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The Pakistan Air Force's Retired Air Vice Marshal Shahzad Chaudhry has recently penned an op-ed for The Express Tribune newspaper calling on his country to make peace with India. He argues that "India is relevant to the world", implying that Pakistan is not. Chaudhry believes that the "gap between Pakistan and India is now unbridgeable". Chaudhry concludes his piece with the following recommendation: "It is time to recalibrate our policy towards India and be bold enough to create a tri-nation consensus, along with China, focusing on Asia to be the spur for wider economic growth and benefit".
|Prime Minister Indian PM Modi Boasts of Having "56 inch Chest"|
History of India-Pakistan Peace Talks:
While I completely support Chaudhry's call for Pakistan to make peace with India, I do wonder why India's Hindu Supremacist Prime Minister Narendra Modi would even seriously entertain such a thought if "India is relevant to the world" and Pakistan is not? And if Modi does agree to talks, what kind of peace would come out of such talks? Would it be similar to Bangladesh-India peace based on client-patron relationship? Retired senior Indian officials like Shyam Saran and AS Dulat have blamed Indian security establishment for past failures to reach a peace deal with Pakistan.
I also question Chaudhry's idea of creating "a tri-nation consensus" with India and China. Why would China agree to such an arrangement while both Asian giants are seeking to establish regional hegemony? Why wouldn't China pursue its own version of Monroe Doctrine in Asia?
Let me expand on the above two points about "relevance" of India and Pakistan and "tri-nation consensus" with China.
Pakistan's Global Relevance:
Chaudhry argues that "India is relevant to the world". So is Pakistan. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has pursued a policy of internationally isolating Pakistan for the last 8 years. Indian diplomats and mainstream media have engaged in a concerted campaign to hurt Pakistan diplomatically and economically during this period. Even the sport of cricket has not been spared. All of the available evidence suggests that this Indian campaign has failed.
|Pakistan PM with Other World Leaders at SCO Summit in Samarkand, Uz...|
A prominent Indian journalist Shekhar Gupta has recently summarized the reasons for the Modi government's failure to achieve its objectives relative to Pakistan. Gupta argues that Pakistan is too important to be ignored or isolated by the international community. He says, "Pakistan is too big in terms of population, too powerful militarily, too Muslim, too nuclear and too well located to be isolated".
|Pakistan PM Shahbaz Sharif with President and Mrs. Biden. Source: White House|
Here are some of the key points Shekhar Gupta makes in episode 1093 of his show Cut The Clutter :
1.Pakistan is our most important neighbor. We must focus on Pakistan.
2, We can not ignore Pakistan in India because the world can not ignore Pakistan
3. The Western world has an intrinsic relationship with Pakistan which doesn't go away
4. The West does not see Pakistan as so useful to them today and yet Pakistan can not be isolated.
5. You can see all the indications that Pakistan is not isolated.
6. A lot of (Indian) TV channels say Pakistan is isolated but the evidence doesn't support it.
7. Pakistan FM visited Washington and met his counterpart Tony Blinken.
8. Pakistan Army Chief has received a warm welcome at the US Defense Dept and met US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Bajwa matters more than the Pakistan Defense Minister. Nobody knows his name.
9. US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome, a career diplomat, has visited "Pakistan Occupied Kashmir" and called it Azad Kashmir...Azad means free.
10. When the chips are down in the region Pakistan is the ally Americans reach out to.
11. The US does not want Pakistan to drift to China.
12. German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock has spoken about Kashmir...the K word. She has asked for the UN to help solve the Kashmir issue.
13. Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa is not a warmonger. He wants to normalize ties with India. He wants to trade with India. He doesn't want Faiz Hameed to succeed him. He used to be the ISI chief and took credit for the Taliban victory in Afghanistan. Do the Americans have leverage here?
14. Where does Pakistan's unique power come from? Why can't Pakistan be ignored? Why can't Pakistan be isolated?
15. The Indian public needs to understand it.
16. Pakistan is too big in terms of population, too powerful militarily, too Muslim, too nuclear and too well located to be isolated.
