters more in this polarised world”, said Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who dynamized this new avatar during the UNGA meeting last week and the many events around it, meeting over 100 leaders over six days.

If Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2014 speech after his election set a new course for the nation, breaking free of the ideological constraints of a self-imposed “Third Worldism” and strident Non-Aligned rhetoric, eight years later a more self-confident India has returned to its embrace of the developing countries, but with a difference, and showing them a new direction: Development rather than politics; bridge-building rather than confrontation.

At the same time, Jaishankar kept India’s anti-colonial creds but first looking inward to forge a world outlook. “We will liberate ourselves from a colonial mindset”, he told the General Assembly. “Externally, this means reformed multilateralism and more contemporary global governance”.

For India, global governance reform starts with Security Council reforms and here New Delhi got support across blocs at the General Assembly meeting from both the US and Russia, as well as other countries. It is the only country to get the backing of both Washington and Moscow.

India now has a “tailwind” on its quest for a permanent seat on the Security Council, Jaishankar said at a news conference.

It was probably the first time an Indian leader spoke at the UN about liberation from the “colonial mindset” that had informed its rhetoric and reactions. “Our rich civilisational heritage will be a source of pride and of strength”, he said.

And of the significance of India’s 75th anniversary of Independence, he said India’s people are “rejuvenating a society pillaged by centuries of foreign attacks and colonialism” — packing in a pointed reference to also invasions from around the region.

As to why “India matters more” is that in a polarised world, it is “the bridge, we are the voice, we are a viewpoint channel”, Jaishankar said at a news conference, adding, “I think for a country like India, which has so many relationships and such an ability to communicate and to find touch points for different countries and regions” makes it fit for the role.

Wide recognition.

Recognition came from France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who said at the General Assembly, “Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, was right when he said the time is not for war, it is not for revenge against the West or for opposing the West against the East. It is the time, for a collective time, for our sovereign equal states to come together with challenges we face.” 

And Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard conveyed to the Security Council his country’s proposal to set up a panel with Modi and Pope Francis to find a solution to the Ukraine crisis.

There was a tendency for the West to turn the spotlight on Ukraine, leading to other more pressing issues for the developing South pushed to the sidelines. Affecting them is a plethora of crises that affect the developing countries the hardest: The Covid pandemic, the shortages of and soaring prices of food and energy, the scarcity of fertilisers,  and the debt crunch.

In his General Assembly speech, Jaishankar said, “We are on the side of those struggling to make ends meet, even as they stare at the escalating costs of food, of fuel and fertilisers”.

“There is great frustration that these issues are not being heard, they’re not being given a voice” he said later at his news conference.

But “to the extent there is anybody at all who’s speaking up and voicing these sentiments” it is India, he said, and. therefore, he found his counterparts expressing the feeling that “this is a country that speaks to us”.

While India spoke up for the South, it also demonstrated that its solidarity goes beyond words, Jaishankar said.

Actions matching words

At another level, Jamaica’s Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson brought a touchingly personal testimony to India’s development cooperation with the countries of the South referring to its role in helping combat the Covid pandemic: “We actually carry ‘Vaccine Maitri’ within us”.

And, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Awad Bin Mubarak, speaking at an event on India’s role in the world on its 75th Independence anniversary, spoke of India’s food aid.

Jaishankar at his news conference attributed the success in India’s efforts to help the developing South and being recognised for it to Modi. “This has taken practical shape that under this Prime Minister, delivery is his forte”, he said.

The bilateral and multilateral aid programmes made their mark because “delivery is his forte” as it has been at home

The many programs include the International Solar Alliance, which has 121 member countries, the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and India-UN Development Partnership Fund.

India’s G 20 leadership beckons

India will be taking over the presidency of the G-20, the group of major developed and emerging economies, in December when it will have a chance to demonstrate its new outlook through its leadership.

Jaishankar said in his General Assembly address, “India will work with other G-20 members to address serious issues of debt, of economic growth, food and energy security and particularly, of environment. The reform of governance of multilateral financial institutions will continue to be one of our core priorities”.

On the most polarizing issues at the UN, Ukraine, Jaishankar made a cryptic statement that showed a shift away from its neutrality and away from Russia – or at least putting some distance from it.

With nations being asked to – or almost coerced to – pick sides, he said in his General Assembly speech, “We are on the side that respects the UN Charter and its founding principles”.

(The author is a New York-based journalist who reports from the United Nations. Views are personal.) Read more at: https://www.southasiamonitor.org/spotlight/india-matters-more-seeks-be-bridge-voice-developing-world-generous-recognition-indias

Shashi Tharoor & Mallikarjun Kharge Vie For Top Post In Congress Party

Senior Congress leaders Shashi Tharoor and Mallikarjun Kharge are now all set to fight for the post of Indian National Congress Party President, after they filed the nominations at the party HQ in New Delhi on Sept. 30, 2022. The elections are scheduled for October 17, and the results would be announced two days later.

The forms submitted by the candidates have been scrutinized, Madhusudan Mistry, senior Congress leader and the returning officer for the election of the party president, said at a press conference.

“Of the 20 forms received, four forms have been rejected due to variations in signatures. The Jharkhand candidate’s form has also been rejected due to the repetition of signatures and signatures not matching,” he added.

“Malikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor are the two candidates. October 8 is the date for withdrawal of candidacy. The picture will be clear on that day – if no one withdraws, then the voting process will take place,” Mistry added.

Mallikarjun Kharge’s candidature was proposed by party leaders including Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, Digvijaya Singh, AK Antony, Mukul Wasnik etc. 

After filing the nomination for the Congress president poll, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said, “I’ve a vision for Congress which I’ll be sending to all delegates. We’re going to seek their support… I’m here to be the voice of all party workers.

After the official announcement, Shashi Tharoor tweeted: “Delighted to learn that, following scrutiny, Mallikarjun Kharge and I will be squaring off in the friendly contest for President of Congress. May the party and all our colleagues benefit from this democratic process!”

On Saturday, Tharoor began his campaign from Maharashtra’s Nagpur. In a tweet, he wrote: “I present my 60 nominees. 12 states, all levels of leadership but all proud @INCIndia workers. I thank them & the thousands of workers they represent for the faith they have placed in me. Thanks, my Parliamentary colleagues, for your unwavering support.”

Karti P Chidambaram is among the proposers of Tharoor, who is using “#ThinkTharoorThinkTomorrow” as his campaign hashtag on social media in reiteration of his message that he represents change. “Colleagues from far and wide, thank you for your support for my candidacy,” he wrote in another tweet.

On Saturday, speaking to news agency ANI, the 66-year-old leader had insisted that his contest with Kharge was “not a battle”. “But for those who are satisfied with the party functioning should choose Kharge Sahab, and those who want change should choose me.”

Tharoor, a prominent Indian diplomat and politician who, after long service in the international diplomatic corps, became an official in the government of India. He was also a highly regarded author of both nonfiction and fiction books.

Tharoor was born into an Indian expatriate family living in London, which returned to India after his birth. He completed a bachelor’s degree at the University of Delhi in New Delhi, and in 1978, at age 22, he was awarded a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. At that time Tharoor was the youngest person ever to earn a doctorate from the Fletcher School. Later that year he became a staff member in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, Switzerland.

During his subsequent 23-year career as a diplomat in the United Nations, Tharoor served in various capacities, including deputy chief of the UNHCR Secretariat (1985–89), special assistant for the United States and UN for peacekeeping (1989–96), executive assistant to the secretary-general (1997–2000), and under-secretary-general for communications and public information (2001–07). In 2006 Tharoor was chosen as India’s official candidate for the post of secretary-general. He finished second out of the seven candidates in the 2007 election, which was won by former South Korean diplomat and politician Ban Ki-moon. Following his defeat, Tharoor resigned from the UN and became the chairman of an investment company based in the emirate of Dubai.

Congress veteran and leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, 80-year-old Mapanna Mallikarjuna Kharge is likely to be elected the next party president. If Kharge does bag the post, he will be the first non-Nehru-Gandhi family member to hold the position in 25 years, after Sitaram Kesari. 

The Kharge family hails from Warawatti in Bhalki taluk of Bidar district, which falls in the old Hyderabad–Karnataka region, which was formerly ruled by the Nizams. When he was just seven, the Kharge family was forced to move to neighbouring Kalburgi (formerly Gulbarga) district, after an outbreak communal violence, in which several members of his immediate family, including his mother, lost their lives. This event is said to have shaped his views on communalism and inter-faith relations, making him staunchly ‘secular.’ 

Of the 12 elections he has contested, Kharge lost only once – in 2019. He was elected to the Karnataka assembly nine times consecutively, between 1972 and 2008. Eight of the victories came from the Gurmitkal constitutency, when it was reserved for Scheduled Castes, and once from Chitapur. He also won from the Gulbarga Lok Sabha constituency in 2009 and 2014, earning him the sobriquet of Solilada Sardara. 

If he wins, Kharge would be the second president of the Congress party from Karnataka, after S Nijalingappa in the mid-1960’s. Also, it would mean that two senior positions at the highest echelons of the Congress party would be occupied by Kannadigas. B V Srinivas already heads the Youth Congress and if Kharge wins the presidency, it would be an additional feather in the cap for the party in Karnataka, which goes to the polls in the next six months.

Anyone Living In India Is Hindu, Says RSS Chief

All people living in India are Hindus in terms of identity, said Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on Wednesday, September 21st explaining his organization’s philosophy. Elaborating the RSS’ philosophy, Bhagwat said that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life.

Bhagwat was speaking on the third day of his lecture series in Delhi when he explained the RSS’s views on Hinduism, education and caste. “It’s Indian culture and Hindutva which believe in working with other schools of thought. All people living in India are Hindu in terms of identity and nationality,” Bhagwat said.

“Hinduism is a wrong word—“ism” is a closed concept. Hindutva, Hinduness is not any “ism” but a dynamic process. Gandhi ji has said the endless search for truth is called Hindutva. S Radhakrishnan has said Hindutva is a continuous process,” Bhagwat was quoted by the RSS’s Twitter handle as saying.

“We think everyone must abide by the Constitution…The RSS has never gone against the Constitution. (Sure), The words secular and socialist were added later, but now they are there,” he said. 

Bhagwat said the concept of a Hindu Rashtra or Hindu nation does not rest on segregation or rejection of any community or faith. “Hindu Rashtra doesn’t mean there’s no place for Muslims. The day it becomes so, it won’t be Hindutva. Hindutva talks about one world family,” Bhagwat said. The RSS is the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Addressing a gathering in Shillong, the RSS chief said all are Hindus as all Indians are the inhabitants of Hindustan, which, he said is in the south of the Himalayas, north of Indian Ocean, on the bank of the Indus River. “The habitants of this area are traditionally called Hindus. This is also called Bharat,” said Bhagwat, who arrived here on Saturday on a two-day visit.

He said that even before the Mughals who have spread Islam and the British rulers who spread Christianity, Hindus were already in existence. Highlighting the ideology of RSS, Bhagwat said the term ‘Hindu’ covers all those who are the sons of ‘Bharat Mata’, descendants of Indian ancestors and who live in accordance with Indian culture.

Ruling out the fear of religious conversion, the RSS supremo said to become Hindu one does not have to change since everyone here is Hindu. “India is not a country with a western concept. It has been a cultural country since time immemorial; in fact, it is such a country, which has taught the world the lesson of humanity.”

Since Saturday, he has attended a series of events, including the meeting of RSS functionaries and workers across the hill state. Several BJP leaders, members of Hindu organisations attended the events organised by the Meghalaya unit of RSS.

Bhagwat’s visit to Meghalaya — a Christian majority state, assumes significance as Assembly elections are scheduled to be held there in February next year. Elaborate security arrangements were made in the state in view of the visit of Bhagwat, who has a ‘Z Plus’ security cover. (IANS)

Congress President: Tharoorism Is Not Enough

By, A. J. Philip

The Indian National Congress (INC) was founded by Allan Octavian Hume, a British civil servant. He was a great ornithologist, who had the single largest collection of Indian bird specimens. He was posted at Etawah, now in Uttar Pradesh, when the first war of independence in 1857, also called Sepoy Mutiny, happened. Though the revolt was brutally dealt with, he knew that violence of the kind could erupt any time and the British would not be able to control it.

Though he held senior positions in the government, he believed that the British could not stay in India for long and they should, therefore, be ready to transfer power to the Indian people. It was also true that India did not have enough academically qualified people who could be administrators. The setting up of the universities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras in 1857 marked a turning point in the history of India.

That the 1857 mutineers were clueless people could be gauged from the fact that they chose a “poet” as the emperor. They were inspired more by religion than by nationalism. Hume understood the situation much better than the mutineers, who promised that they would reintroduce sati and would keep the lower castes in their old, pre-British position. 

Higher education, the resultant sense of nationalism and the rise of the middle class marked a new beginning. It was during this time that Hume, who had earned the displeasure of the British, thought of taking the lead to form a political organisation that would help solve the problems of the people vis-a-vis the administration. In 1883, he wrote a letter to the graduates of the University of Calcutta in which he said, “If only fifty men, good and true, can be found to join as founders, the thing (Congress) can be established and the further development will be comparatively easy.…

“And if even the leaders of thought are all either such poor creatures, or so selfishly wedded to personal concerns that they dare not strike a blow for their country’s sake, then justly and rightly are they kept down and trampled on, for they deserve nothing better. Every nation secures precisely as good a government as it merits”. Until then, nobody had given such a clarion call.

Two years after Hume wrote this letter, the Indian National Congress was founded with Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee, a co-founder, as the first president at its session held in Bombay. The president of the Congress did not enjoy any administrative powers but it became the most coveted position for an Indian. Before and after Independence, the persons who held this post were undoubtedly some of the greatest leaders India produced. 

There were Christians, Muslims, Hindus of all castes, Parsis and atheists who held this post, many of them with distinction. Mahatma Gandhi held this post only once, though no one exercised greater control of the organisation than him. The Congress was not just a political party. It represented the aspirations of the people. Even after Independence, the post of Congress president was far more prestigious than a Cabinet Minister’s or Governor’s post.

Elections used to be held regularly in the party and the presidentship was, initially, for just one year. Politically, the post was on a par with that of the Prime Minister. K. Kamaraj wielded considerable influence as Congress president, though he did not know a word of Hindi. S. Nijalingappa was another president who did not consider himself lower than the Prime Minister.

With the loss of power at the Centre and in most states, the Congress is no longer what it used to be. In the last Assembly elections in UP, the party could win only two seats. The Muslims began deserting the Congress when the party prevaricated on the issue of Babri Masjid. The Brahmins began to shift to the BJP. The Yadavs had their own party and the Scheduled Castes found their leader in the late Kanshi Ram and Mayawati. The Congress was left with some Nehru loyalists in Amethi and Rae Bareli. Now, they, too, have disappeared forcing Rahul Gandhi to cross the Vindhyas to get votes and win a seat in Parliament.

The rise of regional parties in states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha and many Northeastern states has further damaged the Congress. All this while, the BJP has been growing from a party with just two seats in the Lok Sabha in 1984 to its pre-eminent position today thanks to the systematic exploitation of divisive issues which have little to do with the common man’s bread and butter needs. 

The RSS, founded in 1925, has been working at the grassroots level moulding public opinion that finds reflection in crude anti-minority rhetoric. It also helped in the growth of the BJP. One only has to remember how the BJP and what is now the Aam Aadmi Party under the leadership of Anna Hazare organised a powerful campaign to demand the setting up of the Lok Pal. 

The purpose was to drive out the Congress from power. These parties no longer mention rise in petroleum prices or the falling value of the rupee vis-a-vis the dollar.

It is in this context that election to the post of Congress president is taking place. It is not clear who the candidates are. What is clear is that nobody from the Nehru family — Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi — will contest. The Congress has one problem. Its leaders want the Gandhi family to win elections for them. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi could win elections for them.

Rahul Gandhi has rightly realised that he cannot win elections for others. That is why he does not want to be the president. Politics is the art of the possible. Anyone who masters it succeeds. 

In the BJP, Narendra Modi was not the first choice. There were better claimants for the post of Prime Minister in 2014. He knew how to manage the situation and before L.K. Advani, who was projected as the leader of leaders, realised what was happening, he found Modi telling him and Murli Manohar Joshi that they could not even be ministers as they were above 75. Advani would have rued his decision to allow Modi to sit on the Rath during the Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya. He got his first public exposure.

So far, only one person has shown interest in becoming Congress president. He is Shashi Tharoor. When he first contested against a fellow Asian for the post of UN Secretary-General, it was considered bad politics. His vast experience in the UN administration, where he held a senior post, should have stood him in good stead. 

The then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, was blamed for sponsoring his campaign at great state cost and prestige. Once bitten, he should have been twice shy. Far from that, he managed to get nominated by the Congress for the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat in 2009. Congressmen in Kerala were not consulted when he was chosen for the seat.

