7 August 2020: The Hindu Editorial Analysis
1) Cartographic challenge: On Pakistan’s new map-
- The Ministry of External Affairs has termed Pakistan’s announcement of a new political map, as an exercise in “political absurdity(illogical)”
- The new map asserts its claims on Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek, and lays a new claim to Junagadh.
- MEA accused Pakistan of attempting a form of “territorial aggrandisement(increase) supported by cross-border terrorism”.
- Pakistan’s decision to issue the map was a tit-for-tat manoeuvre(exercise) in return for India’s decision to reorganise Jammu and Kashmir a year ago.
- It appears to reset several agreements with India that have been concretised(strong) over the past 70 years.
- The map the Imran Khan government unveiled lays claim to all of Jammu and Kashmir, thus far shown as disputed territory and renames J&K as “Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir”.
- The new map leaves the claim line with Ladakh unclear. While each of these acts is outrageous(shocking) for New Delhi, it should also be questioned in Islamabad.
- Pakistan’s claim to all of J&K, but not Ladakh, goes against its own commitment to adjudicate(judge) the future of all six parts of the erstwhile(former) royal state of J-K (Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Gilgit-Baltistan, PoK and Aksai Chin) with India.
- The claims to Siachen and Sir Creek, that have been the subject of several discussions between India and Pakistan, are also a regressive(backward) step.
- While both sides had reached an impasse(non-agreement) on Siachen, the Sir Creek agreement had made considerable progress, and was reportedly even resolved, pending a political announcement in 2007.
- Either way, both were without doubt disputed areas, and Pakistan’s unilateral claim over them is not helpful or conducive to future resolution.
- Finally, the move on Junagadh, a former princely state whose accession to India was accepted by Pakistan, opens up a whole new dispute.
- While Junagadh was in contention at the time of Partition, the issue was successfully resolved after a referendum was conducted there in February 1948, in which an overwhelming 95% of the state’s residents voted to stay with India.
- As New Delhi considers its next moves on this provocation(arouse), it should be prepared for Pakistan taking all the issues it has raised with its new map to the international stage.
- Pakistan’s actions, while on completely bilateral matters, come in conjunction(coincidence) with map-related issues India faces today on two other fronts.
A) One with China at the Line of Actual Control on Ladakh, and another with Nepal at Kalapani and Limpiyadhura (which Nepal’s government has also issued a new map about).
- It is surely no coincidence that all three countries objected to the map New Delhi had issued in November 2019, albeit(although) for different reasons.
- Pakistan’s new map is intended to provoke(trouble) India, and internationalise the border disputes
- New Delhi must be well-prepared to deal with the three-pronged challenge it will face in the coming months.
2) Groundbreaking: On Ram temple bhoomi pujan-
- The bhoomi pujan or the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a grand temple for Lord Sri Ram in Ayodhya marks an end and a beginning.
- What it ends and what it begins can both be interpreted in different ways; how India collectively makes meaning out of it will define the future of the country hereon.
- One view is that the rising Ram temple signifies the end of perceived humiliation of the Hindus and the beginning of a new phase of their political ascendancy(growth).
- The other is that it denotes the end of strife that shackled India’s potential for decades and heralds(signals) a new dawn of fraternity(brotherhood) among religious communities.
- The end and the beginning, therefore, are not just open to interpretation, they hold the possibilities of change.
- For those who yearned for a temple at the site which they believe is the exact spot of Sri Ram’s birth, the journey so far has been tumultuous(disturbing) and violent.
- A Muslim place of worship that stood there for 464 years was demolished in 1992 to make way for the temple — a serious crime according to the Supreme Court order last year that handed over the site to the Hindus.
- The proponents(supporters) of the temple must consider this an occasion to seek conciliation over conquest, dialogue over diatribe(criticism), and tranquility(peace) over triumphalism.
CROSSING LINE OF SEPERATION:
- The ceremony itself manifested multiple possibilities for the country’s future.
- In symbolism and rhetoric, the line of separation between state and religion was ominously(inauspiciously) crossed, notably by the role of Prime Minister Modi in it.
