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Admin 2020-01-26

26 Jan 2020: The Hindu Editorial Analysis

1) On International Court of Justice ruling: Justice for Rohingya


  • The unanimous ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), on Thursday, on the prevention of alleged acts of genocide against Rohingya Muslims has finally pinned legal responsibility on Myanmar’s government for the military’s large-scale excesses of 2017. 
  • Crucial is the Hague court’s stipulation that the civilian government of Ms. Suu Kyi submit an update, within four months, of the steps it has taken to preserve evidence of the systemic brutalities. 
  • Yangon has also been asked to furnish six-monthly reports thereafter, until the conclusion of the case, which relates to genocide accusations. The court has further emphasised that an estimated 600,000 Rohingya resident in Myanmar still remained highly vulnerable to attacks from the security forces. 
  • The ruling vindicates findings by the UN and human rights groups on the prevalence of hate speech, mass atrocities of rape and extra-judicial killings, and torching of villages in Myanmar’s Rakhine province, leading to the forced migration of thousands to Bangladesh. 
  • The ruling pertains to the Gambia’s suit on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), alleging that the brutalities by the defence services amounted to crimes of genocide under the 1948 Genocide Convention. 
  • Arguing the defence in person during the three-day public hearings last month, Ms. Suu Kyi, who was elected in 2016, insisted that the 2017 violence was proportionate to the threat of insurgency. She even questioned the Gambia’s standing to bring the suit, saying that there was no bilateral dispute.

  • Rejecting the ICJ’s ruling, Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry has accused rights groups of presenting the Court with a distorted picture of the prevailing situation. In a statement, it defended the army’s action as a legitimate response to violations of the law by the insurgent Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. 
  • However, the above claim is at odds with the findings this week of an Independent Commission of Enquiry established by the government. The Commission acknowledged that war crimes had indeed been committed during the military campaign, when about 900 people were killed. 
  • But there was nothing to back the assertions of gang-rape, or evidence to presume any intent of genocide, it held. Although it could take years before the court pronounces the final verdict in the genocide case, Thursday’s injunction is an important victory for the refugees languishing in Bangladeshi camps. 
  • It empowers the UN Security Council to prevail upon Myanmar to take appropriate measures for the rehabilitation and repatriation of displaced communities. As the biggest regional player, China could play a constructive role to ensure a speedy return to normalcy in its neighbourhood. 
  • India has its own interests in an amicable resolution of Myanmar’s internal dispute. Above all, finding closure to the current dispute would mark the completion of Myanmar’s return to civilian rule. The ICJ’s ruling on military excesses in Myanmar holds hope for Rohingya refugees.

 

2) It’s not yet Howdy, Modi!


