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Hijab Order: OF SECULARISM & RIGHTS?, By Dr.Oishee Mukherjee, 23 March 2022 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 23 March 2022  

Hijab Order

OF SECULARISM & RIGHTS?

By Dr.Oishee Mukherjee

 

Upset over Karnataka High Court’s recent ruling that wearing a hijab (headscarf) is not an essential religious practice in Islamic faith and uniform, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has decided to go in for an appeal to the Supreme Court. It sees the verdict as violating Personal Liberty Rights and attempts to decide what is and is not essential in Islam.

 

In its judgement, which has led to a debate, the Karnataka court observed “the Holy Quran does not mandate the wearing of the hijab or headgear for Muslim women.” Further, that “the school regulations prescribing dress code for all the students as one homogenous class serve constitutional secularism.”

 

AIMLB General Secretary has refuted the claim that hijab is not essential to Islam and asserted banning it is an intrusion into the constitutional rights of Muslim citizens and Muslim citizens’ Constitutional Rights.“Islam and Shariat have made certain things farz(duties) and wajib (obligatory) on Muslims, and it is lazim (required) that they be followed.One such Obligatory requirement is the wearing of a hijab. Muslims who do not perform Namaz or Roza out of ignorance or laziness are not expelled from Islam, but they do Commit a Sin.” Similarly, the fact that some Muslims do not wear the hijab does not render the Act unimportant in Islam.”At the same time, opinion is: “Certainly, schools have the right to decide on a uniform as far as their boundary walls are concerned,” but it their attention has been drawn that “the Case that went to Court was not related to schools but colleges, where coercion of uniforms cannot be made.”

 

The appeal would obviously be closely followed. Many would hope positively as the Supreme Court has been a champion of equality and among others conferred daughters with equal right to father’s property prior to codification of Hindu personal laws. The debate of the hijab ban incidentally hasn’t been confined to India alone but reached global shores.The questions arising are whether there is a continuing slide into minority suppression in the name of uniformity? Or should religious dress codes come at the cost of education?

 

Recall, at the start of the controversy, US Ambassador for international religious freedom, Rashid Hussain, tweeted: “Religious freedom includes the ability to choose one’s religious attire. The Indian state of Karnataka should not determine permissibility of religious clothing. Hijab bans in schools violate religious freedom and stigmatise and marginalise women and girls”. Even  well-known thinker, Noam Chomsky at a congressional briefing accused the Modi government of “systematically dismantling India’s secular democracy” and turning Muslims into a “persecuted minority”. Criticism also came from Council on American-Islamic Relations wherein it said the hijab ban was just one more example of mistreatment of Indian Muslims.    

 

In fact, the row has put a question mark on whether India can profess to be truly ‘secular’. In recent times it seems amiss. In a liberal democracy with the country moving forward on socio-economic fronts, such bans or moral policing or vigilantism can’t be tolerated. In fact there are certain items in a male attire, such as the turban, skull cap, tilak or cross, that are allowed. If there is no ban on these, why are young girls and women having to bear the brunt?

 

Besides, religious preachers talk of decency and modesty in dress code, whether it is for Hindus, Muslims or Christians. But in a modern or if we say permissive society, young girls like to go against tradition and dress up in a western manner. Such an attire is generally not accepted by puritans of religious groups and often condemned as ultra-modern or indecent.

 

This could be another debate: on what constitutes decency and whether women and girls have freedom and personal choice like the men. Many countries, including Tunisia, Turkey, Syria and Egypt have banned hijab in public schools and colleges. On the other hand, hijab/burqa is mandatory by law in Iraq, Afghanistan and some parts of Saudi Arabia.

 

The attitudinal change that we see in society has brought about waves of modernisation. The dress code row come to think of it raises a bigger question:stature and rights of girls and women. Recent developments in India present a mixed picture. While it is heartening to note that the Centre and defence forces agreed to open the doors for women to the National Defence Academy (NDA), which has been a male bastion since its inception, on the other hand, the just released report revealed that there was a record 28% surge in crimes registered across India in 2020 compared with 2019.

