Report Reveals Staggering Disparity Among Global Top 1%: Monaco Tops the List, India Ranks 22nd

Many people associate wealth with owning a luxurious home, an extravagant car, and other valuable possessions. However, the top one per cent of the world’s wealthiest individuals possess far more than most can fathom.

Global real estate consulting firm Knight Frank recently published its updated Wealth Report, which discloses the amount of wealth required to become part of the elite one per cent in various countries. Monaco leads the pack, where entering the top tier necessitates a net worth of at least eight figures. According to Knight Frank’s findings, the starting point for Monaco’s wealthiest one per cent is $12.4 million.

Wondering about India? The country ranks 22nd on the list of 25 nations featured in the wealth report, with a minimum requirement of $175,000 (Rs 1.44 crore) to join the top one per cent. India places higher than South Africa, the Philippines, and Kenya.

Knight Frank’s 2022 report highlights that the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals in India grew by 11 per cent, driven by thriving equity markets and a digital revolution. Among Asian countries, Singapore boasts the highest entry threshold, with $3.5 million needed to join the top one per cent, slightly ahead of Hong Kong’s $3.4 million.

Forbes’ 2023 list of billionaires includes 169 Indians, up from 166 the previous year. Mukesh Ambani retains his title as the richest person in both India and Asia, despite an eight per cent decrease in his wealth over the past year.

Knight Frank’s findings emphasize how the pandemic and rising living expenses have exacerbated the divide between affluent and impoverished nations. The entry-level for Monaco’s wealthiest is over 200 times greater than the $57,000 required to be part of the top one percent in the Philippines, which ranks among the lowest in Knight Frank’s study.

US Court Clears Extradition Of 26/11 Attack Accused To India

A US court has cleared the extradition of Pakistani-Canadian businessman Tahawwur Rana to India where he is sought for his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Said to be linked with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Rana, 62, was arrested in the US for his role in attacks that saw 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists storm buildings in Mumbai, killing 164 people, including six Americans, in a 60-hour siege.

“The court has reviewed and considered all of the documents submitted in support of and in opposition to the Request and has considered the arguments presented at the hearing,” Magistrate Judge of the US District Court of California, Judge Jacqueline Chooljian, said in a 48-page court order on Tuesday, which was released on Wednesday.

“Based on such review and consideration and for the reasons discussed herein, the court makes the findings set forth below and certifies to the Secretary of State of the US the extraditability of Rana on the charged offenses that are the subject of the Request,” the judge said in the order.

Rana’s arrest in the US was made at India’s request as per the 1997 Extradition Treaty between the two countries.

He was convicted in Chicago in 2011 of providing material support to the LeT, which planned the Mumbai terror attacks.

The development comes after a US court last month dismissed a status conference motion moved by Rana, stating that it anticipates a ruling on his extradition to India within 30 days.

Prosecutors in the court argued that Rana knew that his childhood friend Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley was involved with the LeT, and helped him in scouting locations and landing zones in Mumbai for carrying out the attack.

Rana was also aware of what was discussed in Headley’s meetings, including planning of the attacks as well as the targets.

While the extradition was contested by his lawyer, the judge ruled that there is sufficient competent evidence to extradite him.

The extradition had been requested for conspiracy to wage war, to commit murder, to commit forgery for the purpose of cheating, to use as genuine a forged document or electronic record, and to commit a terrorist act; waging war; murder; committing a terrorist act; and conspiracy to commit a terrorist act.

“It is therefore ordered that Tahawwur Hussain Rana be and remain committed to the custody of the US Marshal pending a final decision on extradition and surrender by the Secretary of State to India for trial of the offences as to which extradition has been granted pursuant to Title 18, US Code, section 3186 and the Treaty,” the Judge ruled.

Rana was born in Chichawatni in Pakistan’s Punjab province, and attained his medical degree from the Cadet College Hasan Abdal, a military residential college in Hasan Abdal, Attock district.

In this college, he met Headley, who became a major ISI operative. A physician by profession, Rana served as a captain general duty practitioner in the Pakistan Army Medical Corps.

Rana and his wife, who is also a physician, immigrated to Canada in 1997, and obtained Canadian citizenship in June 2001.

The couple lived primarily in Chicago and owns several businesses, including an immigration service agency. (IANS)

US Calls Out Attacks And Home Demolitions Of Minorities In India

The US State Department on Monday noted “targeted attacks” on minorities, “home demolitions” and hate speeches against Muslims in India among threats facing religious freedom around the world.

The State Department outlined in great detail “numerous reports during the year of violence by law enforcement authorities against members of religious minorities in multiple states” in India in its 2022 annual report on the state of freedom of religion around the world.

The report was released by Secretary of State Antony Blinken who noted both progress and “continuation, and in some instances, the rise of very troubling trends”.

Previewing the report earlier, a senior State Department official told reporters that regarding India the document outlined “continued targeted attacks against religious communities, including Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindu Dalits, and indigenous communities; dehumanizing rhetoric, including open calls for genocide against Muslims; lynching and other hate-fueled violence, attacks on houses of worship and home demolitions, and in some cases impunity and even clemency for those who’ve engaged in attacks on religious minorities – we’re also continuing to see, at the state level, some restrictions on religious attire”.

Rashad Hussain, the Ambassador at Large at the State Department for International Religious Freedom, cited the Hardwar speeches of December 2021 as particularly problematic.

“In India, legal advocates and faith leaders from across the country’s diverse religious communities condemned a case of extreme hate speech against Muslims in the city of Hardwar, calling for the country to uphold its historical traditions of pluralism and tolerance,” he said at the release of the report.

He was referring to a three-day meeting called the Dharma Sansad in December 2021, where speakers called for people to take up arms against Muslims.

A case was registered by the Uttarakhand police against the organiser. The other countries mentioned by Hussain were Russia, China, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia.

The State Department’s annual report has been critical of the state of religious freedom in India before, and, based on local news reports and accounts from civil society, it has listed instances and cases over the years.

India has rejected these unsolicited observations and remarks before and in recent years questioned America’s right to stand in judgment on other countries.

The US Commission on International Freedom have been far more critical of India and has recommended to the State Department to designate India as a “country of particular concerns” four times. But the State Department has not taken up its suggestion yet. These designations are to be announced later in the year. (IANS)

Indian Christians Seek Equal Rights For Dalit Converts

(IPS) – Renuka Kumari is a 45-year-old Christian woman from the Dalit community in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh. She faces numerous challenges every day and hopes for a day when her struggles will end and she can lead a comfortable life.

Her husband, Subhash Kumar, sells the handmade brooms she makes from trees in the open market to earn a living. Living in makeshift hutments, Kumari’s family’s meagre income makes it difficult to make ends meet.

Picture : Christianity Today

In the original Hindu social structure, the Dalits had the lowest social standing, and they continue to be regarded as being so impure in the majority of the states that caste Hindus view their presence as contaminating. Many Hindus consider their vocations debasing, such as dealing with leather, night soil, and other filthy work, which accounts for their unclean status in society.

Kumari has two children who study in a nearby government school, and she wants them to receive an education and eventually earn a good living. However, Kumari says that society and the government leave her family in dire straits because of their Christian faith. She believes that Dalits who practice other religions receive government grants, health and education benefits, and reservations in government jobs, but as Christians, they are overlooked.

Despite being economically disadvantaged, Kumari’s family does not qualify for government schemes. Her husband, Subhash Kumar, says that they earn no more than 5000 rupees (USD 80) a month and providing their children with a good education is challenging without government support. Dalit Christians are discriminated against and denied benefits solely because of their faith, adding to their struggles.

Background of Discrimination

After India gained independence from British rule in 1947, the government introduced significant initiatives to uplift the lower castes. These initiatives included reserving seats in various legislatures, government jobs, and enrolment in higher education institutions. The reservation system was implemented to address the historic oppression, inequality, and discrimination experienced by these communities and to provide them with representation. The aim was to fulfil the promise of equality enshrined in the country’s constitution.

On August 11, 1950, the President of India issued the Constitution (Scheduled Castes Order, which provided members of Scheduled Castes with various rights as outlined in Article 341(1) of the Indian Constitution. However, the third paragraph of the order stated that “no person who professes a religion different from Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste”.

In 1956, Dalit Sikhs demanded inclusion in the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 and were successful in getting listed in the Presidential SC/ST Order, 1950, through an amendment to Para 3 of Article 341. Dalit Buddhists were also included through an amendment to Para 3 of Article 341 in 1990.

Christians and Muslims of Dalit origin now demand that they get social welfare benefits meant to uplift Dalit people. Both communities have been denied these benefits since 1950 because the government says their religions do not follow the ancient Hindu-caste system.

Legal angles

Nearly 14 Christian organizations in India have filed petitions in the country’s Supreme Court requesting reservations in education and employment for the 20 million Dalit Christians, who account for 75 percent of the total Christian population in India. In India, people are segregated into various castes based on birth, and 80% of the population is Hindu. Although parliament outlawed the practice of untouchability in 1955, India’s lower castes, particularly Dalits, continue to face social discrimination and exclusion.

In April this year, the Supreme Court of India requested that the federal government take a stance on granting reservation benefits in government jobs and educational institutions to Christian converts among the Dalits. The court is scheduled to hear the petition and decide on the status of Dalit Christians.

The Indian government had formed a committee to investigate the possibility of granting Scheduled Caste status to those who had converted to other religions but claimed to have belonged to the community historically. This was the second panel set up by the government after it rejected the recommendations of the first commission, which had recommended including them.

According to Tehmina Arora, a prominent Christian activist and advocate in India, it goes against the core secular values of the country to deny rights to individuals solely based on their religious beliefs. Arora emphasised that even if individuals convert to Christianity or Islam, they continue to live in the same communities that treat them as untouchables, and their circumstances do not change. Therefore, she believes people should not be denied the benefits they previously had due to their faith.

God is Our Hope

Renuka Kumari shares that she prays for her children’s success every day, hoping that God will help them excel in life. She laments that their entitlements are denied solely because they chose Christianity as their faith. She finds it ironic that they are denied government grants for this reason, causing them to live miserable lives and struggle every day to provide their children with education and a better future. Kumari’s two children, Virander and Prerna, are currently in the second and seventh grades. Sujata aspires to become a teacher one day and is passionate about mathematics. She dreams of teaching at her school, just like her favourite teacher, and is particularly fond of algebra. (IPS UN Bureau Report)

India Hosts G20 Tourism Meeting in Kashmir

India has defended its decision to host a Group of 20 (G20) meeting in Jammu and Kashmir, despite criticism from human rights groups and expected boycotts from some countries. Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, is scheduled to host a tourism meeting for G20 members, which the Indian government has marketed as an opportunity to showcase the region’s culture. It is the first international event of this scale to be held in the disputed, Muslim-majority region since India revoked its special status and split the former state into two federal territories in 2019.

China has said that it will not attend the meeting, citing its opposition to “holding any kind of G20 meetings in disputed territory “, according to Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin. Ladakh, which was previously part of the state, was separated and turned into another standalone territory. Ladakh is a disputed region along the Line of Actual Control, a de-facto border between India and China. Both countries claim parts of it.

Picture : ET

Tensions along the de factor border have been simmering for more than 60 years and have spilled over into war before. In 1962 a month-long conflict ended in a Chinese victory and India losing thousands of square miles of territory. Other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey, were also expected to boycott the event.

Kashmir is one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints. Claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, the mountainous region has been the epicenter of more than 70 years of an often-violent territorial struggle between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. A de facto border called the Line of Control divides it between New Delhi and Islamabad.

In April, Pakistan criticized India’s decision to hold the tourism meeting in Kashmir, calling it an “irresponsible” move. Last week, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, said the Indian government was “seeking to normalize what some have described as a military operation by instrumentalizing a G20 meeting” in a region where fears of human rights violations and violence are rife.

India has been keen to position itself as a leader of emerging and developing nations since it assumed the G20 presidency. India, the world’s largest democracy with a population of more than 1.4 billion, has been pushing its international credentials, portraying Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a key player in the global order.

India’s tourism secretary, Arvind Singh, said the G20 meeting will not only “showcase (Kashmir’s) potential for tourism” but also “signal globally the restoration of stability and normalcy in the region.” India said the move to revoke Kashmir’s semi-autonomy was to ensure that the nation’s laws were equal for all citizens and to increase economic development in the region. India also alleged that separatist and terrorist groups were aided and abetted by Pakistan, and the move was to put an end to that.

However, rights groups and Pakistan claim that the Indian government’s unilateral move has resulted in human rights violations, including torture, extrajudicial killings, and restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. The region has been under a military lockdown since August 2019, with mobile internet services shut down for most of that period.

In a statement on Twitter, India’s permanent mission to Geneva rejected de Varennes’s criticism, calling the allegations “baseless and unwarranted.” Earlier this month, India said the G20 meeting in Srinagar “aims to strengthen economic growth, preserve cultural heritage, and promote sustainable development of the region.”

The Indian government’s decision to hold a major international event in Kashmir has raised concerns, especially as the region remains under military lockdown, with a significant military presence. Some countries are boycotting the event, citing the disputed nature of the region. Despite criticism, India maintains that the move is aimed at promoting tourism and economic growth in the region while also signalling the restoration of stability and normalcy. The world will be watching, waiting to see if India can successfully promote tourism and economic development while dealing with the challenges presented by the conflict in the region.

G-20 Tourism Meeting Held in Kashmir

The G20 tourism conference is taking place in the Indian-controlled region of Kashmir under heavy security measures, drawing criticism from both China and Pakistan for hosting the event in the contentious area. The ongoing dispute between India and Pakistan over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir has lasted 75 years since their independence, with both nuclear powers claiming the entire region but only governing parts of it. Two out of the three full-scale wars fought between these nations have been over this territory.

The Indian-administered part of Kashmir, which is the nation’s sole Muslim-majority region, has experienced an armed uprising for decades as rebels demand either independence or unification with Pakistan. This conflict has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers, and Kashmiri insurgents. Authorities mentioned that security was heightened last week “to avoid any chance of terrorist attack during the G20” meeting, marking the first diplomatic event in the disputed area since New Delhi abolished its limited autonomy and assumed direct control in 2019.

Picture : Indian Express

Taking place on the banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar, the main city of the region, the three-day event commences Monday at a highly secured and expansive venue. Officials have prepared the area to demonstrate what they describe as “normalcy and peace returning” to the region by resurfacing roads leading to the site and illuminating electricity poles with the colors of India’s national flag.

On Monday, Srinagar seemed peaceful, with most security checkpoints either removed or disguised using G20 signage to create cubicle-like stations for security personnel. Authorities have also trained hundreds of officers in what they refer to as “invisible policing” for the event.

‘Graveyard calm’

However, officials closed the primary road leading to the convention center for civilian traffic and shut down numerous schools in the city. The security measures on Monday were in stark contrast to those implemented in the days preceding the event. A large security perimeter was established around the venue by the Dal Lake, with elite naval commandos patrolling the water in rubber boats.

India has been advocating for tourism within its part of Kashmir, attracting over a million visitors last year. Indian authorities hope that the G20 meeting will demonstrate how the 2019 alterations brought “peace and prosperity” to the region. Delegates will explore topics such as sustainable tourism and destination management. Additionally, side events focusing on ecotourism and the role of films in promoting tourist destinations are planned.

Harshvardhan Shringla, India’s chief coordinator for the G20, told reporters on Sunday, “We have the making of a unique meeting.” He highlighted that the event would feature the highest number of foreign delegates compared to previous tourism meetings held in West Bengal and Gujarat earlier this year.

However, Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a political analyst based in the region, told Al Jazeera that the G20 meeting would only hold significance for the people of Kashmir if there were a sense of normalcy. He stated, “Now, normalcy does not mean normalcy of a graveyard where you have restrictions on media, restrictions on people and people languishing in jails.” He added, “And at the same time you want to project to the world that everything is normal.”

China opts out No Chinese representatives will be present at the event. India and China are currently engaged in a military standoff along their mostly undefined border in the Ladakh region. Beijing lays claim to the entirety of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of its Tibet province and regards Kashmir as a disputed territory. “China firmly opposes holding any form of G20 meeting in disputed territory and will not attend such meetings,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin informed reporters on Friday.

Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia are also reportedly unlikely to participate, according to an AFP news agency report. India, which holds the G20 presidency for 2023, has scheduled over 100 meetings across the nation. China has already abstained from attending events in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.

Pakistan, a non-G20 member that governs a smaller portion of Kashmir, argued that hosting the tourism meeting in the territory contravenes international law, United Nations Security Council resolutions, and bilateral agreements. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stated last week that India was showcasing its “arrogance to the world” and that “it shows their pettiness,” eliciting a strong response from New Delhi. India accuses Pakistan of training and supporting armed insurgents in Kashmir, which Islamabad refutes.

Since India’s 2019 constitutional amendments, the rebellion in Kashmir has been largely suppressed, although young men continue to join the cause. However, dissent has been criminalized, media freedoms restricted, and public protests limited, leading critics to argue that India has severely curtailed civil liberties. Last week, UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, said that New Delhi was attempting to use the G20 meeting to “portray an international seal of approval” on a situation that “should be decried and condemned.” India dismissed those remarks.

The increased security measures have caused frustration among residents, with hundreds detained in police stations and thousands, including shopkeepers, receiving calls from officials warning them against any “signs of protest or trouble.”

Rahul Gandhi’s US Visit Aims to Promote Shared Values and Real Democracy

Indian Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is visiting the United States in June to highlight the values and vision of “real democracy”, according to Sam Pitroda, chairperson of the Indian Overseas Congress. Gandhi’s visit will include addresses to public meetings and university students in San Francisco, Washington DC and New York, where he will also meet members of Congress and think tanks and Wall Street executives.

Pitroda explained Gandhi’s agenda saying, “we are not here to complain. We are here to share what is going on in India.” Pitroda continued that the purpose of Gandhi’s America visit is to begin a new conversation with individuals, institutions, media and the Indian diaspora to promote “freedom, inclusion, sustainability, justice, peace and opportunities world over.”

Gandhi is scheduled to visit San Francisco, Washington DC and New York, where he is planning to address two public meetings with Indian Americans, meet lawmakers at Capitol Hill and members of think tanks, interact with university students and meet Wall Street executives, said Indian Overseas Congress, the organizers of the events, on Sunday.

Sharing the agenda and purpose of Gandhis visit to the United States, Pitroda said, “We are not here to complain. We are here to share what is going on in India. Indian democracy is the biggest democracy in the world and we owe it to the people to tell them about the real situation on the ground.” “We are not asking for everybody to come and help us. We can deal with the problems. We want to share with you what is needed,” he told a group of Congress supporters in Chicago.

Picture : National Herald

George Abraham, vice-chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress-USA said, “I hope that Rahul Gandhi’s visit will energise the diaspora into a renewed appreciation of democracy and freedom the Indian diaspora aspires to have.” Gandhi’s itinerary includes meetings with think tanks and universities. The programme is packed with a thousand people due in attendance in San Francisco and a private dinner in Washington, DC.

“It has been worked out. And he (Gandhi) does a great job when he gets a chance to interact with people. He doesnt like to broadcast like a Mann ki Baat. He likes to interact and thats what Indian democracy is all about — to listen to people. So, we hope that we get a good reception on the Capitol Hill,” Pitroda said. In San Francisco, Gandhi is likely to meet a group of artists, while a private dinner has been planned by eminent Indian-American Frank Islam at his mansion in the Potomac suburb of Washington DC.

Gandhi has been criticized for alleging that the structures of Indian democracy are under attack and claiming there is a “full-scale assault” on the country’s institutions. These remarks made while on a March visit to the UK saw the BJP accuse him of maligning India on foreign soil, seeking foreign intervention, and dividing India, among other claims.  The Congress, in reply, cited instances of Prime Minister Narendra Modi raising India’s internal politics abroad.

The Congress party is the oldest party in India, founded in 1885. It dominated Indian politics for the years following the country’s independence in 1947, until India opened its economy in the 1990s, leading to the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP has since emerged as the dominant party in Indian politics, and Gandhi’s Congress has struggled to regain political ground against the BJP and its allies.

The Indian Election Commission is also currently investigating allegations of electoral malpractices in the lead up to the general election in May which saw the BJP secure a second term in government.


India Phases Out ₹2,000 Notes, Sets September 30 Deadline for Exchange

New Delhi: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced its decision to phase out ₹ 2,000 notes and has set a deadline of September 30 for people to exchange or deposit them in their bank accounts. Starting May 23, the RBI’s 19 regional offices and other banks will accept ₹ 2,000 notes in exchange for lower denomination currency. It is important to note that these notes will continue to be considered legal tender, as stated by the RBI.

The RBI has instructed all banks to cease issuing ₹ 2,000 notes with immediate effect.

The introduction of the ₹ 2,000 note took place in November 2016 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden demonetization move, which rendered high-value ₹ 1,000 and ₹ 500 notes invalid overnight.

The RBI explained its decision, stating, “The purpose of introducing ₹ 2,000 banknotes was fulfilled once banknotes of other denominations became sufficiently available. Consequently, the printing of ₹ 2,000 banknotes was discontinued in 2018-19.”

To ensure convenience and minimize disruption to regular banking operations, the RBI has allowed the exchange of ₹ 2,000 notes for lower denomination notes, up to a limit of ₹ 20,000 at a time, at any bank beginning May 23, 2023. This facility will be available until September 30, allowing individuals to either exchange or deposit their ₹ 2,000 notes.

Sources informed NDTV that the RBI might extend the deadline beyond September 30 if necessary. However, even after the current deadline, ₹ 2,000 notes will remain valid as legal tender.

The RBI highlighted that approximately 89% of ₹ 2,000 denomination banknotes were issued before March 2017 and are reaching the end of their expected lifespan of four to five years. The total value of these notes in circulation decreased from ₹ 6.73 lakh crore at its peak on March 31, 2018 (comprising 37.3% of the currency in circulation) to ₹ 3.62 lakh crore, representing only 10.8% of the currency in circulation as of March 31, 2023.

The central bank emphasized that the ₹ 2,000 note is not commonly used for transactions. Similar measures were taken by the RBI in 2013-2014 when certain notes were phased out of circulation.

US Silence About Modi Regime’s Persecution Of Minorities Condemned

On Capitol Hill this Tuesday, US officials convened for a congressional briefing to discuss the persecution of religious minorities under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration. The conversation also touched on the State Department’s decision not to follow the United States Commission on International Freedom’s (USCIRF) recommendation that India be labeled a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) – the highest warning issued against nations guilty of persecuting religious minorities.

Picture : Financial Times

The briefing, co-organized by various religious, interfaith, and human rights organizations including the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Hindus For Human Rights (HFHR), Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), and others, featured talks from former USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza, Indian human rights activist Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Former U.S. Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, and Reverend Bryan Nerren, an American Christian pastor who was imprisoned in India for seven months. Representatives from IAMC, HFHR, and SALDEF also addressed the gathering.

In her concluding remarks, Nadine Maenza directly linked recent episodes of religious violence to the discourse, policies, and climate of complicity fostered by PM Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“An entire Indian state is burning,” Maenza said, alluding to the recent violent confrontations between Hindus and Christians in Manipur, India, which led to numerous churches being set ablaze. “Due to the growing influence of the BJP’s Hindu supremacist rhetoric, Manipur’s Hindu population has turned against the already vulnerable Christian tribal population. It is quite literally the BJP’s fault that 60 people are now dead, 200 are wounded, and 35,000 are displaced.”

Maenza strongly rebuked US officials who have praised the Modi government, specifically mentioning Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Assistant Secretary of State Bureau of South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu for their commendation of Modi’s “visionary” leadership and assertion that India’s “free press really works,” respectively.

Citing Raimondo and Lu’s comments, Maenza questioned, “Modi is no visionary, and under his control, freedoms for the Indian people have plummeted. How does this charade benefit anyone? Do we want to see the eruption of yet another refugee crisis? Are we alright with India compromising the entire region’s stability by allowing such widespread internal violence?” Maenza highlighted India’s significant drop in ranking on Reporters Without Borders’ annual Press Freedom Index.

Dr. Sandeep Pandey, a Ramon Magsaysay award recipient, often referred to as Asia’s Nobel Prize, presented a comprehensive overview of the economic, political, civil rights, and democratic setbacks brought about by the Modi administration.

Contradicting the positive Western perspective on India’s economic growth, Pandey stated, “The Indian economy is in shambles. India’s 1% population owns 40.5% of wealth. Whereas only 3% of wealth trickled down to the bottom 50% of the population over the nine-year period from 2012 to 2021.” He explained how Modi’s crony capitalist policies have facilitated the disproportionate accumulation of wealth by Gautam Adani, the infamous industrialist and financial criminal.

Regarding criminal justice, Pandey illustrated the religious bias that has nearly obliterated the Indian judiciary. “Your religion decides how the state will deal with you. If you are a Hindu, and especially if you are aligned with the ruling party, then irrespective of how egregious the crime is, you will be released. If you are a Muslim, you will be convicted even if you are innocent. A death sentence is what they want,” he said.

Pandey highlighted the release of 11 Hindu supremacist men who had raped Bilkis Bano during the Gujarat Pogrom and the subsequent acquittal of convicted mass murderer and Hindu supremacist Babu Bajrangi. In contrast, he emphasized the prison sentences handed to Muslim activists who opposed the violently discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act.

Reverend Bryan Nerren, an American Christian who operated a charity that helped poor children of all faiths in India for nearly two decades, was imprisoned in India after being targeted by police. He described in harrowing detail his experience being imprisoned and the reasons behind it. “Most of you probably never had the opportunity to visit an Indian prison, much less be an Indian prisoner. But I have, and it was because I answered three questions wrong. I’m a Christian. I’ll meet with Christians, and I’ll help Christians,” Nerren said.

Despite never having converted any Indian or Nepalese people, Nerren was given a seven-year prison sentence. A BJP official informed Nerren that he was being arrested for his faith, at the order of higher-ups within the party, and that he was being made into an example to other Christians and religious minorities. “We’re going to see to it that you spend the next seven years in prison for what you’re doing. We are going to stop Western people, especially you Christians, from coming here and lying to the poor children that they can have hope. I hope you die in prison. Here’s what you need to understand about the India of today. In the short future, every person in this country will be Hindu. They will leave the country, or we’re going to eliminate them. And I think you understand what eliminate means,” the BJP official said.

The Trump administration initially refused to negotiate for Nerren’s release, seemingly prioritizing a weapons deal with India over the rights of an American citizen. This highlights how shortsighted economic concerns continue to triumph over the pursuit of long-term stability and the commitment to upholding human rights in U.S. relations with India. “The Biden administration’s refusal to hold the Modi government accountable boils down to the market potential that India presents. The administration is sacrificing human rights at the altar of a more profitable relationship with India,” said HFHR Policy Director Ria Chakrabartty. Chakrabartty outlined various concrete policies Congress members can pursue to pressure the Executive to change its stance toward India, including making military aid to India conditional on improving its human rights policies, aggressive letter-writing campaigns, and interventions in the budgetary process.

Former U.S. Ambassador Islam Siddiqui suggested that the US can easily maintain its trade relations with India while publicly condemning its human rights record. He pointed out how the US continues to maintain economic ties with Saudi Arabia while also speaking out against it in public and designating it a Country of Particular Concern. However, Siddiqui cautioned against putting too much faith in Modi’s leadership capabilities, saying, “It’s a bad bet to bet on Modi as a reliable partner. India can’t rise if all its minorities — 350,000,000 Christians and Hindu, Delhi and Adivasis — are put down. They all must rise.”

SALDEF Policy Manager Jyot Singh highlighted how the Modi regime’s policies have profoundly affected Sikh Americans. Referring to the Modi government’s decision to cut off internet access in Punjab in their attempt to capture one political dissident, Singh said, “Modi’s government cut off the internet for 27 million people. Without homelines, they were cut off from the world and their families in the US. They could not communicate with their loved ones. None of this is acceptable in a country that enjoys an allyship with the global north and calls itself a democracy.”

IAMC Executive Director Rasheed Ahmed connected violence in India to Hindu supremacist group activities within the U.S. “Elected officials here on Capitol Hill have received funding from donors connected with India’s most notorious Hindu supremacist paramilitary group, the RSS, and their goal is to ensure that the United States looks away from the atrocities committed by the Modi regime,”

Modi Govt. Taxes Outbound Remittances Starting July 1st

The Indian government has raised the tax on remittances from five percent to 20 percent beginning in July 2023, as per the adjusted Income-tax Act of 1961. The new tax increase will be charged on all amounts sent overseas for vacations, investments, and gifts, except in limited cases, such as for educational and medical expenses.

Previously, individuals could send up to INR 20.43 million ($250,000) per year overseas without paying any taxes through the Liberalized Remittance Scheme (LRS) by transferring less than INR 700,000 ($8,500) as part of the tranches.

Consequently, families of four could send up to $1 million abroad annually without being charged taxes. Under the new regulation, taxes will apply to all foreign transfers. Financial analysts think this move is aimed at ensuring High-Net-Worth Individuals (HNIs) pay their fair share before leaving India permanently. Over the last five years, about 30,000-35,000 HNIs have migrated to countries such as the US, UK, UAE, Canada, Australia, Singapore, and Europe, with 8,000 leaving only in 2022.

What are the revised tax rates for outbound remittances starting July 1, 2023?



Old tax rates applicable till June 30, 2023 New tax rates applicable from July 1, 2023
PAN is available PAN is unavailable PAN is available PAN is unavailable
Overseas tour program (payment for purchase of ticket, booking hotel, etc.) 5% of remittance amount 10% of remittance amount 20% of remittance amount 40% of remittance amount
LRS – for education and medical treatment 5% of remittance amount in excess of INR 700,000 in a financial year 10% of remittance amount in excess of INR 700,000 in a financial year 5% of remittance amount in excess of INR 700,000 in a financial year 10% of remittance amount in excess of INR 700,000 in a financial year
Remittance related to studies abroad, where source of fund is educational loan 0.5% of remittance amount in excess of INR 700,000 in a financial year 5% of remittance amount in excess of INR 700,000 in a financial year 0.5% of remittance amount in excess of INR 700,000 in a financial year 5% of remittance amount in excess of INR 700,000 in a financial year
LRS – other than education and medical treatment 5% of remittance amount 10% of remittance amount 20% of remittance amount 40% of remittance amount


India’s Liberalized Remittance Scheme (LRS)

The Reserve Bank of India came up with the Liberalized Remittance Scheme or LRS to allow individuals residing in India to transfer funds overseas more conveniently. Under the LRS, individuals can transfer up to US$250,000 annually (April to March) for authorized current or capital account transactions, or both. This scheme facilitates easy foreign fund transfer for Indian residents.

FAQs on the LRS scheme

Q: Can remittances be made only in US Dollars under the LRS scheme?

A: No, remittances can be made in any freely convertible foreign currency.

Q: Is there any restriction on the number of remittances during a fiscal year under the LRS scheme?
A: There is no restriction on the number of transactions that can be made within a fiscal year under the LRS scheme. However, the total amount of foreign exchange remitted through all sources in India should not exceed the LRS limit for the current fiscal year.

Q: Who is eligible to remit funds outside India under the LRS scheme?

A: The LRS scheme is exclusively available for resident individuals, subject to certain terms and conditions. The scheme cannot be accessed by corporates, partnership firms, trusts, etc. The LRS declaration form must be countersigned by the natural guardian if the remitter is a minor.

Q: Do resident individuals require a Permanent Account Number (PAN) for outbound remittances under the LRS scheme?

A: Yes, residents must furnish their PAN details for all transactions made under the LRS scheme through authorized personnel.

Q: Which transactions are strictly prohibited under the LRS scheme?

A: Some transactions are prohibited under the LRS scheme, including remittances for purposes restricted under Schedule-I, remittances for margins or margin calls to overseas exchanges, remittances for Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds (FCCBs), remittances for forex trading abroad, foreign account remittances to “non-cooperative countries and territories”, remittances to individuals suspected of acts of terrorism, and gifting by a resident to another resident in foreign currency for credit to the latter’s foreign currency account abroad.

Q: What current account transactions are allowed under the LRS scheme?

A: The LRS scheme permits several current account transactions, including private visits, gifting or donating to NRIs or PIOs who are close relatives, overseas business trips, medical treatments abroad, pursuing studies outside India, going abroad for employment, and maintenance of close relatives abroad. However, these transactions are subject to a total limit of US$250,000 per financial year.

Q: Which capital account transactions are permissible under LRS scheme?

A: Investments in properties abroad, shares, securities, mutual funds, and establishment of wholly owned subsidiaries or joint ventures outside India for legitimate business purposes with specified terms and conditions are the capital account transactions allowed under the LRS scheme, along with the opening of foreign accounts and providing INR loans to relatives who are NRIs as per the definition in the Companies Act, 2013.

Q: Are resident individuals required to repatriate foreign investment income above the principal amount under the LRS scheme?

A: There is no obligation for investors who have transferred funds under the LRS scheme to repatriate the income generated from their investments. However, any unused foreign exchange received or realized must be repatriated and surrendered to an authorized person within 180 days from the date of receipt, purchase, acquisition, or return to India.

Q: Is it possible to consolidate remittances for family members under the LRS scheme?

A: Yes, remittances can be consolidated for family members under the LRS scheme, as long as each family member complies with the terms and conditions of the scheme. However, it is not permitted for non-co-owners or non-partners of an overseas bank account or investment to club together for capital account transactions.

Q: Are ADs required to verify the nature of the LRS transaction or rely on the remitter’s declaration?

A: The AD is required to verify the remitter’s declaration in Form A2 regarding the nature of the transaction under LRS. Based on this declaration, the AD will certify that the remittance is in line with the RBI’s guidelines. However, the final responsibility for compliance lies with the remitter.

Q: What are the compliance requirements for a remitter under the LRS scheme?

A: The remitter must have maintained a bank account with an AD branch for at least one year prior to the remittance, designate a branch of an AD through which all capital account remittances under the scheme will be made, furnish Form A-2 and confirm that the funds belong to them, and that the funds will not be used for purposes prohibited or regulated under the LRS scheme. Additionally, due diligence will be carried out if the remitter is a new customer, and the AD will verify the source of funds through a bank statement or income tax assessment order or return.

Narendra Modi’s First State Visit To The US In June

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to embark on an official state visit to the United States from June 21 to 24, where he will be welcomed by President Joe Biden at the White House. This marks Modi’s first state visit to the US during his nine-year tenure as prime minister, with the last Indian leader to make a state visit being former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from November 23 to 25, 2009. Although PM Modi has made several trips to the US, none have been classified as state visits, which hold the highest rank in diplomatic protocol.