Tharoor knew only a smattering of Malayalam but he banked on the fact that it was Thiruvananthapuram which elected V.K. Krishna Menon, whose knowledge of Malayalam was worse. There was one fundamental difference. Menon contested against the Congress as an independent with CPM support. Curiously, Menon had opposed the formation of Kerala for fear that the Communists would come to power. He wanted a UP-like large state comprising Kerala, Tamil Nadu and part of Karnataka.

The dyed-in-the-wool Congressmen in Kerala were uncomfortable when Tharoor not only learnt to speak Malayalam but also proved that he could remain in the Congress without being a member of any faction. His oratorical skills, literary felicity and mastery of English helped him carve a niche for himself in Indian politics. 

Politicians in Kerala hated the fact that he could attract public attention. They, in fact, feared his presence on the stage. Sooner than later, they also realised that he could garner votes. He has become the most popular speaker during elections. In Kerala, not elsewhere!

Tharoor proved all the doubting Thomases wrong when he retained the Thiruvananthapuram seat for a third time in 2019. He has faced many personal tragedies and he braved them as he kept on churning out bestsellers that make him one of the most popular writers in India. Those who have read him like this writer know that most of his books are the result of cut and paste. His book on British rule, which won the Kendriya Sahitya Akademi award, is a classic case of shallow research and high success.

On the subject of writing, I was shocked when Tharoor wrote that it was possible for the statues of Ganapati to drink milk in a column in The Hindu. I wondered how a young, educated person could accept such bogus claims when scientists explained that it was the result of capillary action. His request to the UN chief to let him serve under him after contesting unsuccessfully against him was unthinkable, if not unethical, to say the least. 

Tharoor thinks that he has the dynamism, the clout and the ability to hold the post of Congress president. Few doubt him on any of these scores. He would surely know that in the history of the Congress party, only one Malayali became its president. He was Chettur Sankaran Nair, who became president when the Congress held its session at Amravati in 1897. 

Nair was a member of the Viceroy’s Council, the highest post an Indian could hold, but his links with the Congress ended when he wrote a book titled “Gandhi and Anarchy” that caricatured Mahatma Gandhi and called him a dictator. Thereafter, the party never trusted a Malayali with this post. It is just a coincidence that Tharoor and Nair belong to the same Palakkad district.

It is a jigsaw puzzle what Tharoor’s chances are if the Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is his rival. That he was a member of the Group of 23 which questioned the leadership of Rahul Gandhi means that he is assured of some pan-India Congress votes. 

Tharoor was present with Gandhi when he travelled through Thiruvananthapuram during his ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra. Few in the Congress or other parties can speak English as fluently as he can. He is a good debater who cut his teeth as a debater while he was at St. Stephen’s College. Few people know that he has a good command of Hindi and, if need be, he can speak fluently in the other official language also. 

These are certainly attributes the president of the Congress should have. He is also a master of social media who can give a tit-for-tat, though he can at times find himself in “cattle class”! Does all these make a person a great leader? Mahatma Gandhi’s oratorical skill was nothing to write home about. Yet, the people were mesmerised by his simple speech. He understood the pulse of the people as the latter understood him.

Of course, it is scandalous to compare Tharoor with Gandhi. The circumstances in which he lost his ministership do not crown himself with glory. He relied on a St. Stephen’s alumnus, who ultimately landed him in trouble. A good debater need not necessarily be a good leader.

A good debater is one who can argue for or against a subject. George Fernandes proved that he could one day speak for the government and the next day speak against the same government. His debating skill was proved but in public memory he remained a turncoat, whom nobody wanted to touch with even a barge pole.

A leader is one who can inspire the people. Modi has that quality, rightly or wrongly. People know that Rahul Gandhi is a wonderful person, sincere and hardworking but he does not have the ability to inspire people. One can only hope that his Bharat Jodo Yatra will transform his persona. 

The biggest challenge for Tharoor is not to retain Thiruvananthapuram for a fourth time but to win elections for Congressmen all over the country. Can he do that? If he can’t, nobody would be inspired by his use of words like higgleddy-piggleddy and ultraantidisestablishmentarianism! (https://www.indiancurrents.org/article-congress-president-tharoorism-is-not-enough-a-j-philip-1370.php)

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

Modi’s ‘Rebuke’ Of Putin Heard In US

By, Yashwant Raj

The “abrupt and unheralded change” in India’s stand on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as reflected in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “public rebuke” of Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week, has been heard in official Washington DC with some relief and satisfaction.

Prime Minister Modi made it “clear to Putin’s face that the invasion is wrong”, said Ro Khanna, an Indian American lawmaker who has been critical of India’s refusal to condemn the invasion. Speaking at a community event on Wednesday, he went on to suggest Modi could also help in a “peaceful resolution and a ceasefire”.

Earlier the same day in New York, a senior White House official pointed to the new Indian position as testimony to the Biden administration’s strategy of just laying out the facts on Ukraine for other countries to see and judge for themselves instead of forcing them to change their stand.

“The US strategy has borne fruit insofar as you are seeing increasing signs of countries that did abstain, to include countries like India speaking out in a different way, including directly in front of Putin,” the official said. “And, you know, we’d like to see more than that, obviously, in the days ahead.”

India was among 34 countries that abstained in an UN general assembly vote in March that deplored Russia for invading Ukraine. China had also abstained.

New Delhi came under significant pressure from the US and its western allies to condemn the invasion and either stop buying Russian oil or not ramp it up, as it would enable Moscow to withstand the economic sanctions imposed on it to force it to end the war and leave Ukraine.

India did neither. Until last week. “Today’s era is not of war,” Prime Minister Modi told Putin in public remarks ahead of their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. That went much further than India’s expression of ‘grave concern’ over the killing of civilians in Ukraine’s Bucha, and call for respecting the UN charter that protects the sovereignty and integrity of all member nations.

US frustration with India’s refusal to condemn Russia and stop oil from it, had led to a rather unfortunate outburst from a senior White House official sent to New Delhi for these talks. He had warned India of “consequences”.

“I’ve been clear about India, and I think India ought to be condemning Putin and India ought not to be getting oil from Russia or China. We ought to rally the world to isolate Putin,” Khanna said on Fox News in days after the UN general assembly vote.

Khanna had gone on to say that it was time for India to choose between the US and Russia. “First, India should condemn Putin in the UN for the blatant human rights violations. Second, they need to realise, they have to pick sides,” he said, adding, “We, the United States, were with them when China invaded India. Putin wasn’t there. And it’s time for them to buy weapons from the United States, not Russia. We’ve got to look at how we can facilitate that and make that easier. We need India as an ally ultimately to contain China.” (IANS)

India Is On The Side Of Peace In Russia-Ukraine War, Jaishankar Tells At UNGA

As the months-long Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to rage on, India on Saturday, September 24, 2022 told the United Nations General Assembly that it is on the side of peace and that it will remain firmly there. Speaking at the General Debate of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India is on the side that respects the UN Charter and its founding principles. 

“As the Ukraine conflict continues to rage, we are often asked whose side we are on. And our answer, each time, is straight and honest. India is on the side of peace and will remain firmly there,” he said.  “We are on the side that respects the UN Charter and its founding principles. We are on the side that calls for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out. We are on the side of those struggling to make ends meet, even as they stare at the escalating costs of food, of fuel and fertilizers,” Jaishankar added. 

He also said that it is in our collective interest to work constructively, both within the United Nations and outside, in finding an “early resolution” to this conflict. In another note,  Jaishankar has left the door open for a possible role for India in mediating the Ukraine-Russia war.  Mexico proposed last week at the UN Security Council that a committee of Heads of state and government, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pope Francis, could help UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres end the war.

Jaishankar’s response to a question about a possible role for India in mediating an end to the Ukraine-Russia war expertly framed. He did not rule it out. But he also made it clear India is not campaigning for it. “If we can help in some way we will be obviously responsible enough to do that,” the Minister said, adding, “I think the participants know that the rest of the world knows that. Beyond that what happens that’s in the realm of diplomacy so I can’t say anything.”

Mexico has proposed that Modi should mediate between Russia and Ukraine. Foreign Minister Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubon suggested it officially during a meeting of the UN Security Council debate on Ukraine in New York. “Based on its pacifist vocation, Mexico believes that the international community must now channel its best efforts to achieve peace,” Casaubon said.

“In this regard, I would like to share with you the proposal of the President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, to strengthen the mediation efforts of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, through the formation of a Committee for Dialogue and Peace in Ukraine with the participation of other heads of state and government, including, if possible, His Excellency Narendra Modi and His Holiness Pope Francis.”

According to media reports, Jaishankar kicked off a four-day visit to Washington DC with a first-of-its-kind public interaction for an Indian External Affairs Minister with the Indian American community: a Q&A in which he took unscreened questions from the audience, which, it must be noted, comprised largely of old fans and new fans — the moderator, for instance, repeatedly called him a “rockstar”, and his every answer was greeted with multiple round of applause, with the most excited springing to their feet. 

Noting that while the global attention has been on Ukraine, Jaishankar said that India has also had to contend with other challenges, especially “in its own neighbourhood”, in an apparent reference to the unresolved standoff with China in eastern Ladakh and strained relations with Pakistan. 

“Having borne the brunt of cross-border terrorism for decades, India firmly advocates a ‘zero- tolerance’ approach. In our view, there is no justification for any act of terrorism, regardless of motivation. And no rhetoric, however sanctimonious, can ever cover up blood stains,” he said. 

“The United Nations responds to terrorism by sanctioning its perpetrators. Those who politicise the UNSC 1267 Sanctions regime, sometimes even to the extent of defending proclaimed terrorists, do so at their own peril. Believe me, they advance neither their own interests nor indeed their reputation,” the external affairs minister stated. 

The Minister answered a range of questions from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Pakistan to Kashmir, education, health and his own experiences as a long-time career diplomat. “Very honestly, it’s a relationship that has neither ended up serving Pakistan well, nor (is it) serving American interests,” the Minister said in response to the F-16 spares, which has greatly exercised some Indian-Americans. He framed his criticism of the package in the overall context of a bilateral relationship, which he argued, has been mutually dysfunctional for both Pakistan and the US.

“It is really for the US today to reflect … the merits of this relationship,” Jaishankar added, asking what it wants with this package. For someone to say I’m doing this because it is all counter-terrorism content and so, when you are talking of an aircraft like a capability of an F-16 where everybody knows, you know where they are deployed and what is their use,” the Minister said, and added, “You’re not fooling anybody by saying these things.”

He slammed the Biden administration’s proposal to provide $450 million worth of spares and services for Pakistan’s F-16s, saying no one is fooled by claims that these highly capable fighter aircraft are meant only for counter-terrorism operations.

The Biden administration informed the US congress earlier in September that it proposed to provide $450 million worth of spares and services for Pakistan’s US-made F-16 for their “sustainment”. No new capabilities or munitions are part of the package, which, it was stated, will also not alter the military balance in the region.

The US administration claimed in the notification that these F-16s are meant for counter-terrorism operations. But Pakistan has used them for other purposes as well, most recently in an air combat with Indian fighters jets in February 2019. India later said it shot down one of the F-16 deployed.

“If I were to speak to an American policy-maker, I would really make the case (that) look what you are doing,” Jaishankar said further. “Forget about us. It’s actually not good for you what you’re doing, reflect on the history, look at the last 20 years.”

Jaishankar will have the opportunity to convey his advice to plenty of American policy-makers he will be meeting over the next few days, including his US counterpart Antony Blinken.  (IANS)

Congress President: Tharoorism Is Not Enough

The Indian National Congress (INC) was founded by Allan Octavian Hume, a British civil servant. He was a great ornithologist, who had the single largest collection of Indian bird specimens. He was posted at Etawah, now in Uttar Pradesh, when the first war of independence in 1857, also called Sepoy Mutiny, happened. Though the revolt was brutally dealt with, he knew that violence of the kind could erupt any time and the British would not be able to control it.

Though he held senior positions in the government, he believed that the British could not stay in India for long and they should, therefore, be ready to transfer power to the Indian people. It was also true that India did not have enough academically qualified people who could be administrators. The setting up of the universities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras in 1857 marked a turning point in the history of India.

That the 1857 mutineers were clueless people could be gauged from the fact that they chose a “poet” as the emperor. They were inspired more by religion than by nationalism. Hume understood the situation much better than the mutineers, who promised that they would reintroduce sati and would keep the lower castes in their old, pre-British position.

Higher education, the resultant sense of nationalism and the rise of the middle class marked a new beginning. It was during this time that Hume, who had earned the displeasure of the British, thought of taking the lead to form a political organisation that would help solve the problems of the people vis-a-vis the administration. In 1883, he wrote a letter to the graduates of the University of Calcutta in which he said, “If only fifty men, good and true, can be found to join as founders, the thing (Congress) can be established and the further development will be comparatively easy.…

“And if even the leaders of thought are all either such poor creatures, or so selfishly wedded to personal concerns that they dare not strike a blow for their country’s sake, then justly and rightly are they kept down and trampled on, for they deserve nothing better. Every nation secures precisely as good a government as it merits”. Until then, nobody had given such a clarion call.

Two years after Hume wrote this letter, the Indian National Congress was founded with Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee, a co-founder, as the first president at its session held in Bombay. The president of the Congress did not enjoy any administrative powers but it became the most coveted position for an Indian. Before and after Independence, the persons who held this post were undoubtedly some of the greatest leaders India produced.

There were Christians, Muslims, Hindus of all castes, Parsis and atheists who held this post, many of them with distinction. Mahatma Gandhi held this post only once, though no one exercised greater control of the organisation than him. The Congress was not just a political party. It represented the aspirations of the people. Even after Independence, the post of Congress president was far more prestigious than a Cabinet Minister’s or Governor’s post.

Elections used to be held regularly in the party and the presidentship was, initially, for just one year. Politically, the post was on a par with that of the Prime Minister. K. Kamaraj wielded considerable influence as Congress president, though he did not know a word of Hindi. S. Nijalingappa was another president who did not consider himself lower than the Prime Minister.

With the loss of power at the Centre and in most states, the Congress is no longer what it used to be. In the last Assembly elections in UP, the party could win only two seats. The Muslims began deserting the Congress when the party prevaricated on the issue of Babri Masjid. The Brahmins began to shift to the BJP. The Yadavs had their own party and the Scheduled Castes found their leader in the late Kanshi Ram and Mayawati. The Congress was left with some Nehru loyalists in Amethi and Rae Bareli. Now, they, too, have disappeared forcing Rahul Gandhi to cross the Vindhyas to get votes and win a seat in Parliament.

The rise of regional parties in states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha and many Northeastern states has further damaged the Congress. All this while, the BJP has been growing from a party with just two seats in the Lok Sabha in 1984 to its pre-eminent position today thanks to the systematic exploitation of divisive issues which have little to do with the common man’s bread and butter needs.

The RSS, founded in 1925, has been working at the grassroots level moulding public opinion that finds reflection in crude anti-minority rhetoric. It also helped in the growth of the BJP. One only has to remember how the BJP and what is now the Aam Aadmi Party under the leadership of Anna Hazare organised a powerful campaign to demand the setting up of the Lok Pal.

The purpose was to drive out the Congress from power. These parties no longer mention rise in petroleum prices or the falling value of the rupee vis-a-vis the dollar.

It is in this context that election to the post of Congress president is taking place. It is not clear who the candidates are. What is clear is that nobody from the Nehru family — Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi — will contest. The Congress has one problem. Its leaders want the Gandhi family to win elections for them. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi could win elections for them.

Rahul Gandhi has rightly realised that he cannot win elections for others. That is why he does not want to be the president. Politics is the art of the possible. Anyone who masters it succeeds.

In the BJP, Narendra Modi was not the first choice. There were better claimants for the post of Prime Minister in 2014. He knew how to manage the situation and before L.K. Advani, who was projected as the leader of leaders, realised what was happening, he found Modi telling him and Murli Manohar Joshi that they could not even be ministers as they were above 75. Advani would have rued his decision to allow Modi to sit on the Rath during the Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya. He got his first public exposure.

So far, only one person has shown interest in becoming Congress president. He is Shashi Tharoor. When he first contested against a fellow Asian for the post of UN Secretary-General, it was considered bad politics. His vast experience in the UN administration, where he held a senior post, should have stood him in good stead.

The then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, was blamed for sponsoring his campaign at great state cost and prestige. Once bitten, he should have been twice shy. Far from that, he managed to get nominated by the Congress for the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat in 2009. Congressmen in Kerala were not consulted when he was chosen for the seat.

Tharoor knew only a smattering of Malayalam but he banked on the fact that it was Thiruvananthapuram which elected V.K. Krishna Menon, whose knowledge of Malayalam was worse. There was one fundamental difference. Menon contested against the Congress as an independent with CPM support. Curiously, Menon had opposed the formation of Kerala for fear that the Communists would come to power. He wanted a UP-like large state comprising Kerala, Tamil Nadu and part of Karnataka.

The dyed-in-the-wool Congressmen in Kerala were uncomfortable when Tharoor not only learnt to speak Malayalam but also proved that he could remain in the Congress without being a member of any faction. His oratorical skills, literary felicity and mastery of English helped him carve a niche for himself in Indian politics.

