Islamophobia: Can Modi's India Afford to Alienate the Entire Arab Muslim Middle East?

Last week, two official spokespersons of India's ruling BJP party insulted Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on an Indian television channel known for promoting Islamophobia. Mohammad Zubair, an Indian Muslim journalist, tweeted a video clip of the TimesNow primetime show featuring BJP's official spokeswoman Nupur Sharma attacking the Prophet (SAW) revered by more than a billion Muslims around the world. As the video clip went viral, a long a growing list of Muslim countries has officially protested to the Indian government. The UAE, Oman, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iraq, the Maldives, Jordan, Libya, Bahrain and Pakistan have now joined Kuwait, Iran and Qatar, calling Indian ambassadors to register their protest, and Saudi Arabia has issued a strongly worded statement. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its condemnation and denunciation of the statements made by the spokeswoman of the BJP,"  the Saudi statement said.

India's Ties to the GCC Nations. Source: Advaid

The BJP's entire domestic politics is built on the hatred of Islam and Muslims. At the same time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi who many hold primarily responsible for promoting Islamophobia in India, wants to have strong economic ties with the Arab Muslim Gulf states. This latest crisis has exposed the built-in contradictions in the BJP's domestic and international agenda.  Indian analyst Aakar Patel calls the ruling BJP party "a party of bigots". Here is his analysis of the situation:
"The (Modi) government has not bulldozed properties of Muslims for resisting rioting; it has conducted civic acts related to unauthorized construction. India is not targeting its Muslims through CAA-NRC pincer; it is only showing solidarity with non-Muslims from neighboring nations. Allowing mobs to prevent congregational prayers in designated spaces is really to ensure traffic flows smoothly. There can not be many who are innocent of what is going on. Certainly, there are none among the votaries of Hindutva. The problem is having democratized violence against Muslims across the country, and having been electorally rewarded for this, Modi must consider what it means for India. He has been given a taste of that this week, and as the sequence of events shows, he has not found it appealing. Trouble on this front will return unless Hindutva retreats and returns India to its normative secular state its Constitution prescribes. This is not going to happen under Modi, of course. The next best thing is to backpedal Hindutva a bit and calibrate Hindutva to a level where it pleases its constituency but doesn't offend the world. This will not be easy as we are about to find out". 

It is important to note that nearly 9 million Indians work in the Arab Gulf nations, 60% India's crude oil comes from the Middle East and the UAE is India'a third largest trading partner. Half of all remittances to India ( nearly $40 billion) come from just 5 Gulf nations of the GCC. 
The Hindu Nationalists led by Prime Minister Modi are particularly hostile toward Muslims but also other Abrahamic faiths and the West. American journalist Walter Russell Mead described it in a recent Wall Street Journal Op Ed as follows: "Many BJP supporters want the Indian government to defend India’s Hindu civilization and culture from Islam, Christianity and Western secular liberalism. This form of Hindu nationalism leads to controversial policy initiatives". The fact that the United Arab Emirates has joined to protest is particularly significant. The Arab Muslim UAE, a grouping of  seven Arab Muslim kingdoms, has now become the number one destination for education and employment of people from Hindu India, according to the government data from the two countries. 

India is now ruled by the right-wing Hindu BJP party headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose entire politics is based on extreme hatred of Islam and Muslims. In 2020, Emirati Princess Sheikha Hend bint Faisal al-Qasimi strongly criticized Islamophobia in India. She also expressed solidarity and sympathies with Indian Muslims and Kashmiris.

Indians Students Abroad. Source: Economic Times

Over 1.2 million Indian students are now studying overseas, twice more than a decade ago. The UAE has 219,000 Indian students, Canada 215,720, the US 211,930, Australia 92,383, Saudi Arabia 80,800, Britain 55,465, and Oman 43,600, according to the data from India's Ministry of External Affairs

UAE Expat Population. Source: Global Media Insight

In addition to students, there are millions of foreigners working in the UAE. Currently, the Indian population in UAE is the highest with 2.75 million, followed by Pakistanis with 1.27 million. The UAE has around 0.75 million Bangladeshi nationals, 0.56 million Filipinos, and 0.48 million Iranians. There are also people from Egypt (0.42 million), Nepal (0.32 million), Sri Lanka ( 0.32 million), China (0.21 million) and the rest of the world (1.79million).

