India of 2022 is spectacularly different from the India of 1947. There is one vital element that has remained active, unchanged—democracy. I am 18 years older than Independent India. I remember vividlyMore
Public statements often make history. Some are remembered. Some are forgotten.
At a time when Indian opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi says that his disqualification from Parliament is politically motivated, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has opined that Mr Gandhi has resorted to ‘gimmicks’ for ‘cheap popularity’. Union Minister Anurag Thakur said elected representatives stand disqualified the moment they are convicted by a court and sentenced to jail for two or more years. He also made it clear that the Union government has no role to play in the matter and cannot suspend or revoke the disqualification.
In this regard, a plea has been filed in the Supreme Court by a social activist against the law under which Rahul Gandhi has been disqualified.
In his first press conference after being disqualified from the Lower House of Parliament (Lok Sabha), Rahul Gandhi said that his voice cannot be silenced by this disqualification or by putting him in jail. He added that he will continue to defend what he termed as the democratic voice of the people of India.
Interestingly, as Rahul Gandhi said that he would never say sorry for his remark, let us go back to 8th May 2019, when he tendered an unconditional apology in the Supreme Court for ‘unintentionally and inadvertently’ attributing the “Chowkidar Chor Hai” (The security guard is a thief) jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Earlier in the week, Gandhi was convicted by a court in Surat in the western state of Gujarat in a criminal defamation case.
Though Rahul Gandhi on Saturday thanked the other opposition parties for their support, the state of his Congress Party is in disarray. The Party is planning protests throughout the country against his disqualification, but will it really make a difference in the current political status of the party?
Dismal is the probable answer. It may take some space in the next few days in the newspapers but there are stories and events which are expected to overpower it soon. Though a section of the international press has reported on this issue, but it has not cut much ice among the public inside the country as government’s success stories and impending election stories are far more on the forefront. Though some political pundits argue that the disqualification may result in gains for the Congress party, others argue that it is unlikely.
The Congress had termed it as a ‘black day’ for Indian democracy saying that the battle would be fought both ‘legally and politically’.
Of late, many statements of Rahul Gandhi have caught attention becoming news items.
The ruling BJP says Rahul said that why are all people with Modi surname thieves? The BJP says Gandhi has insulted the backward society. “You have the right to criticise but don’t have the right to insult,” the party thundered.
Earlier, Rahul Gandhi had said in London that democracy is weakening in India and the European countries are not paying attention. This statement of his also drew flak in India.
But for now, the Wayanad constituency seat is vacant, and all eyes are on the Election Commission which will take a call on the date of a by-poll in this district of Kerela.
It is more than seventy years now, since India attained independence from British rule and drafted a well-balanced Constitution, which form the basis for Indian democratic process. Several national and state elections have been conducted and the victorious political party has taken over the governance in a smooth manner. Over the years, there have been building up of great awareness amongst the people about their fundamental rights and freedom of speech. While for an outsider, it may look like a noisy democracy in India, with protests, allegations and counter allegations and even corruption charges being raised and framed and complaints about dynastic political culture being developed with number of political parties coming under the grip of family control, still the ground reality is that democracy as an institution is surviving and thriving.
Of course, in any democratic country, people have the freedom to express their views and involve themselves in public activities which may be different for different people or different groups. In such situation, there is bound to be discussions and controversies about the way forward. The advocates of democracy would say that such conditions are the essence of democracy and noise in a democratic country very well proves that democracy is thriving.
In recent times, there have been allegations in India that central government and some of the state governments are curtailing the freedom of speech, indulging in arbitrary arrests and framing motivated corruption charges.
Of course, at the same time, it is also pointed out that freedom of individuals cannot be absolute in any society and liberty cannot be merely a personal affair and it has to be a social contract. While freedom of speech and action are important, abuse of freedom of speech and action by any individual or group or political party has to be closely monitored by the government and if necessary, restricted to ensure the orderly process of democracy.
Now, with the court verdict going against Rahul Gandhi, who is a Congress party member and his being disqualified from his parliamentary membership as per the prevailing law, the Congress party and several opposition parties have joined together and are accusing the Modi government of taking arbitrary action against Rahul Gandhi and also initiating anti-corruption proceedings and investigation against several members of the opposition parties. These opposition parties have coined a new term “Indian democracy in danger”, as if the process of Indian democracy have collapsed or derailed under the weight of what they call as “dictatorship type of governance by Mr. Modi”.
The question is whether Indian democracy is really in danger or whether such accusations are being made by certain political parties and individuals as a strategy to save themselves from being investigated against by the government. Now, these opposition parties have approached the Supreme Court claiming that investigative agencies are being misused and the court has agreed to hear the case.
One of the promises made by Mr. Modi during the election campaign and repeatedly after , is that he would eradicate corruption in India by appropriate strategies. Several proactive initiatives have been made to promote transparency in governance by introducing digitalization in a massive way to avoid middle men in transactions and so many other similar steps. In the process, it is inevitable that the investigating agencies have to probe any corrupt dealing that it come across and in the process raids and enquiries have to necessarily take place.
It is important to keep in view that punishment for an individual for the corrupt dealings or any objectionable activity are provided by the judiciary and not by the investigating agencies or the government. The criticism of the opposition parties against the so called “arbitrary investigation” is unacceptable, as it virtually means that investigation should not be carried out at all. How can corrupt dealings and objectionable activities be identified and brought to justice without launching investigations?