State visits are characterized by a head of state or government traveling to a foreign country in their sovereign capacity. As such, they are officially referred to as a “visit of [name of state]” rather than “visit of [name of leader].” In the US, state visits occur only upon the invitation of the president, acting in their capacity as the head of state. These visits often span several days and consist of various elaborate ceremonies, depending on the visiting leader’s itinerary. For instance, in the US, these may include a flight line ceremony, a 21-gun salute White House arrival ceremony, a White House dinner, exchange of diplomatic gifts, an invitation to stay at the Blair House, and flag street lining. Modi’s visit will feature a state dinner on June 22.

Not every trip made by a foreign leader is considered a state visit. State visits hold the highest rank and ceremonial significance compared to other types of visits, and they symbolize the pinnacle of friendly bilateral relations. They are relatively rare in order to maintain their prestige and symbolic status. For example, under US diplomatic policy, the president can host no more than one leader from any nation once every four years.

Lower-ranked visits are classified as official visits, official working visits, working visits, guest-of-government visits, and private visits, according to US diplomatic policy. The key distinction between these visits and a state visit is that state visits are carried out in a sovereign capacity, with only the head of state allowed to make such visits. Other visits can be made by various high-ranking leaders, including crown princes, vice-presidents, and ceremonial heads of state. State visits also involve numerous elaborate ceremonies, whereas invitations for other visits are sent out more freely.

PM Modi’s previous trips to the US were categorized as a working visit (2014), working lunch (2016), and official working visit (2017). The US Department of State website describes his 2019 visit as one where he “Participated in a rally in Houston, Texas.”

Indeed, state visits hold the utmost prestige and ceremonial importance. However, when it comes to actual diplomatic work, the classification of the visit does not necessarily determine its effectiveness. Working visits can be just as successful in nurturing healthy relationships between countries as state visits. In fact, due to the infrequency of state visits and the numerous ceremonial events associated with them, most diplomatic work is often accomplished during other types of visits.

Biden Invites Modi For Official State Visit

To mark the deepening partnership between the United States and India, President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will host Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an official state visit at the White House on June 22, 2023.

This will be Modi’s first-ever state dinner at the White House, and Biden’s third state dinner for world leaders, coming after the President of South Korea, Yoon Suk Yeol in April 2023, and President of France, Emmanuel Macron in December 2022. The last state dinner for an Indian Head of Government was hosted by President Barack Obama in November 2009 for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will host Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Republic of India for an Official State Visit to the United States, which will include a state dinner, on June 22, 2023,” the White House Press Officer Karine Jean Pierre announced May 10.

“The upcoming visit will affirm the deep and close partnership between the United States and India and the warm bonds of family and friendship that link Americans and Indians together,” Jean Pierre said.

While this is not Prime Minister Modi’s first trip to the White House, an official state visit goes beyond every-day diplomacy, in displaying the pomp and circumstance as well as depth and significance of a bilateral relationship.

And this is a time when the bilateral relationship is at its height in terms of expanding the reach to the Indo-Pacific. And like all past visits, US-India relations have always had challenges that require a public face and a private negotiation, this time with Ukraine and the Russian invasion and India’s domestic politics, moving simultaneously with increased defense and national security collaboration.

Both Biden and Modi have met not just as part of The Quad for Indo-Pacific at the White House, but they’ve been together and other forums be it in East Asia or Europe. And top officials and lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, from both administrations have been meeting on a regular basis both in Washington and New Delhi, some for their own agendas and constituencies in US, and others for ironing out the nitty gritty of defense, trade, visa, Russia, and even rights issues.

President Biden has probably the highest number of Indian-American appointees and nominees during his three years in office than any previous administration. But the most difficult appointment to push through was that of an Ambassador to India, a position that lay vacant until recently when Ambassador Eric Garcetti was finally cleared by the US Senate.

“The visit will strengthen our two countries’ shared commitment to a free, open, prosperous, and secure Indo-Pacific and our shared resolve to elevate our strategic technology partnership, including in defense, clean energy, and space,” the spokesperson said.

“The leaders will discuss ways to further expand our educational exchanges and people-to-people ties, as well as our work together to confront common challenges from climate change, to workforce development and health security,” Jean Pierre added.

However, during a press briefing the same day, questions about whether human rights would be discussed when the two leaders meet. Jean-Pierre told reporters Biden believes “this is an important relationship that we need to continue and build on as it relates to human rights.”

New Delhi called it a ‘historic visit’ which “offers a valuable opportunity for India and the US to further deepen a comprehensive and forward-looking global strategic partnership.”

India’s Ministry of External Affairs put out a statement echoing Washington’s views about the June 22 visit. “The visit will underscore the growing importance of the strategic partnership between India and the United States as the two nations collaborate across numerous sectors,” the MEA statement said.

“The leaders will have the opportunity to review strong bilateral cooperation in various areas of mutual interest, including technology, trade, industry, education, research, clean energy, defense, security, healthcare, and deepening people-to-people connections,” the Government of India said.

“Prime Minister Modi and President Biden will also explore ways to strengthen India-US collaboration in pluri-lateral and multilateral fora, including in the G20. They would reflect on their shared vision for a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific and discuss opportunities to expand and consolidate the Quad engagement,” MEA added.

US experts monitoring US-India relations are confident that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit will be “really productive and positive.” They believe the visit will highlight the growing strategic partnership in the Indo-Pacific, progress in defense and security areas, and foresee advancement in the initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) dialogue.  However, they say progress in commercial engagement is still “lagging” but are confident that the Russia-Ukraine war will not overshadow this important visit.

(President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Modi announced the U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) in May 2022, and it was launched Jan. 31, 2023, with the express objective “to elevate and expand our strategic technology partnership and defense industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses, and academic institutions of our two countries.”)

Modi visited the White House in September 2021 to attend the Quad Summit, where the Indian Prime Minister along with Biden, Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, and Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshihide Suga reviewed progress about their “Commitments to advance our shared and positive agenda for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

In a statement, the White House said the visit would strengthen the shared commitment to a free, open, prosperous, and secure Indo-Pacific and the desire to elevate the bilateral strategic technology partnership, including in defense, clean energy, and space.

“I would say the security relationship between our governments is moving along at a pretty good pace – between operations and between attempts to find new ways to share defense technology,” Richard Rossow, senior adviser and Chair in US-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told News India Times. He emphasized that both governments would work towards strongly advancing iCET.

“I do hope they find interesting ways to further deepen the commercial relationship. The numbers are pretty good, but so far, our governments haven’t really found useful ways to try to accelerate commercial engagement,” Rossow said. “They have a tough time resolving small problems,” he contended. “So hopefully, at least in commercial areas that have strategic significance, we can begin to see real tangible progress, following the national security advisors visit in January…commercial is lagging a bit, but I know that’ll be highlighted in the visit.”

“It shows the importance that the Biden administration attaches to its relationship with India,” Lisa Curtis, senior fellow and director of the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, told News India Times, reflecting on the implications of the visit.

“This will be a great opportunity to expand on iCET, that was launched by the National Security Advisors in January to discuss mutual concerns on how to deal with a rising China,” Curtis added. She termed Modi’s state visit “very significant,” as such visits are not accorded to every leader.

Curtis foresees there will be progress on the iCET dialogue and went on to say, “It is really important because of the US-China competition and the race to gain a technological edge right now. So, iCET really shows that the US is interested in working closely with India on creating resilient supply chains when it comes to critical and emerging technologies,” while adding “And it also shows the importance of India having the defense capabilities it needs to defend itself and in particular to face down any Chinese aggression at the border.”

About security partnerships, Curtis pointed out “India really has not made a major defense purchase from the United States since President Trump visited India over three years ago when they made the major helicopter purchase from the United States. So, I think the expectation is that we might see something on the defense and security side, come to fruition.”

Rossow and Curtis both noted that Biden and Modi would meet at the Quad Summit later this month in Sydney, and again in September in New Delhi for the G20 Leaders’ Summit. They emphasized that continued engagement is vital for US-India relations.

Curtis recalled that Modi’s visit was preceded by important visits by US-Indo-Pacific partners since January, including Prime Minister of Japan, Kishida Fumio, President of South Korea, Yoon Suk Yeol, and President of Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. “Now with India, it sort of taps off this very momentous six months, the US really operationalizing Indo-Pacific policy and strategy with all these important partners and of course India is certainly one of those.”

Regarding the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on US-India relations, Rossow said “It will be brought up. I’m sure that we’d love to see India’s position stiffen a little bit more on Russia’s invasion. If you look at some of the numbers, India’s trade with Russia and imports from Russia have really been spiking. So, India is providing, a critical economic lifeline to Russia during this war period. And I’m sure it’ll get raised but it won’t be the focus of the visit. It’ll be a talking point…”

Touching upon the Russia-Ukraine war, Curtis said, “I think the US has been willing to set aside the differences with India over Russia, in order to really maximize the potential of the relationship and build on the strategic convergences that are there which is in promoting a free open rules based Indo-Pacific,” adding that this is one of the top priorities of US, and India is an integral part in fulfilling that vision.

Curtis, acknowledged that there are some areas of tension in the US-India trade relationship, but believes that the positive aspects of the partnership outweigh the negative. She noted that during the Trump administration, there was an excessive focus on the trade differences between the two countries, but the Biden administration seems to be prioritizing the broader strategic relationship and cooperation in the free and open Indo-Pacific region. Although trade will still be discussed, Curtis doesn’t think it will be as prominent as it was during the previous administration.

Congress Wins Karnataka State Elections, Boosting Opposition Chances In 2024

In a significant victory for the Indian National Congress, the opposition won control of the southern Karnataka state, taking it from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The result will breathe new life into opposition parties, which have been divided. They hope to form a united front to challenge Modi’s government in the general election next year, as he seeks a third consecutive term as prime minister. The defeat of the BJP in Karnataka means the party has lost the only southern state it has ever controlled. It is believed that the BJP had been banking on Modi’s popularity to win the state, but this had been damaged by recent religious tensions.

Picture : Reuters

Over the last few weeks, Modi had been campaigning hard in Karnataka, which has a population of 65 million people. The Election Commission of India has stated that the Congress has won 123 seats and is leading in 12 others, giving it the majority of 113 in the state assembly. The BJP has won or is leading in 64 seats, while another regional party, the Janata Dal (Secular), has won 20 seats. India’s Election Commission, which is yet to declare full results, expects to confirm the Congress victory on Saturday.

Jairam Ramesh, the Congress General Secretary, attributed his party’s win to its focus on local issues such as “livelihood and food security, price rise, farmer distress, electricity supply, joblessness, and corruption”. He went on to comment that “The PM injected divisiveness and attempted polarisation. The vote in Karnataka is for an engine in Bengaluru that will combine economic growth with social harmony.”

In turn, Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress party, expressed his joy at the party’s win. He said that “The markets of hate have been shut down and the shops of love have opened”.

Karnataka is India’s second wealthiest state, and the BJP had placed great weight on winning there. The polarisation of communities between Hindu and Muslim inhabitants has increased in Karnataka over the past few years. The BJP had supported the banning of girls from wearing headscarves as part of their school uniform, further stoking religious tensions. According to the 2011 census, 84% of Karnataka’s population were Hindu, almost 13% Muslim, and less than 2% were Christian.

Modi’s BJP had promised social welfare measures and pledged to spur development, but before the election, it moved towards its usual play, Hindu nationalism, saying that the Congress had ignored Hindu values and sought only to appease minority groups, particularly Muslims. The BJP also withdrew a 4% reservation in job and education quotas for Muslims and allocated it to two Hindu caste groups. By contrast, the Congress built its campaign around claims of rising inflation, alleged corruption, and poor infrastructure provision. It promised electricity subsidies, rations for poor families, and financial support for unemployed graduates.

This latest defeat for the BJP comes after it also lost the Himachal Pradesh state to the Congress in December 2017. While the Congress had been previously routed by the BJP in national polls, this victory in Karnataka could revive its fortunes and lay the groundwork for winning a substantial share of seats in next year’s general election. It is understood that the Congress has a better chance of winning more southern states, which are less sympathetic to the BJP’s Hindu nationalist policies, while the BJP stands a better chance of winning in the north and west of India where its policies have had a stronger following.

If the BJP’s defeat in Karnataka is a sign of things to come in the general election, Modi’s third consecutive term in office is looking uncertain.

Eric Garcetti Presents Credentials To President Of India

Eric Garcetti, the United States Ambassador to India presented his credentials to the President of India, Droupadi Murmu during an official ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan on May 11, 2023.

According to the U.S. Embassy in India, Garcetti will officially begin his duties as Ambassador and make his first trips to Mumbai and Ahmedabad in the coming week. The embassy also posted a new video introducing the new ambassador to the people of India on Twitter.

Speaking of the new role, the Ambassador said, “It was an honor to present my credentials to the President, and it’s an honor to be back in India at such an exciting and historic time in the U.S.-India relationship.  I look forward to working with the Indian people to raise our partnership to new heights.”

Garcetti, the former Mayor of Los Angeles, was appointed to the top diplomatic post by President Biden in July 2021 and confirmed in March 2023. According to the embassy, the ambassador has studied Hindi and Indian culture and history while pursuing his degree at Columbia College.

UNSC Is Not Inclusive If That Excludes World’s Largest Democracy

A UN Security Council (UNSC) that denies permanent membership to the world’s largest democracy cannot be considered inclusive and the first step to “future-proof” the world organisation would be to reform the Security Council, according to India.

“The reform of the UNSC is the fundamental starting step towards ‘Futureproofing Trust for Sustaining Peace’,” India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj said on Wednesday.

“Is the UNSC in its present form — which denies permanent representation to entire continents of Africa, Latin America and the world’s largest democracy — can it be deemed to be ‘inclusive’,” she asked at an open debate at the Council.

If the Council “is to continue to engender trust and confidence” in its ability to lead the world, it must better represent the developing countries, Kamboj said.

With the interminable inter-governmental negotiation, as the reform process is called, set to meet on Thursday, she asked if it can be credible and effective without a time frame to conclude the discussions, she asked.

The open debate on “future-proofing” the UN to ensure its credibility and effectiveness, was convened by Switzerland, which is holding the Council presidency for the first time.

Switzerland’s Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis who presided over the meeting said that “we have to admit that we have not sufficiently taken account the frustrations and changes taking place on both sides of our planet” with the UN.

He said that it was necessary “to consider how this Council can strengthen the foundations of a broader peace architecture, which “must be inclusive and include those whom the population has designated as democratically legitimate”.

In addition to the Council, Kamboj said: “Multilateral institutions must be made more accountable to their membership, they must be open and welcoming to a diversity of viewpoints, particularly from the global South.”

Drawing attention to India’s role as the president of the G20 — the group of major developed and emerging economies — Kamboj said that New Delhi “is committed to forging consensus through the G20 process in the effort to find solutions to global challenges”. (IANS)

Tamil Nadu Govt Says, People Have Right To Practice And Spread Religion Peacefully

The Tamil Nadu government has informed the Supreme Court that citizens of India have the right to freely choose their religion and propagate it peacefully. The government stressed that unless unlawful means are employed, spreading Christianity by missionaries is not illegal as per the Constitution of India. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led government submitted to the court that anti-conversion laws are prone to misuse against minorities, and it would not be appropriate for the government to interfere with personal belief and privacy.

In an affidavit filed recently, the Tamil Nadu government maintained that there have been no incidents of forceful conversion reported in the state in the past several years. It criticized PIL petitioner-advocate Ashwini Upadhyay for attempting to target Christian missionaries by filing a “religiously motivated petition” requesting a CBI probe into alleged cases of forcible conversion and a draft on anti-conversion law by the law commission of India.

The government acknowledged that citizens have the right to propagate their religion as per Article 25 of the Constitution. However, if their act of spreading their religion is against public order, morality, health, or fundamental rights, it must be viewed seriously. The Tamil Nadu government cited Articles 21 and 25 of the Constitution, stating that “every citizen has the opportunity to practice and spread his religion peacefully” and the right to have faith in a particular religion is an inviolable right that the state is obligated to protect.

The state emphasized that citizens have the right to change their beliefs, and the government must maintain a balance between the right to propagate religion and public order. The MK Stalin-led government revealed that in 2002, the state had passed the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Act, which was later repealed in 2006 due to popular opposition.

The government also denied Upadhyay’s claims regarding the suicide of a minor girl named Lavanya in Tamil Nadu after she was allegedly forced to convert by the Christian institution where she was studying. The state stated that the Central Bureau of Investigation is still investigating the cause of Lavanya’s death, and as per the state police’s investigation, there is no concrete proof or clinching evidence to say that she committed suicide because of compulsion to convert to Christianity.

The Tamil Nadu government sought the dismissal of Upadhyay’s PIL, arguing that the petitioner belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has attempted to convert the court proceedings into a political fight. The government stated that Upadhyay’s request for a CBI probe into the alleged cases of forcible conversions and a draft on anti-conversion law by the law commission of India are baseless and unwarranted.

As per the Tamil Nadu government, anti-conversion laws can be misused against minorities, and citizens have the right to freely choose their religion and propagate it peacefully. The government’s submission to the Supreme Court highlights the need for maintaining a balance between the right to propagate religion and public order. The government’s stance reiterates the Constitution’s guarantee of every citizen’s right to propagate their religion peacefully and change their beliefs.

Factors Contributing To India’s Massive Population

According to recent calculations made by the United Nations, India will surpass China in terms of population by the end of this weekend. While China has held the title of the world’s most populous country for many years, restrictive policies limiting families to one child have led to a dramatic decrease in China’s birth rate and allowed India to advance. However, becoming the most populous country in the world is not a title that is necessarily desirable.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed concern about India’s “population explosion” and has praised families who carefully consider the impact of having more children. “In 21st-century India, the ability to fulfill dreams starts with a person, starts with a family. If the population is not educated, not healthy, then neither the home nor the country can be happy,” Modi has said.

But how did India’s population become so large, and how long will it continue to grow? The World Population Prospects data of the United Nations was analyzed, and experts were consulted by journalists to gain insight into India’s demographic shift.

What factors contributed to India’s massive population?

Understanding fertility rates is essential in determining a country’s population growth or decline. It is generally accepted that the average fertility rate, which is the number of children per woman, must be at least 2.1 for a population to maintain itself, and even more for it to grow. In the 1960s, India’s fertility rate was at 6, similar to some African countries today. However, the government’s latest nationwide assessment period from 2019 to 2021 showed that India’s total fertility rate dropped to 2.0, down from 3.4 in 1992 to 1993. Despite the decrease in fertility rates, the population continues to grow due to demographic momentum, where large cohorts of younger individuals grow into the age when they become parents.

Frank Swiaczny, a senior researcher at the Federal Institute for Population Research, explained that “when the fertility rate drops, the population continues to grow for several decades. And that is because younger, large cohorts are still growing into that age when they become parents.” Therefore, even with a replacement or sub-replacement fertility rate, India’s population will continue to grow slowly because of the significant number of women entering their reproductive years.

India’s fertility rate is unevenly distributed across the country, leading to a north-south divide that sees more babies born in the north. However, even the highest fertility rate in India, which is 3.0 in Bihar, is not considered high, according to Barbara Seligman, chief strategy and growth officer, and senior vice president at PRB, a non-profit organization that focuses on demographic data and population research. Seligman added, “It’s really striking to see just how many states are below replacement level. All but five states — Bihar, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Manipur — are at that level, and notably, they’re all in the north.”

In contrast, southern states, such as Goa, have a fertility rate similar to some countries in southern Europe that are currently struggling to support an aging population with a shrinking workforce. Experts say India’s leaders would wise not to ignore this trend. According to the UN’s classification, India is now an “aging society,” where 7% of its population is aged 65 or older. In some states, such as Kerala in southern India, the population over 65 has doubled in the last 30 years and is now at 12%. This trend is expected to extend to more states, given the low total fertility rate.

“We’re going to see more and more states over the course of the next 30 years aging in the way that Kerala is now,” Seligman said. This trend can have significant implications for India’s economy, healthcare system, and social infrastructure, as older populations tend to have greater healthcare needs and require support from younger populations, who are the ones who have to bear the burden of such support.

India’s leaders must consider these implications as they shape policies to manage the country’s demographic trends. While India’s population growth may slow down due to lower fertility rates, the aging trend must be addressed. To ensure that India’s aging population can live comfortably and with dignity, long-term planning and investment in infrastructure, including health, housing, and employment, are critical. In conclusion, India’s leaders must recognize the demographic reality and take necessary measures to tackle these challenges. As Frank Swiaczny noted, “maintaining a balance between the size, composition, and distribution of the population is more important than when confronted with the choice of adopting policies to either raise or reduce fertility.”

India’s Population Growth Rate Slows Down

India has a rapidly growing population, but its growth rate has slowed down, according to UN data. The country’s population is expected to peak at 1.7 billion in 2064. Currently, over 40% of India’s population is under the age of 25, with an estimated median age of 28 in 2023, which is almost a decade younger than China’s. India’s working-age population is more than 900 million, which is expected to reach 1 billion in the next decade. This young and relatively low-paid workforce is largely English-speaking, digitally literate, and known for their entrepreneurship, making India an attractive alternative manufacturing hub for Western companies.

However, India’s contribution to the share of the world’s working-age population is expected to decline in the coming years, giving way to a younger population of workers emerging from Africa. While India has a significant number of working-age people, experts caution that the nation needs strong policies to capitalize on its youth. “A large number of people is not enough, we need to come up with a holistic plan,” said Sonalde Desai, Director of the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and Professor at the University of Maryland.

India needs people with the skills to fill high-value jobs, and an economy that produces these types of jobs. “We need people who have the skills to fill some of the high-value jobs and an economy that produces these high-value jobs,” said Desai. Poonam Muttreja, the Executive Director of the Population Foundation of India, said that addressing this gap is “imperative for India to progress to fulfill its aspirations of being a developed country.”

India’s reputation for entrepreneurship, combined with a young and digitally literate workforce, has made it an attractive destination for foreign investment. However, the country must ensure that its young workforce is equipped with the skills needed for the jobs of the future. The government should focus on policies that enable the development of higher-value jobs and invest in programs that provide education and training for workers to meet the demands of a changing economy. “The challenge for India is to make sure that a young population translates into a productive workforce,” said Desai.

What’s next for India?

India, one of the world’s poorest countries per capita, is experiencing unprecedented economic growth, moving up global economic league tables. Its economy is now the fifth largest, and among the fastest growing, in the world at nearly $3.5 trillion. However, India’s fortune is not evenly distributed, and poverty is a daily reality for millions of Indians. Moreover, while India has a large young population willing to work, figures show that there aren’t enough jobs for them, particularly in economically disadvantaged regions in the north, reliant on agriculture.

According to the World Bank, India is expected to outperform all other major economies, with growth of 6.6% by 2023, compared to 4.3% for China and just 0.5% for the United States. Some projections estimate that India will take the third position in the next 10 years and become only the third country with a GDP worth $10 trillion by 2035. Experts say that population growth can be a tremendous productive force for the economy, but economic growth hinges on providing good quality, productive, and well-remunerated jobs.

Sabina Dewan, a senior visiting fellow at the Center for Policy Research, said, “If India doesn’t get the balance right, it risks squandering the considerable advantage of being the world’s most populous country with the world’s largest share of working-age human capital. The challenge of educating, providing training, and enough good quality jobs is huge. If we don’t create enough good jobs, we waste the tremendous potential of our workers. And we could be looking at a youth population that has greater aspirations than ever before but few opportunities for income generation.”

India needs to invest more in education beyond primary school, particularly for women. Although comparisons show that India has a significant population of younger women ready and willing to work,  their participation level in the labor force – the estimation of the active workforce and people looking for work – was just 19% in 2021, which was less than half the overall labor force participation rate of 46%, one of the lowest in Asia. In comparison, China and the United States’ comparative rates were 68% and 61%, respectively.

Furthermore, the problem is worse in economically disadvantaged regions in the north, such as Uttar Pradesh, which is home to 17% of India’s population but has only 9% of its industrial jobs. For this reason, India needs to strengthen its secondary school system’s safety and provide it closer to where the girls are because many parents do not send their daughters to secondary schools, which are far away, because of security concerns. “Education is the best contraceptive pill that can be given to a woman,” said Muttreja.

India needs better policies to put women to work and ensure they stay there. More options for temporary contraception are needed to give women more control over childbearing. According to Desai, “Education is the best contraceptive pill that can be given to a woman.” If India creates better policies for women, it could reap the rewards of a larger and more productive workforce.

India’s Supreme Court Allows Waiver Of Waiting Period For Divorce

The Supreme Court has made a significant ruling that it has the authority to dissolve marriages based on “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” invoking special powers under Article 142. This ruling comes with a further decision that the mandatory waiting period of six months for divorce through mutual consent can be waived, provided certain conditions are met.

The Constitution Bench comprising of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, AS Oka, Vikram Nath, and JK Maheshwari has laid down factors that can determine when there will be an irretrievable breakdown of marriage. They have also outlined how to balance out equities, specifically with regard to maintenance, alimony, and the rights of the children.

The Court grants a “cooling-off” period of six months to a couple seeking a divorce, with the aim to save the marriage. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that this period of six months can be waived if certain requirements and conditions are met.

The Court stated that “The time gap is meant to enable the parties to cogitate, analyse and take a deliberated decision. The object of the cooling-off period is not to stretch the already disintegrated marriage, or to prolong the agony and misery of the parties when there are no chances of the marriage working out. Therefore, once every effort has been made to salvage the marriage and there remains no possibility of reunion and cohabitation, the court is not powerless in enabling the parties to avail a better option, which is to grant the divorce. The waiver is not to be given on mere asking, but on the court being satisfied beyond doubt that the marriage has shattered beyond repair”.

The court further clarified that a party cannot directly approach the Supreme Court and seek relief of dissolution of marriage on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage directly from it. The remedy of a person aggrieved by the decision of the competent judicial forum is to approach the superior tribunal/forum for redressal of their grievance.

The original issue referred to the Constitution Bench was whether the mandatory waiting period for divorce by mutual consent, as prescribed under Section 13B of the Hindu Marriage Act, could be waived by the Supreme Court. However, during the hearing, the Constitution Bench decided to consider the issue of whether marriages could be dissolved on the ground of irretrievable breakdown.

“Article 142 must be considered in light of the fundamental rights. It should contravene a non-derogable function of the Constitution. Court under the power is empowered to complete justice,” the bench said.

This case was referred to a five-judge bench seven years ago by a Division Bench of Justices Shiva Kirti Singh and R Banumathi. After hearing arguments, the Constitution Bench reserved its judgment on September 29, 2022.

This ruling has far-reaching implications on the divorce proceedings in India, as it empowers the Supreme Court to dissolve marriages based on irretrievable breakdown, thereby reducing the burden on family courts and lessening the time required for obtaining a divorce. The ruling also provides relief to those couples who may have been forced to remain in a broken marriage due to the mandatory waiting period of six months.

The Supreme Court has provided a groundbreaking decision that has significant implications for divorce proceedings in India. The Court’s ruling that it has the power to dissolve marriages on the ground of “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” and its waiver of the mandatory waiting period of six months subject to certain conditions will help reduce the burden on family courts and provide relief to couples who may have been forced to remain in a broken marriage.

After Indian Court Rejects Rahul Gandhi’s Appeal, Vacates Bungalow

A court in Gujarat’s Surat city has rejected Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s application for a stay on his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his “Modi surname” remark. The court rejected Gandhi’s application – filed on April 3 – for a relief pending his appeal against a lower court’s order sentencing him to two years in jail in the case.

The conviction in the criminal defamation case and two-year jail term led to Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha. He represented Wayanad in Kerala as an MP.

The verdict prolongs the uncertainty over whether he will be able to participate in the national elections scheduled for next year. Gandhi was sentenced to two years in prison for making remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname during an election rally in 2019. He will not be arrested until he has exhausted all legal remedies.

His lawyer, Kirit Panwala, has stated that they will contest the decision in the Gujarat High Court. Furthermore, Gandhi lost his parliamentary seat a day after his conviction on 23 March due to a Supreme Court order that disqualifies a lawmaker who is sentenced to two or more years in jail with immediate effect.

The Congress party has criticized Mr. Gandhi’s conviction and accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of political vendetta. However, the BJP has rebutted these allegations, stating that due judicial process was followed in the case. Earlier this month, Mr. Gandhi had filed petitions to suspend his sentence or secure bail, and to suspend his conviction in a court in Surat. The court granted him bail to appeal against his conviction, but it is the stay or suspension of his conviction that is critical to reinstating him as a Member of Parliament.

The case against Mr. Gandhi, brought by BJP lawmaker Purnesh Modi, centered around his remarks made in Karnataka state in 2019 during an election campaign, where he said, “Why do all these thieves have Modi as their surname? Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi.” Nirav Modi is a wanted Indian diamond merchant, while Lalit Modi is a former chief of the Indian Premier League who has been banned for life by the country’s cricket board. Modi’s complaint stated that the comments defamed the entire Modi community. However, Mr. Gandhi said that he made the comment to expose corruption and that it was not directed against any specific community.

A stay on conviction by the sessions court could have paved the way for Gandhi’s reinstatement as a Member of Parliament. Now that his application for stay has been rejected, he will continue to remain disqualified.

Gandhi can now appeal against the rejection in a higher court and the same cycle of hope and despair would continue. He can only be reinstated as a Lok Sabha MP only after the conviction is stayed or dismissed.

The Congress on Thursday said it will continue to avail all options still available under the law. “Isn’t it exceptional enough to get a 2 years sentence for criminal defamation? Just long enough to be disqualified from Parliament,” Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted.

The BJP hailed the court’s decision as “victory” of the judiciary and the people. BJP leader Sambit Patra said that the decision is a “slap on the face of the Gandhi family”.

IMF Discusses India’s Innovations In Digital Public Infrastructure

On the side-lines of the 2023 Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an IMF Seminar held on the theme, “Digital Public Infrastructure [DPI]: Stacking Up the Benefits,” on April 14, 2023, discussed India’s advancement and achievements on DPI and important lessons the world can benefit from its digital innovations.

Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, India’s Minister of Finance, Nirmala Sitharaman, Managing Director of IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates, Co-Founder and Chairman, Infosys Technologies Limited, Nandan Nilekani, and President and CEO, PayPal, Dan Schulman participated in the seminar, which was moderated by Anchor, CNN International, Julia Chatterley.

Appreciating Queen Máxima and Minister Sitharaman for their participation in the seminar, Georgieva said, “I’m very deeply touched that Queen Máxima has… come again to the IMF to talk about digital infrastructure and the role it plays to promote deeper financial inclusion, a topic that Her Majesty has championed for years,” adding she was “equally very, very grateful to Minister Sitharaman. India is a shining light in this area, and I could not be more excited to have a chance to hear from you about India’s experience.”

Noting the importance of financial inclusion and DPI’s role in enabling access to resources and opportunities, Georgieva commended efforts by both Queen Máxima and Sitharaman. “But it is not going to happen without concerted attention and effort, and Queen Maxima as the United Nations (UN) Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development has been marshalling to the world in the right direction,” she said. “And secondly, to say that when we discuss this topic, it is so much more effective not to talk only about the things we aspire to do. But to talk about the things we have actually done, and who is better but Minister Sitharaman to talk about the things that are actually done.”

In her opening remarks, Queen Máxima while reminding everyone that “These are challenging times for the world economy and people living in emerging markets are being hit particularly hard,” highlighted, that as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate, in the past decade, she has witnessed “how inclusive DPIs can have a transformative impact on even the poorest households and businesses.”

She said DPIs helped deliver welfare straight to digital wallets, and exemplified India. “India has shown one way with India Stack. It combines foundational digital ID, an interoperable payments system, a digital credentials ledger, and account aggregators to support empowerment and protection. The results have been dramatic: India has achieved over 80 per cent financial inclusion in just six years – compared to the 46 years it would have taken without a DPI approach. So, six years versus 46 years.”

In her role as the Honorary Patron of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion, Queen Máxima said, “I am really delighted that we are crafting policy recommendations for DPI under the Indian Presidency.”

Underscoring the importance of DPI, Sitharaman, recalled, “In India, during the last couple of years, we have seen how DPI can contribute to targeted, quick and efficient and inclusive service delivery through innovative methods developed by both public and private sector initiatives,” adding “digital payments and consent based data sharing has helped us to improve our governance, bring ease of doing business, and enable ease of living for our people.”

Pointing out to India’s 462.5 million low-cost bank accounts with 56 per cent women account holders, Sitharaman noted, “This has enabled us to transform the garment service delivery by building the world’s largest [DPI based] direct benefit transfer systems…” helping 650 million people receive $322 billion directly into their accounts, and ultimately resulting in $27 billion of overall savings across key government services and initiatives.

“The interoperability of DPI, as in the case of India, allows for multiple solutions to be developed for promoting inclusion. For instance, the UPI [Unified Payments Interface] our payment system is used not only for smartphones, but also feature phones by just dialing a *99# or in assisted mode, with no phone at all,” Sitharaman said. “As a result, UPI transactions are increasingly rapidly moving forward. Today, more than 68 per cent of total payments are made through UPI in India in March 2023. In just March 2023, alone, India has witnessed 8.7 billion UPI transactions and overall growth of 82 per cent in financial year 2022-23 over the previous year.”

Nilekani said, a digital ID, bank account, and a smart phone are three key tools for the New World. About India’s digital transformation that started a decade ago, Nilekani said “Well, I think Digital Public Infrastructure is actually a philosophy and a belief that technology can actually transform a society, can improve our lives, can do financial inclusion, then can create economic growth in a more equitable manner.”

Calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sitharaman as “Digital First Ministers” Nilekani said, “when they look at a public policy issue, they say, can we do this digitally? And that’s how companies think how to be digital. First, we have governments thinking about that. So that’s a big part of the success of the Indian model,” while crediting the political will for India’s success.

Gates credited DPI in helping weather COVID related economic shocks in India. “If you’re a woman in society, when you get money in your hands, it’s power, money is power. And it changes everything in your household. And so I have met women all over the world, in Tanzania and Kenya and India and Bangladesh who say everybody in my household looks at me differently when I have money…” Gates said. “We’re actually finally talking about power and societal change. And I think as was said, well from the minister [Sitharaman], yeah, it brings in so many people who are on the margins of society to now participate in economic opportunity.”

Schulman, when asked about his view of DPI from a private sector point of view, said “All of our lives are digitizing rapidly, whether it be payments or any other form of our lives…” adding “And so I think the private and public sector need to come together here. We need to have an infrastructure that we can build on. It needs to be interoperable. And that’s an issue that I think we all need to think about because one country building a digital infrastructure that doesn’t have the same standards or regulations aligned with other countries makes it very difficult for the private sector…”

India Is The Most Populous Country

India has surpassed China to become the world’s most populous nation with 142.86 crore people, according to a UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) State of World Population report. China stands second with an estimated population of 142.57 crore, the report states.

India has not conducted a census since 2011 hence most population figures published are not accurate but approximate calculations, a UN official said. The new data also marks the first time India has topped the UN list of most populous countries since the organization started collecting population data in 1950.

