Sunday, August 26, 2012

Track 2 with Pak: Elementary Issue of Terrorism

Peace with Pakistan is definitely among the top cherished wishes of Indian diplomatic leadership. New Delhi has never hesitated from taking the first step and running the extra mile to establish peace with the neighbouring country. And every time, the gesture has been positive from across the border, India has reciprocated the same in good spirit.

The recent visit of an 18-member parliamentary delegation from Pakistan headed by the Senate leader Muhammad Jehangir Badar to Delhi and Patna in the state of Bihar must be seen in that perspective.

In the crucial interactions between parliamentarians from both sides attended by ruling Congress and opposition BJP lawmakers from India, both sides sought a slew of measures, including the introduction of a liberal visa regime, more trade through the Wagah border and resolution of the Siachen and Sir Creek issues.

This is seen as confidence-building exercise especially to boost trade and peace through the track – 2 diplomacy.
The Indian delegation was led an opposition member of Lok Sabha, Yashwant Sinha, who has been also an External Affairs Minister.

In the words of Sinha, “… is quite clear that the people of the two countries want to live in peace and prosper together”.

The MPs from both sides rightly discussed the opportunities of deepening ties between the two countries focusing on easing of the visa regime and taking needful steps in key people oriented sectors like the role of media, education, tourism and local government.

The parliamentarians from both sides also proposed that citizens from India and Pakistan be able to obtain visas exempt from police reporting to avoid harassment during their stay. Delegates also rightly highlighted the importance of health-related travel and religious tourism.

It was this spirit which saw in the 1990s, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee making a bus trip across the border to Lahore. Similarly, the present incumbent Dr Manmohan Singh described his Pakistani counterpart Gilani as a ‘man of peace’.

In February 2012, this track – 2 ‘friendship making’ endeavour was again at display when at the end of her five-day trip to Pakistan, the Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had candidly said that she was “pleasantly shocked” to see the love that common Pakistanis have for Indians.

The more recent dialogue between the lawmakers from both the countries is being facilitated by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), a think-tank that works for strengthening democracy, or whatever that means across the border.

The dialogues this time around ranging from issues to promote trade to boosting people-to-people contacts is aimed at bridging the trust deficit’ between the two countries.

Now, having said these what is important to be underlined is that the dialogues have come ahead of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna’s visit to Islamabad. During his visit, S M Krishna will hold parleys with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and would review the second round of formal dialogue after the two sides revived their ties. The formal interaction between the two countries had suffered major set back after the now infamous 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai in 2008.

Now, while there is undoubtedly a clamour of peaceful co-existence between the people in both the countries, the vexed issue of terrorism and one is afraid, often the complicity about it from Pakistani side needs to be understood as well.
Although formal dialogues have begun, New Delhi is yet to be satisfied about Pakistani action against the perpetrators of 26/11. While these remain pending, the government of India has blamed again elements in Pakistan for the recent rumour mongering and questionable postings in websites and social networking sites which led to exodus of north east people.

On its part, when it comes to terror elements, Islamabad has been either at denial mood or doing too slow and too little. Hence, it must be underlined with no ambiguity that the true result of any efforts in track-2 diplomacy and enhancing economic ties can only come when there are ample steps taken by the establishment in Pakistan on terror front.

It goes without saying, any country where non-state actors support terrorism, that country owes a legal and moral responsibility to its neighbours and to the world as a whole. Pakistan ought to appreciate this.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When UPA appeases: Its playing with Fire

By its inept handling of things in Assam and vote bank politics, a discredited UPA regime on its lowest ebb in last 8 years is actually playing with fire.

The return of over 5000 native youths from their places of studies and job in a highly sensitive region bordering China would only mean that there is a ready made 'fodder’ for fresh rounds of anti-government and anti-India agitation in the vulnerable northeast region.

The government attributing Pakistani groups for rumour mongering and the belated blocks of questionable websites are only too little and too late.

And as Sharad Yadav says it's only a "cover up" attempt and that too very poor attempt. Nailing Pakistan does not absolve union Home Ministry its own job, nor Tarun Gogoi's.

The Congress and other secular brigade players – both in Assam and in the centre - are playing peculiar game with leaders after leaders denying any illegal migration. They are mostly trying to only consolidate Muslim votes won in the last Lok Sabha elections in 2009 across India as well as in 2010 in Assam.
In the process, as the towns and hamlets in Assam burnt and unfortunately these led to indiscriminate and unprecedented exodus of northeast tribals from across the country, none seemed to be trying to reach at the root of the cause of the conflicts.