Last year, India received $43 billion in remittances from the UAE. Total worker remittances to India reached $87 billion last fiscal year, making it the world's largest recipient of these remittances. 
The United States was the second largest destination for Indian students. China maintained its top position among the leading places of origin for international students, with 35% of all international students in the 2020-21 school year hailing from the country, according to the data released by the United States government.  The second most common place of origin was India (18%), followed by South Korea (4%) and Canada (3%). Some of these countries also experienced the largest year-over-year declines in the number of students who enrolled at US institutions. The largest such percentage decreases occurred in South Korea (-21%), China (-15%) and India (-13%).

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Comment by Riaz Haq on June 10, 2022 at 7:43am

After Outrage in the Islamic World, the Modi Government Could Be at Point of No Return
The BJP is not likely to learn from this and temper its majoritarianism though it may rework its agenda.

by KC Singh, Ex Indian Ambassador to UAE

Firstly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been cynically stirring the anti-Muslim cauldron since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election in 2019 and getting away with it internationally. Grumbling was limited to the Western world, consisting mostly of pro forma criticism in annual reports or from individual party members i.e. from the liberal wing of the US Democrats.

Secondly, the government assumed that the Islamic world was distracted by their many mutual differences to confront a big nation. Their silence on the repression of Ugyhurs in China showed that economic interests trumped religious affinity. Prime Minister Modi had also managed to woo the de facto rulers of Saudi Arabia, which normally gave lead to the Islamic world’s angst, and the diplomatically assertive United Arab Emirates (UAE). These two had also been traditionally close to Pakistan. In fact, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had in recent years been less than zealous in its anti-India assertions on Kashmir or the treatment of Muslims in India.

Smugness prevailed in the BJP and the government, but the recent remarks of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, on the need for moderation in interfaith relations also indicated concern within the Sangh. Some recognition was dawning that post-Gyanvapi mosque controversy, the red-lines for their followers needed re-drawing.

But all this while, the BJP spokespersons in television studios nightly kept up their Muslim-baiting to polarise voters before the vital upcoming state elections, especially in the prime minister’s own state, Gujarat. Most television channels, chasing higher viewership ratings and the government’s goodwill, devised guest panels and issues for maximum confrontation and verbal duels.

For years, this writer had warned that domestic and foreign policies could not be relegated to separate silos. But four years of former US president Donald Trump, who jettisoned climate change and liberal democracy as issues traditionally relevant to US diplomacy, encouraged the Indian government to believe that diplomacy was unaffected by BJP’s Hindutva project. The pace was accelerated after the 2019 re-election of Narendra Modi to move India from constitutionalism and liberal democracy, as envisioned by India’s founding fathers, to majoritarianism and a reconstructive Hindu Rashtra.

The calculus rested on Modi having successfully divided the bigger Islamic nations and engaged the West, especially the US under Trump, who abandoned the defence of liberalism and democracy. However, Joe Biden’s victory, after Modi’s unwise, subtle endorsement of Trump, raised concerns that the state of domestic play in India may invite US attention. Jaishankar’s unwise snubbing of Pramila Jayapal, an Indian-origin Democrat member of the US Congress during the Trump presidency, was also a cause for concern. But China, climate change and now Ukraine have made the US harbour doubts about the Modi government’s commitment to liberal democracy.


Will the BJP learn from this and tamp down its majoritarian Hindu Rashtra agenda? Probably not, though they would reassess their tactics to devise approaches that distinguish between targeting Indian Muslims and demonising Islam per se and especially the Prophet and his family. The damage to Indian reputation in the Islamic world is containable though not reversible, unless PM Modi decides to emulate Vajpayee, and explores a middle path between Hindutva and classical Hinduism, as honed by philosophers and saints over many millennia. The Modi government could be at a turning point or a point of no return. India holds its breath as the world watches.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 10, 2022 at 8:09pm

#India's #BJP, #RSS have long used Pakistan as a punching bag and lambasted #Mughals. They have now crossed a redline by insulting #ProphetMuhammad. Now #Gulf #Arabs states #UAE #Qatar #Saudi must put pressure on #Modi to stop attacks on #Indian #Muslims

FOR long, the Sangh Parivar in India has used Pakistan as a punching bag, while also lambasting Muslim emperors and sultans that ruled the subcontinent centuries ago. But when officials linked to India’s Hindu nationalist ruling party publicly started attacking Islam’s sacred figures, a red line was crossed.