The other argument by the critics appear to be that only the members of the opposition parties are being targeted and not the members of the ruling parties. In such case, the critics can file case in the court against the corrupt dealing of any ruling party member, which has not been done so far. For example, it is said that Adani group is corrupt and Modi government has favoured Adani group in an unacceptable way. If it is so, what prevent the critics from taking the issue to the court, instead of confining themselves only to media outburst?
In recent time, several members of the opposition parties and critics have used several abusive term against Mr. Modi i and have gone to the extent of calling him as thief and so many other highly derogatory terms. After using such abusive language against the Prime Minister, they have gone scot free. Is it not a proof that democracy thrives in India as even abuse of freedom to malign as important a person as Prime Minister is being tolerated?
Certainly, democracy is not in danger in India. It is as vibrant as democracy in any other country like USA, UK, Canada and so on.
One can even say that there are some aspects, where Indian democracy can even be a role model for other democracies in the world, when we see persons belonging to different political parties who criticize each other still maintain good personal relationships.
To consolidate cross-border energy security, Bangladesh and India scripted another golden chapter in their bilateral ties through the launch of the operation of the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline (IBFP) for diesel supply on March 18.
The operation of the Bangladesh-India Friendship Pipeline will put in place a sustainable, reliable, cost-effective, and environment-friendly mode of transport in High-Speeded Diesel from India to Bangladesh. The project is jointly implemented by the Numaligarh Refinery Ltd of India and Meghna Petroleum Ltd of Bangladesh.
The 131.57 km long pipeline project connects Siliguri, West Bengal, and Parbatipur, Dinajpur. Of the pipeline’s total length, 126.50 km is inside Bangladesh while the remaining 5.07 km is in India. About 1 million metric tons of diesel can be imported from India annually through the pipeline. However, two and a half lakh tons will be imported in the initial phase According to the 15-year agreement, the import volume will increase to 4 to 5 metric tons per year. Bangladesh can be benefitted from this High-Speed Diesel cost-effectively and sustainably.
First of all, the present energy crisis in Bangladesh is partly due to over-dependence on gas which fulfills more than 70 percent of its energy needs. The present gas deficit against the national demand daily is expected to increase further in the future. The crisis will deepen unless a greater share of renewable and no renewable energy is included in the energy mix. So, Bangladesh needs to transition from conventional energy sources to ensure its energy security & long-term sustainability. In this context, cross-border energy cooperation can be a sustainable mode of energy transport which can help Bangladesh to mitigate energy shortage. The diversification of Bangladesh’s energy industry is aided by the import of diesel from India. Bangladesh’s current heavy reliance on natural gas as its main energy source makes it susceptible to changes in price and supply. Diesel’s inclusion in the energy mix gives the nation a more reliable and secure energy supply.
Growth in Agricultural Sector
One of the main conditions for development is uninterrupted power and energy supply. The operationalization of the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline will enhance ongoing energy cooperation between the two countries and will further grow in Bangladesh, particularly in the agriculture sector. As the demand for diesel is highest in 16 districts of the northern region during Aman and Boro season, the government decided to import this fuel through the pipeline. If the project is implemented, diesel can reach the consumer level in 16 districts of the Rangpur and Rajshahi divisions in a short time. As a result, it will be able to provide it to the farmers at a low cost in a short period besides saving a huge amount of money. Not only that, this pipeline will open new employment opportunities for both countries.
Cost and Time Effective
India-Bangladesh diesel trade had been ongoing since 2017 carried by train. The cost of transportation was a huge sum of amount for Bangladesh Petroleum Company. About 2,200 tonnes of diesel is sent from Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) through West Bengal Railway every month. Moreover, according to BPC, it has to pay an average premium of $11.50 per barrel (159 liters) for bringing fuel oil (including freight). It can be eight dollars if imported through this pipeline. A reduction of 5.5$ per barrel can save about 9.75 million dollars per 100,000 tons. People of 16 districts of the northern region will be able to enjoy this benefit in addition to taking less time in fuel supply.
Reduce System Loss and Carbon Footprint
This pipeline will be a milestone in providing quick and uninterrupted fuel supply to the northern region of the country in a cost-effective manner. Apart from uninterrupted, cheaper, and quicker energy supply security, the cross-border pipeline is expected to help BPC reduce the system loss that it incurs in the form of pilferage. Because no one can be able to reach the underground pipeline to commit petty theft.
The automatic and computerized process will reduce the system loss drastically. The Fellowship Receipt Terminal will be the country’s first modern automatic and computerized system. If something is done in the pipeline on the way or otherwise, the place of automaticity can be identified immediately.
Not only that, the supply of diesel through the pipeline would reduce the system loos and as the pipeline is situated underground, it will also reduce the carbon footprint of the supply.
Enhanced Energy Cooperation
Through this pipeline, an alternative source of diesel import is being created for Bangladesh. In addition to reducing the cost, it has created a big ring for fuel security. At least 40,000 liters of fuel have been stored at the terminal and depot for two months. According to Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation, Bangladesh imports 6.5 million tons of fuel oil annually. Of that, 4 million tons of diesel is imported annually. Through this pipeline, almost fifty percent of imported fuel will come to this country by reducing the significant amount of transportation costs.