17. Pakistan has the 5th largest population and its population is growing fast. It could soon exceed Indonesia to become the largest Muslim nation in the world.
18. Pakistan has the 5th strongest military in the world.
19. In terms of nuclear weapons, Pakistan has the 4th largest nuclear arsenal in the world.
20. Pakistan is too well located to be isolated. It has a geo-strategic location. Pakistan is the western gateway to China. Pakistan opened China's ties with the US. And then helped the US defeat the Soviet Union.
21. The factors that made Pakistan such a strong ally to the US still exist. Don't blame the Pakistanis for it.
22. India is not willing to commit to an alliance with the US.
23. Imran Khan tried to change Pakistan's foreign policy to be more like India's but he failed.
Prime Minister Modi's revocation of Article 370 and annexation of Jammu and Kashmir as Indian union territories have angered not just Pakistan but also China. Modi's actions are not only an affront to the people of Jammu and Kashmir but also in clear violation of India's international and bilateral obligations under United Nations charter and the Simla Accord. China, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, lays claim to the Ladakh region. It has objected to India making it a union territory.
Since Modi's annexation of disputed territories of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, China has dramatically stepped up pressure on India in Ladakh. China has increased its troop presence, killed and injured dozens of Indian soldiers and taken at least a thousand kilometers of territory claimed by India. As a result, India has had to move troops from the line of control (LoC) with Pakistan to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
Indian Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi summarized the situation well when he said, "China has taken our land. They are beating out soldiers. The threat of China Is clear. And the government is hiding it, ignoring it. China is preparing for an offensive in Ladakh and Arunachal. And the government of India is sleeping".
There's no question that Pakistan is in the midst of a major economic crisis. The country's economic performance is dismal right now. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that Pakistan, with its youngest population in Asia, has a bright future ahead if its leaders can resolve the internal political situation.
|Pakistan Population Youngest Among Major Asian Nations. Source: Nik...
|GDP Ranking Changes Till 2075. Source: Goldman Sachs Investment Res...|
|Economic Growth Rate Till 2075. Source: Goldman Sachs Investment Re...
Economic Impact of Slower Population Growth:
Daly and Gedminas argue that slowing population growth in the developed world is causing their economic growth to decelerate. At the same time, the economies of the developing countries are driven by their rising populations. Here are four key points made in the report:
1) Slower global potential growth, led by weaker population growth.
2) EM convergence remains intact, led by Asia’s powerhouses. Although real GDP growth has slowed in both developed and emerging economies, in relative terms EM growth continues to outstrip DM growth.
3) A decade of US exceptionalism that is unlikely to be repeated.
4) Less global inequality, more local inequality.
With rapidly aging populations and declining number of working age people in North America, Europe and East Asia, the demand for workers will increasingly be met by major labor exporting nations like Bangladesh, China, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia and Vietnam. Among these nations, Pakistan is the only major labor exporting country where the working age population is still rising faster than the birth rate.
Over 10 million Pakistanis are currently working/living overseas, according to the Bureau of Emigration. Before the COVID19 pandemic hit in 2020, more than 600,000 Pakistanis left the country to work overseas in 2019. Nearly 700,000 Pakistanis have already migrated in this calendar year as of October, 2022. The average yearly outflow of Pakistani workers to OECD countries (mainly UK and US) and the Middle East was over half a million in the last decade.
|Consumer Markets in 2030. Source: WEF|
World's 7th Largest Consumer Market:
Pakistan's share of the working age population (15-64 years) is growing as the country's birth rate declines, a phenomenon called demographic dividend. With its rising population of this working age group, Pakistan is projected by the World Economic Forum to become the world's 7th largest consumer market by 2030. Nearly 60 million Pakistanis will join the consumer class (consumers spending more than $11 per day) to raise the country's consumer market rank from 15 to 7 by 2030. WEF forecasts the world's top 10 consumer markets of 2030 to be as follows: China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Russia, Brazil, Pakistan, Japan, Egypt and Mexico. Global investors chasing bigger returns will almost certainly shift more of their attention and money to the biggest movers among the top 10 consumer markets, including Pakistan. Already, the year 2021 has been a banner year for investments in Pakistani technology startups.