The issue is never a Hindu-Muslim conflict as the political class would like to paint. The illegal immigration is definitely one of the major issues, ironically admitted by the then Home Minister P Chidambaram.

But there are other factors too for the anguish amongst Bodos. One such crucial reason is alleged step-motherly treatment of Bodos and Bodo areas by Assam government and of course the “demand for linguistic rights” of the Bodo Kacharis.

Thus, it was proved for once that the “language is the chief” and the most favourite saleable political issue in Assam or for that matter in the region.
“Ironically, the same yardstick of New Delhi’s elder brotherly attitude and exploitation, which helped fan agitation in Assam, was being used for a Bodo cause against the “local state government and the seat of power” --- earlier Shillong (then a capital of united Assam) and later on Dispur,” says my book,'The Talking Guns: North East India’ (Manas Publications).

Thus, in more ways than one, it is ironical that Bodos today find themselves caught in a quagmire kind situation against Bengali-speaking Muslims. This was perhaps never their goal.

All along, since 1967, when Plains Tribal Council of Assam came into being, Bodos are actually in a war-like situation against both New Delhi and Dispur (Guwahati) for their own rights. The complain against Assam government for trying to impose an Assamese hegemony only got a major bolster when in 1986 the state government committed a blunder by imposing Assamese as the compulsory third language upon non-Assamese students. The circular Assam Board of Secondary Education on February 18, 1986 imposing Assamese language as compulsory third language though was withdrawn after protest it had left a far-reaching damage beyond a point of repair.

In 1986, under late Upendra Nath Brahma, influential All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) gave a momentum to Bodo movement and later the apex Bodo People’s Action Committee (BPAC) in the four-day annual conference between 19th and 22nd December 1988, at Basbari instead of a union territory demand made a demand for a separate state. A group of youth had gone underground and floated militant organisation. It was truly beginning of yet another phase of Assam’s spate with violence.

The Bodos are tribal from the plains. Most of them are either Hindus or Christians and account for about 10 percent of Assam's about 3 crore people.

The Bodos started making headlines in national media but for all wrong reasons.

But, undoubtedly the clashes of July 2012 had left people amazed especially by the scale of it. As the hamlets burnt and people were either killed --- over 70 deaths confirmed - and the body count has been rising, officials as well as locals are unable to define whether this is ethnic strife, communal violence between Hindu Bodos and Bengali Muslims or simply a turf war over land.

Besides Muslim appeasement, the UPA government in the cente and Gogoi administration in Assam failed to initiate timely action.

But th political class and Muslim leadership for reasons obious got busy in turning the Bodo battle against 'influx' as tribal-Muslim warcry. From Badruddin Ajmal to Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi the refrain has been that the violence that have claimed over 70 lives and rendered lakhs homeless was a Bodo(read tribal)-Muslim conflict.

That’s a sad paradox. Northeast watchers say perhaps this is the single biggest factor that sparked off unprecedented exodus of “north east people” from across the country. The lopsided handling of Mumbai violence and letting the real wrong doers scot free have done more damage.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Question Hour: Mr Prime Minister are u ready?

1.Which Prime Minister sacrificed his Railway Minister despite endorsing his budget and that too in the middle of budget session?

2. Which government stoked Telangana fire?

3. Which govt. led Nagas and Meiteis to clash over visit of a Naga leader to his native village?

4. Which PM says “I m not astrologer” for problems like inflation?

5. Which PM blames coalition politics for corruption under his nose?

6. Which PM says “to err is human” when Muslim Minister A R Antulay says deaths of Mumbai top cops in 26/11 was due to “Terrorism plus factor”?

7. Which PM tries blaming his former Finance Minster for financial hara-kiri within days of the latter’s resignation to be ruling dispensation’s Presidential candidate?

8. Which PM rewards Power Minister on the day of darkness in 20 states to be country's Home Minister?

9. Which PM goes for a SAARC Summit and signs bilateral accord with Pakistan on Baluchistan?

10. Which PM looks the other way, when his Home Minister says - ice cream by middle class is a luxury ?

11. Under which government, aviation industry nosedived, Air India turned from ‘Maharaja’ to a pauper?

12. Under whose Government, 20 states crippled by unprecedented power failure for long hours --- July 30 and July 31 (2012) ?

Pls add up from yr end or ‘minus’ : with additional comments? No prizes please.