Future Prospects of the Pipeline Energy Cooperation
This successful operation of this pipeline might bring new pipeline opportunities for Bangladesh. India also wants to use pipelines to secure the energy security of its northeastern states. India in its bid to save time and cost of transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to the North Eastern states, wants to set up facilities along the Bangladesh coast. The IOCL has proposed to build an LPG bottling plant in a joint venture with BPC and LNG terminal in another joint venture with state-run Petrobangla imported LNG, after re-gasification, will be supplied to the North Eastern states using Bangladeshi pipelines, while the imported LPG will be bottled in the neighboring country and also be supplied there.
The pipeline project has been successfully implemented because of the true friendship between India and Bangladesh. Enhanced energy cooperation through bilateral and multilateral arrangements can address the challenges posed by high fuel prices in the wake of Russia Ukraine war. And India Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline is a striking example of bilateral energy cooperation. Once diesel starts to arrive in Bangladesh, it will usher a new dimension to the energy cooperation between India and Bangladesh.
New Delhi : Despite diplomatic differences in the G20 Foreign Ministers summit, India has been able to prove that it has been able to make the countries achieve consensus on many issues including climate change, food, fuel and energy security, etc. Keeping in mind the arising differences between countries on many issues including the Ukraine war, India has certainly proved that it not only deserves the Chair it holds, but also holds a coveted position in the current scenario of global diplomacy.
The consensus India hammered out in the last G-20 meet in Bali, Indonesia, had emerged as a challenge for it in its own backyard. But under the great stewardship of India’s Foreign Minister, Mr S Jaishankar, India has played its part diplomatically very well, even while walking a tightrope.
The on-going Ukraine war has created a sharp divide between the West and Russia-China. What precipitated it was NATO’s hardening stance against Russia and at the same time, Russia, with its historic ties with India, would like to expect Delhi to be a coveted strategic partner. Remember, India and China abstained from the UN General Assembly resolution regarding the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
India has reminded the G20 countries through the mantra of its Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, that “today’s era must not be of war”.
While the Russian Foreign Minister, Mr Sergey Lavrov, put the blame on West, saying “unfortunately the joint declaration was not adopted because of the rhetoric of the West”, The US Secretary of State, Mr Anthony Blinken, referred to Russia and China as “outliers”. However, Mr Blinken did agree with the Indian Foreign Minister that 95 percent issues have got consensus.
India will have to keenly watch out for the Sino-Russian closeness and chart out a future course of partnership with Moscow. The growing diplomatic battlelines between China and the US, is a test for India, which Indian diplomats think, will not dilute its bilateral relations with Russia or the US.
In fact, on the other hand, it is a brilliant opportunity for India to showcase its soft-power projection in other geographies. Do not forget, the Quad foreign ministers conference hosted by India close on the heels of the G20 summit.
India’s Prime Minister, Mr Modi, will want to pull off a formula to solve the Ukraine issue with several world leaders urging India to play the role. It may well see the day when Ayurveda settles the issue between allopathy and homeopathy! Hectic diplomatic parleys have already established India’s stupendous growth on the global high table. But the September 2023 G-20 meeting is still a long way to go. Experts think India will be walking the tightest tightrope then, but foreign policy history has proved time and again, that issues and parleys change in hours and days.
India may win the T20 by a comfortable margin in the G20.
From a Sri Lankan viewpoint, the finance ministers of the G20 countries, did discuss the challenges faced by the global economy and recognised the “urgency to address debt vulnerabilities” and “look (ed) forward to a swift resolution to Sri Lanka’s debt situation”. Despite media reports that no concrete commitments were made, it is better not to jump the gun. Policy is laid on a certain day and action taken on another day, and they are fine if they are in time.
India’s Finance Minister, Ms Nirmala Sitharaman, had said that a common position for ‘debt language’ had been arrived at. Sri Lanka, Ghana, Zambia and Ethiopia would benefit from the discussions. “..Further, we look forward to a swift resolution to Sri Lanka’s debt situation,” she has said late last month.
It is a time now to set realistic expectations during India’s G20 Presidency. Experts say it is just a matter of time before G20 will offer innovative solutions to many problems pressing the world over before critics continue to question its relevance.
Even now, during the geo-political fragmentation and diplomatic hurdles in the backdrop of a pandemic, the ray of hope is still alive. It is expected that the message of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (One Earth, One Family, One Future), will truly resonate.
India will begin exporting diesel to neighbouring Bangladesh through a pipeline this month after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina inaugurate the cross-border oil pipeline on 18 March.
“Good news is India will send us diesel, the (oil) pipeline has been completed. The two premiers will inaugurate the pipeline on 18 March,” Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said.
The India-Bangladesh cross-border pipeline will be inaugurated by the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and India virtually.
India-Bangladesh friendship pipeline
Till now, Bangladesh used to import diesel from India through railway carriages. The announcement of India-Bangladesh friendship pipeline (IBFPL) launch by Momen came a week after he held talks with Indian counterpart, India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting last week in New Delhi.
India-Bangladesh oil pipeline
India would export diesel to Bangladesh through the 130-km pipeline.
The India-Bangladesh oil pipeline has been constructed at a cost of Rs 3.46 billion and has been drawn from the Indian line of credit (LoC).
The pipeline stretched 125-kilometre inside Bangladesh territory and 5-kilometre inside India.
The cross-border pipeline will carry fuel from Assam-based Numaligarh Refinery Ltd’s (NRL) marketing terminal at Siliguri in eastern Indian state of West Bengal to the Parbatipur depot of Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC).
The mechanical works of the project was completed on 12 December last year. The ground breaking ceremony for IBFPL was held in September 2018 in the presence of PM Modi and PM Hasina through video conferencing.