India's Kautilya Doctrine:
#SaudiArabia Eyes Boosting #Investment in #Pakistan to Over $10 Billion. Saudis rolled over another loan of $3 billion at 4% to Pakistan for a year. Saudi Finance Minister Al Jadaan said his nation will “continue to support Pakistan as much as we can” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-01-10/saudi-eyes-boost...
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ordered exploring increasing the kingdom’s assistance and investments in Pakistan, a step toward furthering relief to the South Asian nation economy reeling from deadly floods.
The Saudi Fund for Development will conduct a study on increasing the deposit in Pakistan’s central bank to $5 billion from $3 billion earlier, state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Tuesday. It will also assess the plan to increase investments in Pakistan to $10 billion, according to the same report.
The kingdom’s fund provides soft loans and grants to developing countries as a means to bolster allies and cement new relationships. The statement comes a day after the Crown Prince met with Pakistan’s army chief General Syed Asim Munir to review ways to enhance bilateral ties and strengthen cooperation.
Pakistan’s 7.375% 2031 dollar bond was indicated 0.8 cents higher at 36.1 cents on the dollar, up by the most since the start of December. The South Asian nation’s 8.25% 2024 dollar bond was indicated up 0.8 cents at 54.2 cents on the dollar. The nation’s benchmark KSE-100 Index rose 0.8% at 2:34 p.m. local time
Pakistan’s economy was strapped for funds after a gridlock with the International Monetary Fund over tax targets delayed disbursal of loan installments. The situation was made worse by floods that inundated a third of the nation and cut its growth by half. Pakistan has relied on friendly nations to tide over the crisis. Earlier this week, the nation received commitments of more than $10 billion in assistance.
The nation’s foreign exchange reserves dropped to $5.6 billion — the lowest in almost nine years and enough to cover less than one month of imports. The deteriorating economic outlook triggered downgrades, forcing authorities to announce austerity measures to reduce energy bills and save dollars.
It’s a strong commitment from Saudi Arabia, but likely to be subject to resumption of the IMF program, said Tahir Abbas, head of research at Karachi-based Arif Habib Ltd. “The investment would be in setting up a refinery in Pakistan, for which the government needs to complete modalities including finalization of refinery policy.”
Saudi Arabia last month extended another loan of $3 billion at 4% to Pakistan for a year. The Saudi government will “continue to support Pakistan as much as we can,” Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al Jadaan said at a press conference last month.
Pakistan is also looking to seek extension of a $2.1 billion from China that is due in March. About 30% of Pakistan’s foreign debt is owed to China, including state-owned commercial banks.
India Slams BBC Narendra Modi Documentary, Broadcaster Defends It
On Jan. 19, Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said: “Do note that this has not been screened in India. So, I am only going to comment in the context of what I have heard about it and what my colleagues have seen. Let me just make it very clear that we think this is a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative. The bias, the lack of objectivity, and frankly a continuing colonial mindset, is blatantly visible.”
“If anything, this film or documentary is a reflection on the agency and individuals that are peddling this narrative again. It makes us wonder about the purpose of this exercise and the agenda behind it and frankly we do not wish to dignify such efforts,” Bagchi added.
A BBC spokesperson told Variety: “The BBC is committed to highlighting important issues from around the world. The documentary series examines the tensions between India’s Hindu majority and Muslim minority and explores the politics of India’s PM Narendra Modi in relation to those tensions. This has been the source of considerable reporting and interest both in India and across the world in recent years.”