  • U.S. President Donald Trump completed three years in office amid the chaos this week of an impeachment trial, initiated by the Democrats. If he goes on to win a second term in November as it now appears, Mr. Trump will have had six overlapping years with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in power by 2024. 
  • Persistent in their efforts to remake their countries and their engagement with the world, Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump are shaking up the bilateral ties between the two countries, and the resultant flux could outlive their tenures.
  •  Propelled by comparable motivations, Trump and Narendra Modi are still exploring a new equilibrium in India-U.S. ties. Mr. Trump is scheduled to make this first visit to India next month.
  • As leading a ‘reawakening’: Both leaders continuously reiterate that their predecessors were incapable of protecting national interest. Such a premise commits them both to reframe the national interest, and both have articulated it with clarity and force. 
  • For instance, Mr. Modi, in Houston in September 2019 and Mr. Trump in Davos this week, went great lengths to lay out figures that presented their respective regimes as the most effective guardians, and ushers of progress, of India and America in history.
  • Both have a cultural and an economic agenda. Both dispensations believe that “the people” had been given a raw deal by earlier regimes, controlled by the elites and the experts who were in collusion with their global counterparts. 
  • They are now leading a national reawakening, and working hard for the hard-working people, they point out. Both believe that cultural nationalism is a force for the good; and both believe that Islamism is a major challenge to the nation. 
  • Though it is transnational, Islamism has collaborators and facilitators within the borders, as per their shared world view. Both believe that national borders need to be strengthened by stricter monitoring and setting new bars for entry. 
  • “JOBS, JOBS JOBS” as Mr. Trump tweets frequently in all capital letters, has been the loudest promise of both of them. Both leaders try to renegotiate the contract between the union and the States, and between citizens and the state within their respective countries; they assert the supremacy of the executive over the legislature and the judiciary. 
  • Both have a grim view of critical and independent media. Despite his success in installing a legion of conservative judges, Mr. Trump has not gotten much far with his project of remaking America; for instance, the U.S. Supreme Court stalled a move to insert a question on citizenship in the census. 
  • Mr. Modi has been undoubtedly successful in warding off any meaningful scrutiny by the judiciary, and in subordinating Parliament. Categorical that the nation could not assert its rightful place in the world until they came to power under inept predecessors. 
  • They are trying to rework the terms of engagement of their respective countries with the world. The notion of shared values of India and the U.S. has acquired a whole new meaning under Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi.
  • True to their politics: Supporters of stronger U.S.-India ties had thought the nationalist politics of these two leaders would have a limited impact on bilateral ties that have autonomous drivers of convergence. 
  • But both leaders have been remarkably true to their politics in their governance. Mr. Trump has forced significant turns in the American approach to the world, blunting resistance from the security and corporate establishment. 
  • While Mr. Modi commanded the wholehearted support of the Indian military and security establishment for his disruptive security and strategic steps at home and abroad, though corporate India protests under its breath. 
  • Shared values notwithstanding, national interests as perceived by these leaders have several points of divergence and therein lies in the current tumult in India-U.S. ties. While Mr. Trump has been outspokenly confrontational with the “world order” that he says has worked against American interests, Mr. Modi swings between calling for adherence to order and chipping away at it. 
  • America under Mr. Trump has wrecked treaties such as the Paris climate agreement and institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the United Nations, making a mockery of “rule based order”.
  • India under Mr. Modi continues to push for more space for itself in global affairs by seeking a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. There has also been the cancellation of several bilateral investment treaties, based on the understanding that they were negotiated on a weak footing. 
  • India’s approach of cautiously challenging the world order predates Mr. Modi, as seen in its nuclear ambitions, but the current regime has been audacious, pre-emptive military action in a foreign country being the most instructive.
  • Under Mr. Trump, America expanded the principle of pre-emptive strike to include the assassination of a senior official of Iran. Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi tried to renegotiate the neighbourhood policy of America and India, respectively. 
  • After dismantling the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mr. Trump forced Mexico and Canada to accede to his demands in a new trade deal. Mr. Modi’s spirited outreach in the neighbourhood is still playing out, as it has touched raw nerves in small countries always wary of a domineering India. 
  • India’s historically warm ties with Bangladesh have been frayed. While Mr. Trump does not care about its forward posturing, India also cannot expect any American support in realising its ambitions of reordering the global power structure in its favour.
  • China and Pakistan: India’s ties with the U.S. are impacted by America’s ties with India’s adversaries and neighbours, China and Pakistan. Mr. Trump’s bluster against both had lit hope that there would finally be a near-complete alignment between India and the U.S. on strategy. 
  • Mr. Modi asked his audience in Houston which included President Mr. Trump: “Whether it is 9/11 in America or 26/11 in Mumbai, where were the conspirators found?” But there is no guarantee that cultural politics can align them.
  • Despite his avowed opposition to America’s endless wars in West Asia, the cultural warrior in Mr. Trump has been tricked bythe country’s military establishment into going against Iran headlong, which is not in India’s interest. 
  • Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi share strong bonding with the Gulf Cooperation Council kings, but their courses in the region are diverging. The American President’s impatience to get out of Afghanistan before the polling day had already pushed his administration closer to Pakistan, which is now further necessitated by his adventurist Iran policy.
  • As he appears to be lurching into fresh conflicts in the region, Pakistani generals are back in demand. While professional strategists have continued to read from the checklist on China in the last three years, Mr. Trump has been singularly focused on one question - trade. 
  • He cares little about China’s expansionism and at any rate that is not a factor in his ties with other Asian countries. He forced new trade deals on Japan and South Korea, and continues to look for a grand deal with China itself.
  • Points of fission: Far from seeing India as deserving special concessions to counterbalance China as old wisdom demanded, Mr. Trump has bracketed India and China as two countries that have duped his predecessors to gain undue advantage. He has accused both countries, in the same tweet, of raising trade barriers, having weak intellectual property protections, and stealing American jobs. 
  • He finds little value in Mr. Modi’s climate policy. And he has followed it up with restrictions on H-1B visa, ending of India’s status under the World Trade Organization’s Generalized System of Preferences and other punitive actions. 
  • This has been matched by India’s own protectionist measures, in response to American actions and independent of it. By increasing hydrocarbon imports from the U.S., the Modi government is trying to reduce India’s trade surplus. Meanwhile, the intemperate mobilisation of Indian diaspora in America by the government has resulted in the inevitable blowback. 
  • The diaspora has been divided, and the bipartisan support for India is now squandered. Progressive sections on the Democratic side and religious libertarians and evangelicals on the Trump side are both concerned about India’s majoritarian turn. Nobody can shun India; but nobody celebrates India either.
  • A robust economy has allowed Mr. Trump the political space to temper his polarising rhetoric while Mr. Modi has had to double down on his, amid a sluggish economy. Partnership with America is critical to Mr. Modi’s plans for India, but the inverse is not true for Mr. Trump. The U.S. President’s India visit scheduled for next month will be part of an ongoing exploration of a new equilibrium in ties.