The vile comments directed at the Holy Prophet (PBUH) coming from two BJP spokespersons were no mere slip of the tongue. They were the result of decades of anti-Muslim poison spewed by the hard right in India; now the anti-Islam discourse has been mainstreamed, with people in power feeling free to attack the revered figures of other religions to please their rabid vote bank.

The reaction from many Muslim states has been swift against the outrage. Kuwait, Qatar and Iran summoned Indian diplomats to register their protest, while Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have also issued stern denunciations against the provocative statements.

For its part, the BJP has expelled one character in this sordid saga, while suspending the other. It has also issued a lukewarm clarification stating that it “is strongly against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion”. If this were so, hard-core Muslim-baiters and demagogues, such as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and the Indian home minister, would not be key cogs in the ruling apparatus.

The prime minister of India himself has a dark communal history, as the ghosts of Gujarat will testify. Moreover, the reaction to the comments has been disingenuous on part of the Indian state. While responses to the controversy by Indian missions in Kuwait and Qatar were conciliatory, distancing themselves from the “offensive tweet”, the Indian external affairs ministry’s reactions to the OIC generally and Pakistan’s concerns over the matter were combative and thoroughly undiplomatic.

Perhaps the feeling in New Delhi is that the billions of dollars worth of trade and remittances from the Gulf states cannot be lost over the controversy. Already there are campaigns underway in the Gulf calling for boycotts of Indian goods.

All religious minorities in India, including Christians and Dalits, have been feeling the heat as Hindu extremism has gained strength. But Muslims have been on the receiving end of the most hateful campaigns, with their loyalty to the state questioned, their cultural and religious practices restricted, and now their sacred figures attacked.

With the latest provocation, the Sangh Parivar is playing with fire. Already there has been violence in some areas, and unless efforts are made to rein in the hate-mongers, especially those who enjoy political and official patronage, the situation can deteriorate very quickly.

The international community, especially the Muslim world, needs to continue to call out India for its anti-Muslim and anti-Islam provocations. Perhaps sensitive to censure by foreign states, and fearful of damage to economic ties, New Delhi may change its attitude and seriously address these reprehensible incidents.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 11, 2022 at 7:54am

#Hindu #Nationalism Threatens #India’s Rise as a Nation. It’s not smart #geopolitics to have officers of the leading party ridiculing the religion of the country’s key #trading and #strategic partners. #Hindutva #Modi #BJP #Islamophobia #ProphetMuhammad

Could India’s fraught domestic politics hinder the country’s transformation into a leading global power? The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s increasingly shrill brand of Hindu nationalism has inflamed religious animosity within the country. It’s now complicating relationships outside Indian borders as well.

The problem’s latest incarnation: disparaging comments BJP officeholders recently made about the prophet Muhammad. These remarks have angered Muslim-majority countries in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere with which India seeks closer diplomatic relations.

The controversy began in a television debate late last month, when Nupur Sharma, a BJP spokeswoman, castigated the prophet Muhammad for marrying his wife Ayesha when she was still a child. On Twitter, another BJP official, Naveen Kumar Jindal, then suggested that the marriage made Muhammad guilty of rape. The comments quickly brought protesting Indian Muslims to the streets. In the northern city of Kanpur, Hindus and Muslims hurled stones and crude bombs at each other after Muslims attempted to shutter a market in protest. The police have detained more than 50 people.

The issue took on an international dimension. On Sunday the governments of Qatar, Kuwait and Iran summoned the Indian ambassadors for an explanation. The hashtags #BoycottIndiaProducts and #StopInsulting_ProphetMuhammad started trending on Twitter in Gulf countries. Supermarkets in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia began to remove Indian products from their shelves. The grand mufti of Oman declared that “the insolent and obscene rudeness” of the BJP officials amounted to “a war against every Muslim in the east and west of the Earth.”

The BJP has suspended Ms. Sharma from the party and expelled Mr. Jindal, but this hasn’t quelled the Muslim world’s anger toward India. At least 15 Muslim-majority nations have condemned the BJP leaders’ remarks. Ms. Sharma has apologized. She and Mr. Jindal have both been booked under the Indian Penal Code for their remarks and could face prison time.