“The documentary was rigorously researched according to highest editorial standards. A wide range of voices, witnesses and experts were approached, and we have featured a range of opinions – this includes responses from people in the BJP [India’s ruling party]. We offered the Indian Government a right to reply to the matters raised in the series – it declined to respond,” the spokesperson added.
The documentary addresses the 2002 communal riots in the western Indian state of Gujarat, of which Modi was Chief Minister at the time, that left 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus dead, per official numbers. A decade later, a Special Investigation Team appointed by India’s Supreme Court exonerated Modi, saying that the leader had taken steps to control the situation.
On Jan. 18, U.K. member of parliament Imran Hussain, quoted the documentary during Prime Minister’s Questions, saying senior diplomats reported that the massacre could not have taken place without the “climate of impunity” created by Modi and that he was, in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office words, “directly responsible” for the violence.
Hussain asked U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak: “Given that hundreds were brutally killed and that families across India and the world, including here in the U.K., are still without justice, does the Prime Minister agree with his Foreign Office diplomats that Modi was directly responsible? What more does the Foreign Office know about Modi’s involvement in that grave act of ethnic cleansing?”
Sunak replied: “The U.K. Government’s position on that is clear and long standing, and it has not changed. Of course, we do not tolerate persecution anywhere, but I am not sure that I agree at all with the characterization that the hon. gentleman has put forward.”
The second part of the documentary, which is due to broadcast on Jan. 24, could potentially be even more inflammatory. It “examines the track record of Narendra Modi’s government following his re-election in 2019. A series of controversial policies – the removal of Kashmir’s special status guaranteed under Article 370 of the Indian constitution and a citizenship law that many said treated Muslims unfairly – has been accompanied by reports of violent attacks on Muslims by Hindus,” according to the BBC episode description.
#Pakistan and #Bollywood: A broken bond. Bollywood is now far too often a mouthpiece for #Modi's #BJP and its idea of #India. The Indian film industry’s lurch to the right has done what wars couldn’t — alienated millions of Pakistani fans. https://aje.io/9pv7kh via @AJEnglish
By Salman Zafar
Writer based in Vancouver, Canada
Muslim characters are either nonexistent in Bollywood films or are used to fan stereotypes of the community as villains or as closet Pakistan sympathisers.
Meanwhile, many leading figures within Bollywood have become enthusiastic cheerleaders of this toxicity. There are over-the-top supporters of the BJP government, such as Anupam Kher, Kangana Ranaut and Akshay Kumar. Actor Vivek Oberoi released a thinly veiled promotional movie on the life of Modi in 2019 to coincide with the general elections that year.
At the same time, Pakistani actors and actresses have effectively been banned from the industry. Raees in 2017, featuring Mahira Khan opposite Shah Rukh, was the last major Bollywood movie to feature someone from Pakistan. Meanwhile, Pakistani movies face hurdles in being released in India. The Legend of Maula Jutt, already considered one of the biggest movies in Pakistan’s history, was set for a December 30, 2022 release in India, only for that to be postponed indefinitely.
Unlike a lot of other Pakistanis, my interest in Bollywood developed much later in life. I was already in my late 20s when I took the time to watch a complete Bollywood movie. I initially watched Bollywood for the melodies of the master Indian playback singers from yesteryear, such as the great Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi and Mukesh.
That morphed into an interest in old Bollywood movies — from the golden and classic ages of the industry, spanning a period from the late 1940s through the 80s. Watching these films was a regular weekend night affair for me.
This Bollywood was a melting pot of riveting stories and even better acting. Awaara (1951) carried socialist themes and became wildly popular in China and the former Soviet Union as well. The 1960s and 1970s had trend-setting movies such as the iconic Mughal-e-Azam and Ganga Jumna. Movies such as Kaala Pathar, Zanjeer and Deewar had superstar Amitabh Bachchan in his genre-defining angry young man persona, providing poignant commentary on the disillusionment within Indian society over corruption and inequality. Values — not wealth — were the virtues to aspire to. Then there was Mandi, which touched on themes of prostitution, offering biting political satire.
