Thursday, May 25, 2017

Uzma calls Pak "Maut ka Kua"; Sushma thanks Islamabad to help her return

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” says Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a troubled dropout struggling with questions of responsibility. 

That's life, that's politics and that's diplomacy.

Indian woman Uzma, who was forced by a Pakistani man to marry him and was granted immigration right by Pakistani court, on her return to India today said she is keen to meet"Mr Narendra Modi". Talking to reporters in New Delhi at an event organsied by the Ministry of External Affairs, she repeatedly thanked External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Deputy High Commissioner in Indian High Commission J P Singh for their help and support, she said, "I will request Sushma madam that I am also interested to meet Mr Narendra Modi". 
Uzma's three-year old daughter, her brother and other relatives also posed for snaps before the media.

Ms Uzma described Pakistan as a "Maut ka Kua (well of death)" even as External Affairs Minister Swaraj lauded the role of the Pakistan foreign and home ministries for their "cooperation" in helping her return home.
"It is definitely much easier traveling to Pakistan, but much difficult to come back. Pakistan is like a well of death," Uzma told reporters.

Indo-Pak relations are passing through a tense phase and Uzma's "return home" is seen in many quarters as a significant development especially in the context of firing along the borders and also over former naval official Kulbushan Jadhav episode.  

Ms Uzma said, Ms Swaraj almost kept a daily if not hourly tap on her conditions after she was allowed entry into the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. "Even five minutes prior to my hearing, Sushma madam called me and said entire country is with me...This gave a confidence....I grew up as an orphan and never thought my life was so important," she said.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms Swaraj extended thanks to the ministries of foreign affairs and home in Pakistan and said, "Whatever be the relations between two countries as of now, but there cannot be denying the fact that both these ministries cooperated in ensuring Uzma's return to India." She also thanked advocate Shahnawaz Memon, who represented Uzma's case, and Justice M A Kayani for his order allowing Uzma's return. Ms Swaraj said the advocate Mr Shahnawaz took up Uzma's case and was affectionate "like a father".

She also made special mention of Justice Kayani, who had turned down Uzma's husband Tahir's plea that the case would be a 'prestige issue' for Pakistan. "Justice Kayani said where does Pakistan-India relation come into it....And he presided over the case on humanitarian grounds," External Affairs Minister said.

Earlier in the day, Sushma Swaraj in a tweet welcomed Uzma saying, "Welcome home India's daughter. I am sorry for all that you have gone through". Ms Uzma, who earlier this month had sought refuge at the Indian High Commission in Pakistan capital, had moved high court for her immigration rights, was granted the permission by the court. She came back via Wagah border, escorted by the officials of the Indian High Commission including Deputy High Commissioner in India -- J P Singh.

External Affairs Minister also complimented Singh, who was present on the occasion, for his timely decision in allowing entry to Indian High Commission in Islamabad to Uzma.
"It is officer like J P Singh who has actually implemented our campaign that when in foreign countries to every Indian, the foremost dependable friend is the Indian High Commission the world over," Ms Swaraj said.
Making a brief speech at the press conference, where no questions were entertained, Ms Uzma thanked Indian officials in Pakistan including Deputy High Commissioner J P Singh and Sushma Swaraj for all their support during her days of agony.
She also said while even "men were not safe in Pakistan....not to talk about women", India remains a much safer and nice place.
"Jaisa bhi hae, jo bhi hae....hamara Hindustan bahut achha hae (Whatever it is, our India is a much better to place in)", she said adding this was all the more imperative for women who enjoy much freedom.
"I feel proud of the fact that I am an Indian," she said trying to conceal her tears at times.

Uzma, who is in her early 20s, had travelled to Pakistan. Tahir Ali, a man whom she reportedly met in Malaysia and fell in love had forced her to marry him on May 3.