 

A major increase may be attributed to a sharp rise in cases filed over violation of Covid-19 norms but also due to offences directly related to women, as per the ‘Crime in India 2020’ report released by the National Crime Records Bureau. Moreover, there were over 28,000 incidents of rape involving 28,153 victims and 2655 were below the age of 18 years with 291 of them below 12.

 

In examining the position of women, it may be necessary to delve into the question of their land rights. Goal 5 of SDGs aims to undertake reforms to give women equal tights to economic resources and access to ownership of property, underscoring the importance of land rights. The World Bank stated that in 40% of the world’s economies, women face legal barriers to obtaining land and property rights, clearly revealing the fact that women are deprived of this. UN Women estimates that less than 20% of the world’s landholders are women.

 

In India, as per the latest census, around 14% of agricultural land operators are women and they operate only 11.72% of agricultural lands. This again is a pointer to women status and the need to facilitate women’s ownership and what undercuts the implantation of such laws, how women can use land to their advantage and how women can assert their legal rights vis-a-vis property.

 

Another aspect is the pervasive effect of religion in society, specially on uneducated and half educated sections of society. The so-called progressiveness that is hailed nowadays has not reached the puritans or fundamentalists of Islam religion. Even among staunch Hindus, there are groups that want women to play a subdued role in society as they want patriarchy to dominate.     

 

In addition, political parties which should be engines of change with their ideas, shy away from interfering with religious groups, and in present times, religion has started playing a larger role. The lack of consensus in ensuring a uniform civil code could be one such example. In the 21st century, no law should deny the autonomy and status of woman. What if society itself is regressive and denies women basic dignity as in the case presently?

 

Finally, religious freedom as guaranteed by Constitution’s Article 25 hasn’t been violated. The key principle is that a school uniform is a universal requirement and therefore not sectarian. The entire question translates down to empowerment of women and girls by providing them unhindered education. This would facilitate assertion of their rights and stand up to religious groups or political leaders.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

India’s Perpetual Election Circus: ONE NATION, ONE POLL, ANYONE?, By Poonam I Kaushish,22 March 20 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 22 March 2022

India’s Perpetual Election Circus

ONE NATION, ONE POLL, ANYONE?

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

Barely have the victory bugles in the recent five Assembly polls ended that Parties are gearing up for the next round of the Great Indian Political Circus in December. Wherein politicians of every colour, caste-creed with a heavy dose of vote-bank politics, replete with I-me myself syndrome are serenading voters. Worse, even the semblance of administration is being dispensed with resulting in a chronic malady.

Let’s face it. Post 2019 Lok Sabha elections till date the country witnessed 24 State Assembly polls and is now readying itself for Gujarat and Himachal end year, followed by Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya February, Karnataka  May, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram November, Rajasthan and Telangana in December 2023, Andhra, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim April 2024, Maharashtra and Haryana October and Jharkhand November/December. In February 2025 Delhi goes to polls followed by Bihar in November/December.

As the country jostles under the weight of all-year Perpetual Election Syndrome (PES) which is wreaking havoc on our body politic, it is time now for our Parties to seriously collectively think of changing this to One Nation One Election for Parliament, State Legislatures right down to Panchayats.

In fact, Prime Minister Modi mooted this idea since 2016.  As it would not only save the Exchequer and Parties money but enable Governments at the Centre and States to concentrate on delivering good governance which come to a stand-still because of the code of conduct. Besides, it gives ample time for netas and workers to take people-oriented schemes to the aam aadmi.

In 1999 both the Law Commission and Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, PublicGrievances, Law and Justice recommended simultaneous Lok Sabha and State Assemblies elections for improving our electoral system. Whereby both polls are synchronized together to enable voters cast their votes on a single day at the same time or alternatively, in a phase-wise manner.

 

Think. One mega election every five years with a common voter list would not only save time and massive expenditures by Government and various stakeholders on frequent electioneering, black money, halt engagement of Government personnel and security forces for a prolonged period of time and perpetuation of caste, religion and communal issues etc.