Politicians in Kerala hated the fact that he could attract public attention. They, in fact, feared his presence on the stage. Sooner than later, they also realised that he could garner votes. He has become the most popular speaker during elections. In Kerala, not elsewhere!

Tharoor proved all the doubting Thomases wrong when he retained the Thiruvananthapuram seat for a third time in 2019. He has faced many personal tragedies and he braved them as he kept on churning out bestsellers that make him one of the most popular writers in India. Those who have read him like this writer know that most of his books are the result of cut and paste. His book on British rule, which won the Kendriya Sahitya Akademi award, is a classic case of shallow research and high success.

On the subject of writing, I was shocked when Tharoor wrote that it was possible for the statues of Ganapati to drink milk in a column in The Hindu. I wondered how a young, educated person could accept such bogus claims when scientists explained that it was the result of capillary action. His request to the UN chief to let him serve under him after contesting unsuccessfully against him was unthinkable, if not unethical, to say the least.

Tharoor thinks that he has the dynamism, the clout and the ability to hold the post of Congress president. Few doubt him on any of these scores. He would surely know that in the history of the Congress party, only one Malayali became its president. He was Chettur Sankaran Nair, who became president when the Congress held its session at Amravati in 1897.

Nair was a member of the Viceroy’s Council, the highest post an Indian could hold, but his links with the Congress ended when he wrote a book titled “Gandhi and Anarchy” that caricatured Mahatma Gandhi and called him a dictator. Thereafter, the party never trusted a Malayali with this post. It is just a coincidence that Tharoor and Nair belong to the same Palakkad district.

It is a jigsaw puzzle what Tharoor’s chances are if the Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is his rival. That he was a member of the Group of 23 which questioned the leadership of Rahul Gandhi means that he is assured of some pan-India Congress votes.

Tharoor was present with Gandhi when he travelled through Thiruvananthapuram during his ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra. Few in the Congress or other parties can speak English as fluently as he can. He is a good debater who cut his teeth as a debater while he was at St. Stephen’s College. Few people know that he has a good command of Hindi and, if need be, he can speak fluently in the other official language also.

These are certainly attributes the president of the Congress should have. He is also a master of social media who can give a tit-for-tat, though he can at times find himself in “cattle class”! Does all these make a person a great leader? Mahatma Gandhi’s oratorical skill was nothing to write home about. Yet, the people were mesmerised by his simple speech. He understood the pulse of the people as the latter understood him.

Of course, it is scandalous to compare Tharoor with Gandhi. The circumstances in which he lost his ministership do not crown himself with glory. He relied on a St. Stephen’s alumnus, who ultimately landed him in trouble. A good debater need not necessarily be a good leader.

A good debater is one who can argue for or against a subject. George Fernandes proved that he could one day speak for the government and the next day speak against the same government. His debating skill was proved but in public memory he remained a turncoat, whom nobody wanted to touch with even a barge pole.

A leader is one who can inspire the people. Modi has that quality, rightly or wrongly. People know that Rahul Gandhi is a wonderful person, sincere and hardworking but he does not have the ability to inspire people. One can only hope that his Bharat Jodo Yatra will transform his persona.

The biggest challenge for Tharoor is not to retain Thiruvananthapuram for a fourth time but to win elections for Congressmen all over the country. Can he do that? If he can’t, nobody would be inspired by his use of words like higgleddy-piggleddy and ultraantidisestablishmentarianism! (https://www.indiancurrents.org/article-congress-president-tharoorism-is-not-enough-a-j-philip-1370.php)

Anyone Living In India Is Hindu, Says RSS Chief

All people living in India are Hindus in terms of identity, said Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on Wednesday, September 21st explaining his organization’s philosophy. Elaborating the RSS’ philosophy, Bhagwat said that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life.

Bhagwat was speaking on the third day of his lecture series in Delhi when he explained the RSS’s views on Hinduism, education and caste. “It’s Indian culture and Hindutva which believe in working with other schools of thought. All people living in India are Hindu in terms of identity and nationality,” Bhagwat said.

“Hinduism is a wrong word—“ism” is a closed concept. Hindutva, Hinduness is not any “ism” but a dynamic process. Gandhi ji has said the endless search for truth is called Hindutva. S Radhakrishnan has said Hindutva is a continuous process,” Bhagwat was quoted by the RSS’s Twitter handle as saying.

“We think everyone must abide by the Constitution…The RSS has never gone against the Constitution. (Sure), The words secular and socialist were added later, but now they are there,” he said.

Bhagwat said the concept of a Hindu Rashtra or Hindu nation does not rest on segregation or rejection of any community or faith. “Hindu Rashtra doesn’t mean there’s no place for Muslims. The day it becomes so, it won’t be Hindutva. Hindutva talks about one world family,” Bhagwat said. The RSS is the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Addressing a gathering in Shillong, the RSS chief said all are Hindus as all Indians are the inhabitants of Hindustan, which, he said is in the south of the Himalayas, north of Indian Ocean, on the bank of the Indus River. “The habitants of this area are traditionally called Hindus. This is also called Bharat,” said Bhagwat, who arrived here on Saturday on a two-day visit.

He said that even before the Mughals who have spread Islam and the British rulers who spread Christianity, Hindus were already in existence. Highlighting the ideology of RSS, Bhagwat said the term ‘Hindu’ covers all those who are the sons of ‘Bharat Mata’, descendants of Indian ancestors and who live in accordance with Indian culture.

Ruling out the fear of religious conversion, the RSS supremo said to become Hindu one does not have to change since everyone here is Hindu. “India is not a country with a western concept. It has been a cultural country since time immemorial; in fact, it is such a country, which has taught the world the lesson of humanity.”

Since Saturday, he has attended a series of events, including the meeting of RSS functionaries and workers across the hill state. Several BJP leaders, members of Hindu organisations attended the events organised by the Meghalaya unit of RSS.

Bhagwat’s visit to Meghalaya — a Christian majority state, assumes significance as Assembly elections are scheduled to be held there in February next year. Elaborate security arrangements were made in the state in view of the visit of Bhagwat, who has a ‘Z Plus’ security cover. (IANS)

Modi’s ‘Rebuke’ Of Putin Heard In US

The “abrupt and unheralded change” in India’s stand on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as reflected in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “public rebuke” of Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week, has been heard in official Washington DC with some relief and satisfaction.

Prime Minister Modi made it “clear to Putin’s face that the invasion is wrong”, said Ro Khanna, an Indian American lawmaker who has been critical of India’s refusal to condemn the invasion. Speaking at a community event on Wednesday, he went on to suggest Modi could also help in a “peaceful resolution and a ceasefire”.

Earlier the same day in New York, a senior White House official pointed to the new Indian position as testimony to the Biden administration’s strategy of just laying out the facts on Ukraine for other countries to see and judge for themselves instead of forcing them to change their stand.

“The US strategy has borne fruit insofar as you are seeing increasing signs of countries that did abstain, to include countries like India speaking out in a different way, including directly in front of Putin,” the official said. “And, you know, we’d like to see more than that, obviously, in the days ahead.”

India was among 34 countries that abstained in an UN general assembly vote in March that deplored Russia for invading Ukraine. China had also abstained.

New Delhi came under significant pressure from the US and its western allies to condemn the invasion and either stop buying Russian oil or not ramp it up, as it would enable Moscow to withstand the economic sanctions imposed on it to force it to end the war and leave Ukraine.

India did neither. Until last week. “Today’s era is not of war,” Prime Minister Modi told Putin in public remarks ahead of their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. That went much further than India’s expression of ‘grave concern’ over the killing of civilians in Ukraine’s Bucha, and call for respecting the UN charter that protects the sovereignty and integrity of all member nations.

US frustration with India’s refusal to condemn Russia and stop oil from it, had led to a rather unfortunate outburst from a senior White House official sent to New Delhi for these talks. He had warned India of “consequences”.

“I’ve been clear about India, and I think India ought to be condemning Putin and India ought not to be getting oil from Russia or China. We ought to rally the world to isolate Putin,” Khanna said on Fox News in days after the UN general assembly vote.

Khanna had gone on to say that it was time for India to choose between the US and Russia. “First, India should condemn Putin in the UN for the blatant human rights violations. Second, they need to realise, they have to pick sides,” he said, adding, “We, the United States, were with them when China invaded India. Putin wasn’t there. And it’s time for them to buy weapons from the United States, not Russia. We’ve got to look at how we can facilitate that and make that easier. We need India as an ally ultimately to contain China.” (IANS)

India Is On The Side Of Peace In Russia-Ukraine War, Jaishankar Tells At UNGA

As the months-long Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to rage on, India on Saturday, September 24, 2022 told the United Nations General Assembly that it is on the side of peace and that it will remain firmly there. Speaking at the General Debate of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India is on the side that respects the UN Charter and its founding principles.

“As the Ukraine conflict continues to rage, we are often asked whose side we are on. And our answer, each time, is straight and honest. India is on the side of peace and will remain firmly there,” he said.  “We are on the side that respects the UN Charter and its founding principles. We are on the side that calls for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out. We are on the side of those struggling to make ends meet, even as they stare at the escalating costs of food, of fuel and fertilizers,” Jaishankar added.

He also said that it is in our collective interest to work constructively, both within the United Nations and outside, in finding an “early resolution” to this conflict. In another note,  Jaishankar has left the door open for a possible role for India in mediating the Ukraine-Russia war.  Mexico proposed last week at the UN Security Council that a committee of Heads of state and government, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pope Francis, could help UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres end the war.

Jaishankar’s response to a question about a possible role for India in mediating an end to the Ukraine-Russia war expertly framed. He did not rule it out. But he also made it clear India is not campaigning for it. “If we can help in some way we will be obviously responsible enough to do that,” the Minister said, adding, “I think the participants know that the rest of the world knows that. Beyond that what happens that’s in the realm of diplomacy so I can’t say anything.”

Mexico has proposed that Modi should mediate between Russia and Ukraine. Foreign Minister Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubon suggested it officially during a meeting of the UN Security Council debate on Ukraine in New York. “Based on its pacifist vocation, Mexico believes that the international community must now channel its best efforts to achieve peace,” Casaubon said.

“In this regard, I would like to share with you the proposal of the President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, to strengthen the mediation efforts of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, through the formation of a Committee for Dialogue and Peace in Ukraine with the participation of other heads of state and government, including, if possible, His Excellency Narendra Modi and His Holiness Pope Francis.”

According to media reports, Jaishankar kicked off a four-day visit to Washington DC with a first-of-its-kind public interaction for an Indian External Affairs Minister with the Indian American community: a Q&A in which he took unscreened questions from the audience, which, it must be noted, comprised largely of old fans and new fans — the moderator, for instance, repeatedly called him a “rockstar”, and his every answer was greeted with multiple round of applause, with the most excited springing to their feet.

Noting that while the global attention has been on Ukraine, Jaishankar said that India has also had to contend with other challenges, especially “in its own neighbourhood”, in an apparent reference to the unresolved standoff with China in eastern Ladakh and strained relations with Pakistan.

“Having borne the brunt of cross-border terrorism for decades, India firmly advocates a ‘zero- tolerance’ approach. In our view, there is no justification for any act of terrorism, regardless of motivation. And no rhetoric, however sanctimonious, can ever cover up blood stains,” he said.

“The United Nations responds to terrorism by sanctioning its perpetrators. Those who politicise the UNSC 1267 Sanctions regime, sometimes even to the extent of defending proclaimed terrorists, do so at their own peril. Believe me, they advance neither their own interests nor indeed their reputation,” the external affairs minister stated.

The Minister answered a range of questions from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Pakistan to Kashmir, education, health and his own experiences as a long-time career diplomat. “Very honestly, it’s a relationship that has neither ended up serving Pakistan well, nor (is it) serving American interests,” the Minister said in response to the F-16 spares, which has greatly exercised some Indian-Americans. He framed his criticism of the package in the overall context of a bilateral relationship, which he argued, has been mutually dysfunctional for both Pakistan and the US.

“It is really for the US today to reflect … the merits of this relationship,” Jaishankar added, asking what it wants with this package. For someone to say I’m doing this because it is all counter-terrorism content and so, when you are talking of an aircraft like a capability of an F-16 where everybody knows, you know where they are deployed and what is their use,” the Minister said, and added, “You’re not fooling anybody by saying these things.”

He slammed the Biden administration’s proposal to provide $450 million worth of spares and services for Pakistan’s F-16s, saying no one is fooled by claims that these highly capable fighter aircraft are meant only for counter-terrorism operations.

The Biden administration informed the US congress earlier in September that it proposed to provide $450 million worth of spares and services for Pakistan’s US-made F-16 for their “sustainment”. No new capabilities or munitions are part of the package, which, it was stated, will also not alter the military balance in the region.

The US administration claimed in the notification that these F-16s are meant for counter-terrorism operations. But Pakistan has used them for other purposes as well, most recently in an air combat with Indian fighters jets in February 2019. India later said it shot down one of the F-16 deployed.

“If I were to speak to an American policy-maker, I would really make the case (that) look what you are doing,” Jaishankar said further. “Forget about us. It’s actually not good for you what you’re doing, reflect on the history, look at the last 20 years.”

Jaishankar will have the opportunity to convey his advice to plenty of American policy-makers he will be meeting over the next few days, including his US counterpart Antony Blinken.  (IANS)

At AAPI’s 75th India Independence Day On Capitol Hill, Key US Lawmakers Advocate For Stronger India-US Ties

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) organized the 75th Anniversary of the Independence of India/Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, September 21st, 2022, where key US Senators and Congressmen participated and stressed the need to strengthen Indo-US relationship and praised the contributions and achievements of Physicians of Indian Origin and the larger Indian American community.

A strong India means a strong US, influential US lawmakers from both sides of the aisle said, as they pledged to work towards strengthening the relationship between the two largest democratic countries of the world at a time when the world is undergoing several changes and facing numerous challenges. Attended by dozens of leaders of AAPI and several community leaders, a first of its kind, the India Day on Capitol Hill was a celebration of India as a nation that is a model and strong democracy and a fast-growing economy that has taken a central place on world stage.

Dr. Sampat Shivangi, Chair of AAPI Legislative Committee, who has played a lead role in organizing the India Day celebrations on Capitol Hill said, Indian-Americans have a key role to play in the India-US relationship. “It is a proud moment for every Indian, living in every part of the world to see the progress that our motherland has achieved since its independence 75 years ago.” Dr. Shivangi, a member of the National Advisory Council, Center for National Mental Health Services referred to India which has now become the fifth largest economic superpower in the world even surpassing India’s Colonial Masters, the UK, France, and Germany.

Quoting a White House Press Release last month, Dr. Shivangi said, “The QUAD agreement is a testimony of this the role for the promotion of human freedom and dignity, and ways to restrain the Chinese expansionism that is not respecting international laws, friendships, and relationships. “The United States sees India as an indispensable partner and confident in a relationship the two countries are pursuing their own national interests in Ukraine. The US-India strategic partnership is grounded in their commitments to the advancement of the free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

In his welcome address, Dr. Ravi Kolli, President of AAPI, “India @ 75! It is a milestone filled with feelings of 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 diverse cultures and the groups that live and thrive in our beloved motherland. India has made great strides in various sectors of economy lifting over 270 million out of poverty in the past decade or so.

Referring to the unprecedented growth of India, Dr. Kolli said,  “It is the 5th largest economy in the world. In 1947 Maternal Mortality Rate was 2,000 for 100,000 births and Infant Mortality rate was 150 and now MMR is 150 and IMR is 27.6 in 2021. In the higher education sector India now has 1,043 universities and 42,000 colleges vs 27 universities and 578 colleges in 1950 and literacy rate is close to 75 % now as opposed to 20% in 1950. The number of medical colleges grew from mere 28 in 1950 to over 612 now in 2022. These accomplishments by themselves are worthy of a grand celebration, but India accomplished all this progress as a thriving democracy, with its steadfast commitment to freedoms with equity and inclusion of all faiths and creeds is a remarkable success story to be cherished and shared. We are proud to be part of this historic celebration of India on Capitol Hill, where we will have an opportunity to exchange views and express our concerns with the dozens of US Lawmakers, who will come to be part of the celebrations.”

“I am here today to say, thank you, from the bottom of my heart,” Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat said. Recalling his visits to India, he said, he saw in action “the greatness of the largest democracy in the world in full action.”  While lauding the contributions of physicians of Indian Origin, “Had it not been for the Indian community that came to West Virginia to provide their services, most of rural West Virginia would not have health care today.” While observing that a major section of healthcare service in the rural US is provided by Indian American Doctors.

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican Senator representing the state of Mississippi stressed the importance of having strong relations between India and the United States. “The relationship between the United States and India is mutually beneficial for both of the countries and not just in the field of medicine and technology,” she said.

Senator Shelley Capito from West Virginia noted how the Indian American community is playing a key role in enriching the cultural experience of her state. “I live in Charleston, West Virginia, a small rural state. If we did not have any Indian American doctors, we would not have any kind of quality healthcare, we would not have the breadth and the depth and the richness of our communities that we have,” she said.