The data has revealed that 25 percent of India’s population is aged between 0-14 years, 18 percent is in the 10 to 19 age group, 26 percent are of 10 to 24 years, 68 percent between 15 to 64 years, and 7per cent are above 65 years. It further noted that India’s population is expected to keep rising for nearly three decades before it peaks at 1650 million and later begins to decline.

Commenting on the recent data, UN’s Chief of Population Estimates and Projection, Patrick Gerland, said in an interview with the BBC that any numbers about India’s real population size are “naive assumptions based on fragmented information. We don’t have real official data coming out from India,” he added.

It is to be noted that India has not conducted a census since 2011. The 2021 census was cancelled because of the COVID pandemic and has currently been pushed back again to 2024.

According to the new UNFPA data, China recorded a looming demographic decline as birth rates fell and the country’s workforce aged.  According to the latest UN report, the global population will hit 8.045 billion by mid-2023. It further noted that countries in Europe and Asia could expect a demographic slump in the coming decades.

Modi Lures Kerala Christian Voters By Meetings With Bishops

While the ruling Hindutva Party in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continues to engage in a war against the minority Christian community across India, falsely accusing Christians of converting Hindus and arresting and punishing several Christian leaders on trumped up charges, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken upon himself to win the Christian vote bank in Kerala by wooing the Christian leadership in the southern state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the top leaders of various church leaders in Kerala, giving a push to the BJP’s efforts to reach out to the influential minority community in the southern state ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, sources said.

Picture : The Republic World

It is learned that Modi, who arrived in Kerala on a two-day visit on Monday, April 24, 2023, met eight top Church leaders including Syro-Malabar Catholic Church head Cardinal George Alencherry, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church head Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis, Syrian Orthodox Church head Baselios Marthoma Mathews III and Metropolitan Trustee of the Jacobite Church Joseph Mor Gregorios.

The Prime Minister also met the senior leaders of the Latin Catholic Church Archbishop

Joseph Kalathiparambil, Archbishop of Knanaya Church Mathew Moolakkatt, Archbishop of the Knanaya Jacobite Archdiocese Kuriakose Mar Severios, and Metropolitan of the Chaldean Syrian Church Mar Awgin Kuriakose, reports said.

The meeting, a part of the BJP’s outreach campaign ‘Sneha Yatra’, took place at Hotel Taj Malabar in Kochi after the Prime Minister attended a massive road show and a youth conclave, Yuvam 2023, at the Sacred Hearts College ground here.

Picture : NCR

Jacobite Church bishop Joseph Mar Gregorius said Modi highlighted the Christian community’s pro-BJP stand in Goa and the states in the Northeast but expressed doubt whether the Prime Minister’s meeting with the bishops would fetch the party votes in Kerala. “People do not vote as per the directive of bishops. People evaluate the performance of a government before casting their vote. People are enlightened. However, at the meeting we could raise (many) issues,’’ he said.

Among issues that figured in the meeting are the farm sector crisis, rights of Dalit Christians and livelihood issues of the coastal fishermen community, sources said. People privy to details said Modi did not give any assurance on the issues the bishops raised. “When the issue of rubber farmers was raised, Modi said he was aware of it, but he did not react on the issues of Dalit Christians and woes of fishermen, especially against the backdrop of the draft of the blue economy policy that fishermen were opposing,’’ media reports said.

As part of the party’s minority outreach, BJP leaders in Kerala had visited Christian and Muslim leaders and the homes of people belonging to these communities on the festive occasions of Easter and Eid, respectively.

Cardinal George Alencherry, head of Syro-Malabar Church, said the meeting went off “very well”, and that people of Kerala are “appreciative of the Modi government (and) are looking for further development in Kerala under the Centre’s initiative”.

Alencherry told the media: “We shared the needs of the Christian community, as also the needs we are visualising for people of Kerala. We presented before him the woes of farmers, problems of fishermen, the rights of Dalit Christians. He spoke about what he had done for Kerala and Christians. He mentioned 10% reservation for the poor without any consideration of religion. We also shared our anxieties about (Christian) missionary work in North India, which are hindered by religious fundamentalism.”

He said the Prime Minister assured them that there would be “protection for all the faithful in the country. He also mentioned the visit of Pope Francis to India in near future.”

The BJP is looking for support from the community in Kerala, the state with their largest population in the country, as it works to make a fresh headway there after tasting little success in previous elections. Anil Antony, son of senior Kerala Congress leader A K Antony, a Christian, joined the BJP recently.

Ahead of the last assembly elections in Kerala in 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met similarly with Catholic bishops as part of what was construed as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) efforts to reach out to the Christian community ahead of the assembly elections in Kerala. Modi met Cardinal Oswald Gracias of the Latin-rite Church, Mumbai, Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, and Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church — both Kerala — in his office in 2021.

In the same year, Pope Francis received at the Vatican, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the first-ever meeting between the two leaders.  After holding talks with the Pope, Modi was received by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.

Keralites were not impressed with such meetings and the BJP did not win any seat in the state assembly elections.

On Easter Sunday this year, Modi visited the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Delhi, where he joined the Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi Archdiocese and the Christian community at a prayer service and planting a tree at the Cathedral premises.

After the visit, PM Modi tweeted, “Today, on the very special occasion of Easter, I had the opportunity to visit the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Delhi. I also met spiritual leaders from the Christian community.” The prime minister’s rare visit to the church is imbued with political significance as well, as the ruling BJP has been actively wooing Christians.

Two years later in 2023, buoyed by the BJP’s performance in polls in three Northeastern states including Christian-dominated Nagaland and Meghalaya last month, the Prime Minister had announced that the party-led alliance would form a government in Kerala too in the coming years.

“It is a matter of fact that incidents of violence against Christians have increased from little over 100 in 2014 to 600 by the end of 2022 according to UCF toll free helpline (No: 1800-208-4545) service. This year, 2023, has already witnessed 200 incidents in the first 100 days,” pointed out A C Michael, a former member of the Minority Commision, Delhi Government. “It is also another matter of fact that the Supreme Court of India since 1st September 2022 repeatedly has been asking for details of violence against Christians across India and the Modi government has already sought three extensions as they are unable to find incidents of forceful conversions which are the pretext to target Christians.” Michael disagreed with the claims of Rev Father Francis Swaminathan, the pastor of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Delhi, who claimed that the visit of the prime minister shows his support for minorities.

It may be too early to say if the BJP’s strategy will deliver electoral dividends. What has been apparent so far is that at least some of the Christian church leaders are either not averse to the BJP’s political ideology or to BJP continuing in power, ignoring the atrocities unleashed in many other parts of India by the BJP and its supporters.

But, will the visits and meetings by the Hindutva party leader win Christian votes in Kerala and in other parts of the country? Maybe not. As a Christian leader summarized: “Mercifully, Catholic Bishops have almost zero impact on non-Catholics.  And among Catholics, among Latinos, it is much less than imagined by the PMO or even presumed by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI).”

Shah Rukh Khan On TIME’s 2023’s 100 Most Influential People

Shah Rukh Khan, Bollywood mega star, SS Rajamouli, director of the Oscar winning RRR, Padma Lakshmi an award winning chef and a Titan of her industry, owning many restaurants in addition to being a television celebrity, and Salman Rushdie, American-British-Indian award winning novelist are featured among the 100 most influential people in 2023, according to a List published by TIME last week.

First published in 1999 in Time Magazine (print), appearing on this list is seen as an honour, and Time ensures that entrants are recognized for their contributions to modern society.

New York’s nationally renowned host of the television show Top Chef, and globally known cultural icon, author and commentator, Padma Lakshmi, is among Time Magazine’s 2023 Top 100 ‘most influential people. She was joined by 2 other luminaries of Indian origin – Bollywood’s megastar and moviemaker Shah Rukh Khan, and Oscar-nominee film maker S.S. Rajamouli of ‘RRR’ fame and Oscar-winning song Naatu Naatu.

Comedian and actress Ali Wong wrote the profile on Padma Lakshmi saying, “It’s Padma’s genuine love of food—and how freaking smart she is—that makes her electric to watch as the host of Top Chef, currently in its 20th season, and Taste the Nation With Padma Lakshmi, which returns for a second season in May. It also helps that she’s drop-dead gorgeous.”

Wong went on to describe Lakshmi as “an incredible writer” with a strong point of view, who is “honest and unafraid” of being disliked. “I’m always in awe of Padma because, yes, she really is that beautiful, talented, and charismatic. She’s iconic.”

On the news of her listing by Time, April 14, 2023, Lakshmi, posted a memorable photo on Facebook of herself with her own mother, noting: “This little girl is a #Time100 honoree.” Lakshmi is 4 years old in that picture, the cultural icon said in a detailed account of her journey from her arrival in New York as a child.

“At age 4 I joined my mom in America, arriving in New York to build a new life with her. From the start, I clung to the familiar foods of my motherland. Food was a link to my grandparents in India, to quieter streets with familiar street vendors, to what I knew,” Lakshmi recounted.

“Later, when we moved from New York to LA, I missed the after-school pizza slices and my neighbour’s empanadas. With every big move, I’d add new dishes to my personal canon. Laid out, they told the story of my life. Dish by dish, they also tell the story of America,” Lakshmi said, connecting her journey to that of legions of immigrants over the years who connect with their heritage through food and blend old recipes with the new culture.

“Once you realize that every dish has a story, you can’t stop looking for them… Over the years, the more I’ve eaten, the more curious I’ve become,” Lakshmi said, giving a shout-out to her upcoming 2nd Season of her show, Taste the Nation.

“I’ve loved learning about our history through this lens, one city and culture at a time. And I’m so honoured that the response has been as positive as it has, that it’s helped put me on a list among people I so admire. Whether it’s being shared with friends or screened in classrooms, I’m just happy knowing there are more hungry, curious people in the world,” Lakshmi added.

Author and former husband of Lakshmi, Salman Rushdie, globally famous for being the target of terrorists after publication of his book Satanic Verses, also made to the list. His brief is written by singer, activist, philanthropist of the world famous band U2, Bono, who noted that Rushdie, “has refused to be terrorized.” On Aug. 12, 2022, Rushdie was attacked while speaking at a book release event in upstate New York. The author lost an eye as a result of the attack.

“I was not surprised the great novelist was able to describe the attack on him on Aug. 12, 2022—as he was speaking about the U.S. as a safe place for exiled writers—with frame-by-frame specificity,” Bono says. “Salman didn’t miss a detail as he recounted the crisis he had prepared for since 1989. What did surprise me was that he made me laugh. “Really?” he recalled thinking. “After 30 years? Amongst these most kindly, casually dressed readers in Chautauqua, New York?” Rushdie said in bono’s recollection quoted in the Time brief.

Shah Rukh Khan’s profile on Time is written by fellow Bollywood star Deepika Padukone who recalls meeting Khan 16 years ago after arriving in Mumbai from Bangalore. “Shah Rukh Khan will forever be known as one of the greatest actors of all time. But what truly sets him apart is his mind, his chivalry, his generosity. The list goes on …,” Padukone says.

Shah Rukh Khan, 57, a household name in India, also sometimes called King Khan or Baadshah of Bollywood, was born in New Delhi to Meer Taj Mohammed Khan and Lateef Fatima Khan, graduated from Hansraj College. Khan lost his father in 1981 and his mother in 1991, after which he moved to Mumbai, where he found his calling, according to IMDB. Khan has been in more than 90 films. His latest one is Pathaan in which Padukone is in the lead role and his love interest.

SRK is married to Gauri Chibber and the couple has three children. Khan has won numerous awards during his career, and taken up humanitarian causes as well.

Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt writes the brief on film director S. S. Rajamouli, whose film RRR was nominated for the Oscar, and the signature song in the film, Naatu Naatu, composed by M.M. Keeravani, won the Oscar in 2023 for Best Original Song.

“Being directed by him in RRR was like going to school all over again. He knows the audience he’s serving. He knows what beats to hit, what turns to take. I call him the master storyteller,” Bhatt says. “India is a massive country with diverse demographics, tastes, and culture. But he gets that—and he unites us through his movies,” she adds.

Srisaila Sri Rajamouli, 49, who is involved mainly in Telugu cinema, was born in Amreshwara Camp in Karnataka to parents V. Vijayendra Prasad and Raja Nandini. He was brought up in Andhra Pradesh. His father was also a well-known writer and producer, according to IMDB. He is married to Rama since 2021, and the couple has two sons, S.S. Karthikeya and S.S. Mayookha.

India Court Dismisses Rahul Gandhi’s Appeal Against ConvictionIndia Court Dismisses Rahul Gandhi’s Appeal Against Conviction

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has had his appeal for a stay on his conviction in a criminal defamation case rejected by a court. The decision means that the uncertainty over whether he can contest in next year’s national elections continues. Gandhi was sentenced to two years in jail in 2019 for comments he made about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname at an election rally. His lawyer, Kirit Panwala, told the BBC that they will challenge the decision in the Gujarat high court.

While Gandhi won’t be arrested until he has exhausted all legal appeals, he has already lost his seat in parliament due to a Supreme Court order which states that a lawmaker convicted in a crime and sentenced to two or more years in jail is disqualified with immediate effect. The Congress has criticised Gandhi’s conviction and accused the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of political vendetta. The BJP, on the other hand, has denied this, stating that due judicial process was followed in the case.

The defamation case against Gandhi was brought by BJP lawmaker Purnesh Modi and revolved around comments Gandhi made in Karnataka state in 2019 during an election rally. In his speech, Gandhi said, “Why do all these thieves have Modi as their surname? Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi.” Purnesh Modi alleged that the comments had defamed the entire Modi community, but Gandhi said that he made the comment to highlight corruption and it was not directed against any community.

Despite the conviction and loss of his parliamentary seat, Gandhi has filed appeals to suspend his sentence, secure bail, and suspend his conviction in a court in Surat. The court had granted him bail to appeal against his conviction, but it’s the stay or suspension of his conviction that’s crucial to reinstating him as an MP. Gandhi’s lawyer has stated that they will continue to pursue legal avenues to challenge the decision.

The uncertainty surrounding Gandhi’s political future has raised questions about the role of criminal defamation laws in India, which have been criticized for being used to stifle dissent and criticism of those in power. In recent years, several high-profile cases have been brought against journalists, activists, and politicians, raising concerns about freedom of speech and the independence of the judiciary. As India heads towards its next general election, the outcome of Gandhi’s legal battle could have far-reaching implications for the country’s political landscape.

South Asians On World Stage

The day Osman Salahuddin turned 27 was also the day he launched his political campaign. He announced his candidacy to run for City Council in Redmond, a city on America’s west coast where he grew up.

The city of Redmond, located 15 miles east of Seattle, in Washington state, with a population around 80,000, prides itself on its diversity and as a centre of technology – it is home to Microsoft, Nintendo, and AT&T, among other well-known companies.

Salahuddin is among a growing number of South Asians in the US taking up public office to serve their communities over the conventional fields of engineering, medicine, or law.  As a Pakistani-American, Salahuddin is well aware that he is going against the grain for the ‘desi’ (South Asian) community.

“This actually might not be popular amongst the parents,” he said at his inaugural campaign meeting, addressing the youth in the room. Inviting them to join him in pursuing a career in public service instead of going into tech or medicine he added, “Your parents will tell you otherwise, but this is really important work.”

Growing pattern

His situation reflects a pattern of first-generation immigrants working in traditional ways to settle in and establish themselves in their adopted country, while the next generation can explore and make independent life choices.

A similar example is the Ahmed family in Bowie, Maryland – father Shukoor, an Indian-origin tech entrepreneur, and his pharmacist Pakistan-origin wife Nabeela support their daughters Raaheela and Shabnam in running for local elections so that they can represent religious minorities and people of colour. After losing her first election at the age of 18, Raaheela has held public office since she was 23.

Another notable case is that of Bushra Amiwala, a Pakistani-American student who stood for elections in Skokie, Illinois, and became the youngest Muslim woman ever to be elected to the US government at age 21. She has since become the subject of two documentaries.

Like Ahmed and Amiwala, Salahuddin too found his calling in public service during his University years. While studying neurobiology at the University of Washington, Seattle, as a pre-med student, he ran for student body president and was elected to serve over 45,000 students. He found the work so enriching that he took on community leadership roles after graduating.

A particularly humbling experience as student body president, he says, was the time he helped pass legislation that helped undocumented students (HB1488 from 2017-18) gain eligibility for the College Bound Scholarship. This increased access to funding opportunities to help them attain higher education.

“I really quickly figured out my true passion was serving the community,” says Salahuddin. Guests enjoying lunch at Osman Salahuddin’s campaign launch on February 25, 2023. Photo: Shailaja Rao / Sapan News

Widening support base

Salahuddin’s top priority is empowering the youth “who are our future – by offering new programmes and ensuring that we are keeping them as engaged as possible.” He also aims to support small businesses and protect and improve public parks and open spaces.

At the festive, invitation-only lunch meeting at a hotel in Redmond on February 25, 2023, the gathering of over 200 comprised mainly leaders and members of the local Pakistani community, with a sprinkling of Indian-origin Americans, many in their ethnic wear. Some non-Southasian supporters also joined.

Salahuddin has garnered several endorsements from elected officials and community leaders and has substantial South Asian support beyond the Muslim and Pakistani communities. This includes his boss, King County council member Sarah Perry, for whom he works as a communications and community engagement manager. A strong ally of the local South Asian community, Perry calls Salahuddin “a gem”, someone with strong leadership skills and a strong drive to accomplish any task he takes on.

Another supporter is Hamdi Mohamed, Seattle Port Commissioner and the first Somali woman elected to serve in Washington state. She knows firsthand how difficult it is for someone “different” to run for public office. She received hate mail when she first did that, targeted for her race and ethnic background. Some supporters even advised her to change her name. “My identity was attacked, something I did not have control over!” she said at Salahuddin’s campaign launch, urging him to remain steadfast and not let things get to him.

Born in Seattle, Osman Salahuddin has lived most of his life in Redmond. His father, Kamran Salahuddin, a small business owner, grew up in Islamabad, Pakistan, and came to the US in the 1980s to pursue a Master’s degree at Oregon State University. Osman’s mother, Sania Salahuddin, a long-time special education teacher for autistic preschool students, hails from Karachi.

The younger Salahuddin says he owes his perseverance and entrepreneurial spirit to his father. He looks up to his mother the most, constantly awed by her patience, selflessness and compassion.

Pakistani roots

The oldest of three, Salahuddin, grew up in a multi-generational household. He learned about India and Pakistan from his grandparents, imbibing the importance of holding onto his roots in America.

Salahuddin believes that his home, America, provides the opportunity to bridge the divide left by a brutal Partition, ongoing Hindu-Muslim tensions, and the continual conflict between India and Pakistan.

He believes his grandparents’ emphasis on cultural values – food, festivals, traditions, family – helps him “meet and connect” with those of different backgrounds.

Salahuddin hopes to win a large number of votes from Indian-American citizens. His strategy is “to learn exactly what our Indian-American community members want from representation and incorporate these learnings with some of our shared cultural backgrounds.”

Prominent supporters among the Indian community include Lalita Uppala, executive director of Indian American Community Services; Rituja Indapure, a council member from Sammamish; and Rita Meher, executive director of Tasveer South Asian Film Festival, Seattle.

Strategising his path forward, he says, “There are many steps to ensure a win. Some initial steps include urging people to donate to the campaign, knocking on as many doors as possible to connect with the voters, and hosting and participating in various community gatherings.”

The final candidate’s list on May 19, 2023, will tell whether there will be others running against him. In that case, there will also be a primary on August 1, 2023. If not, Osman Salahuddin will head straight to the general election on November 7, 2023. (The author is the board president of Tasveer South Asian Film Festival and a contributing editor at Sapan News. By special arrangement with Sapan)

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Nirmala Sitharaman Highlights India’s Accomplishments, Challenges Facing North And South

India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman emphasized the global challenges facing countries of the North and the South, and highlighted India’s role as G20 President, during the Spring 2023 World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund meetings April 10- 16.

One of the main meetings was the Second G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) Meeting, under India’s Presidency. Sitharaman said many proposals discussed by India were very well received by participating members. She also emphasized that there has been a lot of momentum gained since the First G20 FMCBG held in February in Bengaluru this year.

­­India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman participating in a roundtable organized by USISPF and FICCI on April 11, 2023, at the Willard InterContinental in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Picture : Press Information Bureau

During her visit for the Spring Meetings, and on its sidelines,  Sitharaman followed a hectic schedule, participating in a series of events including a fireside chat on “Resilience of the Indian economy amidst tightening of financial conditions” hosted by Petersen Institute for International Economics (PIIE); a roundtable on “Investment opportunities for the long term: India on the rise” co-hosted by Confederation of Indian Industry and US-India Business Council; a roundtable on “Investing in the India Decade” organized by US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI); another roundtable on “Multilateral Development Bank Evolution: Building Shareholder Consensus” hosted by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. She also met with First Deputy Managing Director of IMF, Gita Gopinath, US Ex-Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker, and visited NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Speaking at a press conference April 13, following the FMCBG meetings, she said, “The discussions were very intense in the sense they were a lot of substantive inputs coming from the members. We were very happy to see most of India’s proposals have been well supported and there’s been an active engagement.”

Some 350 delegates with 13 invitee countries, and international and regional organizations participated in the FMCBG meeting which was grouped into three sections including sustainable finance, financial inclusion, and international taxation. The meetings wrapped up discussing progress made on India’s G20 Presidency, strengthening of Multilateral Development Banks, and challenges posed by Crypto Assets and debt distress in middle-income countries.

Sitharaman shared six key takeaways: recognition by members of the urgency to address debt vulnerability including strengthening multilateral coordination towards addressing the increasing debt distress in low income and middle-income countries; the issue of reforming multilateral development bank was very well received; the discussion on climate finance and sustainable financing of climate and climate related matters heading in a positive direction; Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion, where digital public infrastructure has had tremendous traction; international taxation issues were discussed in detail with the members; and the issue of Crypto Assets were discussed taking into account all the risks.

About strengthening global financial architecture, she said “There’s been a lot of discussion getting into details of how exactly the global financial architecture should be strengthened and what are the next steps and so on. So, through the India Presidency, I think we will be having several sessions to get into the details of how we want to look at the National architecture itself.”

Later addressing a panel discussion on “Empowering Women as Entrepreneurs and Leaders” at the World Bank, along with President of World Bank Group, David Malpass, Sitharaman recalled that the Financial Inclusion program was launched in 2014 when she was a junior Minister of Finance and went on to credit Prime Minister Narendra Modi for empowering women. She said “Prime Minister Modi’s first line, and that line continues till today – is that it has to be a women-led development for India rather than just women centric… So Prime Minister Modi gave a very prominent statement saying, I’m the Prime Minister of the country and I’m the guarantee for these loans, please give them the loans without a guarantee the government stands guarantee.”

When asked about specific initiatives that have enhanced economic conditions of women in India, she pointed to initiatives such as the National Rural Livelihood Mission, Floating Supermarket in Kerala, and Prerna Canteen run by women in Uttar Pradesh.

How Modi Can Impact G20?

As the first quarter of India’s presidency of G20 comes to an end, it is time to assess the grave challenges that G20 faces today and the unique opportunities it has in near future. It is the first G20 meeting to take place in South Asia. Recent global events may prove to be turning points and they should be part of that overall assessment. They are seemingly unconnected but deeply entangled like the underground web of the roots of giant trees. The slow and silent spread of the roots has the potential to uproot the massive structures on  the way. These recent events have the very potential to literally encroach on the regime of stability and uproot the existing systems and cause disruption.

Picture : World Economic Forum

G20, under India’s presidency, offers a unique opportunity to make transformational changes in the world order in wake of these events.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi,  the host of G20 by rotation,  has the capacity and mandate to make a difference. G20 preparatory meetings under India’s presidency till now are well conceived and planned with creativity. Though many events are India-centric, the scene is getting set for the main summit of G20 leaders to be held later in the year. As that summit gets nearer, there is an urgent need to assess these events that are likely to have a bearing on the expected outcome of the final G20 communique.

G20 started as a wider and more inclusive group than G7 which was considered a “partitioned pack of parallel power” to the United Nations. The roots of G20 are still dipped in an economic and financial cauldron; however, to be fair it has learned the lessons from the United Nations gallant efforts on Millennium Development Goals, MDGs,  and the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs. Peace on the planet is essential for economic growth and harmony with the nature ensures financial stability needed for the business and governments were those two key lessons. Partnership with the Global South is the sine qua non for the peace process.

G20 is a balanced representation of a total of 19 countries, developed and developing, plus the EU. Its members represent 85 per cent of the global GDP, 75 per cent of international trade and two-thirds of the world’s population, 80 percent of global greenhouse emissions and 80 percent of the world’s forest cover. In a way, G20 follows the 80:20 rule – 20 countries represent 80 percent of the world and 80 percent of the world’s problems are closely connected to the policies and actions of 20 per cent of the countries.

The first of these events is the intense inflection point for global negotiations on climate change. It is about much talked about ‘climate justice’ that is globally agreed upon but has remained without delivering one. Modi frequently highlights climate inequality in a number of his speeches on international fora including the UN.  But it has remained a quixotic concept.

Game-changing UN resolution

A game-changing UN General Assembly resolution drafted by a group of 17 Small Island Developing States (SIDS), including four from South Asia, and pioneered  by Vanuatu, a tiny Pacific Island country, has now given practical shape to that concept.

That resolution has now been formally adopted by United Nations General Assembly calling for the advice of the top UN judicial body, the International Court of Justice (ICJ).   The resolution emerged out of frustration that the world is witnessing the abysmal gap between agreed action and routine rhetoric on the climate crisis and the SIDS are the worst sufferers. Disillusioned and dejected by the existential threat looming large as their territory sinks fast under rising sea waters, the SIDS are reaching their limit of patience. Climate migration has already started with a major part of their population moving to other nearby safer countries. SIDS now has decided to test the water of the UN’s ability to deliver justice. Those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis are suffering the most and the first.  Those who created and contributed the most still continue to aggravate the problem and negate the ‘polluter to pay’ principle.

The resolution, co-sponsored by nearly 120 countries, the majority of the member states of UN, basically requests advisory opinion from the ICJ on the issue of climate injustice. The opinion from ICJ is non-binding, but the start of the very process of interaction with ICJ has signalled a new era of international law-making for climate justice.  Giving teeth to the climate-related lawsuits around the world and empowering vulnerable nations in international climate negotiations is big leap forward. The resolution was adopted unanimously. It is interesting that four G20 countries – USA, Russia, India and China – were not part of the 120 countries that explicitly co-sponsored the resolution. However, they did not oppose its adoption by the General Assembly either, probably seeing that majority is in favour of the resolution.

Modi has the opportunity to be with the SIDS by reassuring them that issue of climate justice is not only closer to the heart of large developing countries like India. Small Island countries are also part of ‘ Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the world is one family), a mantra of G20. He should proclaim that  ‘Sabka Saath  Sabka Vikas’ (with all, development for all) is not only a national but also a global slogan. Talk on climate justice has now been set on the right path starting with open dialogue with ICJ.  Modi should catalyze inclusive cooperation by  G20 in the process of seeking climate justice. Modi should invite the literally-sinking SIDS – Vanuatu, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Singapore – as special guests to G20 along with former Maldivian president and present Majlis (parliament) speaker Mohamed Nasheed and Erick Solheim, former environment minister of Norway, who strongly connects South Asia’s climate future to global peace.

IPCC guiding posts

The second event that should matter to G20 is the 6th Assessment of IPCC ( Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) called AR6. ‘Final bell’, ‘Shrill warnings’, ‘Battle lines are drawn’, and ‘Can we really be back on track?’, were the messages flashed after AR6 was released. It is the last report before the planetary scale catastrophe is likely to set in by  2030, if the world does not bend down the rising curve of greenhouse gas emission. By 2030 global emissions should be reduced  by 45 per cent as compared to the 2010 level as per AR6.

The limit of global warming by 1.5 deg C above the pre-industry level is now about to be breached. AR6 clearly states that warming is already reaching 1.2 deg C. That limit was pledged  in Paris Climate Agreement at the insistence of the very SIDs that are now seeking the opinion from ICG to deliver climate justice for setting the new world order. The world is hanging on a cliff and G20 must now go beyond the debates and conferences on energy transition, carbon trading and climate resilience. They must now start accelerating energy transformation, renewable-energy trading and climate justice. The agreed promises of financial assistance to the developing countries, initiate massive mitigation of emissions along with stringent penal non-compliance measures are needed. G20 should even propose to become the implementation arm of COPs under UNFCCC.

G20 is coming just before the UN climate conference COP28 in the UAE. The window of opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5 deg C is a crack open as per AR6. Though the climate time-bomb is ticking, the IPCC’s report could serve as a how-to manual for defusing the climate time bomb. IPCC has not stopped just by blowing the emergency siren.  It has laid out the milestones and guiding posts to achieve the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement as a matter of emergency.  The dire message from AR6 is arrow-straight. We must start a massive mitigation drive literally, NOW! G20 needs to send that message not by stating how India is contributing to the emission reduction but by proposing systemic changes by inducting rigorous implementation mechanisms in the process of COP and UNFCCC, introducing the compliance provisions in the Green Climate Fund, which has a miserable record till now, having failed to replenish even 1 per cent of the agreed climate fund. There is a need to carry out financial reforms in World Bank, funding from which still includes aid and loans for electricity generation by fossil fuels.

In March 2023, International Energy Agency (IEA) hosted the COP28 president-designate Dr Sultan Al-Jaber for a roundtable discussion at its headquarters in Paris on ways to accelerate climate action. COP28 will mark the first global stocktake of emissions, enhanced NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) pledges, and plans since the Paris Agreement.  The world is way off track in emission reduction as per the 2022 emission gap report of UNEP.

Dr Ali Jaber should be invited

“The bottom line is: the world needs to cut emissions by 43 per cent in the next seven years to keep (hope for limiting global warming to)  1.5 alive,” said Dr Al-Jaber at the IEA conference in Paris. “In the course of those same 7 years, the global population will exceed 8.5 billion and is on its way to 10 billion by 2050. Meeting the scale of the world’s fast-growing energy needs, while dramatically reducing emissions is one of the most complex challenges humanity has ever faced. Nothing short of transformational progress will do across mitigation, adaptation, climate finance and loss and damage.” added Al Jabar.

Modi should invite Dr Al Jaber to G20 as president-elect of COP28 not only to lay out his vision but to also engage him in a global programme of climate action as a legacy of his presidency. Masdar Solar venture was Al Jabar’s master stroke just like International Solar Alliance was promoted by  Modi. Al Jabar as a visionary business leader sees the future in energy transformation by reducing the role of the oil and gas industry through ‘system-wide transformation’ and by recanalization of profits from the oil and gas industry for a GHG-free world. He has already achieved that to a certain extent through the Masdar Solar project in UAE and in other countries through investments there. That vision of transformation resonates well with the message of the UN Secretary-General that “massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe are needed. Our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once.”

Is ‘system transformation’ possible?

Indeed, such a transformation of mindset and lifestyle is needed considering the fast-closing window of opportunity and cracking open  main doors of solutions to win the battle against the climate crisis.

The words, “system transformation”, by Dr Al Jabar is the clarion call for the revolution in waiting. When the CEO of an oil company and Minister of Industry and Innovation of the country whose prosperity has emerged from the oil and gas, gives a call that “we need to step up efforts to hit net-zero emissions by adopting renewable and zero-carbon energies, decarbonising the current energy system and investing in proven and new mitigation technologies”, one gets the intense feeling that the revolution of “system transformation” has already begun.  (Read more at:

US Ambassador Eric Garcetti Takes Over As New Envoy To India

The pink auto has again taken the route of the US Embassy in India and this time, dropped off America’s ambassador Eric Garcetti has taken over as the new envoy. Garcetti, who arrived in India on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, came in a “pink auto” and met all the members of the Embassy, according to the video shared by US Embassy in India on its official Twitter account.

“Excitement fills the air as we welcome Ambassador-Designate Eric Garcetti to India! We are excited to personally greet him and confident the U.S.-India partnership will advance through his leadership. #USIndiaTogether,” US Embassy in India tweeted.

On Garcetti’s arrival in India, Indian Embassy in the US tweeted, “Namaste, Ambassador-Designate Eric Garcetti! We’re thrilled to welcome you to #IncredibleIndia and work with you to build even stronger ties between our two great nations.”

On March 24, Garcetti was sworn in by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris as the new US Ambassador to India, after the U.S. Senate on March 15 confirmed the nomination of the former mayor of Los Angeles.

Garcetti, who is a close ally of Joe Biden, was nominated for the post by the US president in 2021. But his appointment was held up after allegations that he had overlooked accusations of sexual harassment against an aide when he was mayor. Garcetti denies any wrongdoing.

The US has not had an ambassador to India since January 2021 even though the two countries have strong security and trade ties.

Garcetti won the mandate by a vote of 52 to 42, a major victory for US President Joe Biden as well, who stuck by his political ally in the face of the allegations and the prolonged process that has left the world’s most populous democracies without US representatives.
After the result, Garcetti said in a statement, “I’m thrilled with today’s outcome, which was a decisive and bipartisan decision to fill a critical post that has been vacant for far too long. Now the hard work begins.”

Garcetti’s appointment also comes at a time when Russia has become a major irritant between Delhi and Washington. India’s neutral stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has frustrated the US.  Delhi has not explicitly condemned the war but has talked about the importance of “the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states”.

India is also the biggest market for Russian military equipment and continues to import huge quantities of crude oil from the country, ignoring bans in the US and parts of Europe.  “The United States-India relationship is extremely important,” Senator Chuck Schumer said after a test vote on Wednesday. “It’s a very good thing we now have an ambassador.”

A graduate of Columbia University, Garcetti was an officer in the US Navy for 12 years before he made his foray into politics. In 2013, he became the youngest mayor of LA in 100 years and the first Jewish person to be elected for the role. He held the post until 2022.

“I’m deeply grateful to President Biden and the White House for the confidence and support throughout this process, and to all Senators on both sides of the aisle — whether they voted for me or not — for their thoughtful consideration. I’m ready and eager to begin my service representing our critical interests in India,” he added.

Sitharaman On Visit To US, Attends Key Meeting Of World Bank, IMF

The Finance Minister of India arrived in the US Capital this week embarking on an official visit from April 10 to 16, accompanied by officials of her ministry and the Reserve Bank of India. Nirmala Sitharaman will attend key meetings of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) starting Monday, the finance ministry said.

The US Chamber of Commerce’s US-India Business Council (USIBC) co-hosted India’s Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman for an exclusive member roundtable at US Chamber headquarters in Washington DC, Monday, April 11, 2023 in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

The round table focused on how the US and India could strengthen trade and investment ties amidst a dynamic macroeconomic environment, and India’s increasingly important role as a destination for global investment.

In addition to Finance Minister Sitharaman, the roundtable was attended by Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Indian Ambassador to the United States, Ajay Seth, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Rajat Kumar Mishra, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, V Ananth Nageswaran, Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India, USIBC Board Chair Edward Knight, members of the USIBC Global Board of Directors, and representatives from companies across key sectors.