As India’s ruling party faces criticism abroad, it’s been lambasted by supporters at home for cutting Ms. Sharma and Mr. Jindal loose. Critics point out that Ms. Sharma’s taunts about the prophet’s marriage to Ayesha were factual, backed by authoritative Islamic scripture. Moreover, such countries as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are in no position to lecture India on respecting all faiths. And their outrage has been joined by violent Islamists. In a statement, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent warned of suicide bombings against “those who dare to dishonour our Prophet.” Caving in amid death threats allows Islamists to set the boundaries for speech in India.

But none of that makes BJP representatives publicly ridiculing Islam an intelligent geopolitical strategy.

For starters, Ms. Sharma and Mr. Jindal are hardly champions of Enlightenment values. BJP state governments routinely arrest people for insulting Hindu sentiments, and many party supporters cheer these arrests. Last week, while releasing a report on international religious freedom, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called out India for “rising attacks on people and places of worship.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 11, 2022 at 7:54am

#Hindu #Nationalism Threatens #India’s Rise as a Nation. It’s not smart #geopolitics to have officers of the leading party ridiculing the religion of the country’s key #trading and #strategic partners. #Hindutva #Modi #BJP #Islamophobia #ProphetMuhammad

For starters, Ms. Sharma and Mr. Jindal are hardly champions of Enlightenment values. BJP state governments routinely arrest people for insulting Hindu sentiments, and many party supporters cheer these arrests. Last week, while releasing a report on international religious freedom, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called out India for “rising attacks on people and places of worship.”

But even if the BJP were a good steward of free speech—rather than selectively intolerant—India would still face the stark reality that it can’t afford to antagonize the Muslim world. For starters, about two-thirds of Indian citizens abroad—8.9 million of 13.6 million people—live in the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. According to the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, in recent years GCC countries have accounted for more than half of India’s roughly $87 billion in remittances.

The Gulf is also among India’s largest trading partners. Last year, two-way trade with the six GCC countries was $87.4 billion, which is more than India’s bilateral trade with the European Union or Southeast Asian countries. The Middle East supplies more than half of India’s oil and gas imports.

New Delhi also has close strategic relationships with some of these countries. As India has grown closer to the U.S. in recent years, it has also stepped up cooperation with such American allies as Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. The Saudi government has extradited terrorism suspects to India. In 2019 the U.A.E. bestowed its highest civilian award on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Four years ago, Oman, with which India has close strategic ties dating back to British rule, granted the Indian navy access to one of its ports. This gives India a foothold in a region where China has made inroads with its Belt and Road Initiative.

All this means that even if it were not hypocritical for BJP supporters to lambast penalizing Ms. Sharma and Mr. Jindal, it would be foolish for ruling party officials to insult revered Islamic religious figures. Hard-line Hindu nationalists may hate the idea of India’s kowtowing to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but Mr. Modi knows better than to pick a fight that he can’t win.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 11, 2022 at 8:27am

Spotlight on Two Nuclear Powers: India and Pakistan
Factors increasing both countries’ confrontational risks include the war in Ukraine, rivalries with China and Russia, climate change and pandemics

Why look at India and Pakistan when much of the world is focused on Ukraine? Because of the possibility of the war in Ukraine escalating to the point where the Russians choose to use a nuclear weapon: This would most likely be for tactical gain and psychological effect to force the Ukrainian Government to sue for “peace”.

Yet, if such were to happen, it would be the first time since World War II that nuclear weapons have been used in a conflict since they were successfully banned 75 years ago. It would change the boundaries of confrontation, conceivably forever, as other countries might be encouraged to consider using their nuclear power, and, among the (still) restricted group that has it, India and Pakistan are among those most inclined to do so.

Nuclear weapons analysts estimate that there are currently nine nuclear states — China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, and these numbers are likely to grow.

Possible newcomers include Iran, and Saudi Arabia, the former seen as purposefully seeking nuclear weapon capability, the latter pursuing nuclear development ostensibly for civilian purposes, but notably with the assistance of Pakistani experts, the same country that supported the North Korean weapons program.

The Saudis have not sworn off nuclear weapons and are the largest funders of Pakistan, which became a nuclear state primarily because the Netherlands allowed a nuclear physicist working at the Urenco labs in the Netherlands, Dr. Abdul Quadeer Khan, to take the blueprints of the Dutch nuclear enrichment and centrifuge technology and develop the Pakistani program.

Three countries “voluntarily” gave up their nuclear capability, namely South Africa, Libya, and Ukraine.