During his meeting with Hasina in 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had agreed to finance the cross-border pipeline with a capacity of one million metric tonne per annum (MMTPA)..
The project once completed will solve the problem that 100,000-ton tankers cannot dock at Chittagong Port, Bangladesh, and must rely on maritime ships to transport crude oil.
The pipeline with India will cut transportation cost of fuel oil for Bangladesh by 50 percent, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid has said. State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid on Friday said the Bangladesh-India Friendship Pipeline will effectively contribute to the country’s energy security.
“It [the pipeline] will be a milestone in providing quick and uninterrupted fuel supply to the northern region of the country in a cost-effective manner,”
During a visit to the receipt terminal at Parbatipur in Dinajpur on Friday, Nasrul described the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline as groundbreaking in Bangladesh’s energy history. “It will ensure energy security and low-cost fuel.”
In the near future, Bangladesh needs to transition from conventional energy sources to ensure its energy security and long-term sustainability. Following the Ukraine crisis, energy security has become a major concern for developing and least-developed countries. In this context, cross-border energy cooperation and revitalising the idea of the power corridor could perhaps help Bangladesh to mitigate its energy crisis.
Friendly and warm relations between Bangladesh and India since the birth of Bangladesh in 1971. In any time of crisis, India and Bangladesh have got each other’s side just like a close mother. Be it the current corona epidemic, or the liberation war of 1971. However, the whole world is currently in a turmoil due to the post-pandemic wartime global crisis. Along with the political and economic crisis, the energy crisis has also intensified. Bangladesh is also in the grip of this crisis. To solve this global energy crisis, Bangladesh government has decided to reduce energy consumption. Importing fuel oil at an affordable price was very important for Bangladesh to reduce this cost. Although talks were started with countries like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Brunei about the import of fuel oil, Bangladesh’s neighboring friendly country India was the first to come forward to supply fuel.
The initiation of multi-dimensional avenues of cooperation with Bangladesh is only possible because of its geographical proximity to India. A prime example of this is the import of diesel from India through pipelines. These imports will ensure maximum utilization of Bangladesh’s geographical proximity to India. Diesel will arrive in the pipeline from India in June this year. Once this diesel starts coming in, it will be profitable for both Bangladesh and India. In this diesel trade, both countries will benefit economically and Bangladesh will be able to face its energy crisis more firmly. India will also benefit from it. India will earn revenue through this diesel export. India has already expressed a positive attitude towards increasing cooperation with Bangladesh. Not only that, recently Bangladesh-India has signed several agreements and memorandum of understanding to increase bilateral trade and investment.
Bangladesh-India diesel trade
Since 2017, India-Bangladesh diesel trade has been going on through railways. About 2,200 tonnes of diesel is sent from Numaligarh Refinery Limited through West Bengal Railway every month. This transportation cost was very expensive for Bangladesh Petroleum Company. When this pipeline is operational, the supply of fuel in the country will increase significantly and the cost of transporting fuel by rail will be reduced. As the demand for diesel is highest in 16 districts of northern region during Aman and Boro season, the government decided to import this fuel through pipeline. If the project is implemented, diesel will reach consumer level in 16 districts of Rangpur and Rajshahi divisions within a short period of time. As a result, besides saving a huge amount of money, it will be able to provide it to the farmers at a low cost in a short period of time. This export of India will not only strengthen Bangladesh’s economic relationship with India but also strengthen the bond of friendship during energy crisis as well as dollar crisis. Apart from ensuring uninterrupted, cheap and fast fuel supply, the cross-border pipeline is also expected to help reduce system losses through petty pilferage due to rail transport.
India-Bangladesh Partnership Pipeline Agreement
An agreement was signed between the two countries in November 2018 to implement the India-Bangladesh Partnership Pipeline Agreement project. The work of this project started in March 2020. whose term was till June 2022; But the project has been extended till July 2023 as the pace of work has slowed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now the construction of this Bangladesh-India friendship pipeline is almost at the final stage. The 131.57 km long pipeline project connects Siliguri and Parvatipur, Dinajpur in West Bengal. Out of the total length of the pipeline, 126.50 km is inside Bangladesh and the remaining 5.07 km is in India. Out of the construction cost of Tk 520 crore, Government of India is contributing Tk 303 crore and BPC is paying the remaining Tk 217 crore. About 1 million metric tons of diesel can be imported from India annually through this pipeline. However, in the initial phase, two and a half lakh tons will be imported. According to the 15-year agreement, the import volume will increase by 4 to 5 MT annually.
Light of hope in times of crisis?
When Bangladesh along with the rest of the world is troubled by the energy crisis, this diesel business is showing a kind of light of hope. An alternative source of diesel import is being created for Bangladesh through this pipeline. According to Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation data, Bangladesh imports 6.5 million tons of fuel oil annually. Among these imported fuels, 4 million tons of diesel are imported annually. About fifty percent of the imported fuel will come to this country by reducing the significant amount of transportation cost through this pipeline.
Moreover, according to Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation data, currently the average premium cost per barrel (159 litres) of fuel oil (including freight) is $10. If this fuel is imported from India, it costs eight dollars. A reduction of two dollars per barrel can save about $1.5 million per 100,000 tons. Apart from taking less time for fuel supply, the people of 16 districts of the northern region will be able to enjoy this benefit. So, importing from India will also save foreign exchange. Now if it is possible to import in rupees instead of dollars, our dollar crisis will be reduced to some extent. Later, if India gives some price concession to Bangladesh, Bangladesh may benefit more.