In her remarks, Minister Sitharaman emphasized that policy consistency and pursuit of reforms despite the pandemic have been a hallmark of the government’s approach. The Minister highlighted the impact of digitization and economic formalization at length, stating that India meets the requirements of a fair transparent economy due to its achievements in transitioning to digital payments and integrating the informal sector. In the end, she invited the investor community to participate in and make the most of the opportunities that India has to offer, now and going forward.
The Indian Ambassador to the United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, also addressed the roundtable attendees and highlighted that as the President of G20, India is committed to multi-stakeholder engagement.

During her visit, Sitharaman will interact with investors, economists and think tanks; participate in bilateral engagements, including a meeting with US treasury secretary Janet Yellen, and discuss key issues such as strengthening of multilateral development banks, digital public infrastructure and crypto assets, the ministry said in a statement. Sitharaman and India’s central bank governor Shaktikanta Das will jointly chair the second G20 FMCBG meeting on April 12-13, 2023.

Key engagements of the minister include spring meetings of IMF-WB, the Second G20 FMCBG meeting under India’s presidency, other G20-related side events, World Bank Development Committee and IMF Committee plenaries, bilateral engagements with countries and international organisations, interaction with global business leaders and investors in roundtables and engagement with the Indian diaspora, it said.

The FMCBG meeting is expected to be attended by about 350 delegates from G20 countries, 13 invitee nations and various international and regional organizations. The meeting will take stock of the progress made on outcomes envisaged under India’s G20 Finance Track agenda, the ministry said.

On the sidelines of the spring annual meetings of the World Bank, Sitharaman will have bilateral engagements with counterparts from G20 countries and heads of other delegations, including international organizations, to discuss issues and areas of mutual interest and cooperation under India’s G20 presidency.

On April 11, the finance minister will meet US treasury secretary Janet Yellen to discuss issues of mutual interest. On April 14, she will attend a seminar to review the financial implications of crypto assets and discuss policies to leverage benefits and contain risks.

India’s Supreme Court Blasts Government For Denying People’s Rights

A media outlet cannot be muzzled just because it criticizes the government, India’s Supreme Court said on April 5th, as it lifted curbs on a Malayalam news channel, ordered by the centre on “national security” grounds. “National security can’t be raised to deny people their rights… it was raised by the Home Ministry in a cavalier manner in this case,” the Supreme Court said.

The court said that the channel MediaOne’s criticism of the government’s policies and actions cannot be construed as anti-national or anti-establishment, and that an independent press is essential for a vibrant democracy.

Scrapping an order by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting that refused to renew the channel’s broadcast license for want of security clearance, the Supreme Court pulled up the Home Ministry for raising national security claims out of “thin air”.

“National security can’t be raised to deny people their rights… it was raised by the Home Ministry in a cavalier manner in this case,” the court led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said, overruling the Kerala High Court which had upheld the centre’s decision.

The judges said the center had failed to show any material facts or evidence to justify its decision to impose the broadcast ban on MediaOne, which was one of the few channels that reported extensively on the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in 2020 and the riots in Delhi that it spawned.

“There is nothing to show terrorist links. National security claims cannot be made on the basis of thin air. It is seen that none of the material is against national security or threatens public order,” the court said.

The court observed that the government cannot be allowed to have a stand that the press must support the government. It said criticism of the government cannot be a ground to revoke the license of a TV channel.

Coming down heavily on the center’s attempt to keep its rationale under wraps, and file them under “sealed cover”, the court said, “Sealed cover proceedings cannot be adopted to avoid the harm caused by public immunity proceedings. We are of the opinion that public immunity proceedings are a less restrictive means to safeguard the public interest.”

“There cannot be a blanket immunity to the government for disclosure of information to the other parties in a proceeding before the court… All investigation reports cannot be termed secret as these affect the rights and liberty of the citizens,” the Supreme Court said.

MediaOne, which had several run-ins with the BJP-led government at the centre, had gone off the air last year on January 31 after its name was removed from the list of permitted channels by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. On March 15 last year, the Supreme Court had put the Kerala High Court order, which had backed the center’s decision, on hold.

US Report Highlights Human Rights Issues In India

The annual report is compiled by a bureau within the State Department and is mandated by the US Congress where the records of all countries are inspected.

The US State Department released a report on human rights practices in India highlighting the country’s challenges to freedom of expression, cases of arbitrary arrests and detentions, extrajudicial killings, confiscation and destruction of property without due process, discrimination against minority groups among others.

Picture : Tribune India

On freedom of expression, the report said, “The government generally respected freedom of expression, but there were instances in which the government or actors considered close to the government allegedly pressurised or harassed media outlets critical of the government, including through online trolling.”

The department in its report also flagged the use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), claiming that civil society organizations have “expressed concern that the central government sometimes used UAPA to detain human rights activists and journalists”.

Erin M Barclay, acting assistant secretary of the bureau of democracy, human rights and labour, said that the US and India regularly consult “at the highest levels on democracy and human rights.”

“We have and we will continue to strongly urge India to uphold its human rights obligations and commitments. Not surprisingly, we also regularly meet with civil society both in the US and in India to hear their perspectives and learn from their experiences, and we encourage the Government of India to consult with them as well,” Barclay said at a State Department briefing in Washington DC on March 20.

It also flagged reports from civil society organizations alleging that both state and Union government intimidated media “through physical harassment and attacks, pressuring owners, targeting sponsors, encouraging frivolous lawsuits, and in some areas blocking communication services, such as mobile telephones and the internet, and constraining freedom of movement”.

The case of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez whose “pretrial detention has been extended at least five times by the NIA Special Court in New Delhi” was highlighted along with the arrest of Umar Khalid “for making a speech during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.” It also mentioned the denial of bail to the majority of the 16 activists “incarcerated on conspiracy charges related to the Elgaar Parishad Bhima Koregaon protests.”

Mentioning discrimination and violence, the report highlighted forced religious conversion for the purpose of marriage and instances of killings, both of Hindus and Muslims, during episodes of communal violence.

Amnesty Int’l Exposes India For Using Anti-Terror, Money Laundering Laws To Silence Dissent

(APP): The erosion of the rights of human rights defenders and religious minorities, use of repressive laws including counter-terrorism and money laundering to silence dissent, prolonged detentions, and killings feature today’s India as exposed by Amnesty International in its latest report.

The report “The State of the World’s Human Rights 2022/23” said the Indian government “selectively and viciously cracked down on religious minorities, and explicit advocacy of hatred by political leaders and public officials towards them was commonplace and went unpunished.”

It said that during the said period, the punitive demolitions of Muslim family homes and businesses were carried out with impunity.

Picture : Fortune

“Peaceful protesters defending minority rights were presented and treated as a threat to public order. Repressive laws including counter-terrorism legislation were used rampantly to silence dissent. Authorities intimidated human rights defenders using digital technologies, including unlawful surveillance,” the report said.

Amnesty highlighted that Adivasis and marginalized communities including Dalits continued to face violence and entrenched discrimination.

It said that in a continuing pattern of harassment and intimidation, unlawful and politically motivated restrictions were placed on civil society organizations and human rights defenders including activists, journalists, students and academics.

On 14 July, the lower house of parliament banned a number of ordinary words from being spoken during parliamentary debates including, among others, “corrupt”, “sexual harassment”, “criminal”, “eyewash”, “incompetent” and “hypocrisy” to police the speeches of opposition members of parliament.”

In September last, mass raids were carried out against the NGO Popular Front of India (PFI) and its affiliates across India which was later declared an “unlawful association” under counterterrorism law, for its alleged involvement in the “funding of terrorism and terrorist activities”, despite no such charges and trials and against those arrested.

The Indian Supreme Court had upheld provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (2002) relating to the powers
of arrest, confiscation of property. These powers have been repeatedly abused to repress civil society and limit dissent.

Throughout the year, the authorities routinely used international travel bans to stifle independent voices including the human
rights activist and former head of Amnesty International India, Aakar Patel, journalist Rana Ayyub and at least two Kashmiri
journalists who were scheduled to speak abroad on India’s human rights situation.

The government cracked down on critics by resorting to arbitrary arrests, including without following due process, under
draconian and repressive laws.

On June 28, Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of the independent fact-checking website ALT News, was arrested by police in New Delhi, for denouncing discrimination against minorities and criticizing increased censorship.

Eleven human rights activists continued to be detained without trial in Maharashtra state under the UAPA. They were academics Shoma Sen and Hany Babu; tribal rights activist Mahesh Raut; poet Sudhir Dhawale; lawyer Surendra Gadling; civil rights activists Rona Wilson, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves; and three members of the cultural group Kabir Kala Manch – Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap and Sagar Gorkhe.

Journalist Siddique Kappan and three others remained detained under laws on sedition and the UAPA. The authorities imposed new restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The High Court of Karnataka upheld a state order restricting all protests to a designated area in the state capital, Bengaluru. The Gujarat state police detained human rights activist Sandeep Pandey along with seven others who were due to participate in a march demanding a public apology to gang-rape survivor Bilkis Bano as the convicts been released from prison by the Gujarat government.

The Indian government used criminal laws disproportionately against religious minorities, particularly Muslims as the police routinely arrested Muslims for acts including offering prayers, conducting legitimate business transactions, and eating beef.

In the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Gujarat, public calls were made by some Hindu groups for the economic boycott of Muslim businesses.

Hate crimes including violence against Dalits and Adivasis were committed with impunity. More than 50,000 suspected crimes against members of Scheduled Castes and more than 9,000 crimes against Adivasi people were reported in 2021.

Several Kashmiri journalists were arrested, including Fahad Shah, Aasif Sultan and Sajad Gul. After being granted bail by local courts, they were re-arrested almost immediately under the UAPA. Journalists Aakash Hassan and Sanna Irshad Mattoo were prevented from travelling abroad by the immigration authorities without a court order, warrant or even a written explanation.

According to official data, Jammu and Kashmir accounted for the highest proportion of deaths involving the police in India between April 2020 and March 2022.

As per the report, the perpetrators continued to commit sexual and domestic violence with impunity. The government of the state of Karnataka imposed a ban on women and girls wearing headscarves (hijab) in public schools which also led to harassment of Muslim women and girls.

“I Am Fighting For India’s Voice… Ready To Pay Any Price,” Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi was suspended from the Lok Sabha following his conviction in a criminal defamation case last week. The Lok Sabha Secretariat also declared his constituency in Kerala’s Wayanad as vacant.

According to the Representation of the People Act, a lawmaker sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more shall be disqualified “from the date of such conviction” and remain disqualified for another six years after serving prison time.

Last week, a court in Surat found Rahul Gandhi guilty and sentenced him to two years in prison in a 2019 criminal defamation case over his remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname. The Congress leader, however, was granted bail and his sentence was suspended for 30 days to allow him to appeal the Surat court verdict.

The case was filed against Rahul Gandhi by BJP MLA and ex-Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi for saying “how come all thieves have the common surname Modi” while campaigning in Karnataka ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. (IANS)

Kerala: A Ghost Town In The World’s Most Populated Country

As India overtakes China as the world’s most populous nation, there is a crisis of population in parts of the country where fertility has fallen below replacement levels and migration has left behind ghost towns inhabited by the elderly. The BBC’s Soutik Biswas travels to Kumbanad, a town in Kerala state which is grappling with the consequences of an ageing society.

For years, schools in a drowsy town in Kerala have been facing an unusual problem: students are scarce and teachers have to go out looking for them. They also have to pay from their pockets to bring students to the school.

A 150-year-old government upper primary school – which educates students up to the age of 14 – in Kumbanad has 50 students on its rolls, down from about 700 until the late 1980s. Most of them are from poor and underprivileged families who live at the edge of the town. With only seven students, grade seven is the largest class. In 2016, the class had only one student.

Picture : BBC

Getting enough students to the school is a challenge. Each of its eight teachers fork out 2,800 rupees ($34; £28) every month to pay for auto rickshaws (tuk-tuks) ferrying students from home to school and back. They also go door-to-door looking for pupils. Even the few private schools in the area are sending out teachers to look for students – the biggest one has barely 70 students.

On a muggy afternoon recently at the upper primary school, you could barely hear the hum of lessons and hubbub of squeals that form the soundscape of a busy schoolhouse. Instead, teachers taught a few children in dark, quiet classrooms. Outside, in the sun-baked courtyard ringing the building, a few students wandered around desultorily.

Some 15% of the homes are locked up because residents have migrated or are staying with their children abroad. “What can we do? There are no children in this town. I mean, there are barely any people living here,” said Jayadevi R, the principal, wryly.

She is right. Kumbanad lies at the heart of Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district where the population is declining and ageing. This in a country where 47% of people are below the age of 25; and two-thirds were born after India liberalised its economy in the early 1990s.

Kumbanad and half-a-dozen verdant villages around it are home to some 25,000 people. Some 15% of the 11,118 homes here are locked up because the owners have migrated or live with their children abroad, says Asha CJ, the local village council chief. There are 20 schools, but very few students.

One hospital, a state-run clinic, more than 30 diagnostic centres and three old-age homes are pointers to its greying population. More than two dozen banks – including eight branches within less than half a kilometre – vie for remittances from townspeople who live and work all over the world. Around 10% of the $100bn in remittances that India mopped up from Indians living abroad last year came to Kerala.

Kerala – along with neighbouring Tamil Nadu – is some sort of an outlier in teeming India: the decadal rise in population here between 2001 and 2011 – when the last census was conducted – was lowest (4.9%) among states. A new-born in Kerala can expect to live for 75 years against the national average of 69.

Fertility rates in the state have dipped below replacement levels – 1.7 to 1.9 births per woman – for at least 30 years now. Smaller families ensure that children are educated well. This leads to the young migrating quickly within and outside the country for opportunities, leaving their parents at home.

“Education makes children aspire for better jobs and lives, and they migrate,” said Prof KS James of the Mumbai-based International Institute for Population Sciences.

“Their native places are then populated by their elderly parents, many of them living alone.”  Behind the tall metal security gates of her two-storey red tiled home in Kumbaud, Annamma Jacob, 74, has been living alone for as long as she can remember.

Her husband, a mechanical engineer with a state-owned oil company, passed away in the early 1980s. Her 50-year-old son has been living and working in Abu Dhabi for more than two decades. A daughter lives a few miles away, but her husband has been working as a software engineer in Dubai for three decades.

Her next-door neighbours are absent: one locked up her house and took her parents to Bahrain, where she worked as a nurse; the other moved to Dubai and rented their place to an elderly couple.

The neighbourhood is a picture of desolation. Amidst a lush landscape of tapioca, banana, and teak trees, handsome houses with expansive yards stand vacant, their driveways scattered with dried leaves and cars covered in dust. CCTV cameras have taken the place of guard dogs.

In vivid contrast to the cacophony of India’s chaotic and bustling towns, swathes of Kumbanad are surreally deserted and half-frozen in time. It is a town abandoned by many of its inhabitants but it is not languishing in ruins. The deserted houses are painted regularly, almost like they expect people any day. Except, they hardly come.  “It is a very lonely life. I am also not keeping good health,” Ms Jacob said.

Despite her heart disease and arthritis, Ms Jacob has travelled abroad to spend time with her son and grandchildren, and has vacationed in Jordan, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Israel with her children.

The things strewn around in her carpeted living room tell you something about her links with the world: imported paracetamol tablets, pistachios and cashew nuts, yellow paper flowers stuffed in China-made vases; and a bottle of imported body wash.

I asked her why she built a sprawling 12-room house only to live alone. “Everyone builds big houses here,” she smiled. “It’s about status.”

She spends a lot of time in her backyard farm where she grows tapioca, bananas, ginger, yam and jackfruit. At other times, she meditates and reads newspapers. She has a dog called Diana in a kennel outside.  “Some days, I only talk to Diana. She understands me.”

At her age and with her failing health, it is exhausting to work on the farm. Ms Jacob said she cannot afford a farm hand. A shortage of labour has meant steep work wages for the few who look for work. A daily labourer charges a thousand rupees for a six-hour day looking after the farm. Even Ms Asha’s village council is not able to find and afford people to digitise its records.

A few lanes away, Chacko Mammen, who suffers from heart disease and diabetes, works in his little farm for four hours every day, growing bananas. The 64-year-old worked in Oman for three decades as a salesperson before returning home. He shut a small business after six years because he did not find enough people to work for him. Now, after a lot of effort, he grows and sells about 10kg of bananas every day from his farm. “I just cannot afford a worker,” he said.

Shoring up the work force in an ageing society is always difficult. Even migration of workers from other states doesn’t always work, sometimes because of a distrust of outsiders. Ms Jacob said she did not prefer hiring a migrant. “I live alone. What if they kill me?” she said.

In this mellow town of elderly people and shuttered homes, there is very little crime. The police said thefts are rare because people don’t keep much money and valuables at home. They don’t remember the last time a murder took place here.

“It’s all very peaceful. We only get complaints about cheating. Old people being cheated by their relatives or domestic helps who forge their signatures and withdraw their money from banks,” said Sajeesh Kumar V, the chief inspector of the local police station.

A year ago, a relative of an elderly resident embezzled nearly 10m rupees by faking her signature. Last year the police arrested four promoters of a private financial firm which set up shop in the town and promised steep returns on deposits. When it began to default in what looked like a ponzi scheme, some 500 local depositors went to the police.

“That was a big crime for this area,” said Mr Kumar. “Otherwise we are mainly dealing with minor fights among residents – about some noise, or rubbish being dumped outside their home, someone’s wild tree branch encroaching on a neighbour’s farm. Those sort of things.”

The lack of crime means that the police spends most of its time looking after the old. They regularly check in on 160 single and ailing people; and have given away mobile alarms in some of their homes so they can alert neighbours during emergencies. In 2020, the police broke down the door of a house when no one answered the doorbell and found the resident, an elderly woman, lying on the floor.

“We took her to the hospital, where she recovered, One of our jobs is also moving residents to old-age homes. We check on old people, we take them to doctors,” said Mr Kumar.

“Old age is the only problem here,” said Father Thomas John, who runs a geriatric centre in Kumbanad.

The town has three wheelchair accessible old-age homes with open spaces, wide doorways and hallways. The Alexander Marthoma Memorial Geriatric Centre, a five-storey building alongside a 150-bed hospital, takes care of more than 100 locals, aged between 85 and 101. Almost all are bedridden, and their families pay 50,000 rupees every month for their care. Sometimes the children come and stay with them at the 16-year-old centre.

“Most of the children live abroad and have no option but to move the very old parents to old-age homes,” said Father John.

Not far away, the 75-year-old Dharmagiri Old Age Home houses 60 locals, all above 60 years of age. Last year there were 31 new admissions. There are separate buildings for men and women. The waiting list is growing: a new 30-room building that can accommodate 60 elders is coming up.

“Most of the women who stay with us are victims of cheating. Some of them have been abandoned by their families,” said Father KS Mathews, who runs the home.

The ailing elderly, old-age homes, labour shortages, migration of the young, declining population, ghost towns.

“This is a story of any demographic change. This will be the story of the whole of India, finally,” said Prof James.

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Denying Fundamental Rights To Citizens, Modi Claims India As The Mother Of Democracy

Describing India as the mother of democracy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 29th, 2023 said the India has become the fastest-growing major economy despite many global challenges and this proves that democracy can deliver. In a virtual address to the Summit for Democracy 2023, Modi said every initiative of his government is powered by collective efforts of the citizens of India.

“India is a democracy because we believe in saamanjasya (harmony)….. We are often told that India is the largest democracy. I would like countrymen to remember that we are not just the largest; India is the mother of all democracies,” Modi said.

“Democracy is not just a structure; it is also a spirit. It is based on the belief that the needs and aspirations of every human being are equally important. That is why, in India, our guiding philosophy is “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas”, meaning ‘’striving together for inclusive growth‘’, he went on to say.

The US State Department has said that respect for the rule of law and judicial independence is the cornerstone of any democracy and that Washington was watching Rahul Gandhi’s court case that resulted in his disqualification from the Lok Sabha. The US reaction came in the wake of large-scale protests by the Congress inside and outside Parliament over the issue.

The second Summit for Democracy is being co-hosted by US President Joe Biden, Costa Rica President Rodrigo Chaves Robles, Zambia President Hakainde Hichilema, the Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte and South Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol.

In his address, Modi said the idea of elected leaders was a common feature in ancient India long before the rest of the world — “Our epic Mahabharata describes the first duty of citizens as choosing their own leader. Our sacred Vedas speak of political power being exercised by broad-based consultative bodies. There is also historical evidence of republic states in ancient India where rulers were not hereditary.”

“There are also many historical references to republic states in ancient India where the rulers were not hereditary. India is, indeed, the mother of democracy,” Modi said.

Modi had earlier referred to India as the “mother of democracy” in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2021, countering the generally held perception that the Athenian city-state, founded in Greece in the 6th century BCE, which gave the terms ‘Demos’ and ‘Kratos’ to mean people’s rule, preceded it.

India was among about 120 countries invited to the second edition of the virtually held Summit for Democracy. In a repeat of the first edition in 2021 the U.S. decided to invite India, Nepal and Maldives, while not including Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to the event.

A major theme of this week’s summit is to working to ensure technology is used to benefit democracy. Biden on Monday signed an executive order prohibiting the use of commercial spyware that poses a security risk to the U.S. government or risks improper use by foreigners.

A senior administration official said the summit is intended to highlight “a critical issue of our time. As President Biden has said, we’re currently at an inflection point when it comes to the future of democracy both within the United States and globally,” the official said. “When the president came into office, he said that a defining question of this moment is whether democracies will deliver for their people.”

The Biden administration hosted the first edition of the summit in late 2021 as part of the president’s broader efforts to strengthen democracies globally and combat the influence of authoritarian nations like Russia and China.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this month held talks amid concerns from the U.S. that China could provide support to Russia in its war effort.

This week’s summit is also taking place as concerns play out over whether some U.S. allies are backsliding with moves to weaken democratic institutions.

Biden administration officials have raised alarm over a proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give lawmakers more control over the country’s top court. Netanyahu agreed to pause the judicial reforms in the face of widespread protests this week.

Mexico in February passed a law that critics said weakened the agency that helps administer and oversee the country’s elections.

And Brazil in January saw supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro storm federal government buildings after he was defeated in the country’s elections last year in images that evoked the chaos of Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.

Opening the first session on Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a special mention of attacks against democratic principles and freedom of the media worldwide.

“Freedom of expression is in freefall, dissenting voices are silenced. Human Rights Defenders face persecution, while prosecutors fighting corruption face reprisals, journalists confront censorship, detention and violence. The number of media workers killed across the world last year rose by a horrific 50%,” Mr. Guterres said, referring to a rise in the “siren songs of enlightened despotism”, which isn’t very “enlightened”, worldwide.

Speaking during the same session on “Democracy Delivering Growth and Shared Prosperity”, several leaders, particularly from the EU, referred in their speeches to the war in Ukraine, casting Russia, which was not invited, as carrying out an “attack on a democratic country”.

Rahul Gandhi, India’s Key Opposition Leader Disqualified From Parliament And Sentenced To 2 Years In Prison For Defaming Modi

Rahul Gandhi, a key opposition leader in India has been disqualified from Parliament and was sentenced to two years in jail for making defamatory remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Rahul Gandhi … stands disqualified from the member of Lok Sabha from the date of his conviction,” a notice issued by the parliament said on Friday, March 25th referring to India’s Lower House of Parliament.

In a tweet in Hindi following the move, Gandhi said he is “fighting for India’s voice” and that he “will pay any price for it.” Gandhi, chairman of the Indian Youth Congress – the youth wing of the Congress party was found guilty by a lower Court in India for the supposedly defamatory comments he had made relating to Modi’s surname at a 2019 rally before the last general election.

During a political rally, Gandhi had asked the crowd at the event as he criticized the prime minister’s economic policies: “Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?” He went on to name fugitive Indian diamond tycoon Nirav Modi, banned Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi and Narendra Modi.

Rahul Gandhi has been convicted under IPC Section 500. The maximum possible punishment under this section is two years. MPs, MLAs and MLCs lose their membership if they are sentenced to two years in jail or more. They cannot even contest elections for six years, as per the Representation of the People Act of 1951.

The court has granted him bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal in a higher court, Congress leader’s lawyer Babu Mangukiya said. Gandhi was present in the court when the verdict was pronounced. Rahul Gandhi, the son of Rajiv Gandhi, denied making any defamatory remarks about people with the surname “Modi” during the hearing.

The Congress leader claimed that he is a national leader who raises issues of corruption and unemployment in his speeches in the interest of the nation when the magistrate asked him if he had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of giving Rs 30 crore to an industrialist. The scion of Gandhi asserted that he was entitled to bring up such topics at rallies.

Gandhi claimed that he never said that all Modi family members were thieves when the court asked if he had. Prior to that, Rahul Gandhi had pleaded not guilty to the charge of making the remark when he appeared in court in October 2019.

Congress officials have described the court order as politically motivated and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of targeting political opponents. Earlier on Friday, Congress members held protests in some parts of the country against Gandhi’s conviction and two-year-old jail sentence. Modi’s government has been widely accused of using the defamation law to target and silence critics.

“We believe in law, judiciary and we will fight against this as per law,” said Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge.  “He has been granted bail. We knew from the beginning because they kept changing judges. We believe in law, judiciary and we will fight against this as per law,” said Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge on Rahul Gandhi found guilty in the criminal defamation case filed against him over his alleged ‘Modi surname’ remark.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot called him “courageous” and said that only he can compete with NDA government. “We keep saying our democracy is in danger as there is pressure on judiciary, ECI, ED & they’re all misused. All decisions are made under influence. Such comments are common… Rahul Gandhi is a courageous man & only he can compete with NDA govt,” said Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot.

“My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it,” tweeted Gandhi after being convicted in a politically motivated and influenced case, where the key Opposition Leader in India was given the maximum punishment under the law, 2 years in jail by a Surat court.

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

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

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

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

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

Picture : Human Rights Watch

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

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

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

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

“Come with us!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PM Modi Plans Visit To US In June

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi might embark on a state visit to the United States in the third week of June. To decide on the visit’s dates, both parties have been involved in diplomatic negotiations. Modi’s visit to the United States is in the works and amongst things on the menu is a mega event on International Yoga Day on June 21, according to media reports.

Sources say that the Big Apple will be the likely venue and the UN building is being looked at where PM Modi may perform Yoga with the UN Secretary-General and other dignitaries and send the message of Yoga as the unifier in the world. This is expected to be a big message to the American people also as Yoga has been embraced as a key fitness regime in America.

“June 21 to 25 is a possible window both sides are looking at. There will be an announcement at the appropriate time,” said a source. US President Joe Biden’s team had reportedly extended an invitation to Modi for a bilateral summit later this year.

Reports say that the official state visit will begin in Washington DC with President Joe Biden rolling out a red carpet for the Indian Premier. Besides, delegation-level talks and a one-on-one meeting are also being planned.

Picture : Reuters

From security cooperation to trade, education, cyber security, defense and climate change, the menu is quite large. The indication that a special welcome awaits Prime Minister Narendra Modi was given by the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken when he was in Delhi for the G-20 Foreign Ministers meeting earlier this month.

In Washington DC, the Prime Minister’s full agenda is still being worked out but from the captains of the business to lawmakers and the Indian diaspora there will be a packed schedule for PM Modi. On June 22 or June 23, a state dinner is being planned in the White House.

Post that Prime Minister Modi is expected to be in Chicago on June 24, where a big diaspora event is being planned along the lines of the Madison Square Garden event and Howdy Modi in Houston.

In Washington, there is complete unanimity that India is the chosen partner for the US and behind closed doors, they will continue to press each other to do more on issues of democracy and human rights, but on a broader canvas this is the best time for the relationship, and they must now let the momentum slip away.

Modi met Biden last on the margins of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali, Indonesia, where both the leaders discussed global and regional developments. At the time, Biden said that he looks forward to continuing to support the G20’s work under India’s Presidency. The visit will be crucial against the backdrop of Ukraine war. India’s recent G20 meetings have been overshadowed by the West with no consensus over the ongoing conflict in Europe.

US and India have a strategic alliance. The leaders in their last in-person meeting in Indonesia took into account areas like crucial and emerging technologies and artificial intelligence. “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,” the MEA had said in a statement.

In the wake of the Ukraine conflict the leaders also discussed “topical global and regional developments” in the meeting held on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali. Modi and Biden underlined the close collaboration between the US and India in groupings like Quad and I2U2. India, Israel, the US, and the United Arab Emirates are the members of the I2U2, whilst the Quad is made up of India, the US, Australia, and Japan.

Bill Gates Calls India An Innovation Hub

India has the potential to develop into a hub of “innovation and ingenuity,” to herald a “new era of global partnership” which can overcome the world’s greatest challenges, author, philanthropist, investor, technology founder, and co-chair and trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said, delivering the Fifth Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture in New Delhi.

The first 25 weeks of the Covid pandemic destroyed 25 years of progress in global health and three years later, most countries’ health systems are still not completely back on track, said Bill Gates Wednesday, adding that the pandemic “catalysed” a wave of health innovation in India.

With its record of vaccine development and digital public infrastructure platform, India has the potential to develop into a hub of “innovation and ingenuity,” to herald a “new era of global partnership” which can overcome the world’s greatest challenges, Gates said, delivering the Fifth Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture here.

Picture : TOI

Underlining the power of innovation to bridge divides and the role of India in the “big, global innovation boom,” Gates said: “When I was at Microsoft, we chose to put a development centre here in 1998. And we did that because we knew India was going to play a major role in the global innovation ecosystem – not just as a beneficiary of new breakthroughs, but as an innovator of them. In addition, as a scaler of breakthroughs. India can develop high-quality yet cost-effective innovations and drive their rapid adoption. Vaccines are a prime example.”

When it comes to overcoming the world’s greatest challenges like climate change or healthcare, India has a significant role to play, Gates said, flagging the country’s low-cost innovations like the rotavirus vaccine that saved lives globally, and affordable solutions like making biofuels and fertilizers from waste to address climate change.

The subject of the lecture was “Creating an Equal World: The Power of Innovation.”   Bill Gates began his lecture by talking about a front-page article in The New York Times that talked about 3 million children dying of diarrhoea every year, 90% of whom were from developing countries. He said he had a list of concerns for his newborn daughter but diarrhoea was not among them. He spoke of India’s journey from there to a point where 83% of one-year-olds in the country receive the rotavirus vaccine, saving 200,000 lives each year.

“Some of the focuses of our organization are global health and inequities reduction,” said the Microsoft founder during the lecture.   Gates said that although childhood immunization levels were bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels in India, for many other countries it might take another three years to get back on track. He spoke about innovations during Covid-19 and India’s ability to develop cheaper kits and scale up testing.

Later, in a conversation with Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express, on being asked about the balance between incentivizing innovation and sharing of technology, Gates said that a “kind of ideal” solution does exist in the field. He said the return of investments for companies comes primarily from sales in rich countries, somewhat from middle income countries, and for the lower income countries, the price should be just what it costs to make the medicine. As for climate technologies, market competition and political processes “will kick in.”

Co-chair and trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates took the stage weeks after the release of his latest book: How to Prevent the Next Pandemic.

He said that big pharma has done incredible innovations, bringing out new class of obesity drugs and continuing research for an Alzheimer’s drug, and so “I wouldn’t want to get rid of profit motive in medical innovation.”

Speaking on the climate crisis, Gates said: “Most of the emissions come from the rich countries and yet most of the damage will be in middle income and lower income countries that are near the Equator. It’s an incredible injustice. And, even though it creeps up on you, we need to act now, we need to act in a very big way.”

One of the challenges though with climate change, Gates said, is the “green premium” that comes with products made without emitting greenhouse gases. He said: “If you try to buy jet fuel that’s green, it’s twice as expensive. If you want to buy cement without emission, it’s twice as expensive. Now someone could say that climate is important so let’s get somebody to write a cheque for that extra cost. But sadly that will be trillions of dollars a year. And, there just is no fund… even in the rich countries,” he said, adding that the climate crisis is an innovation challenge that shrinks the green premium.

Earlier, in his welcome address, Raj Kamal Jha, Chief Editor, The Indian Express, said that Gates brought “science and hope” to the enduring questions of the day. Quoting his remark that “Innovation is a hammer and I use it on every nail I see,” Jha said that the nails Gates saw – from education to public health — were “pegs for social change and expanded the common good.”

‘How to Prevent the Next Pandemic’ is a veritable action plan – informed by technology and the latest in vaccine research — to anticipate and address the next health challenge.

The lecture, named after the founder of The Indian Express, has been delivered by then RBI governor Raghuram Rajan; then President of India Pranab Mukherjee; then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi; and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

On climate change, Gates said the challenge was innovation on a “massive scale,” to ensure that the world gets to net-zero emissions “without the penalty of higher prices for going green.”

“As the founder of The Indian Express, Ramnath Goenka instituted some of the highest standards of journalism in India,” noted Gates.  “It is an injustice that the people who have done the least to cause climate change are the ones suffering the most from it,” he said. “In my lifetime I’ve never been so optimistic about the potential for new technologies to improve the world,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Gates spoke about Aadhaar and India’s digital networks and payment systems, while hailing the country’s reliable and low-cost connectivity. He said this will be the world’s cheapest 5G market. He was speaking at a session on ‘Building resilient and inclusive economies – the Promise of Digital Public Infrastructure’ under India’s G20 presidency.

Gates also visited the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), and met Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar.  Among the guests at the lecture were Chandrasekhar, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Suman Bery, Niti Aayog Member Dr VK Paul, Chief Economic Advisor V Anantha Nageswaran, Bharat Biotech Founder and Chairman Dr Krishna Ella, Plaksha University Vice Chancellor Rudra Pratap, Medanta CMD Dr Naresh Trehan, and Public Health Foundation of India’s Srinath Reddy.

Meeting With Principal Scientific Advisor

With a view to understand the priority areas and explore further collaborations, billionaire-philanthropist Bill Gates, co-chair and trustee of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, visited the office of the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to the Government of India, Ajay K. Sood, here on Monday.

During Gates’ visit, Sood gave an overview of the PSA office’s wide-ranging engagements, including the national missions on One Health, Quantum Technologies, Livelihood, Green Hydrogen, One Nation One Subscription etc.

The discussion focused majorly on the priority engagements of One Health Mission and Waste to Wealth Mission with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gates appreciated the focus on science and technology initiatives, as he expressed interest in supporting the government’s efforts for the upcoming One Health Mission and the power of environmental surveillance for disease control.

He stressed the need for innovations to address animal health, disease modelling and novel diagnostics technologies. gates also emphasised the opportunity for India to support both domestic and global challenges in these areas.