3)  Becoming Like Pakistan


  • CONTEXT: India should realise that trade and opening borders can address Kashmir dispute
     
  • BODY: What happened in the Valley was hair-raising enough to shock the world and drag Pakistan back into its national position of challenging India.
  • Pakistan was supposed to become like India if it wanted to survive. India’s former foreign affairs minister, Yashwant Sinha, used to point out that while India had fought a war with China in 1962 and still had territorial disputes with it, China was India’s largest trading partner. 
  • Today, Sinha is not a part of the BJP. And, instead of Pakistan following India, India is becoming like Pakistan.
     
  • PAKISTAN'S REFUSAL: Pakistan refuses to budge from its revisionist track. It keeps on fighting sub-nuclear wars with India and hurting its economy. It has disputes with India, but so has Bangladesh. But Bangladesh doesn’t challenge its bigger neighbour like Pakistan.

 

  • Look at the figures: Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves stood at $15 billion in October 2019, while Bangladesh’s reserves were $32.93 billion in 2018. Bangladesh’s economy is expected to grow at 7.2 per cent in 2019, and around 6.8 per cent in 2020. 
  • Pakistan is in the IMF’s oxygen tent for the coming years given its indebtedness.
     
  • INCREASING DEFENCE BUDGET: Despite being in the US’s anti-China camp, bilateral trade between India and China is set to cross $100 billion in 2019. 
  • Pakistan didn’t listen to Sinha - today India too doesn’t — and its defence budget is 3.6 per cent of its GDP. 
  • But according to the World Bank figures for 1988 to 2003, Pakistan’s military expenditure represented 25-29 per cent of the Central government expenditure, and 6-7 per cent of its gross national income. 
  • On the other hand, India’s defence budget is 1.6 per cent of GDP, while Bangladesh’s is 1.4 per cent.
     
  • PAKISTAN DURING 1980's: The “rejected economist” Atif Mian said in The New York Times, “Pakistan’s economy, like the airplane, has crashed 13 times in the last 60 years, each time requiring an IMF bailout. 
  • It wasn’t always so. During the 1980s, in per capita terms, Pakistan was richer than India, China and Bangladesh by 15, 38 and 46 per cent. Today Pakistan is the poorest.”
  • In 1948, Pakistan’s trade with India formed 56 per cent of its exports and 32 per cent of imports. In 2018, the bilateral trade between Pakistan and India was merely 2.76 per cent and 0.35 per cent of their global trade. In 2018, Pakistan even banned border trade with India after the latter abrogated Article 370 of its Constitution.
     
  • IMRAN KHAN'S EFFORTS TO REACH HIS COUNTERPART: When Imran Khan became prime minister of Pakistan he called on his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to “normalise” relations because Pakistan wanted to trade rather than fight. 
  • But, Modi was busy getting rid of Article 370 even as Khan got together with his army chief General Bajwa to open the Kartarpur Sahib shrine for Indian visitors.
  • What happened in the Valley was hair-raising enough to shock the world and drag Pakistan back into its national position of challenging India. 
  • Soon, both Khan and Modi faced their own separate challenges on the economy, one going into the IMF tent, the other getting hit from low growth and weakening political strength in states.
     
  • PAKISTAN'S EFFORTS TO ISOLATE INDIA: Khan has failed to get the world to support his plaint about the abrogation of Article 370; not even the so-called Islamic world is willing to stand with him on the Kashmir dispute. 
  • Yet, Pakistan feels less challenged today on the eastern front than on its western boundary.
  •  Once considered Pakistan’s “strategic depth”, Afghanistan has emerged as the most unpredictable counter in Pakistan’s foreign policy game-plan. India is there in Kabul and is close to Iran as well.

 

  • TALIBANS THREAT: Once the Americans leave, the Kabul government will fall, handing it over to the Taliban and their al Qaeda and ISIS soldiers. 
  • They will milk both India and Pakistan, but will endanger Pakistan more with their ideology which blends dangerously with Pakistan’s “weak” territories abutting the Durand Line. 
  • Pakistan, which is planning to hold the next summit of the defunct regional trading bloc SAARC in Islamabad in 2020, must convince India that through trade and opening of borders, the dispute of Kashmir can be laid to rest.