Exporter India on the other hand can earn foreign currency inflows from its export earnings and invest it in other sectors to benefit economically. Even if India exports refined oil to Bangladesh at cheaper prices, it will bring overall economic benefits to both countries. India and Bangladesh through bilateral and multilateral energy cooperation can address the global problem of high energy prices in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war. When diesel starts coming in, the India-Bangladesh alliance pipeline, if properly managed, could be a prime example of bilateral energy cooperation. Not only this, it will usher in a new dimension in energy cooperation between India and Bangladesh.
The last world war brought the world to the brink of destruction. At that time, the world leadership of the time came forward to return to the path of peace. Today, that responsibility has fallen on world leaders. Everyone has to play an active role in making the world peaceful, prosperous and safe. This is what is needed most at the moment. Due to the conflict in Ukraine, climate change and the global crisis of the Covid pandemic, supply systems around the world are on the brink of collapse. There are shortages of daily necessities around the world. All around moaning. The plight of the poor in every country is dire. Especially poor countries are under threat. Daily life has become difficult for them. Undoubtedly, multilateral institutions like the United Nations have failed to deal with this crisis.
All have failed in the necessary reforms. Because of that, the expectations of the world’s people towards the G20 leadership have increased. In the last conference, Indonesian President Joko Yudodo called for unity and said, we have no other way. Saving the world requires cooperation. The G20 should act as a catalyst for economic recovery. It is not right to divide the world into different parts. We cannot walk down the path of being embroiled in another “age war”. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, that everyone should find a way to end the war in Ukraine. That responsibility is on everyone today. This is not a time for war. Everyone should try to find ways to get back on the diplomatic track. Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine on February 24, 2022 against the US-led imperialist war alliance NATO’s continued expansion into Eastern Europe and Ukraine’s complicity in that plot. And this is where the global recession began.
Developed Western countries including America, Britain, Germany, France have been helping Ukraine with weapons, technology and other necessary aspects since the beginning. According to Russia, the goal of the imperialist camp was to put Ukraine on the path to conflict and seize Russia’s vast natural resources. Just like in the past, the Americans recklessly attacked Arab countries like Iraq and Libya. During the discussion at the UN, India’s representative also pointed out the limitations of the proposal. He said, the proposal is not compatible with New Delhi’s desired solution to end the war that has been going on for more than a year and for a far-reaching peace. In fact, Russia also knows that occupying Ukraine is no longer possible. And anti-Russian Western countries also need to understand that overthrowing Putin is not so simple. If Putin is cornered, the whole world, including Ukraine, may become more miserable in the future. China is on Putin’s side. This relationship between the President of China and Putin is not a personal matter. It should be seen from the perspective of international politics. Now in this situation the G-20 conference was held in India. In the first week of March, the meeting of the foreign ministers of the G20 member countries was held. Bangladesh also got special importance there as a special invited country. The main reason for Bangladesh’s importance is its geo-strategic position. At the same time, financial and social progress of Bangladesh in this subcontinent and good relations with India. The heads of state of the Western countries, including US President Joe Biden, who have visited Kiev, now have only one goal to provide more weapons to Ukraine.
Even European countries like Switzerland and Sweden, which were the pioneers of the peace process, have now joined the ranks of these arms suppliers. There is no disagreement that what Russia is doing under the leadership of Vladimir Putin is wrong. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Putin and publicly urged him to stop the war. He did not support this war. But does continuing to arm Ukraine and fuel the conflict bear a message of peace? A year has passed since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The destruction still continues. The damage is only increasing every moment. This Russian attack is not only destroying Ukraine’s economy, but also damaging the world’s prospects for recovery in the post-Covid era.
Protracted war can take dire shape at any moment. It is necessary for all countries to take initiative to stop the war immediately. But do we see that initiative as much as it needs? Meanwhile, India did not vote again on the resolution brought to the United Nations regarding the Russia-Ukraine war. Out of the 193 member states of the General Assembly, 141 countries voted in favor of the resolution. Seven countries voted against. And a total of 32 countries including India, China, Bangladesh abstained from voting. Now abstaining from this vote does not mean that India and Bangladesh are supporting this Russian aggression. Whatever India is doing in terms of its foreign policy, it is doing it in dialogue with Bangladesh, in consultation with Bangladesh. In this regard, the anti-war foreign policy of India and Bangladesh seems to be quite compatible.
Another recent sign of this diplomacy is that the nuclear power equipment of Bangladesh, which has been delayed for a long time, was not arriving in Bangladesh, which was supposed to come to Bangladesh from Russia and was stopped midway, in opposition to NATO, openly opposed by the United States. Now it appears that it is reaching Bangladesh. And reaching through India. That is, India is also doing a diplomatic mission in this regard and India has made arrangements to deliver the equipment due to Bangladesh. Therefore, equipment for Rooppur nuclear power plant is coming from Russia via India. As previously discussed, it was later stalled for some time due to US pressure. But India managed to uncomplicate it through diplomatic missions. As a result, the relationship between India and Bangladesh is getting stronger. This situation has further progressed at the G-20 summit in Delhi. Recently National Security Advisor Ajit Doval went to Russia. He met with Putin and Russian representatives. The most important fact is that despite being Russia’s friend, China has also taken a new initiative to stop this war. China has started a mission in this regard. China’s statement is that this time Russia should also follow the path of peace. A discussion should be started, so that different states go on the path of discussion like this. Why is China taking this initiative? This is because China also understands that if this war is not allowed to stop, the situation will worsen. The situation of China’s terrible conflict with America will become more complicated. And anyway, China is not ready for any war. Not for World War III. Narendra Modi has also started a track two dialogue with China. The discussion also suggested that Russia should stop the war in Ukraine and that Russia should not be targeted again by Ukraine. Modi has also created an environment for talks with China’s Xi Jinping to build that understanding with the western countries as well. There is a possibility that this peace message will be created around the summit of G-20.