Gates was accompanied by Trevor Mundel, President of Global Health; Hari Menon, Country Director-India; and Harish Iyer, Deputy Director, Digital and Health Innovation.  They also met Parvinder Maini, Scientific Secretary, Office of the PSA, among other senior officials. (IANS)

Think Tank CPR’s FCRA Suspended, Gets I-T Notice On Tax Exemptions

Centre for Policy Research (CPR), one of the leading public policy think tanks, said last week that it has been “intimated” by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs that its registration under the FCRA had been “suspended for a period of 180 days.”

Weeks before it was informed that its registration under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) had been suspended, the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) received a show cause notice from the Income Tax Department, asking why the registration granting it tax exemptions should not be cancelled.

The CPR had been granted tax exemption status until 2027 under Section 12A of the Income Tax Act. That status has now been questioned by the I-T officials, who collected huge amounts of documents and data during a survey on September 7, 2022 and followed it up by dispatching over a dozen summons to its staff — from its senior researchers to the office peon.

The I-T Department challenged the tax exemptions with a 33-page show cause notice, sent on December 22, 2022 alleging that the CPR was in violation of being involved in activities which were “not in accordance with the objects and the conditions subject to which it was registered”.

The I-T Department included in the show cause notice several observations and allegations not directly related to its operations as an entity.

For instance, there is a list of 19 persons, described as “non-filers” – mostly members of its staff who have either not filed or filed their I-T returns irregularly. The office peon has been included in the list of “non-filers” and the CPR asked to explain how the Rs 2.49 crore given to these individuals collectively (mostly remunerations paid between 2017 and 2021) were payments related to the objectives of the CPR.

The I-T has described the “non-filers” as “persons whose “genuineness is questionable” or not as per the mandate of the CPR.  After scrutinizing accounts, the I-T Department has also questioned activities of the think tank such as bearing the cost of publishing books of its employees.

The show cause notice contains a list of seven authors and observed that while CPR has subsidized the publication of their books, it does not draw any financial benefit from it.

The CPR has been asked to explain how publication of books could be categorized as a “charitable” activity, and told to submit all expenses incurred during the book launches.  The CPR has been challenging the allegations contained in the post-survey summons and notices received.

On the issues raised by the I-T in its show cause notice, Yamini Aiyar, President and Chief Executive of CPR, told The Indian Express, “There is no question of our having undertaken any activity that is beyond our objects of association and compliance mandated by law.”

“Our work and institutional purpose is to advance our Constitutional goals and protect Constitutional guarantees. We are absolutely confident that the matter will be resolved speedily, in fairness and in the spirit of our Constitutional values.”

Some of the ineligible “activities” listed by the I-T Department include:

* Funds to the tune of Rs 10.19 crore (since 2016) from the Namati-Environmental Justice Program. These funds, according to the I-T Department, “are used to file litigation and complaints instead of carrying out any research or educational activity”. The CPR has been asked to provide details of how funds received under the Namati project were used and how they relate to the objectives of the CPR.

* The I-T has show caused CPR for being “involved” in the Hasdeo movement (launched by activists against coal mining in the Hasdeo forests of Chhattisgarh) through the Jan Abhivyakti Samajik Vikas Sanstha (JASVS). The I-T has shown calculations that in the past four years, the JASVS received between 87%-98% of its donations from the CPR and, according to them, this too, “was not in pursuance of its approved objectives”.

* There are a whole bunch of allegations which have been conveyed to the CPR in the show cause notice on how they were in violation of provisions of the FCRA.

The show cause lists alleged “sub-grants” by the CPR and states that financials provided by the CPR show that its FCRA funds have got “mixed up” with its core funds. The observation, “CPR appears to be crediting the commercial receipts and foreign contribution in FCRA designated accounts and thus, there is an intermingling of funds, which is in violation of provisions of FCRA”.

Calculations have been provided to the CPR on how there was wide discrepancy between its annual receipts of funds as per their Income Tax filings and the funds received as per their account books. The “discrepancy” has been, for instance, calculated at Rs 1.43 crore for the year 2017-2018 to Rs 81.45 lakh for the year 2021-2022.

Yamini Aiyar told The Indian Express that replies to specific allegations could not be made by CPR since it would be outside the remit of the process and would undermine its objectivity and confidentiality.

“As an academic institution, whose primary objective is to produce high quality education and training related work, we enjoy tax exemption status accorded to us under Section 12 (A) of the Income Tax Act. Our work, including books written by our faculty, and research related partnerships are in pursuit of these objectives. We are in complete compliance with the law and are routinely scrutinised and audited by government authorities including the Comptroller Auditor General of India and the Ministry of Home Affairs, FCRA division. We have annual statutory audits and all our annual audited balance sheets are in the public domain,” she said. (The Indian Express)

G-20 Concludes In India With Divisions On Ukraine War

The G20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting was unable to agree to a joint communique here Thursday over sharp differences on the Russia-Ukraine war between the US-led West on one side and Russia-China on the other.

Top diplomats from the Group of 20 industrialized and developing nations ended their contentious meeting in New Delhi on Thursday, March 2nd with no consensus on the Ukraine war, India’s foreign minister said, as discussions of the war and China’s widening global influence dominated much of the talks.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said there were “divergences” on the issue of war in Ukraine that “we could not reconcile, as various parties held differing views.”

“If we had a perfect meeting of minds on all issues, it would have been a collective statement,” Jaishankar said. He added that members agreed on most issues involving the concerns of less-developed nations, “like strengthening multilateralism, promoting food and energy security, climate change, gender issues and counter-terrorism.”

Picture : Reuters

Jaishankar, who chaired two sessions of discussions at the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting on March 2, 2023 said that the twenty countries that make up the G20 were in agreement on a range of global issues. Speaking at a press meet after the meeting, Jaishankar said, “Despite the challenges of the divergent positions on the conflict in Ukraine, the G20 foreign ministers were able to come to a consensus on addressing key challenges.”

As per reports, China and Russia objected to two paragraphs taken from the previous G-20 declaration in Bali last year, according to a summary of Thursday’s meeting released by India. The paragraphs stated that the war in Ukraine was causing immense human suffering while worsening weak spots in the global economy, and affirmed the need to uphold international law and that “the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.”

A summary issued by Host India stated: “The war in Ukraine has further adversely impacted the global economy. There was a discussion on the issue. We reiterated our national positions as expressed in other fora, including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, which, in Resolution No. ES-11/1 dated 2 March 2022, as adopted by majority vote (141 votes for, 5 against, 35 abstentions, 12 absent) deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine.

“Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy – constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks. There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. Recognizing that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy.”

Host India had appealed for all members of the fractured G-20 to reach consensus on issues of deep concern to poorer countries even if the broader East-West split over Ukraine could not be resolved. While some attendees, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, chose to highlight their positive roles in addressing world crises, the divide was palpable.

The talks began with a video address to the foreign ministers by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He urged them not to allow current tensions to destroy agreements that might be reached on food and energy security, climate change and debt.

“We are meeting at a time of deep global divisions,” Modi told the group, which included Blinken, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and their Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, whose discussions would naturally be “affected by the geopolitical tensions of the day.”

Modi said: “We all have our positions and our perspectives on how these tensions should be resolved. … We should not allow issues that we cannot resolve together to come in the way of those we can.”

While, on the surface, this is a repeat of stated positions, what is significant is that both US and India said that the outcome document was approved by an overwhelming majority. In what marks a calibrated step forward, Washington backed Delhi’s statement that the Chair’s summary – put out by India as Chair of the G-20 — was a product of consensus on a variety of issues.

“With the foreign ministers of the Group of 20 leading economies meeting  in New Delhi, host India is promoting itself as a rising superpower while leveraging its position on the global stage to bridge the gap between the West and Russia,”  analysts stated.

“Indian Democracy Is Under Pressure And Under Attack:” Rahul Gandhi At Cambridge

“Indian democracy is under pressure and under attack. The institutional framework which is required for a democracy … the Parliament, free press, the judiciary, just the idea of mobilization — these are all getting constrained. We are facing an attack on the basic structure of democracy,” Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi, while accusing the Modi-led government in India of unleashing an attack on the basic structure of Indian democracy.

Gandhi was addressing students at Cambridge University last week. He alleged that the Israeli spyware Pegasus had been used to snoop on him and several other politicians. He alleged that he had been warned by intelligence officers to be “careful” while speaking on the phone as his calls were being recorded.

Rahul Gandhi noted that in the Indian Constitution, the country is described as a Union of States and that Union requires negotiation and conversation. “It is that negotiation that is under attack and threat…there is also attack on minorities and press.

“I myself had Pegasus on my phone. Large number of politicians have Pegasus on their phones. I’ve been called by Intelligence officers who say please be careful of what you say on your phone as we are recording the stuff,” the Congress leader had said, according to news agency ANI.

Gandhi said, “This is a constant pressure that we feel. I’ve got a number of criminal liable cases registered against me for the things which, under no circumstances, be criminal cases. And that’s what we are trying to defend.”

He continued, “As the Opposition, it is very difficult to communicate with people when you have this type of an assault on media and on the democratic architecture.”

Picture : IYC

Hitting back at him, India’s Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Sports and Youth Affairs, Anurag Singh Thakur, claimed that the Congress leader was “once again crying on an international platform”. Addressing a press conference, he said: “He knew the consequences of doing this … The matter of Pegasus has occupied a deep corner in his head and heart.”

“Today, the kind of respect that Modiji has in the entire world and the recognition that India has gained under the leadership of Modiji … If no one, Rahul Gandhi should have at least listened to Italy’s Prime Minister and its leaders,” he added.

Dispensing with the long beard and white shirt that became his trademark look during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi appeared last week looking sharp in a suit and trimmed beard ahead of his lecture at his alma mater Cambridge University.

Gandhi was set to deliver a student-only lecture at the university on “Learning to Listen in the 21st Century”. This is a part of his week-long tour in the United Kingdom, where he is also set to talk to diaspora groups.

Speaking at the India@75 event at Cambridge University’s Corpus Christi College on May 23 last year, Rahul said, “My problem with the RSS and the Prime Minister is that they are fiddling with the foundational structure of India. When you play the politics of polarisation, when you isolate and demonise 200 million people, you are doing something extremely dangerous and you are doing something that is fundamentally against the idea of India.”

He also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of creating a vision of India that is not “inclusive”. He added, “I have studied Hinduism in enough detail to tell you that there’s absolutely nothing Hindu about wanting to murder people and beat people up.”

Six years earlier, he addressed a similar event – India@70 – at University of California, Berkeley. In the speech, he said “hatred, anger and violence and the politics of polarisation had raised its ugly head in India today”, and liberal institutions were being eroded.

During his online interviews and interactions in March and April 2021 for different American universities, Rahul said the BJP and the RSS had captured India’s institutional framework. He spoke with Prof Kaushik Basu for Cornell University, Prof Ashutosh Varshney for Brown University, and US diplomat Nicholas Burns for Harvard.

“There is not a single institution that is not under attack and it is systematically done. The judiciary, the press, the bureaucracy, the Election Commission … every single institution is systematically being filled by people who have a particular ideology and belong to a certain institution … I would not say eroding, I would say strangling,” he said during one such interaction.

In his conversation with Basu, he said that even if the BJP were defeated, it would be hard to get rid of people in the “institutional structure”. Rahul told Varshney, “Even Saddam Hussain and Gaddafi used to have elections and win those, but there was no institutional framework to protect that vote.” He also said that electoral democracy can be “destroyed” in the 21st century if one can control social media and have financial dominance.  Speaking to students of IMT Business school in Dubai in January 2019, Gandhi said India’s “ethos” was built on “tolerance”.

Gandhi’s Trusteeship Doctrine Through Human-Centric Global Development

United Nations– India is practicing Mahatma Gandhi’s doctrine of trusteeship in the contemporary world by following “a human-centric global development approach, not a self-centered model”, according to India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj.

Speaking on Thursday at a roundtable here on Gandhian Trusteeship, she said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would carry this through during India’s Presidency of the G20, the group of the major industrialized and emerging economies.

She said that according to him India will be the voice of the developing South “whose voices are frequently ignored” and share “India’s experiences, lessons learned and growth models during our G20 Presidency”.

India is guided by the concept of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, the “world being one large interconnected family”, and has emerged as the “first responder” to the crises around the world showing “altruism of the highest kind” as during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She listed India’s most recent responses to the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and to the crises in Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Mozambique, among other countries.

She said that India’s slogan for G20, “One earth, one family, one future”, simply means, “ee may be different nations, but humanity is one”.

The roundtable on Gandhian principles took place as the General Assembly was voting next door on a resolution on the Ukraine-Russia war.

“What I find very, very powerful is that we are talking about peace about non-violence” while the Assembly was seized with the Ukraine crisis.

Norway’s Deputy Permanent Representative Trine Heimerback said that in today’s world Gandhi’s doctrine of trusteeship means “multilateral cooperation and global solutions for global challenges”.

This approach operationalizes the trusteeship doctrine through efforts to realise UN’s sustainable development goals, she said.

The goals are “all about responsibility, equitable trusteeship for a planet and for the common good of humanity, and when countries use their comparative advantages to advance SDG agenda, so much can still be achieved”, she said.

Dean of the University of Peace Jaun Carlos Sainz-Borgo said that as a Latino from the Caribbean, the idea of using the tools of peace to fight against a colonial power made an impression on him.

Recalling his introduction to Gandhi from the 1982 movie starring Ben Kingsley, which he followed up by reading books, he said that popular media can be an important way to communicate ideas to a broader section of people.

The movie “really opened my eyes to the complexities of the role (of Gandhi), even though (there was) the oversimplification of a movie, especially a Hollywood movie”, he said.

“But as an educator and as a representative of a university, it is very important to really take into consideration that we cannot neglect any platform for education. You know, sometimes the type of tools they can make, really open up the interest of many people that you wouldn’t address otherwise.”

Joel Rosenthal, the president of Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, recalled Gandhi’s terse letter to the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “all rights to be deserved and preserved come from duties well done”.

“That’s basically all Gandhi had to say, in terms of his advice to the drafters,” he said.

“Today, empathy and mutuality are losing out due to identity politics, blood and soil nationalism in winner-take-all economics”, but “a return to the idea of human flourishing, echoing Gandhi might help turn the tide”, he added. (IANS)

Will Eric Garcetti Get Confirmed As US Ambassador To India?

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (SCFR) has scheduled a nomination hearing later this month for former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and six other nominees to various positions. This hearing will pave the way for a full Senate vote in the new Congress. Garcetti was renominated for the position in January after his first nomination lapsed in 2021.

As the Democrats now have a slim majority in Congress, his new nomination has a higher chance of going through. “Having a senior official on the ground that represents the President makes a big difference,” said Indiaspora member and former US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma, when commenting on the importance of getting a new ambassador chosen as soon as possible.

President Biden had renominated former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to be U.S. ambassador to India on in January this year after Garcetti’s confirmation failed to advance through the U.S. Senate last year.

The White House also resubmitted nominations for roughly 60 people for jobs in key administrative posts or national security positions, as well as 25 judicial nominees who failed to win confirmation in 2022. Candidates must be renominated at the start of each new Congress.

Picture : TheUNN

Biden’s support for Garcetti, who was also renominated for the position last year, is notable given how long the nomination has lingered in Washington. The vacant diplomatic post comes as Biden looks to allies to help contain the rise of China and shore up support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also host the G-20 leaders in New Delhi in September.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Garcetti is “well-qualified” for the “vital role.” “We’re hopeful that the Senate will confirm him promptly,” Jean-Pierre said.

“I am grateful for the president’s confidence, and strong support on both sides of the aisle in the Senate,” Garcetti said. “I look forward to completing this process, so that I can begin serving in India and advancing this critical partnership as quickly as possible.”

Garcetti was announced as the White House pick for India in July 2021, but a vote on the appointment has never been scheduled following some Democratic senators’ concerns over sexual harassment allegations leveled against former Garcetti aide Rick Jacobs. At the same time, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) has placed a hold on Garcetti’s nomination.

The former mayor has waited far longer for confirmation — more than 500 days — than all others whom Biden has designated to be ambassadors, according to the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.

India’s Supreme Court Denies Gag Order For Media On The Adani Issue

The Supreme Court of India has rejected a plea seeking to gag the media from reporting on the Adani-Hindenburg issue till the court pronounces its order. Rejecting the petition filed by advocate M L Sharma, a bench headed by CJI DY Chandrachud said, “We are not going to issue any injunction to the media.”

The apex court had reserved its order on February 20 on a batch of PILs on the recent Adani Group shares crash triggered by Hindenburg Research’s fraud allegations.


The top court on February 17 had refused to accept in a sealed cover the Centre’s suggestion on a proposed panel of experts for strengthening regulatory measures for the stock market.

Observing that it wants to maintain full transparency in the interests of investors, it said it would rather not accept the Centre’s suggestion in a sealed cover.

Investors’ interests

On February 10, the top court had said the interests of Indian investors need to be protected against market volatility in the backdrop of the Adani Group stock rout and asked the Centre to consider setting up a panel of domain experts headed by a former judge to look into strengthening the regulatory mechanism.

Till now, four PILs have been filed in the top court on the issue. Adani Group stocks have taken a beating on the bourses after the Hindenburg Research made a litany of allegations, including fraudulent transactions and share price manipulation, against the business conglomerate.

The Adani Group has dismissed the charges as lies, saying it complies with all laws and disclosure requirements.

Senator Schumer, Congressional Delegation Meet PM Modi In India

A US Congressional delegation of nine Senators led by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi Feb 20. The delegation included Senators Ron Wyden, Jack Reed, Maria Cantwell, Amy Klobuchar, Mark Warner, Gary Peters, Catherine Cortez Masto and Peter Welch.

Modi welcomed the Congressional delegation to India and appreciated the consistent and bipartisan support of the US Congress for deepening India-US bilateral ties. PM Modi referred to his recent phone call with President Biden and the shared vision of the two leaders for further elevating India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership to address contemporary global challenges.

Picture : TheUNN

Senate Majority Leader Charles ‘Chuck’ Schumer, D-NY, in his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi Feb. 20, 2023, stressed the importance of strengthening U.S.-India ties to ‘outcompete’ China, advance tech opportunities and expand democracy. Over the course of his visit the Senator also visited major religious sites in India, including the Sis Ganj Gurudwara, Jama Masjid, Gaurishankar Mandir, and Central Baptist Church.

In a statement released after his meeting with Modi, Schumer said, “I am honored to lead the largest and most senior Senate delegation to India ever to meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is only my second CODEL (Congressional Delegation) as a senator and my first as majority leader.”

The senior Senator went on to say, “I made India my first CODEL as majority leader to show my commitment to the important U.S.-India relationship,” adding, “We need nations such as India, the world’s largest democracy, to work with us to strengthen democracies in Asia and outcompete China and to counterbalance its aggressions.”

Senator Schumer called India “one of the leading powers of the world,” and emphasized that “a strong U.S.-India relationship is a must for democracy, technology advancement, and a strong world economy. I am proud that the senators of our delegation served as strong representatives of America’s commitment to the U.S.-Indian economic and security partnership,” he went on to say.

Describing the one-hour meeting as “substantive and productive” Sen. Schumer said the conversation covered the growing U.S.-India relationship and the common interests that unite the two largest democracies in the world, as well as their bilateral cooperation “on shared strategic interests including outcompeting China, combatting climate change, increasing trade, and deepening ties between our two countries.”

“I strongly believe a robust U.S.-India relationship will be the cornerstone for stability in the Indo-Pacific region for the 21st century,” the Senator said. “We also discussed with both Prime Minister Modi and the US Embassy the strong desire of our delegation to see our immigration laws for Indian Americans improved,” Sen. Schumer said, adding, “It is in our mutual interest for more Indians to be able to immigrate to America, which will bolster our economy on several levels. For example, being sent home 60 days after losing a job in tech and other industries is unfair for Indian Americans and bad for America.”

“All of us in the delegation expressed our commitment to continue working with Prime Minister Modi’s government to deepen our bilateral relationship to advance our mutual interest. While in India, the Congressional delegation visited Jaipur, and Jaipur Foot, the world’s largest rehabilitation organization, a press release from his office said. “Jaipur Foot has helped rehabilitate over 2 million people, including amputees and polio patients in India and in 27 countries around the world,” Schumer noted.

Schumer also issued statements after visits to each of the religious sites, noting their ideals and social work that they do.

Seattle Is First US City To Ban Caste Discrimination

(AP) — The Seattle City Council on Tuesday added caste to the city’s anti-discrimination laws, becoming the first U.S. city to ban caste discrimination and the first in the world to pass such a law outside South Asia.

Calls to outlaw discrimination based on caste, a division of people based on birth or descent, have grown louder among South Asian diaspora communities in the United States. But the movement has been getting pushback from some Hindu Americans who argue that such legislation maligns a specific community.

Tensions within the community were visible at Seattle City Hall on Tuesday as a noisy hearing culminated with a 6-1 vote with a majority of the council agreeing that caste discrimination crosses national and religious boundaries and that without such laws, those facing caste discrimination in the U.S. will have no protections.

The packed room, which overflowed with activists from both sides bearing banners, chanting slogans, challenging speakers and city officials as they made their comments, laid bare stark divisions over this issue within the South Asian diaspora. A majority of those present in council chambers were supporters of the ordinance and those opposed were a vocal minority.

Picture : NBC

As council members voted in favor of the ordinance, the chamber erupted into cheers of “Jai Bhim,” which means “victory for Bhim” a rallying cry adopted by followers of B.R. Ambedkar, an Indian Dalit rights icon whose given name was Bhimrao. Dalit groups and their supporters say caste discrimination is prevalent in U.S. diaspora communities, manifesting itself in the form of social alienation and discrimination in housing, education and the tech sector where South Asians hold key roles.

Yogesh Mane, a Seattle resident who grew up as an untouchable in India, broke into tears as he heard the council’s decision.

“I’m emotional because this is the first time such an ordinance has been passed anywhere in the world outside of South Asia,” he said. “It’s a historic moment.”

Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director of Oakland, California-based Equality Labs, whose advocacy work along with community partners continues to push caste discrimination laws forward, called the council vote “a culture war that has been won.”

Seattle first US City to ban caste discrimination

Seattle City Council on Tuesday added caste to the city’s anti-discrimination laws, becoming the first U.S. city to specifically ban caste discrimination (Feb. 22) (AP video/Manuel Valdes)

“We got the support of over 200 organizations from Seattle and around the country,” she said. “It’s a powerful message that Dalit people are not alone. The South Asian community has united to say we want to heal from the trauma of caste.”

Council Member Kshama Sawant, a socialist and the only Indian American on the City Council, said the ordinance, which she proposed, does not single out one community, but it accounts for how caste discrimination crosses national and religious boundaries. Sawant said the council received over 4,000 emails in support of the ordinance.

“We’ve heard hundreds of gut-wrenching stories over the last few weeks showing us that caste discrimination is very real in Seattle,” she said.

Council Member Sara Nelson who cast the lone dissenting vote agreed with opponents calling the ordinance “a reckless, harmful solution to a problem for which we have no data or research.”

“This could generate more anti-Hindu discrimination and could dissuade employers from hiring South Asians,” she said. “The community that is being impacted is deeply divided on this issue.”

Nelson also said the ordinance would also get the city entangled in legal battles to which Sawant responded: “Bring it on.” Sawant said being fearful of lawsuits is not the way to effect progress or change.

Council Member Lisa Herbold questioned opponents’ logic that the law singles out Hindus and people of Indian descent. “That’s like saying gender discrimination laws single out all men,” she said. “And just because we have a small population that is experiencing (caste discrimination) that doesn’t make it any less important.”

Shobha Swamy, a representative of the Coalition of Hindus of North America said she was disappointed by the council deliberations and line of questioning. The group said they received a show of support from over 100 organizations. “Due diligence wasn’t done,” said Swami, who flew in from Atlanta.

C.H. Srikrishna, a San Francisco Bay Area-based tech worker, said he is worried about the ramifications this ordinance might have for the South Asian community.

“I too want discrimination to end,” he said. “But we need to first determine that widespread discrimination exists.”

Srikrishna, who is Hindu, believes the ordinance does target his religion. “When you say it originated 2,000 years ago, that is implicitly blaming Hinduism,” he said. “That bothers me. I feel betrayed.”

Sanjay Patel, a tech company owner from the Seattle area, said he never felt discriminated against in the U.S. as a member of a lower caste and that the ordinance pained him because it reminded him of a caste identity, which he thought had become obsolete.

“I fear with this law, businesses will be afraid to hire South Asians,” he said. Earlier Tuesday morning, several activists braved cold temperatures and wind gusts to line up outside City Hall so they would get a chance to speak to the council before the vote. But the council restricted public comment at the meeting where more than 300 people had requested to speak virtually and in person. They heard about half of the comments before moving on to deliberations and the vote.

The origins of the caste system in India can be traced back 3,000 years as a social hierarchy based on one’s occupation and birth. It is a system that has evolved over the centuries under Muslim and British rule. The suffering of those who are at the bottom of the caste pyramid — known as Dalits — has continued. Caste discrimination has been prohibited in India since 1948, a year after the nation’s independence from British rule.

The U.S. is the second most popular destination for Indians living abroad, according to the Migration Policy Institute, which estimates the U.S. diaspora grew from about 206,000 in 1980 to about 2.7 million in 2021. The group South Asian Americans Leading Together reports that nearly 5.4 million South Asians live in the U.S. — up from the 3.5 million counted in the 2010 census. Most trace their roots to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Over the past three years, several colleges and university systems have moved to prohibit caste discrimination. In December 2019, Brandeis University near Boston became the first U.S. college to include caste in its nondiscrimination policy. The California State University System, Colby College, Brown University and the University of California, Davis have all adopted similar measures. Harvard University instituted caste protections for student workers in 2021 as part of its contract with its graduate student union.

Why Has India Not Condemned Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine?

In the year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Western democracies have condemned Moscow, slapped wide-ranging sanctions on it, cut back on Russian oil and gas and sent unprecedented amounts of arms and ammunition to help Ukraine defend itself.

But the world’s biggest democracy — India — hasn’t done any of that.

India has solidified ties with Moscow. Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Vladimir Putin in September and called their countries’ friendship “unbreakable.” He did tell the Russian president it’s “not a time for war.” But a year on, Modi still refuses to assign blame for the violence, and has voiced more concern over the spike in global food and fuel prices triggered by the war.

Meanwhile, as Europe eschews Russian oil and gas, India has doubled down on buying Russian oil at bargain prices — much to Washington’s chagrin. And India continues to place orders for Russian-made weapons.

All this is a reminder that, a year into this war, condemnation of Russia is far from unanimous. Much of the global south actually sees the West’s focus on Ukraine as a distraction from other, more pressing issues like food security, inflation and mounting debt.

Analysts and political scientists cite four main factors shaping India’s policy toward Ukraine and Russia: History, energy, arms and influence.

Factor #1: The India-Russia relationship goes way back

India was still under British colonial rule when Russia opened its first consulate there in 1900, in Mumbai. But relations really took off during the Cold War.

Picture : Politico

“It started out as strategic sympathy for the Soviet Union, in the backdrop of India getting independence from the British. So it’s an anti-colonial experience, anti-imperialism,” says Rajeswari (Raji) Pillai Rajagopalan, a political scientist at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. “And as the Cold War picked up, it became a more anti-West, anti-U.S. sentiment they shared.”

The end of the Cold War didn’t change that. Neither has the Ukraine war. India’s nationalist TV news channels often accuse the United States — rather than Russia — of doing more to ruin Ukraine.

In November, Modi’s top diplomat, S. Jaishankar, traveled to Moscow, where he stood alongside his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and called their countries’ relationship “steady and time-tested.”

Modi has called for a cease-fire in Ukraine, without condemning Russia’s attacks. Some of his political opponents say that doesn’t go far enough, and point toward India’s actions rather than its words.

“The actions that India is engaged in so far do not reflect any remorse or even mild criticism of the events in Ukraine,” says Praveen Chakravarty, a political economist affiliated with the opposition Indian National Congress party. “If anything, it seems to aid and abet.”

Factor #2: India wants cheap Russian oil

India has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. (The IMF forecasts 6.8% growth for India this year, compared to just 1.6% for the United States.) By 2030, India is forecast to be the third-largest economy in the world, behind the U.S. and China.

It’s already the third-largest oil consumer in the world. And it needs even more to fuel all that growth. But because India has few oil and gas reserves of its own, most of the oil it needs has to be imported. It’s also a relatively poor country, particularly sensitive to price.

That’s where Russia comes in. India still buys more oil from Middle Eastern countries than Russia. But its Russian share has skyrocketed. In December, India imported 1.2 million barrels of Russian crude. That’s a whopping 33 times more than a year earlier. In January, the share of Russian crude rose to 28% of India’s oil imports — up from just 0.2% before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Indian officials have defended those purchases by saying it’s their job to find bargains for their citizens. And Jaishankar, the foreign minister, has suggested it’s hypocritical of wealthier Westerners to ask them not to.

“Europe has managed to reduce its imports [of Russian gas] while doing it in a manner that is comfortable,” Jaishankar told an Austrian TV channel last month. “At 60,000 euros or whatever is your per capita income, you’re so caring about your population. I have a population at 2,000 dollars [per capita annual income]. I also need energy, and I am not in a position to pay high prices for oil.”

Last April, Jaishankar visited the White House for a virtual summit between Modi and President Biden. There, U.S. officials told their Indian counterparts they understand India’s energy needs and were hoping only that India would not “accelerate” Russian oil purchases.

India basically ignored that. But the Biden administration now says it’s actually fine with that.

Earlier this month, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Geoffery Pyatt said Washington is “comfortable” with India’s approach on Russian oil. And Karen Donfried, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, said the U.S. is not looking at sanctioning India for this.

Here’s one possible explanation for Washington’s change of heart: India is buying Russian crude at deep discounts — something the West can’t do because of sanctions, or doesn’t want to do because of the optics. Then India refines that same Russian oil and exports it onward to the U.S. and Europe. So the West gets Russian oil, without getting its hands dirty.

“U.S. treasury officials have two main goals: keep the market well supplied and deprive Russia of oil revenue,” Ben Cahill, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, recently told Bloomberg. “They are aware that Indian and Chinese refiners can earn bigger margins by buying discounted Russian crude and exporting products at market prices. They’re fine with that.”

Factor #3: Moscow is India’s biggest arms dealer

India’s military has historically been equipped with Russian and Soviet weapons. Most of those contracts date back to the Cold War, a conflict in which India was officially non-aligned but close to Moscow. So most of India’s arsenal was — and still is — Soviet-made.

By now, some those 30-something-year-old weapons are deteriorating. “Let’s just go to the [Indian] Air Force. Most of those Sukhois and MiGs [fighter aircraft] are referred to as ‘flying coffins.’ Very often Indian pilots die when they are testing, or flying, those,” says Aparna Pande, a political scientist at the Hudson Institute in Washington. “So India knows they need to be replaced.”

Indian defence experts may have been the only ones not surprised to see Russian tanks falling apart in Ukraine this past year, Pande says. They’ve been unhappy with Russian equipment for years.

So the Indian government has started replacing some of its Soviet-made aircraft and artillery with French, Israeli and American versions. But it’s a time-consuming and costly task to update India’s entire arsenal, Pande notes.

“Let’s say my entire apartment had only IKEA furniture, and now I decide, ‘OK now I want to change it, and I want West Elm.’ I cannot just replace one chair. I have to change my entire dining table and all the chairs,” Pande explains. “So what India has done [in terms of updating its weapons] is piecemeal. But those big ticket items are still Russian-made. So that’s the change which has to happen, and this is what will reduce the Russian influence.”

Despite the Indian government’s efforts to diversify, Moscow continues to be India’s biggest arms dealer — more than 30 years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Russia has reportedly supplied India with around $13 billion in weapons in the past five years alone. There’s one big reason India needs all these weapons: China.

Factor #4: India wants to prevent Putin from getting closer to China’s Xi Jinping

India’s biggest foreign policy preoccupation is not Ukraine or Russia. It’s China. The two countries share a more than 2,000-mile disputed border. Satellite imagery shows China may be encroaching on Indian territory. Soldiers clashed there in June 2020, and again this past December.

And as the West isolates Russia, India fears Putin is already looking eastward, toward Beijing. “You’re already seeing a very close Russia-China relationship emerging, even in the last few years,” says the ORF’s Rajagopalan. “So the current Indian approach is, we don’t want Russia to go completely into the Chinese fold. Because for India, China has become the No. 1 national security threat.”

Despite the Ukraine war, that’s true for Washington too. So even if Washington doesn’t like it, Biden administration officials say they understand why India has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and they’re willing to grant India a wide berth.

They may even see India’s continued ties with Putin as useful — to try to mitigate just how far the Ukraine war drives him into Xi Jinping’s arms.

Can America Stop India’s Anti-Christian Crusade In Its Tracks

(Global Christian Relief) — The world’s largest democracy should be protecting the religious rights of all of its people. On Jan. 2, a mob of about 1,000 extremists — men and women, young and old — armed with rocks, wooden sticks and iron rods viciously attacked Sacred Heart Church in central India’s Narayanpur district. While this kind of anti-Christian violence may be shocking, it’s not altogether surprising. Attacks against Christians in India have been steadily rising for years, jumping 81% from 2020 to 2021 alone.

Picture : RNS

The mob in this case was reportedly protesting “illegal” conversions and church construction, but this was no mere protest. Videos captured by one of Global Christian Relief’s partners show the crowd throwing rocks and bashing in windows of the church building and church vehicles. Police officers are seen standing by and even falling back as they allowed the frenzied mob to vandalize the church. Footage of the aftermath shows a destroyed Nativity, broken chairs and scattered debris.

Stories like these have become sadly routine since 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party rose to power. They have stoked attacks on Muslim and Christian minorities and spread their radical Hindutva ideology, claiming that being truly Indian means being Hindu. Reported incidents of violence against Christians have risen more than 220%.

The Modi regime has spent massive amounts of money to plant lobbyists in Washington to help hide the truth. As a result, you likely won’t hear this story inside the Beltway. American lawmakers are discouraged from confronting the truth because India is an important ally of the U.S. in South Asia. But Americans deserve to know it.

Publicly, the U.S. government has mysteriously remained silent about the events at Sacred Heart Church. Its lack of response to this horrific incident speaks volumes about our priorities. America currently does $102.3 billion in trade with India annually, and our economy would be negatively impacted if we fell out of India’s good graces. But will America be held hostage by economic power plays?

The Sacred Heart incident is only one sign of a larger problem. The Indian government has adopted anti-conversion laws and policies in more than 10 states, preventing people from choosing their own faith. These measures are leveraged by those in power to discriminate against religious minorities. This is not only in opposition to what we believe in America but is also in direct conflict with Article 25 of India’s own constitution: “ … all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.”