As the years passed by, Bollywood movies became more extravagant, reliant on glitz and glamour, exotic foreign locations and bombastic dance numbers. Stories revolving around average working-class issues are few and far between.
But with the rise of current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), I have noticed another more sinister shift in storytelling towards the right.
From an industry that celebrated religious tolerance in films such as the cult classic Amar Akbar Anthony — where the three heroes are Hindu, Muslim and Christian — mainstream Bollywood is now far too often a mouthpiece for the BJP and its idea of India. The secular ideals of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, are dead. The narrative is simple – India is Hindu, and other religions are foreign and responsible for the ravages suffered by the motherland.
This vision of India reflects in society and in Bollywood.
Moviemakers who do not subscribe to the narrative of this muscular, uber-nationalist Hindu India are at the receiving end of vicious criticism from the BJP’s support base. Actors Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan raised concerns over growing intolerance in India in 2015. Since then, there are regular calls for their movies to be boycotted.
#YogiAdityanath, Chief Minister of #Indian state of #UttarPradesh, a possible successor to Narendra #Modi, is having his #WEF party spoiled by #WarCrimes complaint filed with #Swiss federal prosecutor for false imprisonment, torture & murder of civilians https://www.politico.com/newsletters/global-insider/2023/01/19/davo...
International lawyers’ group files criminal complaint against UP CM Yogi Adityanath | The News Minute
A statement by Guernica 37 Chambers says, “Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is reported to have ordered the false imprisonment, torture and murder of civilians between December 2019 and January 2020 in the state of Uttar Pradesh to suppress protests against the adoption of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in India. As set out in the criminal report, these acts may amount to crimes against humanity as they are alleged to have been committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilians, mostly the Muslim population in the country.”
Guernica 37 Chambers has also said that there is "sufficient basis" to believe that senior members of the UP government, including Chief Minister Yogi, "are responsible for ordering the UP police under their command”. The statement said, “The Chief Minister’s role in the escalation of police violence is particularly apparent in a speech given on December 19, 2019, calling on the police to take 'revenge' against protesters. Despite being an Indian State official, the Chief Minister does not enjoy diplomatic immunity for these crimes,” the statement reads.
After the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was passed in December 2019, many individuals, especially those belonging to Muslim community, took to the streets staging peaceful protests. Several of them were arrested and attacked by the police. “The UP police reportedly killed 22 protesters, at least 117 were tortured and 307 were arbitrarily detained,” Guernica 27 Chambers said and added that the criminal complaint states that Yogi Adityanath, who is the final executive authority over police in Uttar Pradesh, “failed to investigate and prosecute the alleged crimes”.
Further, stating that neither the domestic law, the international law, or the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court acceded to the individual complaints, they said that the "escalation of violence and impunity requires urgent actions to hold the perpetrators accountable."
“The opening of an investigation by the Swiss authorities will serve as official recognition and acknowledgement of the gravity of the alleged crimes and recognition of the status of the victims, that they have thus far failed to receive at the domestic or international levels, and it will further serve as evidence that the culture of impunity will not be tolerated,” Guernica 37 Chambers asserted.
Stating that Article 264a of Swiss Criminal Code deals with Crimes against Humanity and it is under this provision that the complaint has been filed, Cadman also said that the course of action has been pursued “as there have been no meaningful attempts to hold the perpetrators accountable in India.”
The law firm had last year filed a similar submission with the United States government, asking for ‘targeted sanctions’ against CM Yogi. Cadman, regarding the submission, said that the request to the US Treasury was for the imposition of sanctions. “This is a process that takes some time and is not made public unless the US government makes public the imposition of sanctions,” he said and added that a similar request was made to the UK (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) FCDO as well.