Besides, it would get rid of incompetence, malfeasance and casual governance, enabling Central and State Governments to work, take hard decisions in public interest and deliver good governance without worrying about the impact on its vote banks. Many good initiatives are dumped due to poll considerations lest it upset a caste, community, religion or region.

Frequent polls give rise to short-sighted populist and “politically safe” measures over “difficult” structural reforms which may be more beneficial to the public from a longer term perspective. Leading to sub-optimal governance and adversely impacts the design and delivery of public policies and developmental projects and other Government activities. All, becoming victims of policy paralysis, mismanagement and poor implementation.

Recall, elections to Lok Sabha and all State Assemblies were held simultaneously between 1951 till 1967 when the cycle got disrupted due to premature dissolution of some Assemblies in 1968 and 1969. In 1970 Fourth Lok Sabha was dissolved prematurely and fresh elections held in 1971. Resulting, in many unstable Governments at the Centre and States leading to early dissolution of the Lok Sabha or Assemblies.

True, poll issues at the Centre and in States are different; consequently it is not advisable to mix them. As it could create confusion for voters as a Party could be deserving of support at the Centre for its policies and performance at the national level but deserving of popular punishment for its performance in a State.

Two, simultaneous poll  could be motivated by political considerations, as when concurrent elections are held voters tend to vote for the same Party. Further, having a fixed term of the Lok Sabha and the State Legislature goes against the basic tenets of Parliamentary democracy. Hypothetically, if a Government enjoying the people’s mandate is voted out, it would continue to hold office or be replaced by another Government, which might not necessarily enjoy the popular mandate.

Plainly, a Government which lacks the confidence of the House would be foisted on the people, with no say in the matter. Smacking of de facto dictatorship or monarchical anarchy, an idea which translates in to unrepresentative governance.

However, some feel simultaneous elections could be held for State Assemblies and they be given a fixed term. If an elected State Government was to fall, the Centre could impose President’s rule until the time for a fresh poll. But the Lok Sabha cannot have a fixed term as there is no provision for President’s rule at the Centre. This could create more problems than solving them.

Some Constitutional experts offer a solution. If the remainder of Lok Sabha term is not long there could be a provision for the President to carry out the administration of the country, on the aid and advice of his Council of Ministers to be appointed by him till, the time the next House is constituted at the prescribed time. Or if the remainder of the term is long then fresh election may be held and the term of the House in such case should be for the rest of what would have been the original term.

Either way, the idea needs to be debated extensively. Its pros and cons weighed before arriving at a final solution as the alteration would entail changing the Constitution’s basic structure. Further, though the BJP backs simultaneous polls, Congress, Left and Trinamool think it’s impractical, unworkable, not feasible and anti-democratic.

Where do we go from here? Pertinently, in 2015 the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law recommended “a practicable method of holding simultaneous elections.  In 2018, the Law Commission tabled a set of recommendations proposing for a system of elections modelled on Sweden, South Africa and Belgium. In Sweden, elections to county and municipal councils take place in tandem with the country's general elections every four years. Ditto in South Africa where concurrent polls are held every five years.

Belgium's Federal Parliament elections are also held every five years, coinciding with the European Parliament elections. A similar system is prevalent in Spain, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Albania, Israel, Lesotho Philippines, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Guatemala and was introduced in Indonesia last year.

The US model could be considered. The President and State Governors are elected directly for a fixed four-year term and choose their own teams. The President is answerable to the House of Representatives and Senate but is not required to seek their confidence vote. This ensures good governance, stability and continuity enabling him to take hard decisions without fear of losing power.

 

Clearly, time for winds of change to blow out India’s PES as elections are the bedrock of our democracy and we should avoid duplication of polls. With States in election mode every year, running the Government is akin to running with the hare and hunting with the hound. India’s democracy should not be reduced to a tu-tu mein-mein between Parties all the time. Modi could well position One Poll as the next big reform to ‘clean’ India, take the Opposition  by surprise and market it as enough of destructive PES! ---- INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

Crisis-Hit India: MUSTN’T RUSH FOR INFRA, By Shivaji Sarkar, 21 March 2022 Print E-mail

Economic Highlights

New Delhi, 21 March 2022   

Crisis-Hit India

MUSTN’T RUSH FOR INFRA

By Shivaji Sarkar

 

The Ukraine war is upending India’s dream budget and now gets further bruised with high rise in crude prices and retail inflation beyond 6 per cent toleration limit of the Reserve Bank of India. The nation has to tighten its belt, go slow on reckless infrastructure spending, and be austere as indicators go for a toss amid efforts of the government batting for a better economy as its energy expenses and defence alertness is to cost more.