Media coverage of stories like Sacred Heart in India, which is scarce, also shows how Modi’s regime squashes stories of persecution. Only a handful of local outlets reported that five people were arrested that day. Since Modi’s rise to power, the Indian government has shut down news stations midbroadcast and has pressured advertisers as part of a wider assault on dissent. On Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 Press Freedom Index, India fell to 150th out of 180 countries—a journalistic crisis in “the world’s largest democracy.”

With Modi’s lobbyists deterring members of Congress from taking critical positions on India, using tactics such as intimidation and the spread of misinformation, the White House and State Department must hold the government of our largest trade partner accountable. We must demand that India uphold freedom of religion for all its citizens. It’s difficult to do business with people you can’t trust and don’t share common ideals with, especially if you don’t believe they provide basic human rights.

We have much common ground with India but cannot ignore its continued stunning slide into illiberal and radical religious intolerance. (David Curry is president and CEO of Global Christian Relief, America’s leading watchdog organization focused on the plight of persecuted Christians worldwide. In addition to equipping the Western church to advocate and pray for the persecuted, GCR works in the most restrictive countries to protect and encourage Christians threatened by faith-based discrimination and violence.

The above story was published in: Religion News Service.

(The views expressed in this sponsored commentary do not necessarily reflect those of

India Surpasses China As The World’s Most Populous Country

India is poised to become the world’s most populous country this year – surpassing China, which has held the distinction since at least 1950, when the United Nations population records begin. The UN expects that India will overtake China in April, though it may have already reached this milestone since the UN estimates are projections.

Here are key facts about India’s population and its projected changes in the coming decades, based on Pew Research Center analyses of data from the UN and other sources.

How we did this

India’s population has grown by more than 1 billion people since 1950, the year the UN population data begins. The exact size of the country’s population is not easily known, given that India has not conducted a census since 2011, but it is estimated to have more than 1.4 billion people – greater than the entire population of Europe (744 million) or the Americas (1.04 billion). China, too, has more than 1.4 billion people, but while China’s population is declining, India’s continues to grow.

Under the UN’s “medium variant” projection, a middle-of-the-road estimate, India’s population will surpass 1.5 billion people by the end of this decade and will continue to slowly increase until 2064, when it will peak at 1.7 billion people. In the UN’s “high variant” scenario – in which the total fertility rate in India is projected to be 0.5 births per woman above that of the medium variant scenario – the country’s population would surpass 2 billion people by 2068. The UN’s “low variant” scenario – in which the total fertility rate is projected to be 0.5 births below that of the medium variant scenario – forecasts that India’s population will decline beginning in 2047 and fall to 1 billion people by 2100.

People under the age of 25 account for more than 40% of India’s population. In fact, there are so many Indians in this age group that roughly one-in-five people globally who are under the age of 25 live in India. Looking at India’s age distribution another way, the country’s median age is 28. By comparison, the median age is 38 in the United States and 39 in China.

The other two most populous countries in the world, China and the U.S., have rapidly aging populations – unlike India. Adults ages 65 and older comprise only 7% of India’s population as of this year, compared with 14% in China and 18% in the U.S., according to the UN. The share of Indians who are 65 and older is likely to remain under 20% until 2063 and will not approach 30% until 2100, under the UN’s medium variant projections.

The fertility rate in India is higher than in China and the U.S., but it has declined rapidly in recent decades. Today, the average Indian woman is expected to have 2.0 children in her lifetime, a fertility rate that is higher than China’s (1.2) or the United States’ (1.6), but much lower than India’s in 1992 (3.4) or 1950 (5.9). Every religious group in the country has seen its fertility rate fall, including the majority Hindu population and the Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain minority groups. Among Indian Muslims, for example, the total fertility rate has declined dramatically from 4.4 children per woman in 1992 to 2.4 children in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available from India’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS). Muslims still have the highest fertility rate among India’s major religious groups, but the gaps in childbearing among India’s religious groups are generally much smaller than they used to be.

Fertility rates vary widely by community type and state in India. On average, women in rural areas have 2.1 children in their lifetimes, while women in urban areas have 1.6 children, according to the 2019-21 NFHS. Both numbers are lower than they were 20 years ago, when rural and urban women had an average of 3.7 and 2.7 children, respectively.

Total fertility rates also vary greatly by state in India, from as high as 2.98 in Bihar and 2.91 in Meghalaya to as low as 1.05 in Sikkim and 1.3 in Goa.

Likewise, population growth varies across states. The populations of Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh both increased by 25% or more between 2001 and 2011, when the last Indian census was conducted. By comparison, the populations of Goa and Kerala increased by less than 10% during that span, while the population in Nagaland shrank by 0.6%. These differences may be linked to uneven economic opportunities and quality of life.

On average, Indian women in urban areas have their first child 1.5 years later than women in rural areas. Among Indian women ages 25 to 49 who live in urban areas, the median age at first birth is 22.3. Among similarly aged women in rural areas, it is 20.8, according to the 2019 NFHS.

Women with more education and more wealth also generally have children at later ages. The median age at first birth is 24.9 among Indian women with 12 or more years of schooling, compared with 19.9 among women with no schooling. Similarly, the median age at first birth is 23.2 for Indian women in the highest wealth quintile, compared with 20.3 among women in the lowest quintile.

Among India’s major religious groups, the median age of first birth is highest among Jains at 24.9 and lowest among Muslims at 20.8.

India’s artificially wide ratio of baby boys to baby girls – which arose in the 1970s from the use of prenatal diagnostic technology to facilitate sex-selective abortions – is narrowing. From a large imbalance of about 111 boys per 100 girls in India’s 2011 census, the sex ratio at birth appears to have normalized slightly over the last decade. It narrowed to about 109 boys per 100 girls in the 2015-16 NFHS and to 108 boys per 100 girls in the 2019-21 NFHS.

To put this recent decline into perspective, the average annual number of baby girls “missing” in India fell from about 480,000 in 2010 to 410,000 in 2019, according to a Pew Research Center study published in 2022. (Read more about how this “missing” population share is defined and calculated in the “How did we count ‘missing’ girls?” box of the report.) And while India’s major religious groups once varied widely in their sex ratios at birth, today there are indications that these differences are shrinking.

Infant mortality in India has decreased 70% in the past three decades but remains high by regional and international standards. There were 89 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990, a figure that fell to 27 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2020. Since 1960, when the UN Interagency Group for Child Mortality Estimation began compiling this data, the rate of infant deaths in India has dropped between 0.1% and 0.5% each year.

Still, India’s infant mortality rate is higher than those of neighboring Bangladesh (24 deaths per 1,000 live births), Nepal (24), Bhutan (23) and Sri Lanka (6) – and much higher than those of its closest peers in population size, China (6) and the U.S. (5).

Typically, more people migrate out of India each year than into it, resulting in negative net migration. India lost about 300,000 people due to migration in 2021, according to the UN Population Division. The UN’s medium variant projections suggest India will continue to experience net negative migration through at least 2100.

But India’s net migration has not always been negative. As recently as 2016, India gained an estimated 68,000 people due to migration (likely to be a result of an increase in asylum-seeking Rohingya fleeing Myanmar). India also recorded increases in net migration on several occasions in the second half of the 20th century.

India’s Supreme Court Intervenes On BBC Film Ban Case

The Supreme Court of India has directed the Central Government led by Narendra Modi to produce original records relating to its decision to block a BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots. However, it turned down a plea for an interim order to direct the government to make public its gag order and said the matter would be examined on the next date of hearing.


The top court issued notices to the government and others on pleas filed by veteran journalist N Ram, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan and lawyer M L Sharma.

Emergency powers

The SC asked the petitioners why they did not approach the high court in the matter. Senior advocate CU Singh, appearing for Ram and the others, submitted that the government has invoked the emergency powers under the Information Technology (IT) Rules to block the documentary. The Supreme Court said it is also a fact that people have been accessing the documentary.

‘Arbitrary & unconstitutional’

One of the petitioners has also alleged that the ban on the documentary ‘India: The Modi question’ was “malafide, arbitrary and unconstitutional”.

Freedom of press

Ram and others, in their pleas, have sought a direction to restrain the government from curbing their right to “receive and disseminate information” on the documentary.

The contents of the BBC documentary are protected under Article 19(1)(a) (freedom of speech and expression) of the Constitution, the plea said, adding that the contents of the series do not fall under any of the restrictions specified in Article 19(2).

Reacting strongly after Ram filed his plea, India’s Law Minister Kiren Rijiju had tweeted, “This is how they waste the precious time of Hon’ble Supreme Court where thousands of common citizens are waiting and seeking dates for justice.”

Adani Crisis May Spark Wider Financial Turmoil In India

Both the Houses of India’s parliament were adjourned on Friday last week amid chaotic scenes as some lawmakers demanded an inquiry following the meltdown of shares in billionaire Gautam Adani’s group companies, which some fear could spark wider financial turmoil. Opposition parties continue to highlight that Life Insurance Corporations (LIC) of India’s and State Bank of India’s (SBI) high exposure to stocks in the Adani Group can have wider economic repercussions.

Picture : Bloomberg

Shares in Adani companies recovered after sharp falls, but the seven listed firms have still lost about half their market value – or more than $100 billion combined – since U.S. short-seller Hindenburg Research last week accused the group of stock manipulation and unsustainable debt, Reuters reported.

The Reserve Bank of India on Friday said India’s banking sector is “resilient and stable” and the central bank maintains constant vigil on the lenders, in a statement issued in the light of the Adani crisis, triggered by a US-based short seller’s allegations of stock manipulation, fraud and use of tax havens by the Adani Group.

The stock rout led to Adani Group losing around $108 billion since Hindenburg Research published its report on January 24. But signs of recovery were visible on Friday.

But the government differs

Talking about the risks to the Indian banking system and lenders emanating from the ongoing crisis, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said that the country’s banking system is in a sound position. “They (LIC and SBI) have very clearly said that their exposure (to Adani Group stocks) is very well within the permitted limits and with valuation falling as well, they are still over profit. That is the word from the horse’s mouth,” Sitharaman said in an interview with CNBC-TV18.

The stock market turmoil created by the rout in Adani group shares is a “storm in a teacup” from a macroeconomic point of view, finance secretary TV Somanathan said on Friday, emphasising that India’s public financial system is robust. The senior-most bureaucrat in the finance ministry also said that movements in the stock market per se is not the government’s concern and there are independent regulators to take necessary action. Read more here.

The Adani Bubble Bursts

In December 2022, when the agitation of the fish workers at Vizhinjam in Kerala was at its peak, I wrote an open letter to Gautam Adani, head of the Adani Group, to include the cost of rehabilitation of those who lost their houses and were living in a miserable condition, in the project cost and win their confidence.

Let me quote from the letter published in this magazine, “If the rehabilitation of the fish workers would cost, say, Rs 50 crore or Rs 100 crore, please include it in the project cost. Nobody would object. If each displaced farmer gets a plot of land where he can build a permanent house, not far from the sea, he would be more than happy to withdraw the agitation”.

Around the same time, I heard a spokesman of the Adani Group claim that whatever they could do was done to mitigate the hardship of the people affected and nothing more could be done. He specifically mentioned the number of laptops distributed under the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program.

When I heard him, I remembered the video of a mother standing before an open toilet to let her daughter have some privacy as she eased herself. Could the laptop have given her privacy? I concluded my letter requesting him to be generous to the poor fish workers of Vizhinjam.

Before that, I also warned him of what could happen. Let me quote the letter again: “The great Malayalam poet Poonthanam’s Jnanappana (The fountain of wisdom) written in the 16th century has these thought-provoking lines: “If God wishes, the people we see now or are with us now, may disappear or be dead in the next moment. Or, if He wishes, in a few days, a healthy man may be paraded to his funeral pyre.

“If God wishes, the king living in a palace today may lose everything and end up carrying a dirty bag on his shoulders and walk around homeless”. He reminds us about the fleeting nature of wealth.

Adani did not send a reply, let alone loosen his purse strings to settle the problem. Instead, with the help of the police, he allowed the agitation to be suppressed.

Not even two months have passed since I wrote that letter. At that time, Gautam Adani was the richest man in India, nay Asia. He was the third richest person in the world. He used to create wealth at the rate of Rs 1,612 crore per day to outpace Jeff Bezoz of Amazon.

During the last few days, Adani has lost billions of rupees. At the rate at which the value of the shares of Adani Enterprises and other Adani companies has been plummeting, one really wonders whether it is the beginning of the end of the Adani business saga. After all, it was a small boy David who felled the giant Goliath.

What pricked the bubble of Adani is a report published by Hindenburg Research, a small company in the US. When the report was released, the mainstream media in India did not think it merited detailed coverage. Adani, who believed that money could cover up his “sins”, produced multiple-page advertisements in major Indian newspapers to suggest that everything was hunky-dory with his companies.

Any sensible and sensitive person would have called off the Rs 20,000-crore Follow on Public Offer (FPO), given the doubts created in the public mind by the Hindenburg Research (HR). The strategy now in vogue in the political and business fields is to counter truth with greater and greater falsehood.

The voluminous rejoinder the Adani Group produced to counter the HR report was like the 5,000-page chargesheet filed against Siddiqui Kappan, which reminded me of Shakespeare’s famous line, “sound and fury signify nothing”. Adani was confident that with the support of the business empire he has created and with the help of those in power, he would be able to brazen out. That is why he persisted with the FPO.

The public relations team was at its best when it claimed that the FPO was oversubscribed. Yes, institutional investors did not disappoint him. But retail investors for whom half the FPO shares were earmarked did not show any interest. Only 11 percent of the earmarked shares were lifted by them. Nearly 50 percent of the shares earmarked for the employees also remained unsold. They knew the company better!

In other words, it was a flop show. And that is why the company was forced to declare that it would return the money of all those who invested in the FPO. It is a major setback to the whole Adani Group.

What the Hindenburg Research said was that Adani built his empire using all devious means. Let me explain it in simple terms. Suppose I buy an acre of land for Rs 1 lakh. After that, I spread the news that there are gold deposits in the land. Nobody can check the land as tight security is arranged. Then I decide to sell 60 cents of the land at Rs 1 lakh each. I get Rs 60 lakh which is 60 times my investment, while 40 cents of land still remain with me. I use Rs 60 lakh to rope in more investors and my asset doubles, triples and quadruples.

Adani became famous in 2014 when he made available his fully-fuelled helicopter at the service of Narendra Modi. Every day, the chopper would take off from Ahmedabad carrying Modi and his tiffin to one of the states where he would campaign that day. He would return home the same day.

It was in Adani’s aircraft that Modi came to Delhi to be sworn in as the Prime Minister of India. Adani accompanied Modi whenever he went on a foreign trip. Everybody who mattered in the country knew his close connections with the Prime Minister, which came to his help as he expanded his business network both within and without the country. Soon, he got mega projects like seaports and airports.

When the world’s largest consignment of drugs passed through his port in Gujarat, nobody blamed the owners of the port. It was also revealed that a similar consignment had already been cleared. Nobody knows who funded the import of such a large quantity of drugs. The point is that they remain at large.

Was Adani a great entrepreneur? Take the case of Steve Jobs, who founded Apple Incorporated. He developed a prototype of a computer and set up a company to manufacture it. Later, he added new products like iPhone, iPad, iPod to make his company the world’s most valuable. Similarly, Jeff Bezos found a new way of selling books. He also introduced a device called Kindle.

Soon, Bezos became an industrialist and acquired the skills to operate at a global level. Ford was America’s greatest-ever industrialist. He developed a car and began selling it to become the world’s greatest industrialist. In the case of Adani, nothing of the sort happened.

He did not even complete his college education and went to Mumbai. There, he became a trader, who would buy something for Rs 100 and sell it for Rs 400 to earn Rs 300. He realised that he was successful when he made his first Rs 1 lakh. Thereafter, there was nothing to stop him. He was essentially a trader, who stepped into the manufacturing sector. By then, he had learnt how to manipulate the share market.

Why single out Adani? I have read BM Birla’s biography where it is mentioned that when he turned 18, he was given a gift of Rs 1000 by his father GD Birla. He did not spend the money on clothes or other items. Instead, he used it for speculation and made another Rs 1000. In fact, almost all the Indian industrialists are not entrepreneurs but traders who cannot succeed except by bluffing the government.

What Hindenburg Research accused Adani of doing is what an American company Enron did. The American investigative and legal system acted swiftly without caring for the company and the persons involved. Before its bankruptcy in late 2001, it employed around 21,000 people and was one of the world’s leading electricity, natural gas, pulp and paper and communication companies with a claimed revenue of $111 billion in 2000. Fortune named Enron “America’s most innovative company” for six consecutive years.

It achieved infamy at the end of 2001 when it was revealed that its reported financial condition was sustained mostly by institutionalized, systematic and creatively planned accounting fraud. Enron has since become a popular symbol of willful corporate fraud and corruption. Kenneth Lay, its former chairman, died of a heart attack while he was on trial and Jeffrey Skilling, its chief operating officer, was given 24 years of imprisonment. It also led to the collapse of, a bigger firm than Enron.

The American government followed the principle, emanating from the Malayalam saying, that those who eat salt should drink water. In other words, the more severe the crime, the more severe the punishment.

Recently, India lost a great lawyer in the death of Shanti Bhushan, who was also a Union Minister. He wrote the Foreword for the book titled ‘Reliance, The Real Natwar’ by Arun K. Agrawal (Manas). Let me quote a few lines from the author’s Preface:

“The plain truth of the matter is that Reliance has become the largest company in India and its owner the richest man in the country the old-fashioned way: Financial engineering involving the conversion of debt into equity, the propping up of its own shares to public institutions, issuing shares of new companies at premium to the public and then merging the companies, allotting shares to the promoters to increase their stake, avoiding taxes, managing a company-friendly tax regime and, of course, the oil bonanza handed over to it by the government.

“Inevitably, in just 30 years, its turnover has grown from approximately Rs.100 crore to over Rs 1 lakh crore”. This book was published in 2008 but what it says about Reliance reads like a summary of the Hindenburg Research report about the Adani Group.

One cartoon that became viral on social media showed Adani approaching the State Bank of India for a loan to purchase the bank. When the Vizhinjam port in Kerala was successfully bid by Adani, many would have thought that he would pump in his own money. The fact of the matter is that no Indian businessman sinks his own money in any project. It is all public money that is sunk. But once the profits start flowing, the owners do not part with it.

Today, Reliance makes most of its money from petroleum. It is believed that all the wealth under the earth belongs to the people of India. Then, how did Reliance get the oil wells? It was the late Captain Satish Sharma who, as the Petroleum Minister, handed over the oil fields to receive pecuniary benefits, as found out by the CBI.

Most corporates in India believe in the theory, as propounded by Lord Byron in a poem, that everybody has a price. The poet concludes his poem in these words, “The most by ready cash — but all have prices, from crowns to kicks, according to their vices”.

Small wonder that a wisecrack said that if Gautam Adani knew that Hindenburg Research could hit him so hard, he would have offered a price and bought it like NDTV he bought, certainly not for the profit it made but to end a nuisance. Even now it is not too late for him to remember the seven deadly sins identified by Mahatma Gandhi — wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, science without humanity, religion without sacrifice and politics without principles.  (Courtesy: Indian Currents) [email protected]

Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra Hailed, But Only Polls Will Determine Its Success

(IPS) – When countless supporters of the Indian National Congress, the main opposition party, arrive in Srinagar on January 30 to hoist the Indian flag, they would have walked 3,570 kilometers over 150 days.

The Congress Party organized the Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY), a long march to counter what it calls the divisive politics of the ruling party. The exercise was to revive the idea of India as a country united in all its diversity. The BJY is led by senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, 52, who met countless citizens on the way at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not held a single press conference in the last nine years that he has been in power.

Founder and editor of The Citizen Seema Mustafa told the IPS Rahul Gandhi gained by leading the BJY. “He has emerged as a leader of substance with courage and honesty and compassion on display. What the Congress Party has gained will only be known once Congressmen can take it all forward. Other gains and losses will come after that, but for now, the BJY has indeed cut through the prevailing atmosphere of fear and hate,” said Mustafa.

The BJY will culminate in the Himalayan region of Kashmir on January 30 but will it receive the same kind of welcome as it has in the rest of the country, is the question. For nearly half a century, the people of Kashmir have complained of Delhi’s stepmotherly attitude towards them.

Spymaster and former head of India’s Intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), AS Dulat, had a personal invitation to join the BJY. He walked for one hour with Rahul Gandhi, but Dulat did not say whether they talked about the troubled province of Kashmir.

Dulat’s latest book, A Life in the Shadows, is about Kashmir, a place he loves passionately. He was first posted to Kashmir in the late 1980s. As a former Prime Minister’s advisor on Kashmir, he understands the Kashmiri psyche and empathises with the problems in the province. Because he is seen as a problem solver and well-wisher of all the people suffering in Kashmir, including separatists, militants, and Pakistanis, he is called Mr Kashmir.

In the book, he implies that the problem of militancy is no longer about joining Pakistan or seeking independence but resistance to the harsh majoritarian policies of muscular power tactics used against the people of Kashmir by the present government in Delhi.

Dulat told the media that participating in the BJY was a wonderful experience. Gandhi wrote in a letter inviting Dulat to join the march, “We listen to anyone who wants to be heard. We offer no judgment or opinion. We walk to unite every Indian regardless of their gender, caste or religion because we know they are equal citizens. We walk to fight hatred and fear.”

Dulat commented: “I think what this young man is doing is certainly something exceptional… incredible.”’ He doesn’t think that anyone will ever do it again, and nobody is going to walk so many kilometres again.

However, his walk has had its critics – with the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh accusing Gandhi of tarnishing the image of India by creating the impression that only hatred prevails in the country.

The BJY was started last September on the southern tip of the Indian peninsula in Kanyakumari, and it has marched non-stop through 12 provinces. During the march, Gandhi spent time with scores of citizens from different walks of life. After walking about 25 kilometres daily in two shifts, the Congress workers slept in makeshift accommodations at night.

Talking to IPS, a professor at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Zoya Hasan, agreed that the march had succeeded. “If crowds are any indicator, the BJY got an enthusiastic response in all the states it traversed. This shows that there is still space in the country for inclusive politics,” Hasan said.

Many see the march as altering the country’s mood. It has brought hope into the lives of citizens who have been feeling increasingly fearful of their future and security. Largely ignored by (mainly pro-government) mainstream media, the BJY has been streaming live on social media. Watching supporters walk thousands of miles and meet hundreds of thousands of people of all faiths mingling, embracing, shaking hands and making friends has reinforced positive ideas of bonhomie and togetherness amongst citizens.

Ever since the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, the mood in the nation has been grim. Apart from tackling the never-ending scourge of poverty, the country has had to deal with repeated incidents of public violence.

The BJP has been criticized for being communitarian, and commentators say this, at best, ignores and, at worst, encourages violence by citizens against each other and divides Indian society by religious affiliation.

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, in an interview, Sen had told Le Monde, the French daily newspaper, that the Indian government is one of the most appalling in the world because it is communitarian in the narrowest sense of the term. It harms India by attacking Muslims and propagating the idea that Hindus form the nation.

Many consider the BJY march a success as a political protest against the alleged divisive politics of the right-wing ruling party in power.

“I joined the march and walked with Rahul Gandhi not because I am a fan of the Congress Party but because I thought the young man (Rahul Gandhi) has stood up for the right values at the right time, and I support similar values,” filmmaker Saeed Mirza said at the launch of his latest book I Know The Psychology of Rats in Goa recently.

“I believe every Indian who wants love and inclusiveness should be participating in the yatra beyond political identity. Although it is a predominately Congress-organised event, it is not exclusively a Congress event. So every Indian has been welcomed with open arms, and that is how it should be. If political pettiness comes in the way, it will be a self-defeating attitude,” said Tushar Gandhi, who joined the march last November. Tushar is Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson, and Rahul Gandhi is the great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.

The Congress Party says the objective of the BJY is to fight against the politics of fear, bigotry and prejudice and the economics of livelihood destruction, increasing unemployment and growing inequalities.

“What the yatra has achieved is way beyond what the sceptics anticipated. They have been proved wrong, and I include myself in the category. A suffocated nation was waiting for some such happening,” wrote journalist Saeed Naqvi.

Hasan adds that the BJY has refurbished the Congress’s credentials as a party of national unity Lifestyleand social cohesion, upholding the values of secularism, the welfare of the masses and their constitutionally granted rights. This marks an important wedge in a hyper-nationalist narrative of the ruling party’s politics.

Hasan said the impact of the BJY was that the ruling party wasn’t setting the narrative but was forced to react to the Congress Party. While only time will tell whether the march will bring electoral gains to the Congress Party in the general elections to be held in 2024, Hasan says: “It is the necessary first step in building a politics of change.” (IPS UN Bureau Report)

Kartavya Path In New Delhi Hosts First Republic Day Parade, Showcasing India’s Rich Heritage Culture

A symbol of new India, the Kartavya Path which was formerly known as Rajpath, hosted its first Republic Day parade in Delhi on January 26, 2023. India showcased its military and its cultural diversity in a colorful parade on Thursday at the revamped colonial avenue in New Delhi to mark Republic Day, the anniversary of the day the country’s secular Constitution came into effect in 1950.

The 74th Republic day celebrations was attended by President Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a host of other dignitaries. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was the chief guest at the ceremonial event.

Picture : TheUNN

The grand celebration, first in Amrit Kal, was attended by at least 65,000 people. The Delhi Police said about 30,000 people reached the parade venue through the metro this year. The Central Secretariat and Udyog Bhawan metro stations were open for visitors.

The Egyptian President is the first major world leader to visit India in a year the government is eagerly preparing to host the G20 summit for the first time. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, chief of defense staff and the three service chiefs were also present at the parade, which featured more women in the military contingents.

“We will move together to fulfil the dreams of the heroes of our freedom movement,” Modi wrote on Twitter to mark the occasion. The country’s rich and diverse heritage was showcased in vibrant tableaux from different states and ministries, highlighting the central theme of ‘nari shakti’ or women power. The army’s tableaux comprised only locally-made weapons, reflecting India’s drive to become more self-reliant in the defense sector.

The event climaxed with a flypast by 45 aircraft of the Indian Air Force, with French-made Rafales, Russian-made Su-30s and the Indian-made Tejas fighter jets putting on an impressive aeronautical display. But foggy weather spoilt the spectacle, as spectators struggled to catch a glimpse of the aircraft as they roared overhead.

The annul parade is a tightly choreographed spectacle of motorbike stunts, traditional dance and camel-mounted soldiers at a time when the emergent Asian power faces onerous security challenges. India has benefited in recent years from an increasing economic heft and diplomatic clout that has raised its position in global affairs.

Indian Embassy in US celebrates 74th Republic day

The Indian Embassy in Washington D.C. celebrated the 74th Republic Day of India on January 26, 2023, with a flag-hoisting ceremony at India House. US lawmakers, business leaders, members of the media, students, and members of the Indian diaspora were among the friends of India who attended the ceremony.

‌‌Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Ambassador of India, unfurled the tricolor, which was followed by the singing of the National Anthem. On the occasion, a video of the President of India, Droupadi Murmu’s address, on the eve of Republic Day was shown.

The Indian Consulate in New York celebrated India’s 74th Republic Day attended by members of the staff and community in the tri-state area.

The Indian flag was unfurled by Consul General Randhir Jaiswal, accompanied by the singing of the national anthem by artists from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

Consul General Jaiswal welcomed all those present. He read the speech made by the President of India Droupadi Murmu on Jan. 25, 2023, to the nation, on the eve of Republic Day. The Consul General read the speech in Hindi and English. The Consulate General of India, Chicago celebrated the 74th Republic Day of India on Thursday, January 2023. In the morning, the ceremonial unfurling of the Indian flag took place at the Consulate.

India Continues As World’s Fastest-Growing Economy With 5.8% Growth Rate

United Nations– India will remain the fastest-growing major economy recording a growth of 5.8 per cent this year, while the rest of the world will grow by a paltry 1.9 per cent, the UN said on Thursday.

The UN’s World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) report sliced off 0.2 per cent from the 6 per cent gross domestic product growth projection made last May without affecting India’s rank as the country faces headwinds from the global economy.

Overall, the report said: “Growth in India is expected to remain strong at 5.8 per cent, albeit slightly lower than the estimated 6.4 per cent in 2022, as higher interest rates and a global slowdown weigh on investment and exports.” Next year, the UN expects India’s economy to grow by 6.7 per cent.

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The WESP gave a positive picture of India’s jobs scene, noting that its “unemployment rate dropped to a four-year low of 6.4 per cent in India, as the economy added jobs both in urban and rural areas in 2022”. For the world, the WESP forecast is 1.9 per cent this year and rising to 2.7 per cent next year.

In New Delhi, India’s President Droupadi Murmu credited India’s economic performance to “its leadership. India has been among the fastest-growing major economies because of the timely and proactive interventions of the government. The ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative, in particular, has evoked great response among the people at large,” Murmu said in her Republic Day speech.

China, which came in second, is projected to grow by 4.8 per cent this year and 4.5 next year, after a 3% growth in 2022. The US economy, which grew by 2.9% this year is projected to grow by 0.4% this year and 1.7 per cent the next.

For South Asia as a whole, the report said the region’s “economic outlook has significantly deteriorated due to high food and energy prices, monetary tightening and fiscal vulnerabilities” and it forecast a 4.8 percent growth year and 5.9 percent next year.

This was buoyed by India as the report said: “The prospects are more challenging for other economies in the region. Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka sought financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2022.”

Rashid attributed the Indian economy’s growth to three factors: falling unemployment that signals strong domestic demand; easing of inflation, and lower import bills.

He said that the “unemployment rate has come down significantly in the last four years” to 6.4 per cent and “that means the domestic demand has been pretty strong”.

The WESP said that this occurred because “the economy added jobs both in urban and rural areas in 2022”.

“The inflation pressure also has eased quite significantly,” Rashid said with the year-on-year inflation rate to be 5.5 per cent this year and 5 per cent next year.

“That means that the central bank would not have to be aggressive over monetary tightening,” he said.

India has also benefitted to from lower imports, especially energy import cost that has been lower than in previous years, he added.

“I think this is a sustainable growth rate for India, given India also has a significant number of people living in poverty. So this would be a great boost if India can sustain this growth rate in the near term,” Rashid said.

He also pointed to two risk factors for India’s economy mainly emanating from the global situation.

One is from higher interest rates that would raise the debt servicing cost which has exceeded 20 per cent of the budget, he said.

“That is a significantly high debt servicing cost and that would probably have some drag on the growth prospect,” he said.

The second risk is from global external demands falling.

If Europe and the US go into a very slow growth mode resulting in lower global exports, the world economy may suffer, Rashid said.

“But on the balance, we believe that Indian economy is on a strong footing given the strong domestic demand in the near term,” he said.

For South Asia as a whole, the report said the region’s “economic outlook has significantly deteriorated due to high food and energy prices, monetary tightening and fiscal vulnerabilities” and it forecast a 4.8 per cent growth year and 5.9 per cent next year.

This was buoyed by India as the report said, “The prospects are more challenging for other economies in the region. Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka sought financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2022.”

Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have gone to the International Monetary Fund for help. Rashid said, “We call for greater international support in this difficult time for countries, especially countries that are facing significant challenges with debt burden and again we call for more meaningful restructuring of debt.”

“It might be more prudent and may make more economic sense to re-profile the debt, reschedule the debt, (the) external debt burden,” he said. But he said that the assistance should not go into consumption, but into investment in “productive capacity (that) can be very important driver of both short-term recovery and long-term resilience”.

India Is The Voice Of Global South: PM Modi Announces ‘Aarogya Maitri’ Project

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, January 13th announced a new ‘Aarogya Maitri’ project under which India will provide essential medical supplies to any developing country affected by natural disasters or humanitarian crisis.

India unveiled three initiatives to assist the Global South in areas ranging from technology to health, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying medical supplies will be provided to any developing country hit by natural disasters under the “Aarogya Maitri” project.

Addressing the concluding session of the virtual Voice of Global South Summit, Modi said India will launch the Global South Science and Technology Initiative to share its expertise in areas such as space technology and nuclear energy, and establish the Global South Center of Excellence for research on development solutions that can be scaled up and implemented around the world.

New Delhi billed the two-day summit as a platform for generating ideas and suggestions from developing countries to be channeled into discussions at the G20 during India’s presidency of the grouping of 20 largest economies. In his televised remarks at the concluding session, Modi described the summit as the “largest-ever virtual gathering of the Global South” as it attracted more than 120 developing countries.

Referring to India’s “Vaccine Maitri” initiative that supplied vaccines to more than 100 countries during the Covid-19 pandemic, Modi announced the “Aarogya Maitri” project whereby the country will provide essential medical supplies to any developing country affected by natural disasters or humanitarian crisis.

He also announced that India will establish the Global South Center of Excellence to carry out research on development solutions or best practices that can be scaled up and implemented in the Global South. In this context, he cited India’s digital public goods in fields such as electronic payments, healthcare, education and e-governance that can be used by other developing countries.

“India has also made great strides in areas like space technology and nuclear energy. We will launch a ‘Global South Science and Technology initiative’ to share our expertise with other developing nations,” he added.

Modi proposed a “Global South Young Diplomats Forum” to connect young officers of foreign ministries for “synergising our diplomatic voice”, and said India will institute the “Global South Scholarships” to allow students from developing states to pursue higher education in the country.

“In its development partnerships, India’s approach has been consultative, outcome oriented, demand driven, people-centric and respectful of the sovereignty of partner countries. I firmly believe that countries of the Global South have a lot to learn from each other’s development experiences,” he said.

The Indian side has sought to differentiate its development initiatives in the Global South from those of China, which experts have said lead to debt traps and projects that are financially unviable.

At the same time, Modi reiterated the Indian side’s message for reforming multilateral bodies such as the United Nations and for “human-centric globalisation” that leads to reliable supply chains without creating a debt crisis.

Without directly referring to the Ukraine crisis, he also highlighted the “increasing fragmentation of the international landscape” and “geopolitical tensions” that are preventing countries from focusing on development priorities.

The developing countries, he said, want globalisation that “does not create climate crisis or debt crisis” and “does not lead to unequal distribution of vaccines or over-concentrated global supply chains”.

The current geopolitical tensions “cause sharp swings” in international prices of food, fuel, fertilizers and other commodities.

“To address this geopolitical fragmentation, we urgently need a fundamental reform of the major international organizations, including the United Nations Security Council and the Bretton Woods institutions,” he said.

Such reforms should give voice to concerns of the developing world and reflect the realities of the 21st century. “India’s G20 Presidency will attempt to voice the views of the Global South on these important issues,” Modi said.

The concluding session was joined by the leaders of seven countries, including Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Suriname President Chandrikapersad Santo

With 18 Million Immigrants, India Tops The List

The Indian diaspora, one of the most “vibrant and dynamic”, is the largest in the world, with 18 million people from the country living outside their homeland in 2020, the UN has said.

The Indian diaspora account for roughly 4.9 million Americans who were either born in India or who have Indian heritage or origin, a recently published study by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) said.