On India… revisited
Initial responses from across the border to the piece were steadied, cautiously praiseful, and deliberate
By Shahzad Chaudhry
Why do we write such pieces in difficult sociocultural environments? This one was based on globally acknowledged facts and carried little of my own proclivity except for framing it into a larger argument for invoking a different paradigm of engagement between three conjoined nations, not two. These make for forty percent of the global population. Naysayers and those corroded of thought soon suggested why it wasn’t possible. Most Indians wanted Pakistan to submit before Indian exclusivity. Even success needs character. The past though haunted most. They had too much invested in their past bridling them to it. In comparison, none should have a past more invested than mine in how one has looked at India. I led a service and its operations imbued with just one objective in mind — to beat India in the air with operational readiness, innovation borne out of professional excellence, and passionate devotion. Nothing of that changes even when we investigate the possibility of another paradigm which could instead usher better return to forty percent of humanity. Modi has a past too, as does the Indian nation, but shall we be held back by recriminations or hold the courage to spawn promise and hope?
It by no means only aims at changing one side’s view. If indeed a recalibration is the call it shall fall upon each to do their bit. India is no angel. Far from it. Reams have been written on how India has manipulated and exploited its relative freedom of action for more insidious motives. Kashmiris and minorities in India are a living proof of how India denies humanity its dignity. China is in focus for similar reasons in the western press. Yet, the new politics and the new economics call for newer avenues of engagement which can serve to achieve a nation’s interest. If the engagement is mutually beneficial it becomes interdependence. Diplomacy as a servant of strategy must then evaluate planks for maximum gains. At times immediate returns are shelved for long-term, sustainable goals. Anachronism (tarz-e-kuhan) will have to give way to fresher approaches (fikr-e-nau) to make it work.
#India says no ‘conducive atmosphere’ for talks with Pakistan. Last week, #Pakistan PM Sharif had said: “I will give my word that we will talk to India with sincerity, but it takes two to tango” #Modi #Hindutva #Islamophobia #BJP @shazchy09 https://aje.io/1e0z90 via @AJEnglish
Days after Pakistan offered to hold talks with archrival India, New Delhi says the atmosphere for dialogue is not conducive yet.
“India’s position has remained clear and consistent. We desire normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in a conducive atmosphere that is free of terror, hostility, and violence,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said during a news briefing on Thursday.
Earlier this week, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called for talks with India to discuss “burning issues such as Kashmir”, the Himalayan territory claimed in full by the two nuclear powers, who have ruled over parts of it since 1947.
The South Asian rivals have fought two of their three full-scale wars over the disputed territory.
“I will give my word that we will talk to India with sincerity, but it takes two to tango,” Sharif said during an interview with Al Arabiya news channel aired on Tuesday.
“My message to the Indian leadership and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is that let us sit down on the table and have serious and sincere talks to resolve our burning issues like Kashmir,” he added.
The Pakistani leader made the remarks during a visit to the United Arab Emirates, which he said could play a role in resolving the differences between the two neighbours.
Relations between India and Pakistan worsened in 2019 when Modi’s Hindu nationalist government revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which granted Indian-administered Kashmir partial autonomy.
New Delhi accuses Islamabad of providing logistical and financial support to the armed rebels fighting either for independence or for the merger of Indian-administered Kashmir with Pakistan.
Islamabad denies the allegations, saying it only provides diplomatic support to the region’s struggle for the right to self-determination.
Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistan’s former foreign secretary, told Al Jazeera that Sharif’s statements on the resumption of ties with India appeared to be “genuine” and that Pakistan would like to have peace and stability in the region.
“Pakistan wants to resolve all disputes peacefully. The tension that exists between the two nations is not in either’s interests,” he said.
Jilani said “terrorism” is a matter of concern for both countries equally and “only once the two sit together, they can amicably resolve the matter”.
However, the former high commissioner of Pakistan to India, Abdul Basit, believes any headway in the relations between the two nations looks unlikely.
“Pakistan-India relations are in a cul-de-sac. Breaking deadlock and talks for the sake of talks will be more of the same,” he told Al Jazeera.