India’s Ambassador to the US Hon. Taranjit Singh, in his keynote address said that there is a close connection between the two countries and today it is driven by the leadership of the two largest democracies of the world. Indian American doctors have an especially key role to play in the India-US relationship, Sandhu said. “India today is one of the fastest-growing, major, emerging economies in the world,” he said. “We have such a vibrant and dynamic Indian American community represented in this country. The success of the Indian American community as professionals – doctors, technocrats, scientists and, entrepreneurs, has been an inspiration to many of us in India. And today, support of this community is vital to us” in forging a much stronger relationship with the US.

India and United States enjoy a comprehensive global strategic partnership covering almost all areas of human endeavor, driven by shared democratic values, convergence of interests on a range of issues, and vibrant people-to-people contacts, he said. Referring to the fact that within one month’s period, more than half a dozen senior Indian Ministers are visiting the US and a similar visit would happen from the US to India, he said. “This is a reflection of the relationship between India and the United States,” he pointed out.

Congressman Joe Wilson, a GOP lawmaker and co-chair of Indian Caucus in Congress, shared about his fond memories with India, going back to the days when his dad served in India during the World War. India and America – nations which respect individuals, freedom, human dignity, private property, and believe in free markets – have the potential to build on shared values, he said. “India has a major role to play in world peace, stabilizing world,” he added.

Rep. Michael Guest from Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District, said, “We are so blessed to have you. I want to thank you for coming to the US from a great civilization.” Lauding the great contributions of AAPI fraternity, he said, “You reach out to when people are in crisis. You put yourself in arms way to serve your fellowmen, to serve others, especially during Covid.” Describing Indo-US partnership as “strategic relationship” the Congressman said, “We work together to protect freedom and democracies. We work together for the greater good of humanity.”

Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna from the California said, “US India relationship is more critical than ever for the world.” He said, “India should not be subject to (CAATSA) sanctions because of its historic relationship with Russia.” Praising the recent messaging of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Russian leadership, Khanna said India can play a critical role in a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian conflict. He referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met Vladimir Putin last week on the sidelines of the 22nd meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand, had told the Russian leader that “today’s era is not of war.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the first and only Indian-American woman in the US Congress, said India and the US, despite being a world apart, have shared a very unique and important relationship over the years. India and the US have made tremendous strides in the promotion of public health. With the help of more than USD 200 million in aid from the US, India surpassed an important milestone in the fight against COVID-19 by administering two billion doses of vaccines, the second most of any country in the world, she said.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said the Indian American community needs to make its presence known. Imploring more Indian Americans to run for office, Krishnamoorthi told the Capitol Hill gathering, “If you are not at the table, you will be on the menu.” India, he said, has done a lot in the last 75 years. “I want to talk a little bit about its (India’s) greatest export. Its greatest export is you – Indian Americans who are four million strong. They are the fastest-growing ethnic minority in America. They are the most prosperous ethnic minority and the most well educated.”

Congressman Ted Deutch said, India and the US are strategic partners and Indian Americans are the key assets in the India-US relationship. “We are not only strategic partners, but we are friends,” he said. Referring to the NRI community, he said, “This is the group in the US, of all the ethnic groups, with the highest income and the highest level of education.”

U.S. Congressman Pat Fallon (TX-04), who had attended both the Capitol Hill event as well as at the Embassy Reception 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. Lauding the contributions of Indian American Physicians and the larger Indian American community Rep. Fallon highlighted the strong and strategic relationship the United States and India have, that benefits not only the two nations, but the entire world.

“Indian American physicians have made vital contributions to the health care field,” said Dr. Kishore Challa, Co-Chair of AAPI’s Legislative Committee. “As physicians, we provide critical care to patients from rural & urban communities across the Country. Indian American doctors are playing a critical role in filling the nationwide physician shortage. The India Day on Capitol Hill is a unique opportunity for AAPI members to be part of the decision-making process on matters related to healthcare and advocate for stronger and closer ties between India and the United States.”

Dr. Anjana Samadder, President-Elect of AAPI said, “AAPI has been serving India and contributing to the effective healthcare delivery in the US and in India. In keeping with the mission of AAPI, the celebrations on the Hill provided us with a forum to facilitate and enable Indian American physicians share our concerns with the Lawmakers in pursuit of our aspirations in matters relating to professional and community affairs.”

“The historic 75th India Independence Day celebrations on Capitol Hill was an effective Forum to help renew our friendship with US administration under the leadership of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and brief the Congressional leaders on issues that are important to us,” said Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Vice President of AAPI.

“AAPI’s India Day celebrations on Capitol Hill helped members rekindle and renew our energy in bringing up the issues to the attention of national policymakers and leaders of the US Congress on Capitol Hill,” said Dr. Sumul Rawal, Treasurer of AAPI.

A reception and dinner hosted by Honorable Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Ambassador of India to the United States, with several dignitaries at the Indian Embassy was the grand finale to the day-long event at the nation’s capital. India and United States enjoy a comprehensive global strategic partnership covering almost all areas of human endeavor, driven by shared democratic values, convergence of interests on a range of issues, and vibrant people-to-people contacts. “The relationship is very strong,” noting India and the US are connected in culture, democratic traditions, entrepreneurship, and innovation. “And we are connected because the Indian American community in the US is so very strong,” Ambassador Sandhu told an enthusiastic audience said.

In his vote of thanks, Dr. Ravi Kolli expressed gratitude to Dr. Sampath Shivangi, for organizing the event and bringing powerful senators and Congress Members and giving a forum and opportunity for AAPI members to participate in conversations with them. “Both the Senators form Mississippi referring him as the ‘Rockstar of Mississippi’ is the true reflection of his leadership and contributions at the national level.” He said. “I deeply appreciate Dr. Kishore Challa for personally arranging for both the Senators of WV to attend, both of them spoke so highly of Dr. Challa and his leadership in healthcare matters in the state of West Virginia and nationally and how he was instrumental in making Telemedicine Audio Service approved by Federal Agencies during the pandemic.”

“AAPI has been seeking to collectively shape the best health care for everyone in the US, with the physicians at the helm, caring for the medically underserved as we have done for several decades when physicians of Indian origin came to the US in larger numbers,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli. For more information on AAPI and its several noble initiatives benefitting AAPI members and the larger society, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

Making India A Developed Nation By 2047: An Agenda For The Nation

By, Ambassador Sarvajit Chakravarti (retd)

Achieving developed country status by 2047 is a commendable goal set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for India on this Independence Day. The big question now is to determine an effective path and encourage the whole of society, that includes all Indian residents, into contributing their might and mite to achieve that goal which is today a distant dream. In a secular, democratic society this will require the recognition and upholding of all the fundamental rights of Indian citizens and allowing them the freedom and means to achieve their best potential to contribute to the upliftment of the nation.

Since the Constitution guarantees individual freedom of religion, people should mutually respect the external marks of faith that any one may choose to wear and not discriminate in access to goods and services on the basis of faith. As the choice of faith is a fundamental right of an Indian, the question of changing faiths must be left to the individual conscience and not prevented or denied by social or legal means. We must feel Indian first and not make faith our primary identity.

Similarly, the question of forward or backwardness must have only an economic basis and not be based on social or community considerations. A new classification based on income level must replace our present system of reservations. BPL people must be fully supported to achieve a basic income level necessary for the nation to be considered developed. Religion should not be the basis of political ideology, nor should it influence the administration of the state, at Central or state/UT government level.

Informal economy

The objective of developed country can be achieved in such a short time only by releasing the animal spirits not merely of the formal economy but more importantly of the informal one which, despite demonetization, constitutes over 90 percent of the Indian GDP today. A significant share of the necessary annual growth rate of 11 percent or more must come from the knowledge economy and its innovative output.

To eliminate the digital divide in our nation demonstrated during the Covid pandemic, cybercafes with a minimum of two computers can be encouraged in every village. The Internet service backbone must be strengthened to an average speed of 100 mbps, which now prevails in developed countries, to enable quick output and service delivery.

Trade and business licenses should be given freely online, along with a PAN, and require all sales to be through banking channels by freely distributing POS machines through the customer’s bank. The process of registering a business must be streamlined so that it takes no more than a day. People should be free to start whatever business they want and the market will take care of excess supply. A humane bankruptcy process is necessary to restructure failed enterprises so that banks do not suffer increased NPAs from social sector lending.

Aggregators and marketers may be encouraged to collect output for sale through more outlets. Villages and panchayats may be encouraged to create self-help groups to add value to output and develop new products and uses. Business creation, operation and wind-up must be made far easier so that savers become investors.

Free enterprise

Inspections should be limited to fire, industrial safety, health and sanitation measures at the workplace and be at predictable intervals unless irregularities or non-compliance are noticed. There should be no pressure for employment in excess of requirement, nor should an enterprise be considered a cash cow by local or other elements for unrelated purposes.

The process of company formation, land acquisition, development and construction must be made as automated as possible while procurement above a minimum threshold must be by public e-tendering. Tender evaluation committees must be constituted at a level higher than of the tendering authority to ensure fair scrutiny and finalization.

Inflexible labour policies must be modified to that employers may optimize their work forces as required. To compensate an 18-month unemployment insurance scheme will be useful, during which the retrenched worker should undergo a six-month upskilling course.

Innovation and discovery is the key to growth. Literacy and numeracy must become universal. The consumption of knowledge and its use in creating effective solutions to widespread problems depends upon making education inquiry-based from the primary stage. Students should be encouraged to acquire to apply their learning in practical ways to invent things or new processes. Much more investment is required in R&D activities,

Taxes

Ninety-nine percent of our population does not pay any direct taxes on income. It will be impossible for the nation to become developed until resources are increased by innovative means, by increasing labour productivity and skills, by bringing more people particularly women into the workforce, by encouraging and supporting MSME enterprise and opening new avenues of self-employment and community activity to add value to output, make products in frequent daily use and discourage imports of goods that can be adequately manufactured in India.

Unless we achieve a long-term trade surplus by increasing exports by diversifying both export baskets and importing countries, we will be increasingly hard-pressed to pay for essential imports such as fuel. Extracting investable surplus should be made primarily by market forces through issue of project-specific bonds or other instruments.

Small investment must be encouraged by offering inflation-linked floating interest rates, so that the value of investor funds does not depreciate. This will encourage the emergence of wealth hitherto hidden or locked up in households that are not liable to pay income tax. State level resources may be augmented by monetizing municipal and other services.

For example, those issued trade and professional or similar licenses may be charged an annual fee depending upon the nature and scale of business. If the investment made is in certain identified priority sectors, it may be useful not to question the source of funds, but to rather tax the earnings from such investment.

Small investors

This may reduce the hoarding of wealth in cash or other unproductive ways and put it to use in promoting national development. Overall small investors must be given confidence that their investments will be safe even in non-banking and market related investments and earn more than traditional alternative asset classes such as gold.

The formation of MSMEs and rural productive systems must be actively encouraged. Traditional artisans, weavers and craftsmen must be encouraged by well-established designers and other famous personalities and their output brought to market after giving them a fair price for their labour, through KVIC and other similar marketing organizations.

Vocational skill training must be increased and upgraded to internationally acceptable standards so that such qualified personnel may easily migrate to points of demand in India or abroad. Their remittances will not only improve the quality of their families’ lives but also support our continuing CAD.

Finally, administration must be streamlined and made as faceless as possible. NIC and other websites must be user-friendly and capable of handling high volumes without crashing. A civil administrator today is instructed by multiple authorities and personalities at Central and State levels. Local bodies should be empowered to undertake a list of tasks within the annually prescribed budget and report the results to the local civil administration.

Political parties

People who achieve salaried political positions in the State or Centre must thereafter be accountable for any wealth accumulated in excess of known legitimate sources of income. Salaries, dearness allowance and other perquisites are provided to give a modest but decent quality of life to the earners; so. they must not burden their voters with excess demands for services they are required to render to them.

Civil servants cannot be treated by the political class as subservient “Yes Men” but allowed to work autonomously within the law to implement the legitimate directives of their superiors in the hierarchy. Otherwise, the aspiration of good governance will suffer badly.

Political parties in a democracy present their programmes to the people for approval through manifestos and poll promises. Those who emerge victors should then fulfill those promises by breaking them down into tasks for the bureaucracy to implement within budgetary resources, ensuring that there is no undue expenditure or time lag in the process.

Those parties that fail to win popular approval should work to ensure that the approved agenda is properly implemented without corruption, delay, discrimination or the creation of creation of divisions within the social fabric of the nation. They must try to ensure that the people get a fair deal from the government they elected and enjoy their fundamental rights while fulfilling their defined obligations, including payment of due taxes on time, orderly behaviour and maintaining a clean, habitable and sustainable environment.

National outlook

Politics is today regarded largely as the refuge of the reprehensible. This attitude must be changed by the parties themselves agreeing upon a common set of objectives for the nation and using their organizations to devise possible alternative pathways to achieve those national objectives without their cadres physically fighting one another. Parties are made of of people with a particular set of opinions about a set of objectives.

If all parties debate over these rather than vying to control State and Central resources for their own ends, there will be less corruption, violence, delays and wastage of stretched national resources. They must think of the national rather than the community or personal good to keep our nation unified, strong and prosperous. We must set an example in probity integrity human values and scientific knowledge for all our neighbours and the world to look up in admiration rather than dismiss us in disdain.

The other pillars of democracy, the judiciary and media, must remain steadfastly independent and impartial guardians of the Constitution. The people still repose their greatest faith in them to protect their rights and uphold their aspirations.

Finally, the structure and systems of governance must concentrate on the four pillars of finance, territorial integrity and security, communications and foreign relations as well as the others included in the Central and Concurrent Lists of the Constitutions and leave the States to get on with their own listed activities without being denied their due share of revenues by the Centre.

Let the nation and its people be free to get on with the rest of the action required to raise the per capita income to developed country levels within 2047 without increasing the inequalities that already mar so badly our economic and social fabric.

(The author is a retired Indian ambassador. Views are personal) Read more at: https://www.southasiamonitor.org/perspective/making-india-developed-nation-2047-agenda-nation

 

 

At SCO Summit 2022, Modi Says, India To Become A Manufacturing Hub

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit on Friday, September 16, 2022 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, said he wants to transform India into a manufacturing hub. During the historic Summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Russian President Vladimir Putin were in attendance, among others. The summit is also being attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and leaders of several central Asian countries.

The world leaders deliberated on the regional security situation and ways to enhance trade and connectivity at the annual summit of the grouping. SCO should try to create resilient supply chain in our region, Modi said. He added that COVID-19 and the Ukraine situation have resulted in hurdles in global supply chain, culminating in food and energy security crisis. “World is facing challenge of economic recovery,” said Modi.

Better connectivity and giving transit rights is key to creating a better supply chain, Prime Minister Modi said at the SCO Summit. He is expected to hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit, including with Putin, and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev among other leaders.

As per media reports, Putin met with Xi on the sidelines of the summit and acknowledged that China had “questions and concerns” about Russia’s war in Ukraine, a notable, if cryptic, admission that Moscow lacks the full backing of its biggest, most powerful partner on the world stage. Rather than put on a show of Eurasian unity against the West as Russia struggled to recover from last week’s humiliating military retreat in northeastern Ukraine, the two leaders struck discordant notes in their public remarks — and Xi made no mention of Ukraine at all.

Stating that India’s economy is expected to grow at 7.5% this year, he remarked that the government is making progress in making India a manufacturing hub. “There is lot of focus on proper use of technology in our people-centric development model.”

It is for the first time Modi and Xi came face-to-face at the summit in this historic Uzbek city since the start of the border standoff between India and China in eastern Ladakh around 28 months back. However, there is no clarity yet on whether there will be a bilateral meeting between Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi on the sidelines of the summit.

The summit of the eight-nation influential grouping is taking place amid the growing geo-political turmoil largely triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s aggressive military posturing in the Taiwan Strait.

At the venue of the summit, Modi was warmly greeted by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. “President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan welcomed [email protected] to the Congress Centre in Samarkand for the 22nd SCO Summit. India has been working closely with Uzbekistan towards the success of their Chairship,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.

In another tweet, he said:”PM @narendramodi joins the leaders of SCO Member States for discussions on topical, regional and international issues, including regional peace and security, trade and connectivity, culture and tourism.” After the summit, Prime Minister Modi will have separate bilateral meetings with Russian President Putin, Uzbek President Mirziyoyev and Iranian President Raisi.

Hours before departing for Samarkand, Modi said he was looking forward to exchanging views at the summit on topical regional and international issues as well as on reform and expansion of the grouping. “At the SCO Summit, I look forward to exchanging views on topical, regional and international issues, the expansion of SCO and further deepening of multifaceted and mutually beneficial cooperation within the Organization,” Modi said in a statement.

“Under the Uzbek chairship, a number of decisions for mutual cooperation are likely to be adopted in areas of trade, economy, culture and tourism,” he said.

The summit in Samarkand will have two sessions – one restricted session which is only meant for the SCO member states and then there will be an extended session that is likely to see the participation of the observers and the special invitees of the chair country. Launched in Shanghai in June 2001, the SCO has eight full members, including its six founding members, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan joined as full members in 2017.