Discussions have even started in India’s diplomatic circles about the solution formula to stop the Modi-Xi Jinping war. However, the G20 is the forum of the world’s major developed and developing economies. The forum is a platform for discussion on various global issues such as global economy as well as climate change mitigation and sustainable development. G20 countries control about 85 percent of global GDP. Members of this group also control more than 75 percent of global trade. Besides, this alliance is also full of human resources. About two-thirds of the world’s total population are members of this group. The Group of Twenty or G-20 was formed in 1999 in the wake of the global economic crisis. It was basically a meeting of finance ministers of various states and central bank governors. The aim of the meeting was to formulate effective policies to solve the global economic and financial crisis. At present, the summits of this forum are attended by the heads of state, finance ministers, foreign ministers and senior government officials of each member country. Therefore, there has been a lot of discussion in this conference to establish world peace. Russia-Ukraine war, Sino-US tensions, rising inflation, threat of recession in global economy, nuclear threat from North Korea and the most alarming thing is rising global temperature.
But the G-20 alliance must play an influential role in ending the war. The next generation cannot be pushed into another Cold War. A 16-page conference resolution said most members strongly condemned the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia. It also states that the war is causing immense human suffering and putting a strain on the global economy. Keeping these considerations in mind, all the leaders coming to the G-20 conference this year will be active in solving the crisis through discussion instead of war – this is the expectation of the people of the world.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang met with Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar here on Thursday, with both sides vowing to improve bilateral ties.
The duo held the meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held from Wednesday to Thursday.
Qin said during the meeting that as neighboring countries and major emerging economies, China and India have far more common interests than differences.
The development and revitalization of China and India display the strength of developing countries, which will change the future of one-third of the world’s population, the future of Asia and even the whole world, Qin noted.
The two sides, said Qin, should view their bilateral relations in the context of the once-in-a-century changes in the world, understand bilateral cooperation from the perspective of their respective national rejuvenation, and be partners on the path to modernization.
He said the two sides should implement the important consensus of the leaders of the two countries, maintain dialogue and properly resolve disputes, and promote the improvement of bilateral relations and the steady moving forward of the relations.
The boundary issue should be put in the proper place in bilateral relations, Qin said, adding that the situation on the borders should be brought under normalized management as soon as possible.
China is willing to speed up the resumption of exchanges and cooperation with India in various fields, resume direct flights at the earliest date and facilitate people-to-people exchanges, said the Chinese foreign minister.
He said China and India have shared interests in many areas including safeguarding the rights and interests of developing countries, promoting South-South cooperation, and addressing global challenges such as climate change.
China supports the Indian side in fulfilling its presidency of the G20 and is ready to strengthen communication and cooperation to safeguard the common interests of developing countries and international equity and justice, so as to inject stability and positive energy into the world, Qin said.
Jaishankar said for his part that India and China are both great ancient civilizations and important partners of each other. Thus the two countries have and can continue to achieve positive results in areas such as economic and trade cooperation and people-to-people exchanges.
The Indian side, Jaishankar said, agrees that bilateral relations should be understood and improved from a historical perspective and strategic height, and more cooperation platforms should be established to promote India-China relations along the right track.
Jaishankar said the current situation on the borders is gradually stabilizing, and both sides should work together to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas.
He expressed gratitude for China’s support for India’s presidency of the G20, and willingness to maintain communication and coordination in multilateral affairs.
India’s aviation industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two-and-a-half decades, as air travel has come within the reach of the middle class, which till early 2000s was considered a luxury exclusiveness only to the rich and upper class.
Over the years, air travel has become accessible to those with an annual income bracket of roughly 8,536-14,500 U.S. dollars, i.e. the middle class, and even the next strata of Indian society down the line, the lower-middle class.
Most people belonging to the middle class are government employees who have begun opting for air-travel for family vacations while availing the Leave Travel Concession (LTC) offered by the government. Besides, practitioners in lucrative industries such as Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunications are increasingly taking to air travel instead of the traditional road or rail transport means.
This ever-expanding strata of Indians, who all the more choose flights for domestic travel, has given impetus to the consistent growth of civil aviation in the country.
According to the Indian government’s data, domestic air traffic has more than doubled from around 61 million passengers in the 2013-14 financial year to around 137 million in 2019-20. International passenger traffic has jumped from 47 million in 2013-14 to around 67 million in 2019-20 with an annual growth of over 6 percent.
The number of daily domestic air passengers in India was 398,579 during pre-COVID-19 years. Whereas this year, nearly 445,000 people boarded flights on Feb. 19, the maximum number ever, said Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia.
The phenomenal growth is also driven by factors including the explosive growth in IT sector accompanied with high incomes, constantly decreasing gap between train tickets and air fares for long distances, significant rise in incomes of the salaried class (particularly of government employees by way of regular pay commissions), the West’s attraction towards the Indian civil aviation market, and a forward-looking civil aviation policy laid out by the Indian government, according to aviation experts.