‌‌According to the study, titled “Spotlight on Indian Immigrants in the US,” the Indian diaspora ranked tenth behind the 5. 4 million-strong Chinese diaspora, which was placed ninth.

The United Arab Emirates, the US and Saudi Arabia host the largest numbers of migrants from India, it said.

Picture : migration Policy Inst.

“India has the largest transnational population in the world. It has the most migrants abroad — 18 million, which is a significant number and another feature which is very interesting about the Indian migrant population is that they’re really distributed all over the globe,” Population Affairs Officer in the Population Division at UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) Clare Menozzi told PTI in an interview on Friday.

Menozzi said while some transnational populations are really clustered in one country or region, the Indian diaspora is present in all continents and regions — from the Gulf to Northern America to Australia, UK. “It’s a very vibrant” and dynamic diaspora in the world, she said.

The report, ‘International Migration 2020 Highlights’, by the Population Division of UN DESA, released on Friday said in 2020, 18 million persons from India were living outside of their country of birth.

Other countries with a large diaspora included Mexico and Russia (11 million each), China (10 million) and Syria (8 million).

The report said India’s large diaspora is distributed across a number of major countries of destination, with the UAE (3.5 million), the US (2.7 million) and Saudi Arabia (2.5 million) hosting the largest numbers of migrants from India.

Other countries hosting large numbers of migrants from India included Australia, Canada, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar and the UK.

Between 2000 and 2020, the size of the migrant population abroad grew for nearly all countries and areas of the world. India experienced the largest gain during that period at nearly 10 million, followed in order of magnitude by Syria, Venezuela, China and the Philippines.

Migration from India is largely motivated by labour and family reasons, Director of Population Division at UN DESA John Wilmoth told reporters at the launch of the report here, adding that forced displacement is a much smaller category (about 10 per cent) in the total.

Menozzi said the Indian diaspora is comprised predominantly of persons who are working, but also students and people who moved for family reasons.

She said there is a very large presence of migrants who are born in India, in the Gulf countries where they are playing a central role in the economic prosperity of the countries, working in construction, hospitality and care services. The diverse Indian diaspora also includes highly-skilled scientists, engineers and doctors.

The US remained by far the largest country of destination of international migrants with 51 million migrants in 2020, equal to 18 per cent of the world’s total.

Germany hosted the second largest number of migrants worldwide at around 16 million, followed by Saudi Arabia (13 million), Russia (12 million) and the UK (9 million).

The report said preliminary estimates suggest that Covid-19 pandemic may have slowed the growth in the stock of international migrants by around two million by mid-2020, 27 per cent less than the growth expected since mid-2019.

The report said growth in the number of international migrants has been robust over the last two decades, reaching 281 million people living outside their country of origin in 2020, up from 173 million in 2000 and 221 million in 2010.

Currently, international migrants represent about 3.6 per cent of the world’s population.

Between 2000 and 2020, the number of migrants grew in 179 countries or areas. Germany, Spain, Saudi Arabia, UAE and the US gained the largest number of migrants during that period. By contrast, in 53 countries or areas, the number of international migrants declined between 2000 and 2020. Armenia, India, Pakistan, Ukraine and Tanzania were among the countries that experienced the most pronounced declines.

In many cases, the declines resulted from the old age of the migrant populations or the return of refugees and asylum seekers to their countries of origin.

In terms of regional migration corridors, between 2000 and 2020, some regional migration corridors grew very rapidly. The corridor Central and Southern Asia to Northern Africa and Western Asia grew the most, with 13 million migrants added between 2000 and 2020; more than tripling in size.

“The majority of that increase resulted from labour migration from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),” the report said.

It noted that while it is too soon to understand the full extent, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 may have slowed the growth of this regional migration corridor.

In many GCC countries, thousands of migrant workers in the construction, hospitality, retail and transportation sectors lost their jobs due to the pandemic and were required to return home.

The report said according to World Bank projections, the Covid-19 pandemic may reduce the volume of remittances sent to low-and middle-income countries from USD 548 billion in 2019 to USD 470 billion in 2021, a decline of 14 per cent.

Menozzi said India is the main country of recipient of remittances worldwide and in 2019 received USD 83 billion in remittances from its diaspora. The World Bank projects that in 2020, the amount will decline by around 9 per cent to about USD 76 billion.

The Indian diaspora account for roughly 4.9 million Americans who were either born in India or who have Indian heritage or origin, a recently published study by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) said.

‌‌According to the study, titled “Spotlight on Indian Immigrants in the US,” the Indian diaspora ranked tenth behind the 5. 4 million-strong Chinese diaspora, which was placed ninth.

Hundreds Of Christians Subjected To Violence In Chhattisgarh, Some Forcibly Converted To Hinduism: Civil Rights Groups

(PTI) Some civil rights groups have claimed that about 1,000 Christian tribals in Chhattisgarh were subjected to violence over their religion and some of them were forcibly converted to Hinduism.

The Centre for Study of Society and Secularism in partnership with All India Peoples Forum, All India Lawyers Association for Justice and United Christian Forum constituted a fact-finding committee which visited the state.

Irfan Engineer, director of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism who led the fact-finding committee, claimed that there is an “organised campaign to forcibly convert Christian Adivasis to Hindu religion”.

Picture : The Wire

NFAAUM and Indian Caucus of The United Methodist Church in a statement described that  Christian Persecution has been Legitimized by Religious Nationalists in India. “As we prepare to celebrate the joyous birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the promise of a New Year, the Indian National Caucus of The United Methodist Church stands in solidarity with more than 32 million Christians in India who live in anxious and uncertain times. We express our deep concern in the wake of increased developments aimed at persecuting Christians and other minority religious communities in India. These children of God frequently endure harassment and physical abuse when they gather for worship and their houses of worship have been vandalized and demolished with impunity.

“The 2016 Social Principles of The United Methodist Church are clear, “We condemn all overt and covert forms of religious intolerance, being especially sensitive to their expression in media stereotyping. We assert the right of all religions and their adherents to freedom from legal, economic, and social discrimination.”

“The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has consistently detailed reports of religious persecution in India along with its recommendations to the U.S. Department of State and Congress. The Federation of Indian American Christians in North America (FIACONA), as an ecumenical organization representing over 1 million American Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical traditions, has recorded over 400 churches that have been demolished, and 700 incidents of violence against Christians in India in 2022 alone.

“We are alarmed that a Frisco, TX based 501c(3) charity named the Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) has increased its public fundraising in the U.S., with the explicitly stated goals to demolish churches and forcefully convert Christians to Hinduism. On December 6, 2022, the city of Frisco, TX held a special hearing where people of all religious backgrounds expressed their outrage that such radical nationalist organizations were permitted to operate on US soil.

“This religious extremist group is one of many radical Hindu nationalist organizations that have sprung up across the United States in recent years. These extremist groups actively sponsor and host US events by inviting Hindu nationalist leaders from India, providing them an ideological platform to legitimate violence against religious minorities, particularly Christians and Muslims. These organizations pose a threat of operation to many US-based social and relief organizations in the most impoverished communities in India.

“The Indian National Caucus of the United Methodist Church asks United Methodists across the denomination to advocate with Congress and the U.S. State Department to investigate and oppose all religious nationalist organizations especially those that legitimate acts of violence, and in particular growing extremist expressions of Hindu nationalism.

“We call on all people of faith to fervently pray for those who are persecuted for their belief and practice and to oppose the demolition of Christian churches and other religious houses of worship. In the name of the Prince of Peace who comes in a spirit of hope and freedom from all oppression, we denounce extremist religious nationalist movements that are contrary to a spirit of mutual respect and recognition and the alleviation of human suffering. We continue to affirm communal safety and security and security and advocate for human dignity and human rights for all.”

27 Eminent Persons Of Indian Origin To Receive PBD Awards in Indore, India

An educationist in Bhutan, a doctor in Brunei and civil society activists in Ethiopia, Israel and Poland were among the 27 people chosen for the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award (PBSA).

Guyana President Mohamed Irfaan Ali and renowned Canadian scientist Dr Vaikuntam Iyer Lakshmanan are among 27 recipients of the 2023 Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award — the highest honor conferred on overseas Indians.

PBSA is conferred by the Hon’ble President of India as part of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention on Non-Resident Indians, Persons of Indian Origin or an organization/institution established and run by the Non-Resident Indians or Persons of Indian Origin in recognition of their outstanding achievements both in India and abroad.

Picture : India Today

The 17th edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention is scheduled to be held from 8–10 January 2023 at Indore, Madhya Pradesh. The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards will be conferred by the Hon’ble President of India at the PBD Convention in the valedictory session of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations.

Born to an Indo-Guyanese Muslim family, Ali took oath as Presiden in August 2020.

He will also be the chief guest at the 17th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention.

Polish businessman from Goa Amit Kailash Chandra Lath, 45, who helped in the evacuation of Indian students from Ukraine into Poland when war with Russia broke out, is also a recipient of the award.

Scientist and innovator Dr Vaikuntam Iyer Lakshmanan, who moved to Canada in 1974, channeled his passion for community service through supporting organizations like Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce and Canada-India Business Council.

He has sponsored clean drinking water systems and a mobile hospital in rural India, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce in 2019.

Among other recipients are FedEx Corporation CEO Rajesh Subramaniam, Australian economist Chennupati Jagadish, and Israel-based chef Reena Vinod Pushkarna.

A Jury-cum-Awards Committee, with Hon’ble Vice-President as the Chairman and Hon’ble External Affairs Minister as the Vice-Chair and other distinguished members from various walks of life considered the nominations for the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards, 2023 and unanimously selected the awardees. The awardees represent the excellence achieved by our diaspora in various fields.

Following is the list of Awardees recommended by Jury-cum-Awards Committee for conferment of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award 2023:

Sr. No. Name Country Field
Prof. Jagadish Chennupati


Science & Technology/ Education

Prof. Sanjeev Mehta



Prof. Dilip Loundo


Art & Culture/Education

Dr. Alexander Maliakel John

Brunei Darussalam


Dr. Vaikuntam Iyer Lakshmanan


Community Welfare

Mr. Joginder Singh Nijjar


Art & Culture/Education

Prof. Ramjee Prasad


Information Technology

Dr. Kannan Ambalam


Community Welfare

Dr. Amal Kumar Mukhopadhyay


Community Welfare/Medicine

H.E. Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali


Politics/Community Welfare

Ms. Reena Vinod Pushkarna


Business/Community Welfare

Dr. Maqsooda Sarfi Shiotani



Dr. Rajagopal



Mr. Amit Kailash Chandra Lath


Business/Community Welfare

Mr. Parmanand Sukhumal Daswani

Republic of Congo

Community Welfare

Mr. Piyush Gupta



Mr. Mohanlal Hira

South Africa

Community Welfare

Mr. Sanjaykumar Shivabhai Patel

South Sudan

Business/Community Welfare

Mr. Sivakumar Nadesan

Sri Lanka

Community Welfare

Dr. Dewanchandrebhose Sharman


Community Welfare

Dr. Archana Sharma


Science & Technology

Justice Frank Arthur Seepersad

Trinidad & Tobago

Community Welfare/Education

Mr. Siddharth Balachandran


Business/Community Welfare

Mr. Chandrakant Babubhai Patel



Dr. Darshan Singh Dhaliwal


Business/Community Welfare

Mr. Rajesh Subramaniam



Mr. Ashok Kumar Tiwary



New Delhi
January 02, 2023

For more details on: Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards-2023

India’s Supreme Court Gives Clean Chit To Modi Govt On Demonetization

Demonetisation was a shockingly cruel policy enacted under false pretences, according to an alysts. It did not achieve any of its stated objectives: A cashless economy, a revenue bonanza for the government, cleaning the system of illicit money, or stopping terror finance. It inflicted needless suffering and made fools of citizens, who willingly acquiesced.

Modi Government’s decision six years ago to demonetise currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 passed the Supreme Court’s test in a majority 4-1 verdict. Four of the five-judge Constitution Bench held that the November 8, 2016, notification did not suffer from any flaws in the decision making process.”

A dissenting judge, Justice B V Nagrathna, however, said that the way the noteban was carried out violated the law and highlighted how the RBI didn’t apply an independent mind. She added that the government should have brought a law. In fact, high-level sources told The Indian Express that the Central Board of the RBI was “never in the loop” about the withdrawal of notes.

The Supreme Court on Monday declared the Centre’s demonetisation move of November 2016 legally valid. A Constitution bench held that it appears from the record that there was consultation between the RBI and the central government for a period of six months.

It was a 4-1 judgement from the SC on a batch of 58 petitions, most of which challenging the demonetisation, while some seeking a new window to deposit the demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes that could not be deposited back then.

Key issues

  • Did the demonetisation scheme abide by the provisions of the RBI Act, 1934?
  • Did the limits on withdrawing cash violate the Rights to Equality and Livelihood?
  • Was the scheme implemented in an unreasonable manner that violated the Rights to Equality and Livelihood?
  • To what extent can the SC review a scheme relating to the fiscal and economic policy of the government?

Judges split

The majority judgement, authored by Justice BR Gavai, said the decision-making process was not flawed merely because the procedure emanated from the government.

Justice SA Nazeer-headed bench said there has to be great restraint in matters of economic policy and the court cannot supplant the wisdom of the executive by a judicial review of its decision.

Dissenting view

Justice BV Nagarathna, bench’s junior-most judge, held that demonetisation had to be done through a legislation and not through a gazette notification, arguing that Parliament cannot be left aloof in a matter of such critical importance.

She said the RBI showed no independent application of mind and that the entire exercise was carried out in 24 hours after the Centre proposed the move. She held that such an opinion given by RBI cannot be construed as a “recommendation” under the RBI Act.

The demonetisation decision pushed the boundaries of constitutionalism to the edge. It can be argued that the legality of the policy need not be entirely judged by its success; it is not unconstitutional to take horrendous policy decisions. But this does not mean that there is no scope for fixing some administrative responsibility. The importance of Justice BV Nagarathna’s powerful dissent is not the conclusion. It is that it tries to affix administrative responsibility and does not let officials hide behind the smokescreen of statutory interpretations. The need for fixing this responsibility is even more if you happen to think that this is a sovereign decision. Her dissent asks the right question: What was the Board of the RBI doing in all this?

According to P NMehta of the Indian Express, “Justice Nagarathna is astutely pointing out that things like consultation or application of mind can’t be proforma exercises where the RBI Board simply ticks off a box by signing a resolution in a few minutes. Ironically, the shoddiness of the majority judgment’s reasoning enacts the very thing Justice Nagarathna is pointing out: The real threat of our democracy is professionals, who are otherwise independent, not doing their professional duty. The lesson from this episode is that independence is never in the letter of the law, it is in the character and conduct of form in the vast chain of accountability in a democracy, from judges to officials, from parliamentarians to citizens.”

Bharat Jodo Yatra Unites India

Rahul Gandhi started Bharat Jodo Yatra on September 7, 2022 with the plan of covering a distance 3500 km from Kanyakumari to Srinagar. According to the Congress party, the yatra is the biggest Mass contact programme where the concerns of people will be raised. Although the main purpose of the yatra is to revive and rejuvenate the Congress party, people belonging to different ideologies, walks of life, professions and members of civil society organizations have joined the yatra because they appreciate the idea of knitting India, an India that is being divided on the basis of religion and besieged by soaring unemployment, price rise and widening economic disparities. Presence of a large number of ordinary people is the specialty of the yatra, besides participation by many social activists and film celebrities.

By observing and analysing the yatra, the kind of people who participate in the walk and the issues raised during the walk, one can draw some spiritual insights.

Picture : TheUNN

Personal Transformation, a Prerequisite for Social Transformation: Mahatma Gandhi has said, “You be the change you want to see in others”. The Bharat Jodo Yatra has certain specific objectives, which Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party have clearly articulated. While the yatra entered Madhya Pradesh in the last week of November, Rahul Gandhi said that he feels some changes in himself during the yatra, especially more patience and the ability to listen to others. “Now I don’t get irritated even for eight hours, if someone pushes or pulls me. It doesn’t affect me, whereas earlier I used to get irritated even in two hours,” he said. “If you are walking in the yatra and experience pain, then you have to face it, you can’t just give up”, he added.

Relevance of Tapasya: During the yatra, Rahul Gandhi often repeated that for him, Bharat Jodo Yatra is a tapasya. In a conversation with Darshan Mondkar, a Pune-based entrepreneur, who joined the Bharat Jodo Yatra’s Maharashtra leg, Rahul Gandhi explained what he means by tapasya. “Tapasya comes from the word tup. When you do tapasya you generate heat; the energy which consumes you. It hurts you; it pains you. And, then, you achieve,” Rahul said. He further explained: “Yes. Sure. I do not want to achieve anything without putting in an effort, without doing tup. Unless it hurts me, it pains me, any achievement is not worth it. This Bharat Jodo Yatra is my tapasya.”

“It is like an expiation, a cleansing of the soul. It is no easy task to walk even a single day in the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The physical stamina has to match a personal, political and an emotional commitment,” commented one of those walked with Rahul Gandhi in Karnataka.
The crucial question is how many of our political and religious leaders are ready to do tapasya. How many of them are ready to leave their comfort zones and walk to see and experience the problems and difficulties of people?  On the contrary, often, they make provocative statements sitting in their comfort zones and adopt controversial policies to divide people. They want to attain power and remain in power by polarizing people. Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra challenges these comfort-seeking, power-hungry and manipulative leaders.

Ability to Listen: The root cause of many conflicts is the failure on the part of individuals and groups to listen to others. Very often divorces take place in families, and many families are disintegrated due to the failure of the members to listen to each other. Many failures in governance happen because the rulers are not ready to listen to people. In the case of India, two mammoth protests — one against the three controversial farm laws and another against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) — took place because of the stubbornness of the ruling party to listen to people. Without listening to people, the ruling party imposed the two laws on the people of India. The tendency to impose laws without consulting people, who have to bear the consequence of the laws, is found among the religious leaders also. Often, they too behave like dictators.

Because Rahul Gandhi was ready to listen to people, many individuals and groups met him during the yatra and presented before him their problems and views. They include children, unemployed youth, women, students, farmers, weavers, intellectuals and social activists. A government, which is deeply committed to a majoritarian ideology that is exclusive, divisive and discriminative, is not willing to listen to people and their elected representatives.

Getting Rid of Fear: A constant theme running through Rahul Gandhi’s speeches during the yatra is the need for getting rid of fear. The root cause of hatred is fear. RSS and BJP have fear and that is why they spread hatred. He spoke why and how we need to overcome the fear within us so that we can become strong voices against the fascism of BJP/RSS. He showed the courage to speak against Adani and Ambani without mentioning their names, as they have cornered huge wealth of the nation due to the pro-corporate policies of the BJP government, neglecting the interests of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.

Yogendra Yadav, President of Swaraj India, in an interview with Karan Thapar said that the tide is turning. “The climate of loneliness and fear has cracked but not shattered.” A few months ago, people were afraid of speaking against the government because of the fear of ED and CBI pouncing upon them. Now, thousands of people are walking on the streets along with Rahul Gandhi and it is making a dent in the fear.

Suzanne Furtado, an entrepreneur and writer from Bengaluru, who took part at the Mysore phase of the march, shared her experience in the following words. “Today’s India, where people’s voices, freedoms, lives, are being silenced, snatched, snuffed out, is not where I grew up. What I love most about my country is our incomparable diversity, and my heart grieves at what is happening to our people, our homeland. To me, Rahul Gandhi’s simple call to all to join him on this mission of unity, to come together to conquer the violent politics of hate, feels like Satyagraha. The Satyagraha of today’s India.”

Courage, the courage to stand alone and speak truth to power, is a significant quality of a spiritual person. A combination of courage and compassion makes a person spiritual. Rahul Gandhi has been consistent in his strident criticism of the dangerous ideology of the RSS-BJP combine. Even when the yatra entered Maharashtra, he had the guts to criticize the ideology of V D Savarkar, one of the protagonists of Hindutva. At the same time, because of his compassion for the people of India, he has been constantly focusing on the issues of the people — unemployment, rising prices and growing economic inequality. How many of our political and religious leaders have the courage to criticize the misuse of power by the ruling dispensation? Many religious leaders, despite knowing the dangerous virus that is infecting the whole nation, keep mum because of fear. Cowards can never be spiritual. Mahatma Gandhi has said, “Non-violence and cowardice are contradictory terms. Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. Non-violence springs from love, cowardice from hate. Non-violence always suffers, cowardice would always inflict suffering.”

Unity, Love and Fraternity: One of the proclaimed goals of Bharat Jodo Yatra is to replace division and hatred with unity and love. While addressing people at Hingoli in Maharashtra, Rahul Gandhi said, “We will reach Srinagar and hoist tri-colour and spread a message that this country can neither be divided nor can hatred and violence be spread in this country.” As an example of defeating hatred with love, Rahul Gandhi gave flying kisses to people who had gathered at the BJP Jhalawar office’s rooftop to catch a glimpse of the march. Later Rahul Gandhi wrote on Facebook: “No malice, no anger, no resentment — none of this is in the hearts of Bharat yatris. What they have is a desire to unite India, compassion for the sufferings of Indians and love for all citizens.”

The unity that Rahul Gandhi wants to promote is not the ruthless uniformity imposed by the RSS-BJP combine; it is a unity rooted in brotherhood and diversity. Imposing uniformity is totally against the spirit of India. While addressing a gathering in Kerala, Rahul Gandhi admired the people of Kerala for fostering unity in diversity. “Kerala is the symbol of unity in diversity and model for the entire country. The people of the state do not allow hatred to spread among them and encourage mutual respect. This was the reason that the state has a good education system and most compassionate nurses.”

One of the basic differences between religiosity and spirituality is that religiosity divides people whereas spirituality unites people. Religiosity is based on rituals, dogmas, rules, pilgrimages and devotions. These aspects generally differ from religion to religion and often people fight because of the overemphasis on these aspects. On the other hand, spirituality is based on the practice of humanitarian values, ideals, morals and ethical principles. These are more or less common to all religions. Because of the overemphasis on rituals and dogmas, fundamentalism and fanaticism flourish in religions. Fundamentalists always insist on uniformity and they impose uniformity by force. The result is conflict, division and enmity both within the religions and between the religions.

Unity in diversity is the millennial heritage of India. Unity of India consists in accepting, appreciating and celebrating differences, especially with regard to religion, culture and language. The great leaders of India, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Babasaheb Ambedkar etc., believed and practiced it. That is why secularism/pluralism is included as one of the core principles in the preamble of the Indian Constitution. Ever since the BJP came to power at the Centre under the leadership of Narendra Modi, this principle is being ridiculed and blatantly violated. Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra can restore and reassert one of the basic foundations of the Indian nation.

India has a long history of foot-marches by spiritual gurus and political leaders. Saints like Adi Shankaracharya, Lord Buddha, Guru Nanak and Sree Chaitanya had embarked on foot-marches to communicate their spiritual messages and bring about transformation in individuals and in society. Mahatma Gandhi led the longest foot-march as part of the national freedom struggle, which gave the final push to the independence struggle. Bharat Jodo Yatra, being political and spiritual, can lead to an urgently needed socio-political transformation of India. (Indian Currents)

India Enhances Covid Surveillance After Surge In China

India Will Randomly Test International Visitors For COVID-19

In the wake of Covid-19 surge in China and elsewhere abroad, the Union government has laid out a number of steps to be taken by the state governments, Union territory (UT) administrations, and the general public.

The government has instructed states to ensure genome sequencing of all positive cases in the country. India has begun randomly testing international passengers arriving at its airports for COVID-19, the country’s health minister said, citing an increase in cases in neighboring China.

India’s Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has asked the public to wear masks and maintain social distancing, even though there are no official mandates for either. India had relaxed its mask-wearing rules earlier this year after coronavirus cases began dropping sharply. It has reported the most COVID-19 cases in the world since the pandemic began, but confirmed infections have fallen sharply in the past few months.

He has also asked state governments to step up efforts to curb any possible spread during the Christmas and New Year festivities. India witnessed two deadly waves of Covid in 2020 and 2021, but has seen low infection levels this year.

According to government data, the country reports roughly 1,200 Covid cases every week. Over 2.2 billion Covid vaccine doses have been administered so far.

On Tuesday, the federal government asked states to send Covid samples of all positive patients to labs runs by INSACOG, a forum under the health ministry which studies and monitors various strains of Covid in India.

The move came amid growing concerns over the spread of Covid in China following the recent easing of strict lockdown measures. Hospitals and medical facilities in China have come under increasing strain as those who’ve tested positive at home seek medical support.

In a letter to all states, federal health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said it was important to track new variants through genome sequencing due to the “sudden spurt of cases being witnessed in Japan, United States of America, Republic of Korea, Brazil and China”.

This would help authorities detect newer variants and take measures to contain them, he said.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya met senior officials to review the situation and step up surveillance. India was one of the worst affected countries during the first two waves of Covid. Millions were affected and more than 530,000 people died, according to official figures.

But experts believe the real number of Covid deaths was likely to be much higher as many cases people who died were not tested or reported into official figures. The government had also come under heavy criticism for its poor preparation during the second wave in the summer of 2021 as many people died due to lack of oxygen and critical medicines.

Mandaviya said the Indian government has no plans yet to halt flights from countries where new cases have been reported. The increase in cases in China has also prompted Indian health experts to issue advisories for the public to wear face masks and receive vaccine booster doses.

India’s top doctors’ body, the Indian Medical Association, also appealed to people to wear masks in all public places and get vaccine boosters. It urged people to avoid public gatherings such as weddings, political and social meetings, and international travel. “As of now, the situation is not alarming and therefore there is no need to panic. Prevention is better than cure,” it said in a statement.

When Covid-19 broke out in China in late 2019, its government played down its seriousness despite the rising hospital occupancy. This lack of transparency from the Chinese side kept the rest of the world ignorant of the impending pandemic.  Three years later, China is again ‘not revealing’ the true scale of Covid-19 surge in the country. And a pandemic-hit world is concerned.

India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, has administered more than 2.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses, but only 27% of the population has received a third booster dose.

India Will Be Another Great Power, Says White House Official

According to a top White House official, India is not merely an ally of the United States but rather another great power and there is no other bilateral relationship that has “deepened and strengthened” faster than the one between the two countries over the last 20 years.

India will not be an ally of the United States but will be another great power, a top White House official said Thursday asserting there is no other bilateral relationship that is being “deepened and strengthened” more rapidly than between the two countries over the last 20 years.

Responding to a question on India during his appearance at the Aspen Security Forum meeting in Washington, Kurt Campbell, the White House Asia coordinator, said that in his view India is the most important bilateral relationship for the United States in the 21st century.

Picture : First India

“The fact is, I don’t know of any bilateral relationship that is being deepened and strengthened more rapidly than the United States and India over the last 20 years,” the top White House official told a Washington audience. The United States needs to invest even more of its capacity, and building in people-to-people ties, working together on technology and other issues, he said.

“India has a unique strategic character. It will not be an ally of the United States. It has a desire to be an independent, powerful state and it will be another great power. But I think there are reasons to believe that our strategic alignment is growing across the board in almost every arena,” Campbell said. There are inhibitions in both of the bureaucracies and there are many challenges, he noted.

“But I do believe that this is a relationship that should have some ambition. We should look at things that we can do together, whether it’s in space, whether it’s education, whether it’s on climate, whether it’s on technology, and really move in that direction,” he said.

“If you look over the last 20 years and look at the hurdles that have been surmounted and the depth of engagement between our two sides, it’s remarkable,” he said.

India-US relationship, he asserted, is not simply built on anxiety around China. “It is a deeper understanding of the importance of the synergies between our societies,” he said, adding that the Indian diaspora in the US is a powerful connection.

Campbell acknowledged that Indians were ambivalent when President Joe Biden and his administration decided to take the Quad to the leader level.

“There were probably voices in their bureaucracy that were against it. But when President Biden made the direct appeal repeatedly to Prime Minister Modi, they decided that this was in their interests,” he said. The US is working very constructively with its Indian partners on the major set of initiatives in Covid-19 vaccine delivery, in maritime domain awareness and education, the White House official said.

“I’m thrilled to say that Prime Minister Albanese of Australia has invited us in 2023 for a major Quad meeting that we think will extend our coordination, cooperation, not just in Southeast Asia, and the Indo Pacific as well,” he said.

“I’m very bullish on the Quad. I think it will remain an unofficial venue. But it has many lines of communication, and it’s led to strengthening and deepening of coordination between these four key maritime democracies,” Campbell said. The Quad, known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is a group of four countries: the United States, Australia, India, and Japan. (This story has not been edited by  staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

The GSA INDIA EXPO 75’s 3 Day Celebrations Planned In Chicagoland

The 3 day extravaganza The G.S.A India @75 Expo 2022 opens on 15th December 2022 to at 10 am at the Sheraton Hotel in Lisle/ Napervile to showcase India’s transformation through growth and development as one of the top Global Economies since its Independence in 1947 to the present. This unique Expo will feature the ANCIENT INDIA and the NEW INDIA on a single platform through a Vibrant Trade Show, Meaningful Daily Workshops, Informative Plenary Sessions on the Investment opportunities in the States of India and a rich cultural extravaganza of dance, music, chanting, meditation in different forms, along with the talks on the science of Yoga, Ayurveda and Vaastu.

The Expo will be inaugurated by the Consul General of India in Chicago, Ambassador Mr. Somnath Ghosh and Congressman Mr. Danny K Davis in the presence of several local dignitaries including community leaders and political representatives.

The theme of the Global Eye G.S.A. India @75 Expo 2022 is a MADE IN INDIA – MADE FOR THE WORLD.

This unique initiative of the Indian American community in Chicagoland is a pioneering venture that shall Engage the American Mainstream society, Empower India-US ties, Enhance Indo-US Businesses, Emphasize India’s contributions to U.S. Industry and Research and vice versa, Educate the younger generation and Enlighten the world.

The Expo Team has also received encouragement and support from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi as well as the Indian Council of Cultural Relations.

At this unique EXPO, which is supported by volunteers from numerous local community organizations, we plan to showcase not only the traditional India’s art, culture, handicrafts, yoga, alternative medicine etc. but also, to showcase and discuss thru Workshops and Panel Discussions the advancements made by India in the last few decades in the field of Education, IT, AI, Digital Technology, Manufacturing, Healthcare, Medicine and Pharma, Energy and Space, Cinema, Renewal Energy and Sustainability and several other fields.

India’s new role as a world leader in these areas as well as its incredible tourism potential will also be discussed and displayed. Several MSME’s from India are also expected to participate.

The potential impact of such an EXPO will be seen in several spheres. The common American shall be able to see and appreciate the size, diversity, inclusiveness, and pluralism of India. He will also come to know about the immense progress made over the years in Agriculture, Industry and Economic spheres, which benefit not only India but the entire world.

The impact on the Indian Diaspora, particularly on the 2nd and 3rd Generation is also expected to be huge. They will see close hand the variety and diversity of India’s cultural heritage as also India’s advances made in several fields mentioned before.

The rollover benefit of the EXPO will be reflected in US India Relations, particularly Trade, Investments and Tourism, which should all be impacted in a positive manner.

The speakers and delegates for the expo are coming from across the United States, India, Europe and several other countries.

US-Based Forensic Firm Concludes Digital Evidence Was ‘Planted’ On Stan Swamy’s Computer

A US-based forensic firm on December 7th has concluded that digital evidence used to arrest Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy in the Bhima-Koregaon case was “planted” on his computer’s hard drive, similar to two other cases involving human rights defenders Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling. Swamy, 84, who was an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, died in July 2021, while waiting for interim bail on medical grounds.

As per the new report from a US-based digital forensics company, a hacker planted 22 “incriminating” files in activist Rona Wilson’s computer, days after violence in the Maharashtra town of Bhima-Koregaon in January 2018.

Picture : OPIndia

These files have, since November 15, 2018, been cited, initially by the Pune Police and then by the National Investigation Agency, as key evidence. This evidence led to Wilson and 15 others – including lawyers, academics and artistes – being arrested and jailed without bail (except the poet Varavara Rao who is now on bail) or trial for more than two years on charges of conspiring against the Indian state.

The files were never created, opened or used by anyone who directly handled Wilson’s computer, but the hacker used a software to plant them, said the new report from Arsenal Consulting. They analyzed an electronic copy of Wilson’s computer on a request from his lawyers, who got it from the police in November 2019 after court orders.

The new report is a follow-up of Arsenal’s first report in February 2021. That report concluded the computer was hacked using malicious software to plant 10 files, mostly “incriminating” letters, and it faced sustained electronic spying.

The second report, yet to be made public, but reviewed by Article 14, states: “There is no evidence of legitimate interaction with the additional files of interest on Mr. Wilson’s computer, and that 22 of the 24 files are directly connected to the attacker identified in Report I.”

Seeking bail

The additional 24 files largely contain purported correspondence between members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), discussions on fund transfers, how to improve women’s representation in organisations, difficulties party members face in communicating with each other, concerns over state crackdown and some photographs of Maoist guerillas.

Article 14 emailed detailed queries to Jaya Roy, NIA spokesperson and Superintendent of Police. The queries included specific questions related to Arsenal’s findings and reports submitted by government’s forensic labs.

Roy did not reply to the email. She told Article 14 on the phone that, “We do not take cognisance of reports from private labs. There are notified labs for our forensic examination like RFSL [Regional Forensic Science Laboratory] and CFSL [Central Forensic Science Laboratory].”

While the case against the 16 is likely to drag for years, their lawyers’ focus is on getting the activists released on bail. Wilson’s lawyers are likely to use the second Arsenal report to buttress their contention that primary electronic evidence was fabricated and that the tampering of his computer makes all electronic evidence produced from it unusable.

Electronic evidence

The case against the 16 activists centers around Elgaar Parishad, an event held on December 31, 2017, in Bhima-Koregaon, a town of roughly 9,000 inhabitants, 28 km northeast of Pune, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the victory of a largely Dalit-staffed British army over the upper-caste Peshwa army. Violence and arson followed the event, as Dalits clashed with Hindu right-wingers irked by the celebration of a valorous Dalit past.

Soon, a Pune police investigation into the violence changed tack to a Maoist conspiracy and focussed on “urban naxals”, a term popularised around the same time by right-wing supporters and leaders to deride urban intellectuals and activists.

Police raided activists and organisers of the event and seized laptops, hard disks and other devices. According to the charge sheet, the police raided the premises of Rona Wilson and advocate Surendra Gadling because of their alleged communication with Sudhir Dhawale, one of the main organisers of Bhima Koregaon event.

The chargesheet on why Ronal Wilson and why Surendra Gadling were arrested.

The files found on Wilson’s computer were among the evidence submitted against him, lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj, poet Rao and others.