On May 12, she had appealed to a court in Pakistan, alleging that Tahir Ali had forcibly married her at gunpoint. She also told the court that Tahir Ali had harassed and intimidated her and taken away her travel documents to force her to stay.
Uzma told the court that she was physically and mentally tortured and Tahir Ali forced her to sign the Nikahnama. The Islamabad High Court gave its ruling in Uzma's favour and allowed her to return to India.
The court also returned her the immigration papers which she had said was taken away by Ali, who had submitted the documents after being told by the court to do so.

In his remarks, Deputy High Commissioner J P Singh said the Uzma episode would provide an ideal
"case study" and the same was also like a learning experience for officials in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.
"When she came at the High Commission window looking fearful, either to allow Uzma entry into the High Commission premises was most difficult decision to make," he said, however adding, "It was also one of the easy decisions as she said I am an Indian".
At the later stage, he said the assuring words from the External Affairs Ms Swaraj said that, "whatever necessary should be done...if necessary Uzma should be kept in the High Commission even for two years and that she should not be handed over to Tahir (Uzma's Pakistani husband) yet again".
Ms Uzma said she was probably given a "sleeping pill" by Tahir and then taken to Buner region in Pakistan, which was once Taliban dominated.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Nepal is "power-cut free" after decades, says senior diplomat

Smart management of power distribution and the "generosity" of India in providing additional supply contributed in ensuring "power cut free Nepal" in the year 2017 after about two decades, a senior Nepal diplomat has said here.
"Last two decades we suffered enough due to prolonged power crisis and load shedding. Hardship is a great educator but superb management of power distribution and use by the new team at the Nepal Electricity Authority, additional power generation and generosity by India in terms of supply of additional 120 Mega Watt of electricity helped see no power cut this year. It is a miracle and a great achievement," Hari Prasad Odari, Political Counsellor in Nepal Embassy here, told UNI here.

He said during last 10-15 years, Nepal experienced huge power shortage and prolonged load shedding both in rural and urban pockets.
"The power cut used to be for about 12-14 hours and at times even more. But in the year 2017, there was a miracle with no power cut," he said, adding this has been possible due to three major factors -- one of them being efficacy of the new management of the Nepal Electricity Authority and of course this was well supported by enhanced indigenous production and additional power supply from India.

The role of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) is unique in this endeavour, he said adding, "the new management at the NEA carried out effective power distribution and also did a successful campaign urging consumers to desist from misuse of power and avoiding running of high-power consuming units like washing machines and ACs during peak hours".
In this context, Mr Odari said the people of Nepal also responded positively and "hence there was a miracle" and officially there is no power cut this year.
However, he went on to add, "some power disturbances were there for short duration generally due to technical snag".Nepal's total requirement of power is about 1200 Mega Watt and there is domestic production of about 700 Mega Watt.
During the year, he said, the NEA also ensured enhanced power production of micro-hydel power projects.
To a question on Indian help to help the Himalayan country to come out of power crisis, Mr Odari said, "It was a generosity of a good friend - India; of course we purchased power and there was enhanced supply of about 120 Mega Watt ".
Things improved in last year and New Delhi's support came in more ways than one, he said, adding things have also changed towards a positive and more constructive phase after Prime Ministers of India and Nepal (in February 2016) inaugurated the first high capacity 400kV cross-border from Muzaffarpur project to Dhalkebar. 
This has generated additional flow of 80 Mega Watt of power - enhancing the total power supply from India to Nepal to about 320 Mega Watt.