- In his speech, however, he cited Lord Ram’s adherence to justice, fairness and empathy for the vulnerable. He emphasised the importance of these values for the present.
- But while outlining a road map for an inclusive future, his interpretation of the past echoed familiar tropes of sectarian politics.
- Relitigating(contesting) historical wrongs has rarely been the foundation for a harmonious and prosperous future.
- In India’s case, many of them are an outcome of its unpleasant encounter with British colonialism.
- Recent path-breaking studies in genetics have unearthed India’s past of being a melting pot of populations and cultures over millennia.
- India must put the acrimonious(bitter) political mobilisations over religious issues behind it, and look forward to modern, secular governance.
- The construction of the temple is the logical result of the Supreme Court judgment; it should mark the end of an older, bitter phase of India, and the beginning of a new, harmonious phase.
- As the Ram temple gets under way, India must put the past of a communal struggle behind.
3) Straying into troubled waters-
- Along the coastal areas of Porbandar, Mangrol, Veraval in Gujarat and the Union Territory of Diu on India’s western coast are hundreds of families whose lives have been worst affected.
- The men of their households missing with only stray(tiny) hopes of their return, women and children struggling to make ends meet and see another sunrise.
- The men are currently in jail in Pakistan, their families barely aware of their health and welfare.
- Their only ‘crime’ was that they were doing their work in the waters between India and Pakistan.
- These are fishermen who inadvertently(accidently) crossed the invisible line in the water between the countries.
- As fishermen do not get ample fish on the Gujarat side, they have no option but to go farther and farther out into the sea.
- As they fish in mid-sea, they end up in waters controlled by Pakistan and are arrested for inadvertently entering into that country.
- India and Pakistan exchanged lists of prisoners on July 1 as per which 270 Indian fishermen and 54 civilian prisoners are in Pakistan’s prisons.
- India has 97 Pakistani fishermen and 265 civilian prisoners in its jails.
- In more friendly or less antagonistic(opposition) circumstances, they would have been released after a formal procedure to check that they were really fishermen and not spies.
- But, in these times of suspicion, the value of their lives lies depends on the bilateral relations.
- Consequently, their families suffer. On average, these men would have spent one-and-a-half years in prisons.
- Uncertainty hangs over them, given that in their prison cells, they have little knowledge of when they will be released and repatriated(send back).
THE 2008 PROPOSAL:
- This is not a new problem; it has dragged on for years together, without a resolution in sight.
- To address this issue, in 2008, India and Pakistan had formed a judicial committee consisting of four retired judges from each country.
- The committee used to visit prisons of the other country specifically to meet the prisoners, examine consular access, status of their cases, delay in release and repatriation, their health condition, and so on.
- It unanimously suggested release and repatriation of fishermen and a few women prisoners.
- The governments of both countries praised their work but did not implement the recommendations.
- The last meeting was held in October 2013. Five years later, there was a move to revive the panel.
- India nominated its four members but Pakistan did not. It is yet to take a step in that direction.
- Islamabad must do so urgently and call a meeting, given that the last meeting was held in India.
RETURNING THEIR BOATS:
- Further, when fishermen are arrested, their boats are also confiscated(captured).
- Their release means little till they get back possession of their boats from the other country.
- Both the countries should release those boats which can sail with some repair work.
- It is also time that the two countries now consider adopting a ‘no-arrest policy’ in the case of fishermen.
- In the coastal villages of both the countries, when men are imprisoned in the other country, women bear the brunt(suffer) of the load, while somehow holding their families together.
- The pain is the same on both sides of the border. There are many examples across villages where the children of the arrested fishermen have lost their childhoods.
- As the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc in both countries, there are growing concerns for the health of the arrested fishermen among their families.
- There is hardly any communication between the two except for some stray letters which are delayed.
- The families have no definite way to know that their loved ones are safe from the virus. For the arrested fishermen, it is an issue of survival.
- For India and Pakistan celebrating their Independence Days this month, it should become a humanitarian issue and an appropriate occasion to release and repatriate(send back) fishermen.
- Let the fishermen too have their freedoms back.