In terms of civil aviation infrastructure, India has witnessed a marked improvement since the early 2000s, particularly over the past decade. The number of airports in the South Asian country has doubled to more than 140 in the past eight years, with Karnataka state’s newest Shivamogga Airport just inaugurated on Feb. 27.
As per an estimate, India is currently the 7th largest civil aviation market in the world, and is expected to become the third-largest civil aviation market within the next decade.
Renowned civil aviation expert Harsh Vardhan told Xinhua that the robust growth of the Indian economy due to liberalisation and privatisation policies shows there is a greater scope for growth in civil aviation in the coming years, as the number of aircraft and flyers per day of India still lags behind the developed nations.
Indians’ income growth over the years entails a shift in their work culture and traveling habits, encouraging them to fly instead of having prolonged travel by train or road. Meanwhile, with the cut-throat competition among the private airlines leading to low-cost flying, the paying-capacity of Indians has risen manifolds, which left a positive cumulative effect leading to an immense growth of the Indian civil aviation, said Vardhan.
Talking about the recent orders placed with Boeing and Airbus by Air India for 840 new aircraft, he said, “With the healthy competition in the aviation market up there, we can surely expect such big orders from other private airlines too. No doubt India’s civil aviation industry is destined to grow at a faster pace in the years ahead.”
The National Civil Aviation Policy 2016 aims to create an ecosystem to make flying affordable for the masses and witness 300 million domestic ticketing by 2022 and 500 million by 2027, and enable international ticketing to rise to 200 million by 2027. Similarly, cargo volumes should increase to 10 million tonnes by 2027.
It also aims to provide safe, secure, affordable and sustainable air travel for passengers and air transportation of cargo with access to various parts of India and the world. Besides, it plans to establish an integrated ecosystem which will lead to an significant growth of the civil aviation, which in turn will promote tourism, increase employment and lead to a balanced regional growth.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently allocated 31 billion Indian rupees (around 376 million U.S. dollars) for the civil aviation ministry in the Union Budget for the 2023-24 financial year (April 2023 – March 2024). “Fifty additional airports, heliports, water aerodromes and advance landing grounds will be revived for improving regional air connectivity,” the minister said in her Budget speech earlier this month.
Wandering through Australia, I’m discovering that our own great Sikhs came in shiploads during the 19th century to fight under Australian officers in World War I. The Brits brought camels from India with Sikh cameleers whom the Australians mistook as Afghans. More Sikhs arrived to set up a base between Brisbane and Sydney establishing banana plantations. Surprisingly they haven’t reached the moon yet.
Fast forward to 1998 to India’s nuclear tests. Australia then was so paranoid about nuclear proliferation that the Sikh Defence Attaché was asked to leave Australia within 24 hours. In a surprising turn of policy two years ago Canberra decided to export uranium to India. On 15 February Defence Secretary, Greg Moriarty announced its ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ nuclear policy. Australia no longer asks strategic bombers whether they are carrying nuclear weapons. US B52 stealth B2 bombers operate from Australian bases to maintain ‘Operation Unpredictability’ dispersing the nuclear triad. The stationing of nuclear weapons in Australia is prohibited under its South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty but the US has traditionally neither confirmed nor denied carriage of nuclear weapons, a policy endorsed by Foreign Minister Penny Wong at a Senate hearing last week where the Greens Senator objected to breach of SPNFZT. Under the highly controversial Australia UK and US (AUKUS) arrangement, Canberra’s nuclear-powered submarine fleet — which canceled the agreement with France to buy its Barracuda design — two already built UK Astute class submarines will be fitted with American subsystems. Australia could have 12 such submarines by 2050. It will become the only non-nuclear state to get US nuclear technology for its submarine fleet. This has generated a big debate on ‘do we need AUKUS’ or whether Australia is rubber-stamping US policy. Australia is already part of the US India Japan QUAD and its Navy has already been part of the Malabar Naval exercises. With the new Albanese government calling up to China and India sitting on the fence, QUAD and Malabar as serious deterrents to China are questionable.
Australia’s new Defence Security Review, authored by former Defence Minister Stephen Smith and former CDS Air Marshal Angus Houston was released last week. Previously defence policy focused on defence of Australia and later, forward defence to the present when the China challenge of uncertainties and ambiguities has covered Australia. A defence expert told me in Sydney that the Chinese tried to strangle Australia and its economic coercion failed miserably. Distance and sea frontiers have made Australia safe and secure. There’s not been a single terrorist attack that makes Australia an attractive destination for trade and investment. However, fears of illegal immigrants have magnified. Last Saturday Foreign Minister S Jaishankar was in Sydney transiting from a visit to Fiji. India-Australia relations are on a high. Canberra considers New Delhi one of its most important partners in the Indo-Pacific. Prime Ministers Morrison and Modi signed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2020, the Economic Strategy Update in 2022, and Australia India Economic Cooperation Agreement in 2022. The Australian government is setting up the Centre for Australia-India Relations like the Australia India Council set up 30 years ago.
Today 50,000 Indian students are helping the Australian higher education sector rebound after the pandemic. India-Australia defence cooperation traces its origins in the trenches of Gallipoli in World War I. Two agreements underpin defence ties – the 2006 Memorandum of Defence Cooperation; and the 2009 Joint Declaration in Security Cooperation. A joint working group on joint research and military cooperation has been set up. Joint exercises are regularly held between the three services. In 2015, the first formal bilateral naval exercise was held off the coast of Visakhapatnam and these are held every two years. In addition, the Milan fleet review has the Australian Navy participating. A maritime partnership exercise off Perth last year involved several ships and helicopters. IAF Su30 and C17 aircraft participated in Exercise Pitch Black. This was followed by another international Exercise Kakadu 2022. The Australian Navy participated in RIMPAC, an Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2022 Exercise.