The Political Counsellor further said Nepal is working tirelessly to enhance power production and by next two years, it can achieve the target of a "power-surplus country".
Moreover, he said commissioning of 400 KV substation at Dhalkebar would enable operation of Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar line at its rated voltage, leading to increase in power transfer to Nepal by 300-400 MW.
According to reports, the Government of India is also working with Nepal to supply power through two more radial 132 KV lines — Raxaul-Parwanipur and Kataiya-Kushaha.
Among future projects, Mr Odari said two private sector constructed power projects with each 900 Mega Watt power generation would be coming up soon.
For one to be constructed and developed by government-run mini-Ratna SJVN Limited, he said the government of India has already sanctioned Rs 5,723.72 crore for the project at Sankhuwasabha district of Nepal.Similarly, the GMR Group is pleased to announce the finalization and execution of the Project Development Agreement for the 900 MW Upper Karnali Hydro Power.
Such power projects would reinforce the strong ties between India and Nepal as development of these will be a beneficial for both countries leveraging on each other’s strengths and resources.
Meanwhile, another ambitious Indo-Nepal power project at Pancheshwar in Champawat district, initially proposed in 198Os is also gaining pace.
This project is expected to generate about 6000 Mega Watt of electricity, Mr Odari said.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Islamic State is a tough challenge for India: Terror group has huge links in India

Despite the politics of secularism being cherished and practiced in India, often superficially, various factors block authorities from checking the spread of Islamic radicalism.
Two such roadblocks stand out. First, the absence of political will among most provincial governments. Secondly, a mood of denial prevails among political parties and even among security agencies, helping the so-called Islamic State (IS) extended its influence in India.

So far, IS has not claimed responsibility for any violent incident in India. However, its activities took a different path in the country, leaving the state government and even security agencies to take the wrong path in dealing with the terror threat.
In 2016, media began to report "suspected IS activities" in Kerala, in southern India. The other base for its activities were parts of Uttar Pradesh, not very far from the national capital New Delhi. Notably, IS activities were reported not from the insurgency-hit Jammu and Kashmir state. The reports did not surprise top echelons in the country's security agencies but some analysts were stunned that IS chose Kerala, "the most diverse, cultured and best-educated state."

Unlike other hardcore militant organizations engaged in outright terror activities, IS attracts followers by offering them an ideology to change an unjust world. Special literature and brain-washing instills in them the need to avenge injustice done to the poor by establishing just Islamic rule. Their first goal in India was to attract workers, not engineer violence. According to security experts, the only way to keep a check on IS activities in India is to have enhanced and round-the-clock surveillance of suspects. It should be physical, technical and online.

In 2016, media reports said scores of young people were missing in Kerala. Some 20, all of them Muslims or converted to Islam, were recruited by IS and at least 11 of them arrived in IS camps in Syria, media said quoting intelligence reports.
However, by the end of 2016, India, with the third largest Muslim population in the world, had contributed a paltry 90-100 members to IS, officials said.
Although small, the recruitment increased the concern that IS has spread beyond the Arabic region. India is worried that the terror group is trying to expand bases in South Asia and that includes hubs in Bangladesh, some northeastern Indian states and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Kerala.

IS work on various levels. Many young people leave India on pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia only to be caught in the net of IS. They also target Indian Muslims who work in the Persian Gulf. India cannot prevent young people being lured or misguided by the radical elements.
The threat is real considering that "there has always been a section of Islamic extremists in Bangladesh. They have also tried to cultivate pockets in states like Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and northeastern states with porous borders," says a former Mumbai police commissioner. States like Assam and West Bengal, where sizable numbers of Muslims live, might turn out to be "vulnerable hubs." In fact, prior to the Dhaka siege on June 1, 2016, India had cautioned Bangladesh of the reprehensible designs of IS. 

Sakshi Maharaj, a parliamentarian from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu-nationalist party, says "the elements" that plague Bangladeshi society as manifested in attacks on secular writers, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians "are in action in some parts of India too."Security experts tend to agree and say the "influx of Saudi money" is responsible for IS influence in Kerala or in vulnerable pockets in Uttar Pradesh, Assam and West Bengal.

With men and money available, IS has been planning action in India. A major terror act was averted when 10 suspected IS operatives were arrested on April 20 in different cities in a multi-state police operation, media reports said. In February, Gujarat anti-terror officials reportedly arrested two suspected IS terrorists who were targeting Hindu religious places in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  So far India has arrested 75 people suspected of having links with IS, India Junior Home Minster Hansraj Ahir told the Indian parliament last month. The arrests, in 11 states, shows that IS has a presence all over India.
The government is now convinced of the problem. "From time to time, the government is closely monitoring cyberspace which is often used to radicalize and recruit individuals," Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told me recently.
The terror operations are a pan-Asian operation and cover other nations in the sub-continent. There are people in India who believe the inspiration for the Dhaka attack came from elements in IS or even Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) which is reportedly focused on India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal.Security forces say Mohammad Asif, arrested by Delhi police in April 2016, is the suspected "Indian in-charge" of AQIS. A resident of Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh, Asif had links in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and parts of West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Right wing politics and cow vigilantism impact India's image overseas

The right wing politics is here to stay worldwide as it is a new global phenomenon and India is no exception to it, say serving diplomats while also pointing out that the episodes like cow vigilante have certainly affected India's image.

At the four-day conference of heads of Indian Missions in foreign countries, issues such as this figured prominently and it has been underlined that the diplomats and Indian Missions have a role to play in highlighting abroad India's image as a pluralistic society and also one which has all virtues to garner foreign direct investment.
"These things figure at the deliberations from time to time. Nobody is saying that the Government of the day is supporting right wing activism but such rows like cow-vigilantism certainly affect India's image," a well informed source said.

Sources further told UNI that in the dynamics of the new world order as India's position goes up globally, there are instances when some countries "tell us on our face -- what is this happening in India?" In fact, some African countries especially hold Indian experience of pluralism in high esteem. We are a model. But when they see such a thing (cow vigilante) happening in India, they do often ask, what's this happening in India?," said one of the bureaucrats in the know of things.
At the four-day meet that concluded on May 7, 2017, the foreign mission heads and players of foreign policy engine room in India spoke at length about steps being taken to make Indian economy "attractive" for investors and for prospective partners. There were also special sessions during the deliberations on giving push to various flagship developmental schemes of the Government and on measures to augment them with collaboration of various stakeholders -- both private and governmental. A few diplomats also spoke about the supposed 'Modi doctrine' in foreign policy and essentially it was stressed that pragmatism and continuity should sustain.

"Some measures in foreign policy have to come by the factor of time and forces of circumstances," said one diplomat later and pointed out that the economic liberalisation of 1991 had to come under an underestimated Prime Minister like PV Narasimha Rao.
"It had to come either way.

The foreign exchange crisis was serious and the Rao Government had to act," the source said, adding that similarly a number of measures and neo-assertiveness displayed now under Prime Minister Narendra Modi are also linked to the changing dynamics of the new world order.
"India is today not only a developing country but also among the fastest growing emerging economies. Hence the world is taking India more seriously now, I should say," another official said.
It is in this context, he said the 'neo-assertiveness' by New Delhi is not only making sense, it is also refreshing.

Issues like firmness shown by India on the face of stiff opposition from China during the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh too figured. There were also special sessions on various theme including “Smarter Diplomacy, Swifter Delivery”, themes based on India's neighbourhood, trans-national issues like maritime security and cyber security and terrorism.

It was underlined that addressing global and trans-national issues like maritime security, proliferation risks surrounding weapons of mass destruction, cyber security and terrorism and drug trafficking should get priority.
Both Mr Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee also underlined that efforts should be to work with "like-minded nations" and global institutions to swiftly generate effective solutions and implement them efficiently.
At the deliberations, the issue of migration came up with several speakers mentioning that the populations across the continents are fast becoming "inward looking and apprehensive".
Economic migration from the African continent, mass influx from war-torn countries have already brought a once-flourishing European continent to the brink, it was pointed out. About the big picture concerning Asia, a senior diplomat said, by far the largest continent has many things new and unique.
"The vastness is an issue by itself, so are socio-political, cultural and anthropological differences. You just cannot compare China with Nepal," the official remarked.