With respect to these latter two, their histories probably would be very different today if they had not done so. They serve as warnings for other countries that might think about giving up such capacity.

Overall, few regions of the world– maybe South America– are currently “nuclear arms-free” if you will

A Russian breach of the ban will have implications for all other nuclear-capable or “wannabe” countries, especially those facing confrontation with neighbors—which are nearly all countries.

Examples of neighbor disputes are numerous and include the Arctic, China and Japan, Colombia and Venezuela, and the Western Sahara pitting Morocco and Mauritania, to name just a few.

South Asia is very much such a region with India and Pakistan both nuclear-armed, and with the three largest nuclear powers, China, Russia, and the United States having clients, and chosen sides. Then there is the neighboring failed island state of Sri Lanka, in default and with a history of civil war that had drawn its neighbors into its disputes in the past.

Add to the geopolitical tensions, this comes at a time the region is experiencing unbelievable heat waves, affecting their economies and daily lives.

Everywhere, but surely here, the costs and availability of food, fertilizer, fuel, and access to concessional financing, along with an ongoing Covid pandemic, have created very difficult challenges for any government.

Into this mix are the political and religious differences between India and Pakistan (and China), and religious divide and territorial disputes over Kashmir, which have brought them in the past to armed conflict and lingering mistrust.

India and Pakistan never-ending disputes, plus China and Russia in the mix
India and Pakistan have been at odds since independence in 1947 from Great Britain and have fought four wars over the Kashmir region.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 11, 2022 at 8:27am

Spotlight on Two Nuclear Powers: India and Pakistan
Factors increasing both countries’ confrontational risks include the war in Ukraine, rivalries with China and Russia, climate change and pandemics

India and Pakistan never-ending disputes, plus China and Russia in the mix
India and Pakistan have been at odds since independence in 1947 from Great Britain and have fought four wars over the Kashmir region.

With regard to nuclear policy, India initially declared a No First Use policy, vowing to never use nuclear weapons first in a conflict. However, in 2019 India signaled it was reconsidering this policy.

Unlike India, Pakistan has never declared a No First Use policy and has proceeded to emphasize smaller battlefield or “tactical” nuclear weapons as a counter to India’s larger and superior conventional forces.

Even a small nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan could kill 20 million people in a week.

If a nuclear winter is triggered, nearly 2 billion people in the developing world would be at risk of death by starvation.

India and Pakistan are at odds on many fronts but certainly exacerbated by religious differences, in each case supported by large political majorities, and ultra-national sub-groups, which morph into exclusionary national identity.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been actively persuading India’s 80% Hindu population that they are under threat—and will only prosper if they support the ideology of Hindutva or Hindu nationalism.

Recent public comments on air by a high-level BJP official disparaging the Prophet Muhammad have exploded across the Moslem world. Despite efforts to distance itself, the actions taken may not be enough to quell what is a diplomatic crisis for India’s relations with countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.

For its external big power support, recently India has moved its alliances more to the United States, and away from Russia, its past primary military hardware supplier.

Pakistan, on the other hand, is officially the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” the second-largest primarily Sunni Muslim population in the world. A new Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif was elected in April 2022 and in his first address said, “he will expedite the multibillion-dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project and rebuild broken ties with partners and allies.”

Pakistan’s ties to China go back to the time China chose sides in the 2019 India-Pakistan dispute when India revoked Kashmir’s autonomy in August 2019 and sought to incorporate parts of “Xinjiang and Tibet into its Ladakh union territory,” which China considered violating its own dominion of Tibet.

Mass disenfranchisement of Kashmiri Muslims, deteriorating security, economic backsliding, and a contentious political agenda are causing ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, building on historical friction in the region.

On its parallel track, Pakistan strengthened its relations with Russia, which has continued despite international condemnation of its invasion of Ukraine. An alliance with Russia had been agreed to by former governments, and now goes forward with the Pakistan Stream Gas Project, also known as the North-South gas pipeline, a multi-billion effort to be built with Russian financing and in collaboration with their companies.

In short, territorial, and ethnic tensions remain high, the two countries have chosen different global “sugar daddies,” with both having significant nuclear arsenals.

Not a promising picture for peace.