The focus of India-Australia military cooperation is in the maritime domain in support of an open, inclusive, and resilient Indo-Pacific as stated by Defence Minister Richard Marles. Australian High Commissioner in India, Barry O’Farrell has said that joint defence activities had experienced a nearly fourfold increase since 2014. The upgrade of ties was reflected in the recent 2+2 dialogue between Finance and Defence Ministers. The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement entered into force on 29 December 2022 will allow tariff-free trade of 85 to 90 percent of the goods. India-Australia defence ties have come a long way since the expulsion of the Defence Advisor.
The Indian police and paramilitary troops damaged 114 houses and burned 22 others in 2020. This practice has now extended to four districts of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir in 2023: Srinagar, Budgam, Anantnag, and Baramulla. The demolition of houses and properties in Kashmir has taken a heavy toll on the people of Kashmir. Not only have they been left homeless, but the emotional, psychological, economic, and societal consequences of their conduct have been terrible.
The extensive demolition of Kashmiri civilians’ houses and properties is one of the most terrible repercussions of the conflict in Kashmir. The demolition of Kashmiri houses and properties is a violation of human rights and dignity that the Indian government and the international world must condemn and prevent.
Kashmir has a long history of strife, persecution, and political turmoil dating back to 1947 when India and Pakistan were divided. The Indian government has retained authority over the territory, resulting in severe breaches of human rights and international law. The Indian government has exacerbated the conflict in Kashmir by using military force and committing extensive human rights violations, including the demolition of houses and properties. For many Kashmiris, this has resulted in widespread displacement, poverty, and homelessness.
The extensive demolition of homes and buildings in Kashmir has wreaked havoc on the Kashmiri people and their communities. As a result, many Kashmiris have experienced significant migration, poverty, and homelessness, resulting in widespread misery and hardship.
Destroying houses and property in Kashmir is a blatant violation of international human rights norms, particularly the right to sufficient housing and the ban on arbitrary displacement. The Indian government has violated the rights of the Kashmiri people by failing to comply with these principles. For the illegal demolition of houses and properties in Kashmir, the Indian government has failed to give due process and accountability. This lack of accountability has aided the region’s massive and continuous breaches of human rights.
The rampant demolition of homes and buildings in Kashmir has major ramifications for India’s rule of law and human rights protection. It sends a clear message that the Indian government does not respect human rights and dignity and that the rule of law is not enforced in the region.
Amnesty International India’s board chair, Aakar Patel, stated that the continuing demolitions appear to be a continuation of the harsh HRVs in the Muslim majority region of IIOJK and that no one should be forced homeless or subject to other human rights abuses as a result of evictions. The Indian government must immediately cease the demolition campaign and guarantee that protections against forced evictions are implemented per international human rights norms.
It is worth noting here that Modi is moving quickly to seize Kashmiris’ land to transform the whole state of J&K into its colony. Evicting people from lands they have owned for generations is another step in the colonization of Kashmir. The recent directive on land encroachment issued by the IIOJK administration is part of Modi’s diabolical plan to take Kashmiris’ land. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is transforming IIOJK into a settler colony, just like Israel is doing in occupied Palestine. The RSS and BJP have long desired the colonization of IIOJK. By repealing Art 370, India eliminated a barrier to non-locals settling in IIOJK. Modi’s ultimate goal in J&K is to eradicate Muslim identity and construct Hindu civilization.
The loss of a home is a very devastating experience for anybody, and the situation in Kashmir is no exception. Families whose houses and properties were demolished have left severe emotional wounds, feeling as though they have lost a piece of their identity. This trauma is exacerbated by the dread of losing their homes and livelihoods in the future, producing enormous psychological pain. As a result of the demolitions, several families have expressed dread, worry, and pessimism.
Loss of houses and property in Kashmir has far-reaching and terrible economic consequences. Many Kashmiri families’ homes and assets are their life savings and sole source of income. Many families have fallen into poverty and despair as a result of the loss of these assets, making it impossible for them to restore their lives. The societal impact is also substantial. When a family loses their house, they typically lose access to essential utilities like water and electricity, which can have major effects on their health and well-being. Furthermore, the loss of one’s house or property might result in relocation and forced migration, creating even more disruption and pain.
Demolitions of homes and assets have exacerbated Kashmir’s cycle of poverty and insecurity. The loss of assets and livelihoods has exacerbated poverty and despair, making it harder for families to satisfy their basic requirements. As a result, the populace has become increasingly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, continuing a cycle of poverty and instability.
The human cost of demolitions in Kashmir emphasizes the emotional, psychological, economic, and societal consequences of such actions. It has demonstrated how the loss of houses and properties has had far-reaching implications for Kashmiris, worsening poverty and instability and inflicting severe emotional distress. Given the devastation caused by demolitions, the Indian government must act quickly to put an end to these practices. The Kashmiri people’s human rights must be maintained, and their homes and properties must be protected from further devastation.
It is critical to raise awareness about the human cost of demolitions in Kashmir and other conflict zones. This includes encouraging governments and other players to hold human rights violators accountable and calling on governments and other actors to uphold the rights and dignity of all people, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation.