Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Today's newspaper articles

Today’s series of articles are from “The Diplomat” website and discuss the rise of Narendra Modi (the current Chief Minister of Gujarat) and talk of the possibility of him becoming the next Prime Minister after next year’s elections:

By Pratyush

June 11, 2013

Last week the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) chose to appoint Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to head its 2014 poll campaign committee. While by no means assured, the move is the clearest indication yet of Modi’s “first amongst equals” status in the race to emerge as the party’s prime ministerial candidate ahead of next year’s national elections.

If that were to happen and the BJP cobbles together a winning coalition under Modi’s helm, the effect on India’s foreign policy will be cataclysmic. After all, the Prime Minister’s Office has consistently overshadowed the External Affairs Ministry in recent years in framing the contours of New Delhi’s foreign policy as seen in the case of the nuclear deal with the United States or the peace process with Pakistan.

What would be the terms of engagement with a Prime Minister long given the cold shoulder by the West for his alleged role (albeit never proven in a court of law) in the bloody sectarian violence that engulfed Gujarat in 2002? In the aftermath of the riots, which left more than 1,000 people dead – mostly Muslims – the United States and the European Union declared Modi persona non grata, cutting off diplomatic engagement with the state. In 2005, Washington rejected Modi’s visa application amid continuing concerns over the alleged subversion of justice in Gujarat.

In October 2012, in a development indicative of Modi’s rising profile in Indian politics, Britain’s high commissioner in New Delhi, James Bevan called on Modi in Gujarat’s capital of Gandhinagar, in what seemed to be a decisive step towards the Gujarat chief minister’s international rehabilitation.

The decision by the UK to end its isolationist policies towards Modi stemmed from fears of losing ground to countries like Japan, China and Israel, which had made large investments in the state in recent years. The conviction of Maya Kodnani, a former state minister in Modi’s government, to 28 years in prison for her role in the 2002 riots provided the perfect alibi for London to begin engaging with Gujarat.

Leading up to the general elections in May 2014, one can expect Washington to replicate the UK’s move – including granting Modi a visa – to avoid the deeply embarrassing prospect of having to engage with a prime minister it until recently viewed as a pariah.

However, expect India-U.S. ties to cool significantly should Modi become the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, which the U.S. has been eager to court. In addition to greater strategic understanding, ties between New Delhi and Washington have benefitted greatly from the personal chemistry between Indian and U.S. leaders – notably Prime Minister Singh and President Obama.

In an interview with Fareed Zakaria in January 2012, Obama named Singh among five world leaders he considered to be among his closest friends. Others in the list included Turkish Prime Ministers Tayyip Erdoğan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

With a liberal Democrat president occupying the White House until 2016, how would his dealings with a conservative Hindu-nationalist Indian leader affect Indo-U.S. ties? For starters, do not expect a second visit from Obama to India or anything similar to Obama’s feting of Singh as his first state guest at the beginning of his presidency in 2009.

Interactions between a Prime Minister Modi and President Obama would likely be strictly business and would probably take place on the sidelines of multilateral events like the annual United Nations General Assembly conclave or the G-20 meets. In any case, Modi is unlikely to forget Washington’s slight over the past decade, ensuring that potential parleys between U.S. and Indian leaders would remain cool if he becomes prime minister.

On the other hand, if Modi were to become PM, expect ties with Israel – already a key defense partner – to expand dramatically. While it was a Congress government that established diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992, it was under a BJP-led government from 1999 to 2004 that Indian ties with the Jewish State blossomed. This period lead critics to believe that this was not just a security partnership but also a relationship with strong religious and ideological moorings.

In 2003, while addressing a gathering of the American Jewish Community in Washington, India’s then National Security Advisor in the BJP coalition, Brajesh Mishra, called for a trilateral alliance between the U.S., India and Israel to “jointly face the same ugly face of modern-day terrorism” while contending that “such an alliance would have the political will and moral authority to take bold decisions in extreme cases of terrorist provocation.”

Coming in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the proposed alliance acquired ideological trappings fuelling fears of a Samuel Huntington-style clash of civilizations. The pinnacle of the Indo-Israeli engagement was the visit of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to India in September 2003. Sharon was the first Israeli premier to make the trip.

Traditionally, Indian politicians – wary of alienating Muslim voters – have resisted being seen as close to Tel Aviv and have avoided visiting Israel or even hosting Israeli leaders. However, Modi is one of the handful of Indian political figures to have visited Israel, suggesting that he would not be averse to undertaking what would potentially be the first Indian prime ministerial visit to the Jewish State.

Lastly, on India’s all-important ties with Pakistan, Modi as prime minister could either set back the fledgling peace process or it could result in a diplomatic consensus on several issues. During the previous period of BJP rule, India fought a brief war with Islamabad in 1999 after Pakistani troops entered Indian-held Kashmir.

The Kargil conflict was followed two years later by a massive troop build-up on the border after New Delhi blamed Pakistani militants for an attack on its parliament in December 2001. The build-up also happened against the backdrop of nuclear tests by both countries in 1998. If Vajpayee’s tenure is anything to go by, Modi’s hawkish credentials are likely to lead to an aggressive and muscular foreign policy stance vis-à-vis Pakistan.

However, the same government, under then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, mounted a diplomatic effort to improve ties with Pakistan. This policy has continued under the current Congress-led government.

The emphatic return of Nawaz Sharif as Pakistan’s new prime minister and the potential election of Modi as prime minister in India could present a window of opportunity for the two countries to negotiate a lasting agreement on less controversial territorial disputes such as Sir Creek and the Siachen Glacier. Such a step could be a prelude to a broader peace deal that would also involve Kashmir.

Image credit: Flickr (aljazeeraenglish)


Is India Ready for Modi?

By Sanjay Kumar

During a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) meeting held in Goa in 2002, then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee indirectly asked Gujarat Chief Minister (CM) Narendra Modi to resign in the wake of his failure to contain the communal carnage in the state that claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Muslims. Modi’s position was ultimately saved, thanks to the defense of senior party leader Lal Krishna Advani.

However, the BJP could not save its government, losing to a resurgent Congress Party in a 2004 election. Many analysts believe that the Gujarat riots played a major role in the defeat of the Hindutva Party.

Last Saturday, senior BJP leader Advani skipped the party’s National Executive Meeting to protest the decision to make Modi chief of the campaign committee. The decision makes the Gujarat leader a de facto prime ministerial candidate for the BJP in the country’s 2014 general elections.

But the decision was not unanimous. Some of the BJP’s other top leaders also decided to skip the crucial meet. BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, who also skipped the meet, has even suggested that Modi’s elevation is part of “a larger conspiracy”. He added that the "real issues have been buried" and that party decisions seem to be emerging from "the quicksand of an imagined clash of personalities".

The unease came to a head with the resignation of Advani from all party posts. The senior BJP leader cited his misgivings about the party’s direction, virtually dividing the party and reinforcing Modi’s image as a polarizing figure.

Yet, Modi’s promotion is not sudden. Long before his third successive victory in Gujarat in 2012, he has been working overtime to change his image. Further, some analysts believe Modi’s rise within the BJP ranks can be attributed at least in part to the lack of a popular leader in the Hindutva party.

The BJP became prominent in 1980s and 1990s on the plank of Hindu nationalism, which promotes a majoritarian agenda. Advani acted as the face of this agenda in the 1990s when he single-handedly propelled the BJP from the margins to the mainstream by campaigning on the divisive issue of building a Hindu temple at the site of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. Many believe this spot is the birthplace of the Hindu God Rama.

Despite trying to project himself as a modern and progressive face of the party, Modi’s image as a hardcore Hindutva leader makes him very popular among BJP cadres, and a strong contender for prime minister if the BJP comes to power in the 2014 general elections.

But the question remains: will he be acceptable to India as a whole? India Today recently cited ten reasons why Modi will find it difficult to move to Delhi.

According to the article, the BJP will struggle to win a simple majority of 272 seats in a house of 545 simply due to its limited geographical reach. Other obstacles cited include Modi’s presence as a polarizing figure, which may dissuade allies from siding with him, as well as the reality that minority Muslims and other voters opposed to the rightist party will likely favor the Congress in the elections.

This polarization makes Modi a double-edged sword for the party. If he is the BJP’s greatest strength, he is also its weakest link.

"His elevation is dangerous for the country's pluralism and justice. He is authoritative and almost forced his way up in the party," said Zoya Hasan, a political scientist in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Still others say that Modi’s anointment signals a generational shift in the BJP, with the 62-year-old Gujarat CM as its new face.

Ultimately, by elevating Modi the party remains attached to its majoritarian agenda, which has been the main factor for its stilted growth among India’s secular-minded and religious minorities.

Things have come full circle for the BJP. If the new India needs rapid economic growth it also needs a reassertion of its core secular principles. While the new leadership of the main opposition party may succeed in the former, it lags in the latter.

Editor's note: This article has been modified from its original version.

Image credit: Flickr (aljazeeraenglish)


The Ghost of 1984 Still Haunts India


By Sanjay Kumar

The anti-Sikh riots of 1984 still haunt the ruling Indian National Congress. Almost three decades ago around 3,000 minority Sikhs were killed, allegedly at the instigation of local Congress leaders in Delhi in the aftermath of the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh, on October 31, 1984.

According to numerous commissions of inquiry established to investigate the tragic incident, a number of local Congress politicians and police officials in Delhi systematically instigated the raw sentiments of the mob. Despite these initial conclusions, the inquiry could not make much headway and in the majority of cases the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed closure reports.

Last week, however, a Delhi court set aside a closure report filed against senior politician Jagdish Tytler and asked the CBI to record the testimonies of all witnesses again, in a bid to establish the truth.

The reopening of the case has once again brought into focus a tragic chapter in modern Indian history and sparked a debate about justice for the victims.

According to media reports, a judicial inquiry in 2005 hinted at former Congress minister Tytler’s role in instigating the riot. The Congress leader, however, vehemently denies the accusations, claiming that he is being framed. He also claims that he was not present at the scene of the killings, but was attending Gandhi’s funeral when the riot broke out.

Ultimately, though, it’s not a question of one individual. It’s question of justice. It remains a mystery why no one has been held accountable for the deaths of so many. Even after installing Sikh Manmohan Singh as prime minister, the tragic episode from 1984 hangs like an albatross around the neck of the party.

Moreover, the subversion of justice in the case has emboldened right-wing forces in the country. A prime example came in 1992 when right-wing leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched an agenda that led to the demolition of the 16th century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya.

The subsequent backlash against minority Muslims claimed many lives across the country. As in the 1984 riots, no one has been punished to date. On the contrary, BJP leaders like Lal Krishna Advani and others involved in the anti-Babri Mosque campaign came to occupy the center stage of national politics.

In 2002, around 2,000 Muslims were killed in Gujarat after fire broke out on a train coach carrying Hindu pilgrims in Godhra. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is alleged to have turned a blind eye to the violence. Although the victims’ families still await justice, Modi is now being touted as a BJP Prime Ministerial candidate.

These incidents underscore the ineffectiveness of India’s justice system, emboldening radical elements in the nation’s minority communities in turn. It is no secret that Sikh separatists remain active in Punjab and beyond, drawing their sustenance from the grievances of those who have been denied justice. The same is also true of India’s Muslim community, according to an article published last year in The Hindu.

All of these incidents are reminders of the dangers of deviating from a secular path. For the ruling Congress Party, it is time to allow a full investigation into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Only then will the incident cease to haunt the party.

Image credit: Wikicommons


1 comment:

  1. We have launched a petition to request President Obama to reconsider US Administration’s stand on Mr. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat, India.
    Please visit MODI360.COM to review and sign this petition.