Two other factors adding to nuclear risks: climate change and pandemics
India and Pakistan are located in a part of the world that is particularly exposed to the threats of climate change and given huge populations and poor health systems are vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 11, 2022 at 8:28am

Spotlight on Two Nuclear Powers: India and Pakistan
Factors increasing both countries’ confrontational risks include the war in Ukraine, rivalries with China and Russia, climate change and pandemics

Two other factors adding to nuclear risks: climate change and pandemics
India and Pakistan are located in a part of the world that is particularly exposed to the threats of climate change and given huge populations and poor health systems are vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases.

Here is what you can expect in terms of impacts on both countries.

South Asia Feels the Heat: On most climate maps, this is the hottest region on the planet. Scorching temperatures were already reached in March 2022 at degrees not usually happening until June.

This current heat wave in India and Pakistan is not a lone event; on the contrary, with the acceleration of global warming, it is estimated to be 30 times more likely than compared to preindustrial times. And it has led to a deep reduction in agricultural output, as wheat crops withered, and mango crops were lost, exacerbating food insecurity, and threatening Indians and Pakistanis with limited income.

Those at or near the poverty levels have limited alternatives to cooling themselves, with millions of villages without any access to basic electricity, and for those living in urban slums, many are too poor to afford it even if it were available.

Roop Singh, a climate risk adviser with the International Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, makes the point that with more middle-income households having air conditioning, this means widespread power outages in part because the need for more cooling strains the electrical grids, and in part because of a coal shortage in India. “This is particularly impactful for people who might have access to a fan or to a cooler but might not be able to run it because they can’t afford a generator,” she said.

Medical and climate scientists have determined there is a “hard limit” when human tolerance is breached, the ‘wet-bulb’ temperature beyond which the human body is no longer viable. The wet-bulb temperature reflects not only heat but also how much water (humidity) is in the air.

“If the wet-bulb temperature reading is higher than our body temperature, that means that we cannot cool ourselves to a temperature tolerable for humans by evaporating sweat and that basically means you can’t survive,” said Tapio Schneider, a California Institute of Technology climate scientist and professor.

A recent Science Advances study found that some places have already experienced conditions too hot and humid for human survival, including Pakistan where there has been a wet-bulb temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit. “That kind of temperature would make it impossible to sweat enough to avoid overheating, organ failure and eventual death.”

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, should global emissions continue as they are, places in India and Pakistan will approach these limits in this century.

Even before reaching “hard limits” at “adaptation levels”, the impact of unbelievably high heat levels is increasingly threatening living conditions throughout South Asia.

Recalling the lessons in Gunnar Myrdal’s historical work “Asian Drama”, when large numbers of people and communities are incapable of dealing with daily life and it becomes intolerable and without hope, the inevitable consequence is that social peace disintegrates.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 11, 2022 at 8:29am

Spotlight on Two Nuclear Powers: India and Pakistan
Factors increasing both countries’ confrontational risks include the war in Ukraine, rivalries with China and Russia, climate change and pandemics

Recalling the lessons in Gunnar Myrdal’s historical work “Asian Drama”, when large numbers of people and communities are incapable of dealing with daily life and it becomes intolerable and without hope, the inevitable consequence is that social peace disintegrates.

This translates into civil disorder and widespread popular anger directed at their leaders. And often when leaders are not able or unwilling to provide meaningful assistance, they evoke external threats (real or imagined) and blame outsiders as a way to both distract and unite their subjects.

When disastrous living conditions occur in both urban and rural areas, political leaders in weak governments look to external escapism politics, a scenario with a high realism index in today’s South-Asian sub-continent. And with an obvious fallout on Pakistan’s and India’s nuclear policies.

The COVID Factor: The current pandemic has affected virtually every aspect of human activity, including international efforts in nuclear arms control and disarmament, and the work of the 1968 Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT).

In South Asia, there was no official ongoing India–Pakistan, China–India, or China–Pakistan nuclear dialogue prior to Covid. The pandemic effectively stopped all in-person, non-official contacts which might have led to such engagement.

The pandemic and its accompanying worldwide panic shed light on why it is a mistake for governments to expend huge sums on building nuclear arsenals and war-fighting capabilities at the expense of basic economic and social needs.

The prospect of new variants of Covid-19, such as Omicron, and/or another potential readily transmissible virus underscores the fact that these can be very costly and destabilizing events, epidemics, and pandemics that undermine stability and even nations’ survival.