In February 2021, the two countries renewed a two-decade-old ceasefire pact along the 725km (450 miles) Line of Control, the de facto border that divides Kashmir between the two nations. But bilateral talks have stalled since India’s Kashmir move.
Vivek Katju, a former Indian ambassador, said Sharif’s interview made it appear as if Pakistan was ready to engage with India without caveats before a change in sentiment as shown by the PM office clarification.
“India’s position has remained consistent on relationship with Pakistan,” Katju told Al Jazeera.
“What struck me was that whatever the Pakistani prime minister said in his interview, it was all nullified by the subsequent statement from his office, putting the condition of reversal of Article 370.”
BBC - Riots a stain on Narendra Modi, says former British foreign secretary Jack Straw - Telegraph India
The Gujarat riots of 2002 are a “stain” on Narendra Modi, former British foreign secretary Jack Straw has told a two-part documentary, India: The Modi Question, that is being shown on BBC2.
The first part was transmitted on Tuesday, January 17, and the second part will go out next Tuesday, January 24.
Introducing the programme, the BBC told viewers: “The programme contains scenes you may find upsetting.”
It summed up: “This series tells the story of Narendra Modi’s troubled relationship with India’s Muslims.”
During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Imran Hussain, the Labour MP for Bradford East, confronted Rishi Sunak: “Last night, the BBC revealed that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office knew the extent of Narendra Modi’s involvement in the Gujarat massacre that paved the way for the persecution of Muslims and other minorities that we see in India today.”
Hussain went on: “Senior diplomats reported that the massacre could not have taken place without the ‘climate of impunity’ created by Modi and that he was, in the FCDO’s words, ‘directly responsible’ for the violence. Given that hundreds were brutally killed and that families across India and the world, including here in the UK, are still without justice, does the Prime Minister agree with his Foreign Office diplomats that Modi was directly responsible? What more does the Foreign Office know about Modi’s involvement in that grave act of ethnic cleansing?”
Rishi brushed the question away: “The UK government’s position on that is clear and longstanding, and it has not changed. Of course, we do not tolerate persecution anywhere, but I am not sure that I agree at all with the characterisation that the Hon. Gentleman has put forward.”
Straw, who was the British foreign secretary under Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair from 2001 to 2006, was asked about the riots by the programme and replied: “I was very worried about it. I was taking a great deal of personal interest, because India is a really important country with whom we have relations. We had to handle it very carefully.” Straw was the Labour MP from 1979 to 2015 for Blackburn, which has a large Pakistani-origin population.
He said: “What we did was to establish an inquiry and have a team go to Gujarat and find out for themselves what had happened. And they produced a very thorough report.”
Straw added: “It was very shocking. These were very serious claims that chief minister Modi had played a pretty active part in pulling back the police and in tacitly encouraging the Hindu extremists.
“That was a particularly egregious example of political involvement, really to prevent the police from doing their job, which was to protect both communities, the Hindu and the Muslims. The options open to us were fairly limited. We were never going to break diplomatic relations with India. But it is obviously a stain on his reputation. There’s no way out of that.”
The BBC said: “The report, sent as a diplomatic cable and marked ‘restricted’, has never been published before.”
The programme highlighted lines from the report: “Extent of violence much greater than reported… widespread and systematic rape of Muslim women…. Violence, politically motivated.... Aim was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas. The systematic campaign of violence has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.”
The BBC said: “The report contained an extraordinary claim.”
This was: “Reliable contacts have told us Narendra Modi met senior police officers on the 27th of February and ordered them not to intervene in the rioting. Police contacts deny this meeting happened.
BBC - Riots a stain on Narendra Modi, says former British foreign secretary Jack Straw - Telegraph India
“There were pretty credible reports he had specifically instructed the police not to intervene. The police contact who we talked to consistently denied that. So we did have conflicting reports on what his direct role had been. But we did feel it was clear there was a culture of impunity that created the environment for the violence to take place. That undoubtedly came from Modi.”
The BBC then interviewed a former senior British diplomat who was “one of the investigators. He is speaking publicly for the first time about what the British inquiry found. He’s asked to remain anonymous.”
He told the programme: “At least 2,000 people were murdered during the violence, the vast majority were Muslim. We described it as a pogrom, a deliberate and politically driven effort targeted at the Muslim community. The violence was widely reported to have been organised by an extremist Hindu nationalist group, the VHP, who have a relationship with the RSS.
“The VHP and its allies could not have inflicted so much damage without the climate of impunity created by the state government. Narendra Modi is directly responsible.” Modi has been given a clean chit by the Supreme Court of India.
The Telegraph asked the UK foreign office to see the full report.
Its existence was not denied but in response, the foreign office sent this newspaper a statement: “The violence in Gujarat in 2002 was tragic. It is a reminder of the need to continually work for respect and harmony between religious communities.
It is right that we remember the victims of the violence in Gujarat in 2002, and their families, and that we reaffirm our commitment to do all we can to foster inter-communal understanding and respect around the world.
“Where events involve British nationals, we naturally have an interest both in the provision of consular assistance and in trying to ascertain what happened through police and diplomacy.”
Three British nationals from Yorkshire — Imran and Shakil Dawood, and Mohammed Aswat — were killed by rioters when they crossed into Gujarat from a trip to the Taj. A survivor, who was 18 at the time, was interviewed for the programme.
The BBC set out what was covered in part one: “Narendra Modi is the leader of the world’s largest democracy, a man who has been elected twice as India’s Prime Minister and is widely seen as the most powerful politician of his generation. Seen by the West as an important bulwark against Chinese domination of Asia, he has been courted as a key ally by both the US and the UK.
“Yet Narendra Modi’s premiership has been dogged by persistent allegations about the attitude of his government towards India’s Muslim population. This series investigates the truth behind these allegations and examines Modi’s backstory to explore other questions about his politics when it comes to India’s largest religious minority.
“This episode tracks Narendra Modi’s first steps into politics, including and his association with the Right-wing Hindu organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, his rise through the ranks of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and his appointment as chief minister of the state of Gujarat, where his response to a series of riots in 2002 remains a source of controversy.”
It said of the sequel: “The second episode examines the track record of Narendra Modi’s government following his re-election in 2019.
“A series of controversial policies — the removal of Kashmir’s special status guaranteed under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and a citizenship law that many said treated Muslims unfairly — has been accompanied by reports of violent attacks on Muslims by Hindus.
“Modi and his government reject any suggestion that their policies reflect any prejudice towards Muslims, but these policies have been repeatedly criticised by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International.
#Pakistan doesn’t see a partner in #Indian #Modi: Hina Rabbani Khar.“I truly believe that if both countries have got statesmen at the same time and not leaders interested only in elections, there is no problem that cannot be solved” #Hindutva #Islamophobia https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/pakistan-doesnt-see-a-p...
Pakistan Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on January 19 said her country does not see a “partner” in Prime Minister Narendra Modi for working towards peace between the two countries, but it saw a partner in his predecessors Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Speaking at a session on South Asia in Davos at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023, Ms. Khar, Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said, “When I went to India as Foreign Minister, I had worked really hard to press for better cooperation and we were in a much better position at that time compared to the situation in 2023.”
Ex British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's Interview with Karan Thapar on The Wire
Topic: BBC's Modi Documentary
“I have long been very familiar with the history of India and independence in 1947 and communal violence that ensued. I was there when there were demonstrations against Ayodhya mosque”
“There are thousands of Gujaratis in my constituency (in England), mainly Muslims”
After Godhra incident or accident (in Gujarat in 2002) there was a need for effective policing that did not happen”
“There’s a colonial history of the East India Company and the British government playing one community against the other (Hindu vs Muslim) during the Raj”
“The United Kingdom was a colonial master of India until 1947. So we felt a moral responsibility and a long term bond. …the constituency of Lancashire I represented is 40% non white… I had a concern for our Gujarati Muslim constituents”