 

The government need not shy away on the crucial indicators as crude jumps to pressure prices – 11th month double-digit wholesale index at 13.1 per cent and the retail CPI touching eight-month high at 6.1 per cent in February. As also people spending less and shift to buy unbranded cheaper products.

 

Oil and gas is to bleed the country even as it looks for alternative sources but has little capacity to face western sanctions that have crashed Russian stocks by 50 per cent and currency by 20 per cent. The war hardens the international market, soars energy prices and makes exports difficult despite a plunging rupee at Rs 76 to a dollar. Imports are growing at $ 616.91 billion, 55 per cent increase, exports at lower volumes at $ 335.88 billion. The trade deficit at $ 228.92 billion rises by 47 per cent.

 

The US and Britain frown upon India’s bid to buy more oil from Russia at discounted rates. Meddling through a new cold war of sanctions is not easy. It thaws India’s relations with Iran, a dependable friend. It is also likely to fetch lower prices for LIC privatisation move. Indian business and consumers are at the mercy of global winds.

 

Each move or a change has costs. So far the nation is carrying out on its budgetary path but it is fraught with chances of compromising on extra expenses. Borrowings are high and a likely cut on infra spending of budgeted Rs 10 lakh crore looms large.

 

The criticality increases with youth unemployment rising to 26 per cent in first quarter of 2021 and headline joblessness remaining at 12.7 per cent and government seeking to spend Rs 1.58 lakh more mainly for PM Awas Yojana takes from National Small Savings Fund and urea support. The rural India that had shaken the country on farms bill remains unstable and urban shaky.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has during his election campaign repeatedly told the people about his government’s herculean efforts in keeping its development objectives intact despite the hardships. The economy remains shaky as the private sector is unable to maintain the façade of keeping up their efforts and depends on government for support.

 

As per the World Inequality Report, the country stands out as poor and very unequal with the top 1 per cent of the people holding more than one-fifth of total national income in 2021 and bottom half just 13 per cent. Average Indian’s income is Rs 204,200 or about Rs 17,016 a month and the bottom still less at Rs 53610. “India stands out as a poor and very unequal country with an affluent elite”, the report says.

 

So the average Indian wants to rush to the jobs but the National Education Policy, in its bid to align it with the affluent US, has decided to keep the young bound in schools and universities for about two more years, delaying the primary education by a year at age six, though not at all needed, and graduation by another. As education is getting prolonged, its funding by parents also become more expensive with high delayed fee payment, if not default and dropouts. If a child for any reason loses another year his joining the productive employment is to be delayed by three years and would remain an economic burden on the society.

 

Apart it raises government and societal expenses for apparently not much betterment in term of extended time. The intended changes in syllabi could be made within the present timeframe. It is a misnomer that change has to be expensive. It also needs to correct its mistaken stress on PhD, considering it to be research. The PhD certainly is not research, exceptions apart. Austerity can be achieved cutting down on similar superfluous expenditures. If two years are saved for education, it means a minimum savings of Rs 2.5 lakh by each student and in terms of faculty and infra cost billions by the government and society every year.

 

Prime Minister Modi needs to intervene to correct this NEP anomaly. Let Indians complete education faster, cheaper and the world follow it. Extending terms do not make education better. But if the Indian youth joins the work force early, they can make the competition tougher for the rest of the world.

 

As of now it must do away with the unnecessary subsidy of Rs 2908 crore increased from Rs 800 crore for electric car (EV). Similarly, it needs to review infra projects that defy Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) norms. It also can consider cuts for many other infra projects.

 

Such austerities are needed in various areas and the country must reconsider its decision to rush for EV. Maruti-Suzuki Chairman RC Bhargava has appropriately suggested not going for it merely for the issue of emission or pollution. He says, “EVs are not clean cars. These are far more expensive and does not suit Indian needs. EVs depended on coal fired thermal plants will not reduce carbon emissions or greenhouse gases in the next 10-15 years. In other words it virtually goes against the basic concern of the IPCC. “If we just adopt whatever strategies the US and Europe are following, I don’t think we will be doing justice to what we need to do in India,” Bhargava says.

 

So India needs to rethink on its investments on unsettled EV technology, building of charging stations and making the country dependent on imports of battery. The battery, unless made with elements found in India would remain extremely expensive and supply uncertain. So India may continue with CNG and consider incentivising it something it does not now.

 

Inflation, low manufacturing and high toll like fees are hitting the country. But these are not being addressed. The infra increases incomes of large groups and rent seeking but does not accelerate growth. India to grow has to carefully cut on infra and spend more on merchandise production. Times are difficult and complex solutions have to be worked out.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

BJP Inroad Into N-E: WILL STATES PUT A HALT?, By Sagarneel Sinha, 19 March 2022 Print E-mail

Spotlight

New Delhi, 19 March 2022

BJP Inroad Into N-E

WILL STATES PUT A HALT?

By Sagarneel Sinha

 

The Bharatiya Janata Party under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been successful in spreading its roots in the northeast. The return of the saffron party, that too with a majority for the first time, in the north-eastern state of Manipur in the recent Assembly polls shows that it is establishing itself as a major player in the region, where changing of political loyalties is common.

 

True that the BJP has presently four Chief Ministers in the region, but the saffron party is yet to be a major force in the other States. The party has Chief Ministers in Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. Out of these, the party returned to power for the second time in both Assam and Manipur. In fact, the State of Assam, the largest in the region in terms of political power, has turned into a stronghold of the BJP. Now Manipur became the second State after Assam where the saffron party returned to power completing 5 years. While in Assam, the BJP is still short of a majority of just one seat, it has the majority in Manipur.

 

Early next year, the three north-eastern States — Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura — will go to the polls. Later in the year another State, Mizoram too will go to the polls. Out of these four states, BJP is a major player only in Tripura, where it will face the anti-incumbency test. But in the others, the party still remains a weak player.

 

Although in Nagaland, the party has 12 MLAs and a Deputy Chief Minister too, the truth is that it is still an emerging party. The party won 12 seats in the last Assembly polls due to its alliance with Neiphiu Rio-led Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP). Nagaland is a Christian majority State and it is not an easy task for the BJP with its Hindutva ideology to gain a foothold there. Even before the last Assembly polls, there were appeals from the Nagaland Baptist Churches Council to the regional parties not to support the BJP. Despite that the saffron party won 12 seats — the highest ever number of MLAs it got in this State.

 

But the BJP can’t deny the fact it has been on the backfoot after the  killings in Mon district, where 6 mineworkers were mistaken as militants and gunned down by the security forces. Later subsequent violence followed where eight villagers and one security personnel died. Since then, there has been a demand for immediate removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).  This demand isn’t new but this unfortunate incident has made it a crucial issue again before the polls. Aware of the anger, the saffron party unit of the State too has joined the chorus for removal of AFSPA but New Delhi is yet to take a final decision.

 

The political dimensions are also changing in the State. The main Opposition party Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) has joined the Neiphiu government and former Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang has become the chairman of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA). The coming together of NDPP and NPF is seen closely by the saffron party, which sees it somehow as a threat to its political expansion in the state. Recently NDPP’s Neiphiu Rio himself campaigned for the NPF candidates in the Manipur polls, where NPF grabbed five seats.

 

Nagaland, as is known, is a sensitive State. Its people are still awaiting the results of the ongoing Naga Peace process. The Nagas are tired of the decades-old insurgency problem and now they want peace and security of their culture and identity in India. Elections come and go but the major problem of the common Nagas still remains unsolved. In fact, NPF joined the NDPP-BJP government to facilitate the Naga Political Issue with the target to achieve an honourable and acceptable solution. 

 

The growing demand for removal of AFSPA, closeness of NDPP-NPF and the Naga political issue makes the ground of the state difficult for the BJP. Much will depend on how politics is played out in the coming days in Manipur. Although NPF has expressed its support to the new BJP government, it remains to be seen whether the latter includes it in the new Cabinet. In the Manipur polls too, BJP and NPF, despite being allies in the State, didn’t contest together.

 

Another state where the developments of Manipur are likely to affect is Meghalaya, which is ruled by the National People’s Party. Conrad Sangma’s NPP contested in the Manipur polls alone and has emerged as the second-largest party by winning seven seats with a vote share of 17%. And the party too has now expressed its willingness to join the new Cabinet of the BJP in Manipur. Many local saffron leaders are opposed to this idea. NPP, along with NPF, was a partner in the previous BJP government led by N. Biren Singh. NPP’s Y. Joykumar Singh even became the Deputy Chief Minister.

 

There were power tussles between the two allies and as a result, NPP even pulled out from the government only to join it again with the intervention of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, also the NDA chairman, and HimantaBishwaSarma, who heads the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), an alliance led by BJP consisting of regional parties of the region opposed to the Congress.

 

This apart, there have been new political equations. After the desertion of 12 Congress MLAs led by former chief minister Mukul Sangma to the Trinamool Congress, the rest of MLAs of the grand old party, later suspended by the party high command, have joined the Conrad Sangma led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government, where BJP too is a partner. The saffron party’s MLA SanborSullai is Social Welfare Minister in Sangma’s cabinet. In fact, the BJP, according to local reports, was unhappy with Sangma for accepting the support of Congress MLAs without consulting with alliance partners. In the last Assembly elections, BJP contesting alone got only two seats but a good vote share of 9%, the highest it got so far.

 

In Mizoram, the party had contested alone in the last Assembly polls and won only one seat. It was the first time that the party opened its account in the State. In fact, the party’s only MLA was Buddha Dhan Chakma, a former Congress minister who joined the BJP. The other seat where the BJP came second is also a Chakma influenced seat. It shows that BJP has influence among Buddhist Chakmas, who are a minority in the Christian majority Mizoram.  The saffron party, however, hasn’t yet been successful in penetrating the Christian areas.

 

In the recently held Manipur polls, out of 20 Christian dominated seats, the saffron party won 7 and came second in another 7 seats. This is, no doubt, a big achievement for it in the northeast, where it is still struggling to become a major player in Christian majority States like Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram. The party is still viewed by many as “anti-Christian” in the region and it remains to be seen if the BJP, after its success in Manipur, is able to gain a foothold in these seats by cashing on the card of development. Time will tell. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

 

Indian Missile In Pakistan: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING! By Dr D.K Giri, 18 March 2022 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 18 March 2022

Indian Missile In Pakistan

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING!

By Dr D.K Giri

(Prof. International Politics, JIMMC)

 

On 10th March, theDirector General of Inter-Service Intelligence public relations confirmed and alleged in a press conference that a flying object launched from Sirsa, Haryana landed on 9th at Mian Channu, in the North-West of Multan.Apparently, it damaged some civilian property and is under examination by Pakistani scientists. Pakistan, as expected, summoned the Indian Chief of Mission in Islamabad and admonished him voicing, ‘strong condemnation of this blatant violation of Pakistani airspace.’India promptly admitted that a missile has indeed gone off accidentally from Indian territory and deeply regretted the incident but the story does not end here.

 

In the climate of deep mistrust and suspicion prevailing between the twocountries, a mountain is made out of a mole hill. The machines and missiles are run by human beings and possibility of error is endless. Major nuclear countries like Russia, Japan, China, US, France -- all have experienced nuclear accidents, but leaders and experts did not apportion motive.

 

In this case it is not so. Beijing the ‘eternal’ critique of India has jumped into the fray nudging Pakistan to demand a thoroughenquiry, usual devious tactic of fishing in troubled waters. Beijing wants to sound important in the region, but its own conduct at home and on the borders, it shares with neighbours leave a lot to desire.

 

Worse, the social media in both countries have spun outlandish and incredible theories on the incident. As a sample, ‘India had deliberately fired the missile to test Pakistan’s missile defence readiness’.The second one is even more far-fetched; that India had fired the missile in order to scare Pakistan from doing anything silly in the Kashmir borders.

 

The above speculation was fuelled by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s dash to Moscow immediately after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. It is also a common sense that no responsible country will risk firing a modern missile without a warhead to test the enemy’s readiness and risk it falling into inimical hands.

 

It is pertinent to look at the human error dimension in this sad incident.While it somewhat questions Indian handling of strategic weapons and launching protocols, the hard fact seen world over is that human errors are commonplace. To use a slice of statistics, since 1950, there have been 32 recorded nuclear weapons accidents --launching, firing, detonating, theft or loss. To date,six nuclear weapons have been lost and never been recovered.

 

In 90s and of late, Washington complained that China posed a direct threat to the United States because, for several decades, it has systematically stolen the United States nuclear weapons design information. In 1970s, the United States through CIA reported that Uranium from its nuclear fuel-processing plant was stolen and found in Israel.

 

However, the above examples do not dilute or automatically defuse the tension between New Delhi and Islamabad. Thanks to restrain exercised by Pakistan and the innocuous nature of the missile, the incident did not lead to an escalation to a nuclear level.

 

Interestingly, the response time between United States and Russia for an ICBM launch is above 25 minutes; but in case of India Pakistan which are contiguous country, it is much less. According to the reports, the Indian missile was in the air for above 7 minutes before it crashed near Multan, which is one of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons sites. It could have easily prompted Pakistan to retaliate.

 

It is not clear whether there is any forewarning between India and Pakistan on any test or drills with ballistic or cruise missile under the prevailing agreement.At any rate, both the countries have behaved commendably. Pakistan did not retaliate as India instantly admitted the slip and regretted. This showed the maturity of the leadership which should persist for the sake of strategic stability in the sub-continent.

 

The missile story would not be complete without referring to the United States. It has endorsed India’s version on the missile and has supported New Delhi. The State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at his daily news conference on 14th March, “We have no indication as you also heard from our Indian partner that this incident was anything other than an accident.” He added, “We refer you of course to the Indian Ministry of Defence for any follow up. They issued a statement on March 9th to explain precisely what had happened. We don't have a comment beyond that.”

 

A small incident can trigger speculations and diplomatic scrambles. Such is the international climate. The political climate has become worse after the invasion of Ukraine by its big neighbour Russia. The international community is standing by; the western powers are clandestinely supporting the victim with weapons and sanctions against the invader. Is that adequate?

 

The matter of deep concern is that war is being made a tool for promotion of national interest. The countries in South Asia, explosive as it is, with unremitted enmity between India and Pakistan. The missile incident should be put to bed without further rancour.

 

China’s interference is uncalled for. Their patronising suggestion that India and Pakistan should sort things out, is not in the good taste. India and Pakistan are capable of solving their tensions bilaterally. In fact, they had done so on the missile episode until China popped in with the unwanted advice for a thorough probe.

 

Admittedly, the India-Pakistan tensions have been escalated by the meddling of big powers in the region. They had found an opportunity to trade in arms with both countries plunging them into an unnecessary, unaffordable arms race. It is a challenge for the ingenuity of the leaders in the region to build peace, security and goodwill.

 

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, a sportsman by training made good sounds as he took over. He identified the common enemy in the region to be poverty. We wished he could continue that spirit, but alas, the Pakistani army, which has a vested interest in continuation of the conflict, tied his hands and like his predecessors he played into their hands.

 

So obviously, there are much larger issues than the accidental landing of the missile in Pak territory. This incident should be buried sooner than later, and no further bickering is in order on it. India has expressed regret, and should offer to pay for the damages if needed. It is in interest of both New Delhi and Islamabad to build normalcy between them, and handle the third countries with great caution and care. More important, do not let the small issues become big and bothersome. If Russia and Ukraine have common ancestry, India and Pakistan were one people, one country, not so long ago. They must invoke the common past to moderate the shared present. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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