Covid infections in India– at least during the first two years– went massively unreported both in terms of morbidity and mortality. In Pakistan, both numbers were and have been considerably lower than its neighbor, but massive underreporting is likely there as well.

According to recent data, these figures in both countries have declined. As of April 2022 reported cases in Pakistan were down while in India, by the end of May 2022, an average of 2,574 cases per day were reported, with deaths having decreased by 11 percent.

The reported drop in COVID-19 infection rates at present has meant less attention in the public space in both countries—at least for the moment.

Again, there is no assurance that new variants and a wave of infections will not happen, which could cumulatively add to inter-country political tensions, especially if there are accusations that new infections came from across the border.

It all adds up to a worrying picture
Overwhelming heat currently affecting South Asia means that tens of millions are living with very harmful dehydration, exhaustion, food insecurity, and the possibility of added infectious disease from the ongoing Covid pandemic.

Such conditions potentially pose a level of political unrest which very well may influence the political class of these two nuclear countries.

With fanatic groups on both sides of their borders looking for ways to undermine stability, it will not take much for either India or Pakistan leaders to feel pressed to react, then counter-react, each step bringing them to the brink of choosing nuclear.

Let us hope such a tipping point is never reached, that both cooler weather and heads prevail.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 11, 2022 at 7:37pm

#China taking hardline along border with #India: #US Defence Secretary.“I am especially thinking of India, the world’s largest democracy. We believe that its growing #military capability and technological prowess can be a stabilizing force in the region.”

New Delhi, June 11

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J Austin on Saturday said, “Beijing continues to harden its position along the border that it shares with India.”

Austin was speaking on Day two of the three-day Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fanghe is scheduled to speak tomorrow at the same dialogue.

This is the second such observation about the LAC by a senior US official within this week. Earlier on June 8, US Army’s Pacific Commanding General Charles A Flynn, on a visit to India, said infrastructure being created by China near its border with India in Ladakh was “alarming”, calling the Chinese activity in that region as “eye-opening”.

Today in Singapore, Austin speaking on expanding territorial claims of China, said, “It’s important as the PRC (Peoples Republic of China) adopts a more coercive and aggressive approach to its territorial claims.”

In the East China Sea, the China’s expanding fishing fleet is sparking tension with its neighbours. In the South China Sea, the PRC is using outposts on manmade islands bristling with advanced weaponry to advance its illegal maritime claims, Austin said, adding, “We’re seeing PRC vessels plunder the region’s provisions, operating illegally within the territorial waters of other Indo-Pacific countries.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 13, 2022 at 9:12pm

Is #India Really a #Democracy? #Modi's #Hindutva has left millions of #Indian citizens fearing what may happen to them as they see what is being done to their kind. #Muslims are being targeted. #Islamophobia_in_india #Fascism #HindutvaTerror #demolitions

Songs have a way of staying in the mind. Songs stay ready to be remembered, and never more powerfully than when their words bring to mind the times we are living in. One such song is Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’:

‘How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry;
how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died;
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind. . .’

Why do these words remind me of India today? Is it because I am standing on the same soil, but around me is an unfamiliar country? I keep hearing that India is a democracy but in a democracy, it is criminals who are in jail – not citizens who have committed no crime but to disagree with the ruling power. In what number these have been incarcerated we don’t know. So can we call India a democracy?

The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind.

Recently I heard that the government wants a strong opposition. But when members of the opposition such as the Elgar Parishad prisoners, to name one case, are in jail for criticising some official measure or not falling in line with the ruling ideology, is this the way that a democracy treats dissent?

In all the decades since independence in 1947, there have been robust fights between opposition and government over every conceivable issue, inside and outside parliament. No one was sent to jail for loud and clear denouncements of some government action or government policy. India’s vigorously functioning democracy was admired the world over as an example to other Asian countries. Why is this example not being followed in present-day India itself?

We need to face the terrible truth that though prisoners in a democratic country have rights, these have not been observed here under governments past and present. It is a matter of shame that prisoners in Indian jails are routinely tortured to extract confessions, and selected political prisoners have been singled out for vicious treatment including denial of bail even when bail was desperately needed for medical or family reasons. Some have died of their treatment in jail. One well-known victim was the Catholic priest Father Stan Swamy who was eventually released only to die on his release. How many unknown political prisoners may have suffered a like fate we do not know. Does this sound as if the government wants a strong opposition?

The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind.


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