After the NIA took over the probe from the state police in January 2020, soon after the state saw a change in administration from a Bharatiya Janata Party-led government to the Maha Vikas Aghadi currently in power, they filed an additional charge sheet, naming Jesuit priest Stan Swany, Hanybabu Tarayil, a professor of linguistics at the Department of English at Delhi University, Anand Teltumbde, a professor of the Goa Institute of Management and journalist Gautam Navlakha.

They were accused of conspiring with a banned Maoist group against the Indian government and face charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, an anti-terrorism law that overwhelmingly puts the onus of proving innocence on the accused. Arsenal found instances where the hacker renamed files and, in one case, even made a mistake that was later corrected.

Arsenal’s president Mark Spencer explained to Article 14 the significance of the new report: “The process tree involving “mohila meeting jan.pdf” is the most compelling finding in Report II. While there are many “smoking guns” related to the attacker’s activity in Reports I and II, this process tree is one of the most significant”.

The mohila meeting file that Spencer referred to contains the minutes of a purported mohila (women’s) meeting on January 2, 2018. It lists other co-accused activists – Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen and others – as members of MOs or mass organisations.

The process tree that Spencer referred to tracks how and when the attacker hacked and planted files on a victim’s computer. The report said these 22 files were planted using NetWire, malicious software that opens the door to the device for hackers.

The hacker then remotely changed, added or deleted contents and viewed computer activity. The second report detailed how this remote-access electronic Trojan horse was used to deliver multiple files to Wilson’s laptop, in addition to those mentioned in the first report, later used by investigators to incriminate him and others.

Trojan horse

The process tree for the “mohila meeting document” showed NetWire being launched automatically on January 11, 2018, 11 days after the Bhima-Koregaon violence, at 5.04 pm after a login.

The attacker opened a command prompt and unpacked three files between 5.10 pm and 5.12 pm – one of which contained “mohila meeting jan.pdf”. These files were then unpacked into a hidden folder using a temporarily deployed UnRAR, a file archiver like WinZip, renamed to “Adobe.exe”.

“It shows NetWire’s communication with the attacker’s command-and-control server that we recovered from the active Windows hibernation on Rona Wilson’s computer,” said Spencer. “The hibernation occurred on January 14, 2018. The IP address is associated with one of the hostnames that we already released in Report I, but now people can see an example of how we know so many details”.

Besides laptops, files in hard disks and pen drives too, were helpful in tightening the screws on Wilson and others. The attacker ensured that files were automatically transferred from Wilson’s computer to the external hard drive when hooked up.

“Please keep in mind that ultimately you do not need to take our word for anything we have shared in Reports I or II, as our findings can be replicated by competent digital forensics practitioners with access to the same electronic evidence,” said Spencer.

“The process tree has effectively caught the attacker red-handed,” said Spencer. “It very clearly demonstrates how the attacker delivered incriminating files to Rona Wilson’s computer.”

“It’s the kind of finding that should make technical people lean back in their chairs and say, whoa,” said Spencer, who has examined computers related to the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon and a Turkish journalist falsely framed for terrorism in 2014.

‘Not authenticated’

The NIA, in a special court, in response to a bail plea moved by Anand Teltumbde’s lawyers based on the first report by Arsenal said that the findings cannot be relied upon since it is “not authenticated”. Several charge sheets filed by the state police and NIA running into hundreds of pages hinge on the evidence recovered from the electronic devices of Wilson and others, the credibility of which has now been debunked by the independent forensic expert.

In a statement on February 10, the NIA had indirectly discredited Arsenal’s first report. “The forensics reports that are cited in the charge sheet filed in the court are from an accredited lab, accepted by the Indian courts,” NIA spokesperson Roy said. “In this case, it was done by the Regional Forensic Science Laboratory in Pune. According to their report no such malware was found,”“Rest all (sic) is distortion of facts.

“We reviewed the documents submitted by the prosecution in the court. They show the investigating officer in the case did ask the government forensic lab on October 13, 2018 to state that the electronic devices of the accused were not tampered with. The government lab made no comment. The prosecution then stated that more forensic reports were awaited, noting in a NIA report, part of the chargesheet, “certain FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) reports are yet to be received.”

Asked for comment by Article 14, NIA spokesperson Roy said: “NIA has already filed chargesheet in the case and the case is currently sub judice. I would not be commenting on any of the court matters.” Article 14 had raised a specific query about the fact that Regional Forensic Science Laboratory did not respond to questions of evidence tam

Bharat Jodo Yatra Unites India

Rahul Gandhi started Bharat Jodo Yatra on September 7, 2022 with the plan of covering a distance 3500 km from Kanyakumari to Srinagar. According to the Congress party, the yatra is the biggest Mass contact programme where the concerns of people will be raised. Although the main purpose of the yatra is to revive and rejuvenate the Congress party, people belonging to different ideologies, walks of life, professions and members of civil society organizations have joined the yatra because they appreciate the idea of knitting India, an India that is being divided on the basis of religion and besieged by soaring unemployment, price rise and widening economic disparities. Presence of a large number of ordinary people is the specialty of the yatra, besides participation by many social activists and film celebrities.

By observing and analysing the yatra, the kind of people who participate in the walk and the issues raised during the walk, one can draw some spiritual insights.

Picture : TheUNN

Personal Transformation, a Prerequisite for Social Transformation: Mahatma Gandhi has said, “You be the change you want to see in others”. The Bharat Jodo Yatra has certain specific objectives, which Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party have clearly articulated. While the yatra entered Madhya Pradesh in the last week of November, Rahul Gandhi said that he feels some changes in himself during the yatra, especially more patience and the ability to listen to others. “Now I don’t get irritated even for eight hours, if someone pushes or pulls me. It doesn’t affect me, whereas earlier I used to get irritated even in two hours,” he said. “If you are walking in the yatra and experience pain, then you have to face it, you can’t just give up”, he added.

Relevance of Tapasya: During the yatra, Rahul Gandhi often repeated that for him, Bharat Jodo Yatra is a tapasya. In a conversation with Darshan Mondkar, a Pune-based entrepreneur, who joined the Bharat Jodo Yatra’s Maharashtra leg, Rahul Gandhi explained what he means by tapasya. “Tapasya comes from the word tup. When you do tapasya you generate heat; the energy which consumes you. It hurts you; it pains you. And, then, you achieve,” Rahul said. He further explained: “Yes. Sure. I do not want to achieve anything without putting in an effort, without doing tup. Unless it hurts me, it pains me, any achievement is not worth it. This Bharat Jodo Yatra is my tapasya.”

“It is like an expiation, a cleansing of the soul. It is no easy task to walk even a single day in the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The physical stamina has to match a personal, political and an emotional commitment,” commented one of those walked with Rahul Gandhi in Karnataka.
The crucial question is how many of our political and religious leaders are ready to do tapasya. How many of them are ready to leave their comfort zones and walk to see and experience the problems and difficulties of people?  On the contrary, often, they make provocative statements sitting in their comfort zones and adopt controversial policies to divide people. They want to attain power and remain in power by polarizing people. Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra challenges these comfort-seeking, power-hungry and manipulative leaders.

Ability to Listen: The root cause of many conflicts is the failure on the part of individuals and groups to listen to others. Very often divorces take place in families, and many families are disintegrated due to the failure of the members to listen to each other. Many failures in governance happen because the rulers are not ready to listen to people. In the case of India, two mammoth protests — one against the three controversial farm laws and another against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) — took place because of the stubbornness of the ruling party to listen to people. Without listening to people, the ruling party imposed the two laws on the people of India. The tendency to impose laws without consulting people, who have to bear the consequence of the laws, is found among the religious leaders also. Often, they too behave like dictators.

Because Rahul Gandhi was ready to listen to people, many individuals and groups met him during the yatra and presented before him their problems and views. They include children, unemployed youth, women, students, farmers, weavers, intellectuals and social activists. A government, which is deeply committed to a majoritarian ideology that is exclusive, divisive and discriminative, is not willing to listen to people and their elected representatives.

Getting Rid of Fear: A constant theme running through Rahul Gandhi’s speeches during the yatra is the need for getting rid of fear. The root cause of hatred is fear. RSS and BJP have fear and that is why they spread hatred. He spoke why and how we need to overcome the fear within us so that we can become strong voices against the fascism of BJP/RSS. He showed the courage to speak against Adani and Ambani without mentioning their names, as they have cornered huge wealth of the nation due to the pro-corporate policies of the BJP government, neglecting the interests of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.

Yogendra Yadav, President of Swaraj India, in an interview with Karan Thapar said that the tide is turning. “The climate of loneliness and fear has cracked but not shattered.” A few months ago, people were afraid of speaking against the government because of the fear of ED and CBI pouncing upon them. Now, thousands of people are walking on the streets along with Rahul Gandhi and it is making a dent in the fear.

Suzanne Furtado, an entrepreneur and writer from Bengaluru, who took part at the Mysore phase of the march, shared her experience in the following words. “Today’s India, where people’s voices, freedoms, lives, are being silenced, snatched, snuffed out, is not where I grew up. What I love most about my country is our incomparable diversity, and my heart grieves at what is happening to our people, our homeland. To me, Rahul Gandhi’s simple call to all to join him on this mission of unity, to come together to conquer the violent politics of hate, feels like Satyagraha. The Satyagraha of today’s India.”

Courage, the courage to stand alone and speak truth to power, is a significant quality of a spiritual person. A combination of courage and compassion makes a person spiritual. Rahul Gandhi has been consistent in his strident criticism of the dangerous ideology of the RSS-BJP combine. Even when the yatra entered Maharashtra, he had the guts to criticize the ideology of V D Savarkar, one of the protagonists of Hindutva. At the same time, because of his compassion for the people of India, he has been constantly focusing on the issues of the people — unemployment, rising prices and growing economic inequality. How many of our political and religious leaders have the courage to criticize the misuse of power by the ruling dispensation? Many religious leaders, despite knowing the dangerous virus that is infecting the whole nation, keep mum because of fear. Cowards can never be spiritual. Mahatma Gandhi has said, “Non-violence and cowardice are contradictory terms. Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. Non-violence springs from love, cowardice from hate. Non-violence always suffers, cowardice would always inflict suffering.”

Unity, Love and Fraternity: One of the proclaimed goals of Bharat Jodo Yatra is to replace division and hatred with unity and love. While addressing people at Hingoli in Maharashtra, Rahul Gandhi said, “We will reach Srinagar and hoist tri-colour and spread a message that this country can neither be divided nor can hatred and violence be spread in this country.” As an example of defeating hatred with love, Rahul Gandhi gave flying kisses to people who had gathered at the BJP Jhalawar office’s rooftop to catch a glimpse of the march. Later Rahul Gandhi wrote on Facebook: “No malice, no anger, no resentment — none of this is in the hearts of Bharat yatris. What they have is a desire to unite India, compassion for the sufferings of Indians and love for all citizens.”

The unity that Rahul Gandhi wants to promote is not the ruthless uniformity imposed by the RSS-BJP combine; it is a unity rooted in brotherhood and diversity. Imposing uniformity is totally against the spirit of India. While addressing a gathering in Kerala, Rahul Gandhi admired the people of Kerala for fostering unity in diversity. “Kerala is the symbol of unity in diversity and model for the entire country. The people of the state do not allow hatred to spread among them and encourage mutual respect. This was the reason that the state has a good education system and most compassionate nurses.”

One of the basic differences between religiosity and spirituality is that religiosity divides people whereas spirituality unites people. Religiosity is based on rituals, dogmas, rules, pilgrimages and devotions. These aspects generally differ from religion to religion and often people fight because of the overemphasis on these aspects. On the other hand, spirituality is based on the practice of humanitarian values, ideals, morals and ethical principles. These are more or less common to all religions. Because of the overemphasis on rituals and dogmas, fundamentalism and fanaticism flourish in religions. Fundamentalists always insist on uniformity and they impose uniformity by force. The result is conflict, division and enmity both within the religions and between the religions.

Unity in diversity is the millennial heritage of India. Unity of India consists in accepting, appreciating and celebrating differences, especially with regard to religion, culture and language. The great leaders of India, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Babasaheb Ambedkar etc., believed and practiced it. That is why secularism/pluralism is included as one of the core principles in the preamble of the Indian Constitution. Ever since the BJP came to power at the Centre under the leadership of Narendra Modi, this principle is being ridiculed and blatantly violated. Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra can restore and reassert one of the basic foundations of the Indian nation.

India has a long history of foot-marches by spiritual gurus and political leaders. Saints like Adi Shankaracharya, Lord Buddha, Guru Nanak and Sree Chaitanya had embarked on foot-marches to communicate their spiritual messages and bring about transformation in individuals and in society. Mahatma Gandhi led the longest foot-march as part of the national freedom struggle, which gave the final push to the independence struggle. Bharat Jodo Yatra, being political and spiritual, can lead to an urgently needed socio-political transformation of India. (Indian Currents)

62 Meters High Trash Heap Shows The Scale Of India’s Climate Challenge

(CNN)  At the Bhalswa landfill in northwest Delhi, a steady flow of jeeps zigzag up the trash heap to dump more garbage on a pile now over 62 meters (203 feet) high.

Fires caused by heat and methane gas sporadically break out – the Delhi Fire Service Department has responded to 14 fires so far this year – and some deep beneath the pile can smolder for weeks or months, while men, women and children work nearby, sifting through the rubbish to find items to sell.

Some of the 200,000 residents who live in Bhalswa say the area is uninhabitable, but they can’t afford to move and have no choice but to breathe the toxic air and bathe in its contaminated water.

Bhalswa is not Delhi’s largest landfill. It’s about three meters lower than the biggest, Ghazipur, and both contribute to the country’s total output of methane gas.

Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, but a more potent contributor to the climate crisis because methane traps more heat. India creates more methane from landfill sites than any other country, according to GHGSat, which monitors methane via satellites.

And India comes second only to China for total methane emissions, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Global Methane Tracker.

As part of his “Clean India” initiative, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said efforts are being made to remove these mountains of garbage and convert them into green zones. That goal, if achieved, could relieve some of the suffering of those residents living in the shadows of these dump sites – and help the world lower its greenhouse gas emissions.

India wants to lower its methane output, but it hasn’t joined the 130 countries who have signed up to the Global Methane Pledge, a pact to collectively cut global methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. Scientists estimate the reduction could cut global temperature rise by 0.2% – and help the world reach its target of keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius.

India says it won’t join because most of its methane emissions come from farming – some 74% from farm animals and paddy fields versus less than 15% from landfill.

In a statement last year, Minister of State for Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change Ashwini Choubey said pledging to reduce India’s total methane output could threaten the livelihood of farmers and affect India’s trade and economic prospects.

But it’s also facing challenges in reducing methane from its steaming mounds of trash.  ‘Here we are, with no relief’

When Narayan Choudhary, 72, moved to Bhalswa in 1982, he said it was a “beautiful place,” but that all changed 12 years later when the first rubbish began arriving at the local landfill.

In the years since, the Bhalswa dump has grown nearly as tall as the historic Taj Mahal, becoming a landmark in its own right and an eyesore that towers over surrounding homes, affecting the health of people who live there.

Choudhary suffers from chronic asthma. He said he nearly died when a large fire broke out at Bhalswa in April that burned for days. “I was in terrible shape. My face and nose were swollen. I was on my death bed,” he said.

“Two years ago we protested … a lot of residents from this area protested (to get rid of the waste),” Choudhary said. “But the municipality didn’t cooperate with us. They assured us that things will get better in two years but here we are, with no relief.”

The dump site exhausted its capacity in 2002, according to a 2020 report on India’s landfills from the Center for Science and Environment (CSE), a nonprofit research agency in New Delhi, but without government standardization in recycling systems and greater industry efforts to reduce plastic consumption and production, tonnes of garbage continue to arrive at the site daily.

Bhalswa isn’t the only dump causing distress to residents nearby – it is one of three landfills in Delhi, overflowing with decaying waste and emitting toxic gases into the air.

Across the country, there are more than 3,100 landfills. Ghazipur is the biggest in Delhi, standing at 65 meters (213 feet), and like Bhalswa, it surpassed its waste capacity in 2002 and currently produces huge amounts of methane.

According to GHGSat, on a single day in March, more than two metric tons of methane gas leaked from the site every hour.

“If sustained for a year, the methane leak from this landfill would have the same climate impact as annual emissions from 350,000 US cars,” said GHGSat CEO Stephane Germain.

Dangerous toxins in groundwater

Methane emissions aren’t the only hazard that stem from landfills like Bhalswa and Ghazipur. Over decades, dangerous toxins have seeped into the ground, polluting the water supply for thousands of residents living nearby.

In May, CNN commissioned two accredited labs to test the ground water around the Bhalswa landfill. And according to the results, ground water within at least a 500-meter (1,600-foot) radius around the waste site is contaminated.

In the first lab report, levels of ammonia and sulphate were significantly higher than acceptable limits mandated by the Indian government.

Results from the second lab report showed levels of total dissolved solids (TDS) – the amount of inorganic salts and organic matter dissolved in the water – detected in one of the samples was almost 19 times the acceptable limit, making it unsafe for human drinking.

The Bureau of Indian Standards sets the acceptable limit of TDS at 500 milligrams/liter, a figure roughly seen as “good” by the World Health Organization (WHO). Anything over 900 mg/l is considered “poor” by the WHO, and over 1,200 mg/l is “unacceptable.”

According to Richa Singh from the Center for Science and Environment (CSE), the TDS of water taken near the Bhalswa site was between 3,000 and 4,000 mg/l. “This water is not only unfit for drinking but also unfit for skin contact,” she said. “So it can’t be used for purposes like bathing or cleaning of the utensils or cleaning of the clothes.”

Dr. Nitesh Rohatgi, the senior director of medical oncology at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, urged the government to study the health of the local population and compare it to other areas of the city, “so that in 15 to 20 years’ time, we are not looking back and regretting that we had a higher cancer incidence, higher health hazards, higher health issues and we didn’t look back and correct them in time.”

Most people in Bhalswa rely on bottled water for drinking, but they use local water for other purposes – many say they have no choice.  “The water we get is contaminated, but we have to helplessly store it and use it for washing utensils, bathing and at times drinking too,” said resident Sonia Bibi, whose legs are covered in a thick, red rash.

Jwala Prashad, 87, who lives in a small hut in an alleyway near the landfill, said the pile of putrid trash had made his life “a living hell.”

“The water we use is pale red in color. My skin burns after bathing,” he said, as he tried to soothe red gashes on his face and neck.  “But I can’t afford to ever leave this place,” he added.

Waste target in doubt

More than 2,300 tonnes of Municipal Solid Waste arrive at Delhi’s largest dump in Ghazipur every day, according to a report released in July by a joint committee formed to find a way to reduce the number of fires at the site.

That’s the bulk of the waste from the surrounding area – only 300 tonnes is processed and disposed of by other means, the report said. And less than 7% of legacy waste had been bio-mined, which involves excavating, treating and potentially reusing old rubbish.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi deploys drones every three months to monitor the size of the trash heap and is experimenting with ways to extract methane from the trash mountain, the report said.

But too much rubbish is arriving every day to keep up. The committee said bio-mining had been “slow and tardy” and it was “highly unlikely” the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (which has now merged with North and South Delhi Municipal Corporations) would achieve its target of “flattening the garbage mountain” by 2024.

“No effective plans to reduce the height of the garbage mountain have been made,” the report said. Furthermore, “it should have proposed a long time ago that future dumping of garbage in them would pollute the groundwater systems,” the report added.

CNN sent a series of questions along with the data from the water testing questionnaire to India’s Environment and Health Ministries. There has been no response from the ministries.

In a 2019 report, the Indian government recommended ways to improve the country’s solid waste management, including formalizing the recycling sector and installing more compost plants in the country.

While some improvements have been made, such as better door-to-door garbage collection and processing of waste, Delhi’s landfills continue to accumulate waste.

In October, the National Green Tribunal fined the state government more than $100 million for failing to dispose of more than 30 million metric tonnes of waste across its three landfill sites.

“The problem is Delhi doesn’t have a concrete solid waste action plan in place,” said Singh from the CSE. “So we are talking here about dump site remediation and the treatment of legacy waste, but imagine the fresh waste which is generated on a regular basis. All of that is getting dumped everyday into these landfills.”

“(So) let’s say you are treating 1,000 tons of legacy (waste) and then you are dumping 2,000 tons of fresh waste every day it will become a vicious cycle. It will be a never ending process,” Singh said.

“Management of legacy waste, of course, is mandated by the government and is very, very important. But you just can’t start the process without having an alternative facility of fresh waste. So that’s the biggest challenge.”

India And Its Foreign Relations Through Media Monitoring

In September 2022, India became the fifth largest economy in the world by overtaking the United Kingdom, according to a recent report from the International Monetary Fund. India’s economic and political rise has both domestic and global implications and might alter the nature of the country’s foreign relations with powerful countries like the United States, China, and Russia, and vice versa. Furthermore, global events, such as the protectionist tech policies imposed by former President Trump on Chinese trade policies, the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war, and the deepening of authoritarianism in China, are forcing global realignment. Consequently, countries like India are reassessing their foreign relations with existing major powers and signaling interests and preferences vis-à-vis new emerging powers.

Picture : TheUNN

In this essay, we quantify India’s foreign relations based on news that involves the country and the top economies in the world: Australia, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, the United States, and Russia. We exploit the Global Database of Society, which is a part of the Global Data on Events, Location, and Tone (GDELT) Project that monitors news (broadcast, print, and digital) across the globe in more than 65 languages. Within 15 minutes of a news event breaking worldwide, the GDELT Project translates the event if it is in a language other than English and processes the news to identify the event, location, people, and organizations involved and the nature and theme of the event based on more than 24 emotional measurement packages (the largest deployment of sentiment analysis) to assess more than 2,300 emotions and themes to “contextualize, interpret, respond to, and understand global events” in near real-time.

The GDELT database lends itself to fascinating quantitative analysis of the changing nature of international relations as reflected in the news and media coverage. In our analysis, we find significant changes in India’s bilateral relations with major economies like France, China, Russia, and the United States in recent years. We also find structural breaks and major realignment in the relations of global powers vis-à-vis China since 2018.


We limit our analysis to the GDELT event database that records events (such as appeals for rights, ease of restrictions on political freedoms, protest, etc.), the date of the event, and the actors involved (which could be geographic, ethnic, religious, etc.), the country of the actors, the number of mentions of the event (the higher the mentions, the more important the event), and the average media tone associated with the event, which is a numeric value that can range from -100 (extremely negative tone) to +100 (extremely positive tone), with typical values between -10 and +10 and with zero indicating a neutral event. Our analyses focus on events from June 15, 2015, to September 24, 2022.

Overall, we analyze more than 99 million events, where the major actors were from three large countries: India, China, and the United States. We also estimate an average daily tone for each of the three countries by constructing a weighted mean of the average tone of all the events recorded on that date, with the number of mentions as a weight for each event. Our primary objective is to identify the pattern of the daily weighted average tone of the events related to India, China, and the United States from 2015 to 2022. To achieve this, we fit a Bayesian regression with a cubic spline and seven knots and plot the posterior mean with 95% intervals of the weighted average daily tone.


Overall, we find that events related to China, an authoritarian country with severe restrictions on free media, have a relatively more positive tone than the tone of events in democracies such as India and the United States. However, since 2018, the tone of events related to China has begun a sharp downward trend. This change toward China was also observed in a 2021 Pew survey on Americans’ views toward China. It is also interesting to note a more positive trend in tone for India-related events since 2020, which remains steady and does not exhibit any sharp pattern.

(i) India’s relations with the United States, China, and Russia

In our analysis of events related to India, China, the United States, and Russia, we focus on events where the prominent actor is India. Until late 2021, events related to India and Russia had a relatively more positive tone than those associated with India and the United States. and India and China. However, since late 2021, there has been a sharp reversal in the tone of events related to India and Russia. This is most likely a direct outcome of the Russian-Ukrainian war.

We also find that the tone of events related to India and China had a sharp reversal during the Doklam crisis in 2017 when there was a military border standoff between the Indian Armed Forces and the People’s Liberation Army of China. This was in response to the Chinese constructing a road at the trijunction area of India-Bhutan-China. The border standoff lasted more than two months and ended only when the Chinese halted the road construction and troops from both sides withdrew from Doklam. There was a short recovery in late 2018, however, from early 2019 onwards, there has been a sharp reversal in tone which worsened at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. Thereafter, India-China relations have continued to remain steady but at a historic low.

Concerning events related to India and the United States, we observe that their tone was steady and continuous until the middle of 2018, after which it started to fall. This downward trend continued until 2020 (the year of U.S. elections and the start of the pandemic), after which we observe a steady rise in the tone of events related to India and the United States.

(ii) Global realignment: China v. India

In our analysis, we also reviewed events that relate India and China to the world’s top economies: Australia, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, the United States, and Russia. We include Pakistan (PAK) and Israel (ISR) for this analysis, as both countries are important actors in India’s foreign policy.

Over the entire period, the average tone of events that relate India to the major economies has remained somewhat similar, except for France and Israel, where there is a significant upward swing in the average tone after 2021. Not surprisingly, this reflects the dramatic improvements in India’s ties with Israel and France in recent years.

In contrast, since 2018, the average tone of events that relate China to the major economies has experienced a downward trend. In particular, the India-China gap in the average tone with Australia, Germany (DEU), France, and the United States widened after 2018. However, since 2020, the downward trend in the average tone of events has either reversed or remained constant. The most striking result of this analysis concerns Russia’s relations with India and China. We observe a sharp downward trend in the tone of events concerning Russia’s relations with both China and India between 2021 and 2022, which is most likely the outcome of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Broadly, the average tone of events that relate India to the major economies is higher compared to events that relate China to the major economies (in particular, Australia, Germany, France, and the United States); this gap has widened since 2018-2019. Results for Pakistan are along expected lines, as the tone of events covering its relations with China and India remain steady and unaffected by global events over time. Pakistan’s relations with China are significantly better than its relations with India, which have a systematic and significant negative tone.


The findings of our research suggest that events related to China (which has heavy-handed, authoritarian restrictions on all forms of media) have a relatively more positive tone than large federal democracies when it comes to media, such as India and the United States, which have a relatively free press. However, since 2018-2019, there has been a sharp downward trend in tone of events related to China, perhaps reflecting the changing view of China in the western world, particularly within the United States, and the former president’s political attack on China concerning its trade policy. However, in the last two years, we have observed a reversal in this trend, which could reflect an easing of the tension post-pandemic and change in the U.S. government.

When analyzing events that relate India and China to the top economies and Russia, we find a widening gap in the average tone of events. However, when it comes to Russia post-2021, there has been a sharp decline in the average tone of events for both China and India, perhaps an outcome of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Based on the average tone of events, the findings suggest a consistent realignment of the world’s top economies in their foreign relations concerning India and China, especially after 2018. (Brookings)

Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu Gets One-Year Term Extension

The tenure of India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu has been extended for a year till January 31, 2024. Sandhu, who was due to retire in January 2023, is a veteran US hand who has served in Washington DC thrice. 

A notification published in the Gazette of India on November 28 states, “The President of India is pleased to re-employ Taranjit Singh Sandhu (IFS:1988), an officer of Grade 1 of IFS, as Ambassador of India to the United States of America, for a period of 01 year with effect from 01.02.2023 to 31.01.2024 or until further orders.”

Picture : Newsmobile

Sandhu, an Indian Foreign Service officer of 1988 batch, has served in Washington DC thrice – as a young political officer handling the Congress between 1997 and 2000, as the deputy chief of mission between 2013 and 2017, and then as ambassador from early 2020.

A US-based business advocacy group, US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) welcomed the decision and said that this would help in shepherding the relationship to new heights.

Mukesh Aghi, President and CEO of USISPF, said, “I congratulate Ambassador Sandhu on his extension till 2024. Apart from being a veteran of US-India relations, I am proud to say Ambassador Sandhu has also been a dear friend of USISPF and an exceptional asset to the US-India partnership, shepherding this relationship to new heights.”

“He has seen the evolution of the strategic partnership through his multiple years of experience in the US, from his earlier years in the foreign service in the late 90s to his stint as DCM and now as Ambassador in Washington. Ambassador Sandhu brings unparalleled expertise and experience in his interactions with both the legislature and executive branches of the US government. His extension will help consolidate US-India relations and take it to new heights,” he added.

Taranjit Singh Sandhu took charge as the new Indian Ambassador to the United States in 2020 from his predecessor Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who is now G20 chief coordinator. 

Sandhu was, earlier, the High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka. He previously served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of India in Washington DC from 2013 to 2017. The Ambassador had also previously served in the Indian mission in DC between 1997 to 2000 and is generally believed to be a familiar face in the Washington DC circle.

Over the course of Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu’s tenure, there has been a remarkable flowering and diversification of U.S.-India relations. In the last three years, he has skillfully shepherded the relationship amid new and often unprecedented challenges arising from the global pandemic, economic convulsions, and the war in Ukraine.

Ambassador Sandhu has had a distinguished career in the Indian Foreign Service spanning over thirty years, including two previous stints at the Indian mission in Washington, DC, making him one of the most experienced Indian diplomats on U.S. affairs.

Probe Sought Against Hindu Supremacist Group For Funding Church Demolitions In India

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) joined 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the US Senators, Representatives, State Governor, and other elected officials demanding the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Justice investigation into Texas-based organization Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF), a Hindu supremacist group that recently organized a fundraiser, among other causes, for demolishing churches in India.

Picture : TheUNN

Co-signed by Federation of Indian American Christian Organization in North  America (FIACONA), North American Church of God, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program, Amnesty International – Dallas, World Without Genocide, Center for Pluralism, Genocide Watch,  IAMC, Limitless Church, Justice for All, Hindu for Human Rights, North Texas Peace Advocates, Good Citizens of DFW, North Texas Islamic Council, the letter was sent to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Representatives Michael C. Burgess, Pat Fallon, Van Taylor, Terry Meza, Collin Allred, Marc Veasey, Jake Ellzey, Michael Cloud; Governor Gregg Abbott and Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney.

GHHF, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, recently circulated a flier for a fundraising event, listing one of the causes as demolishing what they call “illegal churches” in Tirupati, a city in India’s Andhra Pradesh state. 

“We find it extremely disturbing and dangerous that GHHF would so openly advertise their goal to cause such great harm to Indian Christians, who already face enormous persecution on a daily basis,” said the letter. 

GHHF has a history of demonizing Christians. In 2014, the organization wrote a letter to India’s Minister of Education urging her to revise the educational curriculum and teach children about the “heroism” of Nathuram Godse, the Hindu supremacist and member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a fascist paramilitary group, who murdered Gandhi. The letter further accused Christians of “stabbing the nation,” converting Hindus with “deception and allurement,” and putting Hindus in danger of becoming “sacrificial lambs.”

In 2020, GHHF hosted an event in Plano, Texas to support discriminatory anti-minority legislation passed in India, advocating that Muslims and Christians be stripped of their minority status. The group also funds a number of religious conversion programs in India to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. 

With a population of nearly 28 million, Christians are India’s second-largest minority group. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, Christians have been subjected to extreme violence. Discriminatory legislations like anti-conversion laws have enabled Hindu extremists to shut down churches and physically assault Christians with impunity. In 2021 alone, Hindu extremists carried out 800 hate crimes against Christians. 

“We urge you to use your platform as elected officials to forcefully condemn this blatant and brazen display of anti-Christian hate and bigotry. We also urge you to… [seek] immediate investigative and legal action against the Global Hindu Heritage Foundation for violating its 501c3 status by funding hate and enabling violence against religious minorities in India,” the letter adds.

“India Does Not Need To Be Told What To Do On Democracy,” Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj 

India does not need to be told what to do on democracy, the country’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj has asserted. India has assumed Presidency of the 15-nation UN Security Council for the month of December, during which it will host signature events on countering terrorism and reformed multilateralism. The Presidency will bring the curtains down on India’s two-year tenure as elected non-permanent member of the powerful UN organ. 

Kamboj, India’s first woman Permanent Representative to the UN, will sit in the President’s seat at the horse-shoe table. On the first day of India’s presidency, she addressed reporters in the UN headquarters on the monthly program of work.

Picture : The Business Post

Responding to a question on democracy and freedom of press in India, she said “We don’t need to be told what to do on democracy.” And, she added that “India is perhaps the most ancient civilization in the world as all of you know. In India, democracy had roots going back to 2500 years, we were always a democracy. Coming down to very recent times, we have all the pillars of democracy that are intact – legislature, executive, judiciary and the fourth estate, the press. And a very vibrant social media. So the country is the world’s largest democracy.” 

“Every five years we conduct the world’s largest democratic exercise. Everyone is free to say as they wish and please and that is how our country functions. It’s rapidly reforming, transforming and changing. And the trajectory has been very impressive. And I don’t have to say this, you don’t have to listen to me. Others are saying this,” Kamboj said.

and contribute positively to the global agenda, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ruchira Kamboj has said.

India is ready to take its place at the global top table as a country that is willing to bring solutions India on Thursday assumed the monthly rotating Presidency of the Security Council, the second time after August 2021 that India is presiding over the 15-member Council during its two-year tenure as an elected UNSC member.

India’s 2021-2022 term on the Council ends December 31. In the past two years, as the world went through various crises, “India has always been there as a solution provider”, Kamboj told reporters. India is speaking to both sides in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Kamboj said, asserting that New Delhi’s position has not been “passive” on the war.

To a question on whether the UNSC reform is moving forward, Kamboj said, “I wish I could say yes, yes and yes, but I will definitely say that this is one of the most complex processes in the UN system. But there is a ray of hope.” She pointed out that during the high-level 77th session of the General Assembly, 76 countries favoured UNSC reforms and 73 spoke for UN reforms.

India, Brazil, Germany and Japan – members of the G4 grouping – have been at the forefront of efforts calling for urgent reform of the Security Council, which has remained deeply divisive in dealing with current challenges.

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.

Picture : Cover

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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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. India@ 100 will be top three Economies in the world.

Vande Mataram! Happy Independence Day!

Jagdish Sewhani

President, The American India Public Affairs Committee

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

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

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

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

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

The new plans and projects are changing INDIA, its roads, railways, and digital telecommunication, with solar-powered airports of the highest qualities across the nation, and have multiplied the image and status of the New emerging INDIA.

Though we beat our trumpets a lot on our achievements, India appears to be suffering from a stinking bureaucracy and corruption among the administration and high political leaders. Whereby the country’s resources are underutilized or exploited. We must revive its democratic syncretic and inclusive credentials to be on the top list. We need to trim or eliminate all weeds that eat up tender growths.

India is not that India that the British left on 1947.  With its incredible progress, India’s present history continues to be the most enviable topic for developing countries globally. As an Indian American, I am proud to see India making hope- step- and jump each day to become a leading nation in the world, while celebrating Azadi ka 75th Amrit Mahotsav

Dr. Mathew Joys, Author, Writer

BOD Member, Indo-American Press Club

Editorial Board Member, The Universal News Network

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:

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:

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! (

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, 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,

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.

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! (

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