The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Over the years, it has emerged as one of the largest trans-regional international organisations. India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017. Iran is likely to be given the status of a permanent member of the SCO at the Samarkand summit.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday congratulated India for hosting the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit, next year and said “we will support India for its presidency next year,” according to news agency ANI report. “We will support India for its presidency next year”, said Chinese President Xi Jinping.

77th United Nations General Assembly Begins In New York India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar On 11 Day Visit To USA, Will Address UN Assembly

The External Affairs Minister of India, S Jaishankar is on a 11-day visit to the US beginning September 18th, 2022, leading the Indian delegation and will address the 77th annual UN General Assembly.

The theme of the 77th UNGA is “A Watershed Moment: Transformative Solutions to Interlocking Challenges”. The event is expected to be addressed by the president of the 77th UNGA along with foreign ministers of several member states and the UNDP administrator. Global leaders are expected to focus on security and humanitarian challenges confronting the world.

The MEA said Jaishankar would also participate in plurilateral meetings of the Quad, IBSA, and BRICS as well as meetings under trilateral formats, such as India-France-Australia, India-France-UAE and India-Indonesia-Australia.

To commemorate and showcase Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the external affairs minister would be addressing a special event “[email protected]: Showcasing India U. N. Partnership in Action” on September 24, which would highlight India’s development journey and its contributions to South-South Cooperation,” the MEA said.

Jaishankar will also host a ministerial meeting of the G4 grouping which, besides India, comprises Brazil, Japan, and Germany, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said, announcing his visit. “He will also have bilateral meetings with foreign ministers of the G20 and U. N. Security Council member states, amongst others,” the MEA said.

Jaishankar’s address at the High Level Session of the 77th United Nations General Assembly is scheduled in the forenoon of September 24.

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) is the main policy-making organ of the Organization. Comprising all Member States, it provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the Charter of the United Nations. Each of the 193 Member States of the United Nations has an equal vote.

The UNGA also makes key decisions for the UN, including:

  • appointing the Secretary-General on the recommendation of the Security Council
  • electing the non-permanent members of the Security Council
  • approving the UN budget

The Assembly meets in regular sessions from September to December each year, and thereafter as required. It discusses specific issues through dedicated agenda items or sub-items, which lead to the adoption of resolutions.

Sitting arrangements in the General Assembly Hall change for each session. During the 77th Session (2022-2023), Belize will occupy the first seat in the Hall, including in the Main Committees (followed by all the other countries, in English alphabetical order).

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN General Assembly has been carrying out its work since 2020 via novel means to guarantee business continuity and mitigate the spread of the disease. Specific examples include the use of virtual platforms to conduct meetings and the adoption of e-voting through procedure for decision-making when an in-person meeting is not possible.

The pandemic is not the only issue the world faces. Racism, intolerance, inequality, climate change, poverty, hunger, armed conflict, and other ills remain global challenges. These challenges call for global action, and the General Assembly is a critical opportunity for all to come together and chart a course for the future.

Upon completion of the 77th UNGA-related engagements, Jaishankar will visit Washington from September 25-28 for bilateral meetings with U. S. interlocutors.

“His program includes inter alia, discussions with his counterpart Secretary of State Antony Blinken; senior members of the U. S. Administration, U. S. business leaders, a round-table focused on science and technology and interaction with the Indian diaspora,” the MEA said.

“The external affairs minister’s visit would enable a high-level review of the multifaceted bilateral agenda and strengthen cooperation on regional and global issues to further consolidate the India-U. S. strategic partnership,” it said.

Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the high-level UN General Assembly session. The high-level session will take place against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine war and the ongoing COVID19 pandemic.

INS Vikrant Commissioned

The first ever India-made aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, was commissioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Cochin Shipyard. INS Vikrant is the largest ship ever built in India’s maritime history at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore. The ship has now formally joined the Indian Navy fleet.

The new naval ensign takes inspiration from the famous Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s seal. “The octagonal shape with twin golden borders draws inspiration from the seal of the great Indian emperor, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, whose visionary maritime outlook established a credible naval fleet,” the Indian Navy said in a video describing the seal.

Addressing the gathering, India’s PM Narendra Modi said, “Vikrant is not just a warship. It is a testament to the hard work, talent, influence and commitment of of 21st century India”. Marking the event as the “sunrise of a new future”, the PM added that Vikrant is a unique reflection of India becoming self-reliant.

“When INS Vikrant descends to protect our maritime zone, many women soldiers of the Navy will also be stationed there. With the immense power of the ocean, boundless female power, it will become the identity of New India,” PM Modi said.

The carrier houses state-of-the-art automation features at the Cochin Shipyard. During the event, PM Modi also unveiled the new Naval Ensign (Nishaan), doing away with the colonial past.

INS Vikrant will contribute to ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean region, Vice Chief of Indian Navy Vice Admiral S N Ghormade had said earlier. He said the aircraft landing trials on board INS Vikrant will begin in November and they will be completed by mid-2023, adding MiG-29K jets will operate from the warship for the first few years. The commissioning of Vikrant is being seen as a significant step towards India’s self-reliance in the defense sector.

Using a novel aircraft operation mode known as Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR), the IAC is equipped with a ski-jump for launching aircraft. It has a set of three ‘arrester wires’ for their recovery onboard. Commissioning of ‘Vikrant’ would showcase the country’s indigenization capabilities, besides paying tributes to its freedom fighters and soldiers of the 1971 Indo-Pak war, a Defense statement had said.

‘Kartavya Path’ Formerly Called Rajpath Inaugurated In New Delhi

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the ‘Kartavya Path’ with its elegant red granite walkways, refurbished canals, state-wise food stalls, new amenity blocks, and vending kiosks on Thursday, September 8th, 2002 at the heart of India’s capitol, New Delhi.

As per the federal government, the refurbished Path, a stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate, symbolizes a shift from erstwhile Rajpath being an icon of power to Kartavya Path being an example of public ownership and empowerment.

Modi also unveiled the 28-ft Netaji Bose statue, who single handedly led an Indian Army, fighting the British Empire much before India gained its freedom from the colonial rule. Netaji Subhash was the first ‘Pradhan’ of ‘Akhand Bharat’ who liberated Andaman even before 1947, the Prime Minister added.

The Culture Ministry informed that a team of sculptors spent 26,000 man-hours of “intense artistic endeavour” to carve a grand statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose will be installed in the same place where a hologram statue of Netaji was unveiled earlier this year on Parakram Diwas by PM Modi to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji.

“Netaji’s statue will be replacing King George V’s statue, it is of great symbolic value that India has moved to place one of important leaders of freedom struggle at such place where once colonial powers once rested,” said Anita Bose Pfaff, daughter of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

An exhibition that he inaugurated showcases the before-and-after visuals of the Central Vista Avenue, which will be home to the new Parliament Building in India’s capital.  The entire stretch has been revamped under the Modi government’s ambitious Central Vista redevelopment project. The revamped Rajpath and Central Vista lawns in the heart of Delhi will be open to the public soon.

Officials in the Ministry of Urban Affairs said that 74 historic light poles, and all chain links have been restored, upgraded, and reinstalled on site. More than 900 new light poles have been added where necessary to ensure that the space is always safe for visitors.

Similarly, concrete bollards have been replaced with 1000+ white sandstone bollards to maintain the precinct’s historical character and pedestrian sidewalks along the Rajpath have been paved with robust and durable materials.

Besides, 16.5 km of pedestrian walkways have been added along the Rajpath, across the lawns, along and across the canals, and at the India Gate Precinct,

The redevelopment project of the Central Vista — the nation’s power corridor — also envisages a new triangular Parliament building, a common central secretariat, a new residence of the prime minister, a prime minister’s office, and a new vice-president’s enclave.

Rajpath was formerly known as Kingsway. It is the celebrated venue of the Republic Day parade every year and stretches through Vijay Chowk to India Gate.

The Central Public Works Department (CPWD), an executing agency of the project, has set up five vending zones where 40 vendors each will be allowed and according to the plan, they will not be allowed to sell their items to visitors in the garden area. A senior official told PTI there would be two blocks near the India Gate and each block has eight shops, adding that some states have shown their interest to set up their food stalls.

But people would miss only one thing — food will not be allowed on the lawns from India Gate to Man Singh Road. The stretch will open for the public after 20 months. On the day of the inauguration, visitors will not be allowed on the stretch from the India Gate to Man Singh Road, but they can use the remaining part.

“In last years 8 years, we have taken so many decisions one after the other on the ideals and dreams of Netaji,” Prime Minister Modi said. “On this occasion, I would like to express special gratitude to those workers who have not only made the path of duty but have also shown the country the Kartavya Path,” the Prime Minister said.

In his speech, PM Modi said, “Today, the country has changed various laws that were there since the time of the British. Through the National Education Policy, now the youth of the country are being liberated from the compulsion of foreign language.”

“Symbol of colonialism ‘Kingsway’ will be a history and has been erased forever. A new era has begun in the form of Kartvyapath. I congratulate all the people of the country as we come out from another symbol of colonialism,” he said.

India’s 1st Intranasal Covid Vaccine Gets DCGI Nod For Emergency Use

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) on Tuesday approved Bharat Biotech’s intranasal Covid vaccine for restricted emergency use in those aged above 18 years. In a statement, the Hyderabad-based firm said its iNCOVACC (BBV154), the world’s first intranasal COVID-19 vaccine, received approval from DCGI under restricted use in emergency situation for ages 18 and above.

“Big Boost to India’s Fight Against COVID-19! Bharat Biotech’s ChAd36-SARS-CoV-S COVID-19 (Chimpanzee Adenovirus Vectored) recombinant nasal vaccine approved by @CDSCO_INDIA_INF for primary immunization against COVID-19 in 18+ age group for restricted use in emergency situation,” Union Health minister Mansukh Mandaviya tweeted.

He said this step will further strengthen “our collective fight” against the pandemic. India has harnessed its science, research and development (R&D), and human resources in the fight against Covid under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, he said.

“With the science-driven approach & Sabka Prayas, we will defeat COVID-19,” Mandaviya said in another tweet. iNCOVACC is a recombinant replication deficient adenovirus vectored vaccine with a pre-fusion stabilised spike protein.

This vaccine candidate was evaluated in phase I, II and III clinical trials with successful results, the press release from the vaccine-maker said. Clinical trials were conducted to evaluate iNCOVACC as a primary dose schedule, as heterologous booster dose for subjects who have previously received two doses of the two commonly administered Covid vaccines in India.

Officials said those who have already received the first and second doses of other vaccines will not be eligible to get iNCOVACC as the “precaution” third dose.

The Hyderabad-based firm said its iNCOVACC (BBV154), the world’s first intranasal COVID-19 vaccine.

Designed and developed to be cost effective

  • iNCOVACC is a recombinant replication deficient adenovirus vectored vaccine with a prefusion stabilized spike protein. This vaccine candidate was evaluated in phase I, II and III clinical trials with successful results.
  • Phase III trials of the vaccine were conducted for safety, immunogenicity in about 3,100 subjects, in 14 trial sites across India.
  • iNCOVACC has been specifically formulated to allow intranasal delivery through nasal drops. The nasal delivery system has been designed and developed to be cost effective in low and middle-income countries.
  • Product development and clinical trials were funded in part by the government of India through the Department of Biotechnology’s COVID Suraksha programme.
  • Clinical trials were conducted to evaluate iNCOVACC as a primary dose schedule, as heterologous booster dose for subjects who have previously received two doses of the two commonly administered COVID-19 vaccines in India.
  • iNCOVACC has the double benefit of enabling faster development of variant specific vaccines and easy nasal delivery that enables mass immunisation to protect from emerging variants of concern. It promises to become an important tool in mass vaccinations during pandemics and endemics.

What is the role of DCGI?

  • The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) headed by the Drugs Controller General (India) is the central authority for regulating the quality of drugs marketed in the country under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
  • The mission of CDSCO is to safeguard and enhance the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and quality of drugs, cosmetics and medical devices.
  • Regulatory control over the import of drugs, approval of new drugs and clinical trials, meetings of Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) and Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), approval of certain licenses as Central License Approving Authority are major functions of CDSCO.
  • The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 have entrusted various responsibilities to central and state regulators for regulation of drugs and cosmetics. It envisages uniform implementation of the provisions of the Act and Rules made there under for ensuring the safety, rights and well being of the patients by regulating the drugs and cosmetics.
  • CDSCO is constantly striving to bring out transparency, accountability and uniformity in its services in order to ensure safety, efficacy and quality of the medical product manufactured, imported and distributed in the country.
  • The CDSCO, with its headquarters in New Delhi has six zonal offices, six  sub-zonal offices, seven Central Drugs Testing Laboratories and nine airport & 18 sea port offices (including inland container depots.

McKinsey CEO, Bob Sternfels Calls It India’s Century

McKinsey & Co CEO Bob Sternfels has said, it will not just be India’s decade, but India’s century, with all key components in place – a big working inhabitants, multinational corporations reimagining world provide chains, and a rustic leapfrogging at digital scale-to obtain one thing particular not only for the Indian financial system, however probably for the world.

“Many individuals have stated that it is India’s decade. 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 per cent of the world’s working inhabitants,” Sternfels said in an interview with Economic Times.

According to him, India would be the world’s future expertise manufacturing unit as it should have 20 per cent of the globe’s working inhabitants by 2047. “India has leapfrogged on the digital scale. All these are the uncooked supplies to do one thing particular for not solely the Indian financial system however probably for the world,” he added.

McKinsey plans a “disproportionate commitment” to India and that’s why its global board will be coming to the country in December.  The firm has 5,000 people in India, a number he wants to double to 10,000.

Sternfels also spoke about the current scandals which have hit McKinsey, the state of the worldwide financial system, inflation woes and deglobalisation.

Reacting to a question regarding what the CEOs are telling concerning the state of their corporations, Sternfels said, “One of many issues that I did over the previous 12 months was get out and speak to purchasers, and I’ve talked to over 500 of our CEOs within the final 12 months.

“CEOs now wish to play offence and protection on the similar time. So defensive measures… shore up the steadiness sheet, enhance effectivity, and make sure the firm can face up to shocks. They’re additionally saying, my steadiness sheet is more healthy than it was in both of these downturns. And I wish to truly take two or three large strategic bets in order that I can come out on prime,” he added.

INS Vikrant Commissioned

The first ever India-made aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, was commissioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Cochin Shipyard. INS Vikrant is the largest ship ever built in India’s maritime history at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore. The ship has now formally joined the Indian Navy fleet.

The new naval ensign takes inspiration from the famous Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s seal. “The octagonal shape with twin golden borders draws inspiration from the seal of the great Indian emperor, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, whose visionary maritime outlook established a credible naval fleet,” the Indian Navy said in a video describing the seal.

Addressing the gathering, India’s PM Narendra Modi said, “Vikrant is not just a warship. It is a testament to the hard work, talent, influence and commitment of of 21st century India”. Marking the event as the “sunrise of a new future”, the PM added that Vikrant is a unique reflection of India becoming self-reliant.

“When INS Vikrant descends to protect our maritime zone, many women soldiers of the Navy will also be stationed there. With the immense power of the ocean, boundless female power, it will become the identity of New India,” PM Modi said.

The carrier houses state-of-the-art automation features at the Cochin Shipyard. During the event, PM Modi also unveiled the new Naval Ensign (Nishaan), doing away with the colonial past.

INS Vikrant will contribute to ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean region, Vice Chief of Indian Navy Vice Admiral S N Ghormade had said earlier. He said the aircraft landing trials on board INS Vikrant will begin in November and they will be completed by mid-2023, adding MiG-29K jets will operate from the warship for the first few years. The commissioning of Vikrant is being seen as a significant step towards India’s self-reliance in the defense sector.

Using a novel aircraft operation mode known as Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR), the IAC is equipped with a ski-jump for launching aircraft. It has a set of three ‘arrester wires’ for their recovery onboard. Commissioning of ‘Vikrant’ would showcase the country’s indigenization capabilities, besides paying tributes to its freedom fighters and soldiers of the 1971 Indo-Pak war, a Defense statement had said.

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

Over 130 Indian-Americans Hold Key Jobs In Biden Administration

Shortly after winning the November 2020 US presidential polls, then president-elect Joseph Biden promised to pick a cabinet that will be “more representative of the American people than any other cabinet in history”. True to his word, Biden’s staffing decisions—both within and beyond the cabinet—reveal many firsts, such as the first Native American interior secretary and the first Black secretary of defense.

The growing clout of Indian Americans is visible more than ever as reports find, there are as many as 130 Indian Americans hold key roles and in many cases leading important departments in the US administration under Joe Biden-Kamala Harris Presidency.  In doing so he has not only fulfilled his promise to the community that he had made as a presidential candidate in 2020, but also shattered the record of his predecessor Donald Trump, who had appointed more than 80 Indian-Americans and his previous boss Barack Obama, who had appointed over 60 Indian-Americans to key positions during his eight years of presidency.

Described as the best representation from the community that makes up around one per cent of the American population, the important roles they occupy speak for their talents, skills, resourcefulness and the many ways they have come to be recognized as thoughtful leaders and partners in contributing to continuing to keep and make the United States, the adopted land of theirs a great nation.

More than 40 Indian-Americans has been elected at various state and federal levels including four in the U.S. House of Representatives. Not to miss the more than 20 Indian-Americans leading top U.S. companies.

While the first-ever presidential appointment was done during the time of Ronald Regan, this time Biden has appointed Indian-Americans to almost all departments and agencies of his administration.

“Indian-Americans have been imbued with the sense of seva (service) and this is reflected in their enthusiasm to pursue positions in public service instead of the private sector,” Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur, philanthropist and venture capitalist M. R. Rangaswami told PTI.

“The Biden administration has now appointed or nominated the largest group to date and needless to say we are proud of our people and their accomplishments for the United States,” Mr. Rangaswami said. Mr. Rangaswami is founder and head of Indiaspora, a U.S.-based global organization for Indian-origin leaders. Indiaspora keeps a track of Indian-origin leaders.

Biden, who has maintained a close relationship with the community since his Senator days, often jokes around about his Indian relationship. He made history in 2020 by selecting Indian-origin Kamala Harris as his running mate.

The list of Indian-Americans in the White House reflects that there would be only a few meetings inside the White House or in Mr. Biden’s Oval Office that would not have an Indian-American presence.

His speech writer is Vinay Reddy, while his main advisor on COVID-19 is Dr. Ashish Jha, his advisor on climate policy is Sonia Aggarwal, special assistant on criminal justice is Chiraag Bains, Kiran Ahuja heads the Office of Personnel Management, Neera Tanden is his senior advisor, and Rahul Gupta is his drug czar.

Last week when India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Taranjit Singh Sandhu, hosted a reception at India House on the occasion of Independence Day, Indian-Americans from his administration were representing almost all major branches of the U.S. government.

Young Vedant Patel is now the Deputy Spokesperson at the Department of State, while Garima Verma is the Digital Director in the Office of the First Lady. Mr. Biden has also nominated several Indian-Americans to key ambassadorial positions.

Led by Indian-Americans Sunder Pichai of Google and Satya Nadella of Microsoft, there are over two dozen Indian-Americans heading U.S. companies. Among others include Shantanu Narayen of Adobe, Vivek Lall of General Atomics, Punit Renjen of Deloitte, Raj Subramaniam of FedEx.

There are nearly 4 million people of Indian descent living in the United States; over 1% of the total population of the country as of 2018. Indians are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States, and about 6% of the country’s foreign-born population is Indian, making them the second largest immigrant group in the country after Mexicans.

The very first Indians came to America when the British East India Company brought them over to the American colonies to work as servants. The next, more significant wave of Indians came in the 19th century, when a group of over 2,000 Sikhs came from both India and Canada for economic opportunities and to escape environmental, financial and racial issues, mostly settling in California.

Throughout the early 20th century, Indian and other Asian immigrants faced racial discrimination in the U.S., struggling to gain citizenship and property ownership rights. Indians began gaining social acceptance by pursuing higher education, gaining more employment opportunities and making their mark in various fields.

The largest wave of Indians immigrating to the US came with the new age of technology, with many Indians finding work in this sector, beginning in the 1990s when over 100,000 computer specialists from India came over to help with the Y2K concerns.

Being one of the largest immigrant populations in the United States, Indians have become a powerful force in various sectors, including tech, business and government. The prominence of Indians in the American political sphere is especially apparent this year, as Kamala Harris, a woman who is half Indian on her mother’s side, has become the Vice President of the United States.

However, it is not only in very recent years that Indians gained prominent government positions in the US. In 1956, Dalip Singh Saund, an Indian born American man, became the first person of Asian descent to be elected to Congress. According to reports, more than 40 Indian-Americans have been elected to various offices across the country. Four are in the House of Representatives — Dr. Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Pramila Jayapal. This includes four Mayors.

Chief Justice of India, Ramnna Leaves India’s Top Court With Mixed Legacy

Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, who retired on August 26, took over the reins of the Supreme Court in difficult times when the fundamental rights and civil liberties of the citizens were under threat as never before.

His predecessors, former CJIs Ranjan Gogoi and SA Bobde, had left behind disappointing legacies, with one adjudicating a case that was against his own self, among other disappointing decisions, and the other refusing to take the Centre to task for its many failures in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Justice Ramana – with his order against the Internet ban in Kashmir, vocal defense of fundamental rights and civil liberties and the very fact that he was part of the five judge bench that held that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes under the purview of the Right to Information Act – was going to be different.

Speaking against the government or its policies was treated as equivalent to speaking against the Indian state. People of all hues, including political opponents of the present dispensation, journalists, social activists, artists, and comedians, irrespective of their age or standing in life, were booked under the sedition law or the draconian Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act (UAPA), making it difficult — almost impossible — for them to obtain bail.

From putting the sedition law on hold to reviewing the money laundering verdict, and ordering probes into Pegasus snooping and Lakhimpur Kheri cases to ensuring appointments of record 11 judges in the top court and over 220 in high courts, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana took significant judicial and administrative decisions in his 16-month tenure.

Proceedings live-streamed

On his last day in the office, the 48th CJI ensured live-streaming of SC proceedings of the ceremonial bench headed by him, a first in the history of the apex court. In 2018, the top court had allowed such webcasts, but it was not implemented until Friday.

Tears and tributes

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave broke into tears while bidding adieu to the outgoing CJI, saying he maintained checks and balances between the judiciary, executive and the parliament and did so “with a spine”.

While Dave described Ramana as citizens’ judge, his colleague, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, said the court will remember him for “maintaining balance even in turbulent times”.

Attorney General K K Venugopal termed as “remarkable” the efforts of CJI Ramana in filling up vacancies in higher judiciary and tribunals, saying that for the first time, the Supreme Court worked at full strength of 34 judges during his tenure as head of the institution.

CJI Ramana said the only way out was to reform the functioning of the system. “We need to deploy modern technology tools and artificial intelligence to find a lasting solution,” he said.

“Unfortunately, during the past 16 months, my tenure as CJI, full-fledged hearing was possible only about 50 days,” said CJI Ramana.

He said he was demitting office after being part of the judiciary for 22 years “with utmost content” and added that he had done his bit for the judiciary to the best of his ability.

“People may come and go, but the institution remains forever. Of course, each one has to make our own contribution. I have done my bit to the best of my ability”, said CJI Ramana.

However, criticism has mounted against the Court after he and his colleagues let go free the 11 convicts in the 2002 Gujarat riots case on India’s 75th Independence day. Bilkis Bano was gang-raped in 2002 during post-Godhra riots in Gujarat. Her three-year-old daughter was among the 14 members of her family who were killed. The accused were found guilty of gang rape and murders, and sentenced to life sentence.

The Supreme Court, however, has said on it did not order release of the people convicted for gang rape and murder during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the remission granted to the 11 convicts a week after they were released from a Gujarat jail, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana’s bench said, “We have to see whether there was an application of mind or not. This court didn’t order for their release but only asked the state to consider remission as per the policy.”

In spite the failings, Raanna has been praised by most for his adept handling of the situation, especially with the pressure on the Judiciary by the executive branches of the government to bend law in factor of the ruling party.

Former Delhi High Court Judge Rekha Sharma writes on NV Ramana’s tenure as Chief Justice of India: “Justice Ramana faced the onerous task of restoring the people’s faith in the judiciary. To his credit, by and large, he lived up to what was expected of him — though he could have done much more.”

75 Years After Independence, a Changing ‘Idea of India’

Modi Is Rewriting India’s National Narrative. The prime minister’s annual Independence Day speech reflected how far political discourse has fallen in New Delhi.

India celebrated the 75th anniversary of its independence this week. Unlike prior revolutions, India’s split from the British Empire came about through a political movement committed to nonviolence. The Indian National Congress, led by Mahatma Gandhi, organized peaceful demonstrations on an unprecedented scale, and the mighty British Empire ultimately capitulated, encouraging anticolonial movements around the world. Within a generation, countries in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean also achieved independence, ending a long and grotesque epoch of European imperialism.

India has long commemorated this watershed moment on Aug. 15, headlined by the prime minister’s speech on the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi. Leaders traditionally set aside partisan rivalries in these speeches, choosing to focus on apolitical themes: the importance of Gandhi and the nonviolence movement, the resilience of India’s democracy, and the importance of tolerance and inclusion. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has mostly stuck to this formula, but this year’s speech signaled how Modi is trying to redefine what it means to be an Indian.

In his speech, Modi ticked the boxes by mentioning Gandhi and his commitment to inclusion, but he also departed from convention in important ways. First, he celebrated more than a dozen freedom fighters who had adopted a violent approach to independence. These freedom fighters operated independently of Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, undermining Gandhi and nonviolence within India’s independence movement. By highlighting them in the speech, Modi subtly pushed back against the conventional narrative and Gandhi’s central role in it.

Second, although Modi touched on inclusion when it comes to geography and gender, he avoided mentioning secularism or religious tolerance. Instead, he sought to define Indians as Hindus: “This is our legacy. How can we not be proud of this heritage? We are those people who see Shiva [a main Hindu deity] in every living being,” he said. “We are people who see the divine in the plants. We are the people who consider the rivers as mother. We are those people who see Shankar [another form of Shiva] in every stone.” For India, a country with 280 million non-Hindu citizens that has struggled with religious tensions since its founding, Modi’s religious interjections clearly signal a break from the past.

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Finally, Modi used the occasion to launch familiar jabs against the opposition Indian National Congress party while overlooking critical challenges facing the Indian state—including religious intolerance. He concluded his speech by slamming people who defend corruption and by condemning nepotism. But this was coded language that may sound like a threat to some Indian citizens: Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have weaponized charges of corruption and nepotism to go after political opponents and dissidents. Just days after Modi’s speech, his government conducted an anticorruption raid against Manish Sisodia, one of the main leaders of the opposition Aam Aadmi Party.

Modi’s Independence Day speech is emblematic of a larger change taking place under his rule, which has faced criticism for democratic backsliding—moving away from the very constitution that came shortly after its independence. The prime minister and the BJP are working to unshackle India from its liberal and secular moorings, advancing a new national identity that champions Hindu supremacy. This enterprise is in fact antithetical to the very foundations of Hinduism, which is an inherently pluralistic faith.

Modi’s BJP government is also undercutting India’s institutions in unprecedented ways. It has made a mockery of India’s rich tradition of civil liberties by charging activists and dissidents with crimes under colonial-era laws. One egregious example is the case of left-wing activists detained under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for alleged links to Maoist groups and allegedly fomenting riots. One of the accused, lifelong Jesuit activist Rev. Stan Swamy, died in custody last year. Furthermore, Modi and the BJP have co-opted much of the media and important private sector actors. Journalists have faced intimidation and harassment; prominent nongovernmental organizations have been cut off from foreign funding while others can receive overseas money only into accounts with a government-owned bank.

Unfortunately, the most important lessons from the independence movement seem to be lost on India’s contemporary leaders, as shown by their approach to religious pluralism and democratic institutions. Although India’s leading revolutionaries were committed to nonviolence, tensions between Hindus and Muslims marred the independence movement. These tensions pulled the British Raj apart, and two new countries emerged in its place: India and Pakistan. This week also marks the anniversary of the Partition of India, which triggered one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters as Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were forced to flee in different directions across the new border. A few months later, India and Pakistan went to war over the status of Jammu and Kashmir—a disagreement that still plagues the subcontinent.

In the face of these tensions, India and Pakistan’s leaders charted opposing courses. India’s leaders advanced a progressive and modern vision for their new country, eschewing a national Hindu religion in favor of a secular identity. They worked hard to minimize religious tensions by speaking against communal strife and promoting religious protections. When Gandhi was assassinated in 1948—for supposedly being a supplicant to the Muslim community—his political heirs continued to push for a liberal vision of India. Working with the opposition, they produced a constitution that enshrined a liberal and secular democracy that remains in force today.

On the other hand, Pakistan struggled. The country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, led the Muslim League that split from the Indian National Congress. But he was rarely clear in his vision for Pakistan: There is some evidence that he wanted a secular state, but he also called for an Islamic republic. When Jinnah died in 1948, he left behind a political mess. Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first prime minister, rejected amendments offered by the opposition in his own founding document, which became a precursor to the country’s 1956 constitution that gave Islam its pride of place in the project of Pakistan. By turning to communalism, Pakistan has suffered as political actors stir religious tensions to benefit their own ends. Without credible institutions or norms that allow political differences to be resolved, the country has not been able to maintain political order.

Modi’s speech reflects how he and the BJP appear to embrace some of these traits. By lionizing fringe actors from the independence movement—including those who exacerbated religious tensions—they are rewriting history to suit their own political agenda. They have undermined civil liberties and shown basic disregard for political opposition. Taking a page from Jinnah’s book, Modi has ensured that any substantive decision must come through him. Such a system may work in the short term, but what happens when Modi is no longer prime minister?

The contrast with then-Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s epic “A Tryst With Destiny” speech, delivered on Aug. 14, 1947, couldn’t be starker. Nehru said he sought to “bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic, and progressive nation.” Most poignantly, he highlighted that India’s religious pluralism was integral to the newly founded country: “All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India, with equal rights, privileges, and obligations.”

India’s Independence Day has traditionally provided an opportunity to reflect on the horrors of colonialism and the dangers of religious discord while also celebrating the vibrance of the country’s democracy. Modi’s speech this week reflects the departure that India’s contemporary leaders have made from these foundational values.

(Dinsha Mistree is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford Law School. He also teaches in the international policy program at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

Sumit Ganguly is a columnist at Foreign Policy as well as a distinguished professor of political science and the Rabindranath Tagore chair in Indian cultures and civilizations at Indiana University Bloomington.)

(Courtesy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/08/19/india-modi-independence-day-speech-democracy/?utm_source=PostUp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Editors%20Picks%20OC&utm_term=46473&tpcc=Editors%20Picks%20OC&utm_source=PostUp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Editors+Picks+OC&utm_term=46478&tpcc=Editors+Picks+OC)

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

Modi Govt. Criticized For “Relentless Campaign Of Vendetta Against Its Political Opponents”

Several Opposition Parties in India have strongly criticized the Narendra Modi led  Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government for targeting its opponents and critics, saying that Modi has “unleashed a relentless campaign of vendetta against its political opponents and critics through the mischievous misuse of investigative agencies”

“Prominent leaders of a number of political parties have been deliberately targeted and subjected to harassment in an unprecedented manner. We condemn this and resolve to continue and intensify our collective fight against the anti-people, anti-farmers, and anti-Constitution policies of the Modi government that is destroying the social fabric of our society,” a statement issued by the Opposition parties said.

The Modi regime’s attack against members of the Indian parliament has led to rising concerns over a shrinking political state and the backsliding towards an authoritarian state.

After questioning Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress Party for three full days, each day for as many as 10 hours,  India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) has now targeted Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Opposition party. 

In a show of strength, the Congress staged street protests and its leaders courted arrest across the country last week as the party chief Sonia Gandhi was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case related to the National Herald newspaper.

Gandhi, who was recovering from Covid, was summoned again on July 25. The 75-year-old replied to dozens of questions last week, media reports stated. According to Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, the ED said it had nothing to ask of her either Thursday or Friday. After which Sonia Gandhi said she was willing to appear on July 25th, he said. The Congress party slammed the agency’s action against its top leadership and termed it “political vendetta”.

“All Congress MPs and CWC members have courted mass arrest outside our party headquarters in a show of collective solidarity with Sonia Gandhi, a target of ‘Vishguru’s’ political vendetta,” said Congress general secretary Ramesh.

Leaders of 13 political parties, including the DMK, Shiv Sena, RJD and the Left, met at Parliament House and issued a statement accusing the government of unleashing a “relentless campaign of vendetta against its political opponents and critics through the mischievous misuse of investigative agencies”.

According to reports, an alarmingly high volume of cases register by the ED in recent years. The total number of cases registered by the ED under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) has jumped almost three times in the first three years of the second term of the BJP-led government (2019-20 to 2021-22) as compared to the corresponding period in its first term (2014-15 to 2016-17), as per the data shared by India’s Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary in a written reply to Lok Sabha on July 25, 2022. 

The ED registered 14,143 cases under FEMA and PMLA between 2019-20 and 2021-22, as compared to 4,913 cases in 2014-15 to 2016-17 — an increase of over 187 per cent. The break-up shows that 11,420 FEMA cases were taken up for investigation in the first three years of the second term, up from 4,424 cases in the first three years of the first term — an increase of over 158 per cent. The cases registered under PMLA increased by more than five times in this period — from 489 between 2014-15 to 2016-17 to 2,723 in 2019-20 to 2021-22 — a jump of over 456 per cent. According to the year-wise data, 2021-22 saw the highest number of money laundering and foreign exchange violation cases in the last eight years of the Modi government. In 2020-21, the ED filed 5,313 cases under FEMA (the previous high was 3,627 cases in 2017-18); and 1,180 under PMLA (up from 981 in 2020-21).

Another tool used by the Indian Government in recent years to contain dissent has been the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). As per the submission by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) before the Parliament on July 20, 2022, there is  a huge gap between the number of persons who are under-trial and those who have been either convicted or acquitted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in the country during 2016-2020.

Out of 6,482 persons under trial, only 80 persons have been convicted and 116 have been acquitted. The increasing number of persons undertrial is concerning and is a poor reflection on the Indian judicial system.It suggests that the law is merely enabling their continued incarceration. “Thus, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA) is allegedly being misused to incarcerate political dissidents by a vindictive regime,” critics pointed out.

In Efforts To Restrict Dissent, India Fines Amnesty India International

Amnesty India International has been critical of India and its human rights violations for several years. The annual reports by the agency that monitors violations by the state/federal government agencies across the nation have come under fire by the ruling party led by Narendra Modi.

The harassment of the Amnesty India International by the Indian Government agencies has led to the suspension of its activities in India in September 2020. “Because of the bank freeze, Amnesty International India has been forced to cease work in India,” reports pointed out. 

Now, as per the latest reports, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of India has imposed penalties of Rs. 51 crore and Rs 10 crore, respectively, on Amnesty India and its former head Aakar Patel, citing violations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

The agency said in a statement that Amnesty International UK had been remitting large foreign contributions “through its Indian entities (non-FCRA companies) following the FDI route in order to evade the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)” and expand its activities in India.

This was despite the Home Ministry’s denial of prior registration or permissions to Amnesty International India Foundation Trust and other trusts under the FCRA, it said in a statement last week.

“The Adjudicating Authority of Directorate of Enforcement (ED) has adjudicated a Show Cause Notice issued to M/s Amnesty India International Pvt. Ltd.(AIIPL) and its CEO Shri Aakar Patel for contravention of the provisions of The Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) and imposed penalty to the tune of Rs. 51.72 crore and ₹10 crore respectively,” said the ED statement.

The funds were transferred to “expand its NGO activities in India, despite the denial of prior registration or permissions to Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT) and other trusts under FCRA by Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India”, the ED statement said.

In 2018, ED began conducting searches of properties of Amnesty India over allegations that AIIPL was formed to receive foreign funding, violating FCRA rules. In 2019, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a case against the NGO alleging violation of foreign exchange rules.

In 2020, the Executive Director of Amnesty International India Avinash Kumar stated: “The continuing crackdown on Amnesty International India over the last two years and the complete freezing of bank accounts is not accidental. The constant harassment by government agencies including the Enforcement Directorate is a result of our unequivocal calls for transparency in the government, more recently for accountability of the Delhi police and the Government of India regarding the grave human rights violations in Delhi riots and Jammu & Kashmir. For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent.”

Righteous Dissent

By, P. A. Chacko At Indian Currents

Righteous dissent is right to dissent; and it is a fundamental right. It is guaranteed by Indian Constitution in Article 19 with the freedom of expression. Dissent shows there is another angle or a different viewpoint.  Decent persons listen to what others have to say in dissent. It is letting others to have their freedom of opinion. It may be a critical observation. It could also be a point which the other party has not seen or taken into consideration or an alternative solution. 

When a government in power does not want to allow such freedom of expression, one smells a rat. If it suppresses dissent with an iron rod, it is the end of the road. Many citizens are of opinion that the ruling BJP deals with every dissenting opinion as unwanted, often dubbed criminal act, sometimes even anti-national. Peaceful demonstrations, representations, meetings, gatherings, etc. are constitutionally guaranteed exercises of democratic freedom of expression. Surprisingly, even such acts or exercises invite the wrath of the powers that are. 

Did not Prime Minister Modi put on a Himalayan stature at the recent G 7 summit in Bavaria when he, along with four other countries, signed the document on protecting the freedom of speech? The Hindu noted that “the joint statement came amidst allegations that the Indian Government was stifling the freedom of speech and the civil society actors…In a joint statement titled ‘2022 Resilient Democracies Statement’ on June 27 during the G 7 Summit, the leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said they were prepared to defend these principles and are resolved to protect the freedom of expression” (thehindu.com, June 28). 

But, what a contradiction, when, almost at the same time journalist and Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair was arrested by Delhi police for a four-year-old quote from a Hindi film accusing him of hurting religious sentiments. According to Justice Deepak Gupta, “Freedom of speech is one of the basic concepts of our democracy. People are put under pressure if they are made to feel that, if they express a certain point of view, they will have to face trouble either from the Enforcement Directorate or a money laundering case” (Interview to The Wire).

In contrast, a BJP spokesperson, who offended the sentiments of the Muslim community by saying insulting words against Prophet Mohammed, has not yet been arrested. Instead, she is being honoured with security cover. Another spokesperson who supported Nupur Sharma too has been given security cover. “If Nupur Sharma was not arrested, Zubair also should not have been arrested,” says Justice Deepak Gupta.

In every country there are opposition parties. They ventilate public grievances through their critical observations and suggestions. United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have shadow Cabinets of opposition parties. Its responsibility is to scrutinise the ruling party’s policies and offer alternative suggestions or amendments.  Unfortunately, India has no such arrangement. Rather, more often than not, the opposition parties are considered unwanted and treated like carbuncles.  

In today’s Indian scenario, public dissent often erupts into violent street theatricals which are not happy solutions. Such exercises may be outbursts of suffocations caused by the iron hand of the government. Instead of dealing with opposing situations through discussions and debates, if they are met with police atrocities and even bureaucratic punishments, the writing on the wall is clear. Executive orders to treat demonstrators as criminals are anti-democratic decisions. 

On the other hand, it is often seen that if you belong to the ruling party, you can go any length to create mayhem and terror. Whether to pull down the Ayodhya mosque or to attack minority communities with impunity, it is, as if, the prerogative of the muzzle men with the blessings of the party bosses.     

The U.P. incidents where Muslim homes were demolished because they allegedly took part in street demonstrations have attracted condemnations the world over. Here righteous dissent was treated with criminal assault. Three Rapporteurs of the United Nations (Housing Rights, Minority Issues and Freedom of Religion), jointly sent a letter to the government of India on 9th June criticizing and protesting against arbitrary demolitions of houses and properties of people, particularly of the Muslim community. The world is watching and is concerned. Yet we in India play the fiddle. 

In a recent Supreme Court case involving Nupur Sharma, Justice Surya Kant (slated to take over as the Chief Justice of India in May 2025) told Nupur’s counsel, “No Mr. Singh, the conscience of the court is not satisfied.” He stated that she should apologize to the nation for her arrogant and insulting remark against the Holy Prophet Mohammed and queried why she was not arrested. He also stated that the fact that she was not arrested shows her clout and power.  

It is highly praiseworthy that the Judge sends the incontrovertible message to the nation that the court has a conscience. It would be equally praiseworthy if all the judicial authorities believed in this message and acted accordingly.  The nation, particularly the common man, looks up to the court to exercise its conscience by pronouncing justice without bias or favor. 

That is where people expect that the courts in India not to keep mum when the nation is taken for a ride by terror outfits or nationalist marauders. When the wheels of justice turn too slow for ordinary people, the conscience of the court should wake up and call a spade a spade. 

When righteous dissent is bulldozed and pulverized by the ruling class or when the minority communities are treated as dirt, the conscience of the court cannot afford to take a blissful nap. The promising sign of the window of justice getting opened by the conscience keepers of the law courts is welcome. However, the suffocation of people suffering from sponsored spiral of violence can be removed only by opening not just a window but all the doors and windows of justice.

Social Realities of Indian Americans: Results From the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey

By, Sumitra Badrinathan,  Devesh Kapur,  Jonathan Kay,  Milan Vaishnav

U.S. President Joe Biden remarked in a March 2021 phone call with Swati Mohan, an Indian-origin scientist charged with overseeing the highly anticipated landing of the Perseverance Mars rover for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration: “It’s amazing. Indian—of descent—Americans are taking over the country: you, my vice president [Kamala Harris, whose mother was born in India], my speechwriter, Vinay [Indian American Vinay Reddy]. . . . You guys are incredible.”1

While some in the media interpreted Biden’s off-the-cuff remark as an unfortunate gaffe, others viewed it as affirmation of the growing influence of the Indian American diaspora. In the same exchange, Biden later added: “One of the reasons why we’re such an incredible country is we’re such a diverse country. We bring the best out of every single solitary culture in the world here in the United States of America, and we give people an opportunity to let their dreams run forward.”

Indian Americans are the second-largest immigrant group in the United States. As the number of Indian-origin residents in the United States has swelled north of 4 million, the community’s diversity too has grown.

Today, Indian Americans are a mosaic of recent arrivals and long-term residents. While the majority are immigrants, a rising share is born and raised in the United States. Many Indian immigrants might have brought with them identities rooted in their ancestral homeland, while others have eschewed them in favor of a nonhyphenated “American” identity. And despite the overall professional, educational, and financial success many Indian Americans enjoy, this has not inoculated them from the forces of discrimination, polarization, and contestation over questions of belonging and identity.

There is surprisingly little systematic data about the everyday social realities that Indian Americans experience. How do Indian Americans perceive their own ethnic identity? How do they respond to the dual impulses of assimilation and integration? And how might their self-conception influence the composition of their social networks?

These are not merely academic questions. As the profile of the Indian American community has grown, so too has its economic, political, and social influence. But how Indian Americans choose to deploy this influence remains an open question. To what extent do people of Indian origin encounter discriminatory behavior—on what grounds and by whom? As the United States witnesses a resurgence of violence and hate speech targeting Asian Americans, how might it affect Americans of Indian origin?

This study draws on a new source of empirical data to answer these and other questions. Its findings are based on a nationally representative online survey of 1,200 Indian American residents in the United States—the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey (IAAS)—conducted between September 1 and September 20, 2020, in partnership with the research and analytics firm YouGov. The survey, drawing on both citizens and non-citizens in the United States, was conducted online using YouGov’s proprietary panel of 1.8 million Americans and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent.

This study is the third in a series on the social, political, and foreign policy attitudes of Indian Americans. The major findings are briefly summarized below.

  • Indian Americans exhibit very high rates of marriage within their community. While eight out of ten respondents have a spouse or partner of Indian origin, U.S.-born Indian Americans are four times more likely to have a spouse or partner who is of Indian origin but was born in the United States.
  • Religion plays a central role in the lives of Indian Americans but religious practice varies. While nearly three-quarters of Indian Americans state that religion plays an important role in their lives, religious practice is less pronounced. Forty percent of respondents pray at least once a day and 27 percent attend religious services at least once a week.
  • Roughly half of all Hindu Indian Americans identify with a caste group. Foreign-born respondents are significantly more likely than U.S.-born respondents to espouse a caste identity. The overwhelming majority of Hindus with a caste identity—more than eight in ten—self-identify as belonging to the category of General or upper caste.
  • “Indian American” itself is a contested identity. While Indian American is a commonly used shorthand to describe people of Indian origin, it is not universally embraced. Only four in ten respondents believe that “Indian American” is the term that best captures their background.
  • Civic and political engagement varies considerably by one’s citizenship status. Across nearly all metrics of civic and political participation, U.S.-born citizens report the highest levels of engagement, followed by foreign-born U.S. citizens, with non-citizens trailing behind.
  • Indian Americans’ social communities are heavily populated by other people of Indian origin. Indian Americans—especially members of the first generation—tend to socialize with other Indian Americans. Internally, the social networks of Indian Americans are more homogenous in terms of religion than either Indian region (state) of origin or caste.
  • Polarization among Indian Americans reflects broader trends in American society. While religious polarization is less pronounced at an individual level, partisan polarization—linked to political preferences both in India and the United States—is rife. However, this polarization is asymmetric: Democrats are much less comfortable having close friends who are Republicans than the converse. The same is true of Congress Party supporters vis-à-vis supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
  • Indian Americans regularly encounter discrimination. One in two Indian Americans reports being discriminated against in the past one year, with discrimination based on skin color identified as the most common form of bias. Somewhat surprisingly, Indian Americans born in the United States are much more likely to report being victims of discrimination than their foreign-born counterparts.

To some extent, divisions in India are being reproduced within the Indian American community. While only a minority of respondents are concerned about the importation of political divisions from India to the United States, those who are identify religion, political leadership, and political parties in India as the most common factors. (Courtesy: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

US Awaits India’s Nod To Dispatch Covid Vaccines

The United States has said it is waiting for the Indian government to give a green signal for dispatching the anti-Covid vaccines that the US is donating to several countries across the world. “We are ready to ship those vaccines expeditiously when we have a green light from the Government of India,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, as reported by news agency PTI. US vaccines have reached Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. But for India, it is taking time as there are some legal hurdles for emergency import, Ned Price said.

The US earlier announced to share 80 million doses from its domestic stock with countries around the world. Under India’s share, it is supposed to get 3-4 million doses of Moderna and Pfizer from the United States. While Moderna has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India, Pfizer has not yet applied for an emergency approval in India yet.India has sought time to review its legal provision to accept vaccine donation, the United States has said as Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh received vaccines from the US.

What are the legal hurdles?

“Before we can ship those doses, however, each country must complete its own domestic set of operational, of regulatory, and legal processes that are specific to each country. Now, India has determined that it needs further time to review legal provisions related to accepting vaccine donations,” Price said.

Sputnik plans 300 million doses a year

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, developed by Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, was granted emergency use authorisation in India in May. Covishield-maker Serum Institute of India (SII) has added yet another brand to its growing portfolio of Covid-19 vaccines, unveiling plans on Tuesday to manufacture Russia’s Sputnik V over the next two months. SII’s addition to a growing list of Indian partners for Sputnik V would enable the country to churn out over a billion doses of the Russian vaccine every year. It is also likely to help improve supply of the vaccine in India, where a soft launch has already taken place through vials imported from Russia but doses from most domestic manufacturers are still awaited.

SII, through its partnership with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), intends to produce over 300 million doses of Sputnik V per year, said Russia’s sovereign wealth fund in a statement. This takes India’s annual production capacity of this vaccine to nearly 1.2 billion doses a year. The Pune-headquartered vaccine maker has already received samples of the cell and vector — crucial components to make the vaccine — from the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology as part of the technical transfer process. The cultivation process has already begun.

“We hope to make millions of doses in the coming months with trial batches starting in the month of September,” said SII CEO Adar Poonawalla. “We expect the ramp-up to be quite quick…we’ve actually been working with Serum for the last three months,” said RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev.

Jaishankar On A Mission To US, Urging Covid Help

With India grappling with the ferocious second wave of Covid-19, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is on a vaccine mission to the United States as India fights shortages of doses amidst a virulent second surge.

WashingWith India grappling with the ferocious second wave of Covid-19, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is on a vaccine mission to the United States as India fights shortages of doses amidst a virulent second surge.Jaishankar met with several high ranking officials at the UD administration, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, USAID Administrator Samantha Power top American lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties, and top American business leaders in Washington DC. Jaishankar is the first Indian Cabinet minister to visit the US after Joe Biden became President on January 20.

At the meetings with the US leaders, Jaishankar discussed vaccine cooperation, contemporary security challenges, support for efficient and robust supply chain, among others. While there was no readout after the meetings, sources said that vaccine cooperation was one of the key areas of conversation between the two sides.Jaishankar’s in-person meetings come days after US President Joe Biden announced that the US will begin shipping 20 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccines to unspecified needy countries by June-end, in addition to 60 million shots of AstraZeneca.

Although Washington has not yet decided how these 80 million doses will be distributed, India is likely to be one of the beneficiaries — be it AstraZeneca, which is already made and distributed in India as Covishield, or the ones by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, or a mix. AstraZeneca’s vaccine is not authorized for use in the United States yet. The US had cited faults in a plant in Baltimore that is manufacturing both the AstraZenenca and J&J vaccines.Jaishankar arrived in New York Sunday, May 23rd  and met UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and travelled to Washington on May 26th, where he met with Blinken, focusing on vaccine cooperation between the two countries. While India is struggling with a shortage of vaccines, the US has surplus vaccines and raw materials needed to manufacture them.

Blinken described Jaishankar as “my friend and colleague”. “The United States and India are working together on so many of the most important challenges of our time and ones that are putting a profound impact on our lives,” he said. “We are united in confronting Covid-19 together, we (are) united in dealing with the challenge posed by climate change, to partner together directly, through Quad and other institutions in the United Nations in dealing with many of the challenges that we face in the region and around the world,” Blinken said. “The partnership between the United States and India is vital. It’s strong. And I think it’s increasingly predominant,” he said.

Echoing Blinken, Jaishankar said, “We have a lot of issues to discuss. But our relations have grown stronger over the years and I’m very confident we’ll continue to do so, but I also want to take the opportunity to express to the Secretary and through him to the administration of the United States for the strong support and solidarity at a moment of great difficulty for us.”At this point, Blinken said, “We remember, in the earlier days of the pandemic, India was there with the United States. Something we’ll never forget. And now we want to make sure that we’re there for and with India.” Jaishankar and Blinken have spoken at least four times in the past three months, twice in the last fortnight, and once at the Quad Foreign Ministers’ meeting through video-conferencing.

During Jaishankar’s wide-ranging discussions with NSA Sullivan, the two countries agreed that people-to-people ties and shared values are the foundations of the US-India strategic partnership that is helping to end the pandemic, supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific, and providing global leadership on climate change. “Pleased to meet Jake Sullivan. Wide-ranging discussions including on Indo-Pacific and Afghanistan. Conveyed appreciation for US solidarity in addressing the Covid challenge. India-US vaccine partnership can make a real difference,” Jaishankar said in a tweet after the meeting.

“Our people-to-people ties and our values are the foundation of the US-India partnership and will help us end the pandemic, lead on climate, and support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Sullivan wrote on Twitter after the meeting. After his meeting with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Jaishankar tweeted: “Welcomed her positive stance on IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) issues & support for efficient and robust supply chains.”Jaishankar said that he had a “warm meeting” with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, during which they discussed further developing strategic and defense partnership between the two countries and exchanged views on “contemporary security challenges”.

In a statement issued by USAID, it was reported, “The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power met with Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar to discuss urgent shared priorities for development and humanitarian assistance during the current surge of COVID-19 across India. Administrator Power and Minister Jaishankar discussed areas for important collaboration on pandemic response efforts in India, as well as strategies to catalyze private capital to save lives, counter the spread of the pandemic, and strengthen health systems for the future. The two leaders also discussed opportunities to strengthen developmental cooperation through the Quad and with India’s Development Partnership Administration, including through collaboration with third-country partners in the Indo-Pacific, Africa, and other regions.”

Jaishankar also had meetings with the top American business leadership hosted by the US India Business Council and the US India Strategic and Partnership Forum. Jaishankar also met influential American lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties and discussed developments about Quad and the cooperation on vaccines with them. He tweeted that he had “good conversations” with co-chairs of the House India Caucus, Congressman Brad Sherman and Rep. Steve Chabot.“The US Congress has been a tremendous pillar of support as India meets the Covid challenge,” he said.

Talking with former US National Security Advisor General HR McMaster in ‘Battlegrounds’ session on ‘India: Opportunities And Challenges For A Strategic Partnership’ at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, New York, Jaishankar acknowledged  that it is “a very stressful time” for India due to the pandemic.Jaishankar stressed the need for countries to look beyond their national interests to global good. “If countries, especially large countries, pursue their national interest, disregarding everything else, I think the world is going to have some big problems,” he said.

“The number one question on everybody’s mind today is Covid, and the worry which people have — do we have accessible, affordable vaccines? Now, we can’t have a world which is part-vaccinated and part-neglected, because that is not going to be safe. So how do we get through the global challenges in a global way?” Jaishankar said, adding, “I think that’s the big question.”

Nature and Nurture: How the Biden Administration Can Advance Ties With India

As the administration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. is set to begin in the United States, the U.S.-India relationship is facing new tests. Biden, who deemed India a “natural partner” on the campaign trail, will have the task of upgrading a mature relationship at a time of new global dynamics and challenges.

A new Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) issue paper, “Nature and Nurture: How the Biden Administration Can Advance Ties with India,” outlines the competing pressures currently shaping U.S.-India relations.

In the paper, ASPI Associate Director Anubhav Gupta provides a blueprint for how the incoming U.S. administration can advance bilateral ties to the next level, nurturing Biden’s idea of a “natural” relationship. Presenting a series of 10 recommendations to strengthen the U.S.-India partnership, the paper suggests that a Biden administration:

  • Expand the scope of the relationship to elevate health, digital, and climate cooperation.
  • Turn the page to a positive commercial agenda that emphasizes reform and openness.
  • Renew U.S. leadership and regional consultation in the face of China’s rise.
  • Emphasize shared values as the foundation of the relationship.

The paper also argues that a growing convergence between the views of New Delhi and Washington regarding Beijing will continue to facilitate a stronger security partnership. However, “despite the increasing convergence with New Delhi on the China threat, Washington should not take for granted that a deeper strategic alignment is inevitable,” Gupta writes.

At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic has devastated both economies and strengthened support for economic nationalism, which may impede stronger commercial cooperation and the two nations’ ability to take on China. Gupta observes that “at a time when the United States and India are starting to decouple from the Chinese economy, they unfortunately have not found ways to draw closer together commercially.” With India embarking on a new campaign of “self-reliance,” an ambitious commercial agenda may be out of reach; however, Gupta argues that “Biden should not shirk from setting an optimistic tone for the relationship that deviates from the recriminations of the past four years.”

Moreover, Gupta notes that a further weakening of democratic norms in India could raise difficult questions for Biden. The incoming U.S. administration “will have to walk a tightrope of emphasizing shared values and standing up for democratic ideals while ensuring that it does not alienate important partners like India in the process.”

(A new issue paper from the Asia Society Policy Institute)

William Burns, Architect Of India-US Nuclear Deal Is Named CIA Chief

US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday named William Burns, who guided the nuclear deal between India and the US but is a strong critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

A former Deputy Secretary of State and a senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council, and now the President of the think tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, he emphasised the importance of relations with India while criticising Modi over Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act.

But he has also acknowledged that “outsiders” cannot resolve these issues.

“I continue to believe strongly in the wisdom of the strategic investment that America and India have made in each other’s success over the past two decades,” Burns wrote last year in an article in The Atlantic magazine.

Recalling his role in bringing about the landmark agreement, he wrote: “I was the diplomat charged with completing the US-India civil-nuclear dealing the summer and fall of 2008.”

The agreement reached while Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister and George W. Bush the US President enables the two countries to cooperate on civilian nuclear projects and India to have broader access to nuclear technology and materials.

Burns recalled strong-arming European allies to go along with the exemption for India from the Nuclear Supplier Group to enable it to get access to nuclear material and equipment.

“This was about power, and we were exercising it – hardly endearing ourselves to groggy (European) partners, but impressing our Indian counterparts with the strength of America’s commitment to get this done,” he wrote.

As the US grapples with the rise of China and its hostility to Washington’s treaty allies in Asia, Burns will have to balance his nation’s strategic priorities with his personal attitude to Modi and India that he expressed as the head of a liberal think tank.

The announcement of the appointment by Biden’s transition office mentioned the threat from China.

It said, “Whether it’s cyber attacks emanating from Moscow, the challenge China poses, or the threat we face from terrorists and other non-state actors, he has the experience and skill to marshal efforts across government and around the world to ensure the CIA is positioned to protect the American people.”

Drawing on his experience of working with New Delhi, he wrote in what could be his roadmap for relations between New Delhi and Washington emphasising continuity saying that it was bigger than the ties between President Donald Trump and Modi.

“For India and the US to maximise the return on their investments, we must take a long view, keeping in mind why this strategic bet was made in the first place: our common democratic values, a long-term vision of economic openness, and a growing confidence in each other’s reliability,” he wrote in the Atlantic article published last year around Trump’s visit to India.

He criticised both Trump and Modi saying, “As intolerance and division in both societies erode their democracies, I fear that the leaders may reinforce each other’s worst instincts.”

But Trump will be gone next week and Biden will take over with resets of international and domestic issues.

“A battle for the idea of India is under way, between the tolerant constitutional convictions of its founders and the harsher Hindu majoritarianism that has lurked beneath the surface,” Burns said.

It is “testing India’s democratic guardrails in much the same way that the Trump era is testing America’s” but “either struggle will not be settled by outsiders – but both will shape the nature of Indian-American partnership in the years ahead,” he wrote.

In criticising Modi and the BJP, he listed the revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave a special status to Kashmir, the CAA that he asserted “discriminates against Muslims seeking refuge in India”, feeding “tensions over disputed religious sites” and “pressures against critical journalists and academics”.

He wrote that Modi like Trump is “skilled in the business of political showmanship, with a keen eye for the vulnerabilities of established elites, and for the dark art of stoking nativist fires”.

Burns was also executive secretary of the State Department and special assistant to then Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright, and minister-counselor for political affairs at the US embassy in Moscow. (IANS)

(Picture Courtesy: The New Indian Express)

The Truth Behind The Indian Farmers Protests: Experts Weigh In At Webinar By IAPC

“Media projection is more important on the Farmers’ agitation in India; and as a responsible media club, Indo American Press Club is prompted to impact the mainstream western media for global narrative,” Ambassador Pradeep Kumar Kapoor said while presiding over the Zoom Meeting hosted by Indo-American Press Club (IAPC) on “ What’s the truth behind the Indian Farmers Protest?” on Saturday 26th December 2020.
Since 26 November, farmers have been protesting outside Delhi’s borders, demanding the Farm Bills’ repeal. Indo American Press Club hosted several Zoom Meetings on this complex current issues facing the nation, with vibrant participation by diplomats and political analysts from different parts of the world.
Dr. Joseph Chalil, Chairman of Indo American Press Club introduced and welcomed the invited guest speakers. In his introductory remarks, Dr. Chalil shared with the audience about some of the initiatives under the new leadership, including the series of discussions by world renowned experts from around the world on several current topics including Indo-US Relationship under Biden-Harris administration.
Ambassador Pradeep Kapur, a Best Selling Author of Beyond Covid 19 Pandemic and former Ambassador of India to Chile and to Cambodia, and Secretary at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, was the chair leading the discussions. In his initial observations, he said that the struggle of the Indian farmers has gained much global attention, but remain uncompromised. Instead of holding on the ‘no discussions, until repealing all the bill’ both the farmers and the government need direct discussion for an amicable settlement.
Mr. Yogesh Andley; Director, WHEELS Charitable Foundation, Co-founder of Nucleus Software, explained the background of APMC and the evolution of Mandis nearly 50 years ago. He educated the audience as to how the rice and wheat procured at Rs.18 or Rs.19 reaches at Rs.35 at retail level, but distributed at Rs.2 or Rs.3 providing food security to millions of Indians. He also expressed the fear of the farmers that the private sector may buy at higher prices in the beginning, but lower down the prices dangerously.
Mr. Khanderao Kand, Director of the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS), a Washington DC-based think tank working on India and Indian-related studies on socioeconomic, political and international security matters, elaborated about how the Indian situation has changed from a poor country to an exporter of food products like rice and wheat. He condensed the view that the Indian government is not closing the ‘Mandis’, but encouraging to open more local markets in each village. He stated that the farmers are afraid that the new laws will lead to contract farming and losing their farmlands to few corporates eventually.
Mr. Vimal Goyal; CPA and also industrialist from Long Island, NY expressed a different perspective on economic considerations. He affirmed the view that the latest one is the most comprehensive farmers bill, as the farmers were left behind with no recognitions so far. He was of the opinion that this bill is going to promote the abundance of rice and wheat. He also mentioned that the poor farmers do not have resources of e-commerce or transporting facilities, and hence they have to resort on the greedy private middlemen, most often.
Dr. Nishit Choksi; a world renowned Interventional Cardiologist from Michigan raised the question who is actually leading the protest- the poor farmers or the greedy middlemen or dalaals?. He narrated the history that no development happened in Punjab or Haryana during the last 30 years, even though many rivers and dams are provided years back. According to him, these laws are nothing new, but good for the nation: the government should properly educate the farmers.
Mr. Narender Kapoor expressed his views to escalate the importance of the situations rather than concentrating on academic discussions. He alerted that the movement and agitation shall not be vulnerable to hijacking.
Dr. Shyam Klvekar from London urged that we need more communication with end-users. Many of the participants raised different questions and were answered by the learned panelists. Ambassador Pradeep Kumar Kapoor summarized the salient features of the diplomatic and analytical discussions.
Dr. Renee Mehrra, a tenacious broadcaster with a burning passion and one of the most prominent broadcast journalists in the tri-state area was the moderator of the event balancing the various issues and views expressed by the participants. The zoom meeting was concluded with the vote of thanks expressed by Ajay Ghosh, Founder President and Present Director of IAPC.

Trump Honours Modi With Legion of Merit Award

Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi was presented with the highest degree Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit on Monday, December 21st in Washington, DC. The award is given only to the Head of State or Government. Modi was given the award in recognition of his steadfast leadership and vision that has accelerated India’s emergence as a global power.
US President Donald Trump on Monday presented the prestigious Legion of Merit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership in elevating strategic partnership of the two countries and emergence of India as a global power.

India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, accepted the award on behalf of the prime minister from the US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien at the White House.
President Trump “presented the Legion of Merit to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership in elevating the US-India strategic partnership,” O’Brien said in a tweet. Modi was presented with the highest degree Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit which is given only to the Head of State or Government.

He was given the award in recognition of his steadfast leadership and vision that has accelerated India’s emergence as a global power and elevated the strategic partnership between the United States and India to address global challenges.

O’Brien in another tweet said that Trump also presented the Legion of Merit to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The awards were received by their respective ambassadors in Washington DC.

President Trump “awarded the Legion of Merit to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his leadership and vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said.

Trump awarded the Legion of Merit to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his leadership in addressing global challenges and promoting collective security, O’Brien tweeted.
The United States is the latest country to confer its highest award to the Indian prime minister. Other awards include Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud by Saudi Arabia in 2016, State Order of Ghazi Amir Amanullah Khan (2016), Grand Collar of the State of Palestine Award (2018), Order of Zayed Award by United Arab Emirates (2019), Order of St Andrew by Russia (2019), Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddin by Maldives (2019.

Amidst Pandemic, Poverty, Indian PM Lays Foundation For New Parliament Building

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday laid the foundation stone of the new Parliament building which will be equipped with all modern audio visual communication facilities and data network systems — making it a symbol of Atmanirbhar Bharat.

Modi also performed ‘Bhoomi Poojan’ for the construction of the four-storied new Parliament building, one of the most magnificent buildings in the country, would be built in an area of 64,500 square meter at an estimated cost of Rs. 971 crore.

While laying the foundation stone for the new Parliament Building for India, Modi said the new Parliament building, for which the ground-breaking ceremony was held, would channel and reflect the aspirations of 21st century India.

Each Member of Parliament would also be provided with a 40 square metre office space in the redeveloped Shram Shakti Bhawan, construction for which is slated to be completed by 2024. The new Parliament building has been designed by HCP Design and Management Pvt Ltd Ahmedabad and the construction would be carried out by Tata Projects Ltd, keeping the needs and requirements for the next 100 years in mind.

Critics say the 200 billion rupees ($2.7bn) that the Hindu-nationalist government is reportedly spending on the vast project could be better directed to fighting COVID-19 and repairing the pandemic-battered economy. The project has also run into legal trouble with several petitions in India’s top court questioning its validity on the grounds of land and environmental rules. The Supreme Court on Monday expressed unhappiness over the government’s rush to inaugurate the project before it had considered the pleas.

The ceremony was attended by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Harivansh, Union Minister Hardeep Puri and Pralhad Joshi along with senior members of the Union Cabinet, diplomats, and Members of Parliament. The ceremony included an all-faith prayer as well, while priests from the Sringeri Math, Karnataka, did the rituals.

“The new building will be the amalgamation of the new and the ancient, and reflects also the spirit of fostering change in oneself adapting to changing circumstances,” said Modi. “Our Constitution was framed and given to us in the current parliament building and it is the repository of much of our democratic legacy but it is important to be realistic as well. Over the last 100 years, several modifications have been made to the current building to the point where even the building requires rest. Which is why the decision was taken to construct a new Parliament building”.

The Prime Minister spoke of some of the new features added to the new building, including a space where people from constituencies could meet their MPs on visiting the building, something lacking in the current building.

The building will have a seating capacity for 888 members in the Lok Sabha chamber with an option to increase to 1,224 members during Joint Sessions. Similarly, the Rajya Sabha Chamber would have a seating capacity for 384 members.

India’s glorious heritage too will find a place in the building. Artisans and sculptors from all over the country would contribute to and showcase India’s cultural diversity in the building.

Modi called upon MPs to keep the spirit of optimism alive around democracy by being always accountable to people and the Constitution. He spoke of the spirit of conversation and dialogue, quoting the first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Devji: “as long as the world exists, conversations must continue”, noting that it was the spirit of democracy, a comment significant with regard to the stalled negotiations between his own government and agitating farmers groups over three farmer-specific laws passed by Parliament in the last session. While there could be disagreements, there cannot be space for disconnect, he pointed out.

While pointing out that many nations felt Indian democracy would not last, the country had proven naysayers wrong, especially because of the ancient roots of democracy in India as elaborated in the concept of the 12th century Anubhava Mantapam set up by Basaveshwara; a 10th century stone inscription in a village near Chennai, describing a panchayat mahasabha and its elaborate rules, including the need for members to disclose their income; and the ancient republics of the Lichchavis and Shakyas.

“As a nation we must pledge to keep the spirit of democracy and public service alive,” he observed. “The day isn’t far when the world acknowledges that India is the mother of democracy,” he added.

Due for completion in 2022, when India marks 75 years of independence from Britain, the much larger new parliament will replace an old building that the government says is showing signs of “distress”. Designed by British architect Edwin Lutyens in the early 20th century, the current Parliament building is the commanding centerpiece of the British Raj, with the adjoining grand Rajpath boulevard, the president’s residence, government offices, the national museum and the India Gate war memorial.

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