From Yatra to Jail: The Trials and Tribulations of Rahul Gandhi’s Political Career

3 mins read

by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor

The verdict delivered today by a local court in Surat, Gujarat, sentencing Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to two years in jail in a criminal defamation case has once again brought to light the political polarization and the challenges facing Indian democracy. The case was filed against Gandhi for his alleged “Modi surname” remarks, and the verdict has led to a lot of debate and speculation about the future of Indian politics. Remarkably, shortly after, the court granted bail to Gandhi and issued a stay order for 30 days, allowing the Congress leader to file an appeal in a higher court.

Many people are interpreting this as a setback for Gandhi, who was on a high after completing a 145-day Bharat Jodo yatra (unity march) across 4,000 km and through varied terrains, weather conditions, and demographics. The yatra was seen as a transformative experience for Gandhi, who emerged as an evolved and mature politician who empathizes with all and promises to be different.

However, his opponents saw this as a cynical attempt to revive family-based politics, and the ruling BJP wasted no time in mocking Gandhi’s politics after the yatra. Today’s judgment has given the BJP an opportunity to further humiliate and discredit Gandhi, and it remains to be seen how this will impact his political career and the future of Indian democracy.

It is worth noting that the judgment has raised concerns about the freedom of speech and expression in India, which is a cornerstone of any healthy democracy. The fact that Gandhi has been sentenced to jail for his remarks, regardless of their accuracy or intent, is a worrying sign for those who value free speech and open debate.

Moreover, the timing of the judgment, which came right after Gandhi’s yatra, raises questions about the impartiality and independence of the judiciary. While we do not know whether ruling party elements were motivated by the judgment, it is clear that Indian democracy is on the knife edge.

However, one of the major criticisms of the Congress party has been its over-reliance on the Gandhi family to lead the party. The party has failed to groom and promote young, talented, and merit-based politicians who have the capacity to challenge the BJP and offer new and innovative ideas to the electorate.

This lack of leadership and vision has hurt the party’s fortunes, as it has struggled to connect with voters and win elections in recent years. The BJP, on the other hand, has been successful in projecting itself as a party of change and development, and has managed to win elections by appealing to the aspirations of the electorate.

Moreover, the continued loyalty of the Congress party to the Gandhi family has led to a perception that the party is run by a coterie of loyalists who are more interested in protecting their positions of power and influence rather than working for the betterment of the party and the country.

This perception has damaged the party’s credibility and has led to a loss of trust among voters, who see the party as being out of touch with their aspirations and needs. This has allowed the BJP to present itself as a viable alternative to the Congress party and has led to the erosion of the Congress party’s support base.

Conversely, the overwhelming power and cult-like following that the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoy in India are a cause for concern for the future of Indian democracy. While a strong and decisive leader is necessary for any country, it is also important to ensure that the checks and balances on power are in place to prevent abuse of power and the erosion of democratic values.

The Modi-led BJP has been accused of centralizing power and curtailing dissent, with critics pointing to the use of sedition laws, internet shutdowns, and other measures to suppress dissent and criticism. This has led to concerns that the government is becoming increasingly authoritarian and that dissent and opposition are being stifled.

Moreover, the cult-like following of Modi and the BJP has created an environment where criticism and questioning of the government are seen as anti-national and unpatriotic. This has led to a chilling effect on free speech and open debate, with many people feeling hesitant to express their opinions for fear of retribution.

This situation is not healthy for Indian democracy, as it undermines the very principles on which it is based. Democracy thrives on a diversity of opinions, ideas, and voices, and it is crucial that dissent and opposition are allowed to flourish in order to ensure that the government remains accountable and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people.

In a nutshell, the sentencing of Rahul Gandhi is a significant event in Indian politics, and it highlights the challenges faced by the country’s democracy. The ruling party’s attempt to humiliate and discredit Gandhi is a worrying sign, and it is crucial that we remain vigilant about the erosion of democratic values and freedoms. It is time for every Indian to rally, regardless of political viewpoint, to support free speech and open debate and demand impartiality and independence from our judiciary to ensure that Indian democracy remains healthy and vibrant.

Indian investigators link Coimbatore car blast to Sri Lanka Easter bombings

1 min read

Those involved in last October’s car explosion in front of Coimbatore’s Sangameswarar temple operated an Islamic State (IS) module inspired by Zahran Hashim, the mastermind of the Easter 2019 bombings in Sri Lanka, the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) probe has found, the Hindu reported.

Hindu’s report reads further as follows;

A source privy to the investigation said that the agency has unearthed material and digital evidence which showed that the 12 persons who have been found to be involved in the blast so far were inspired and radicalised by Hashim.

The evidence showed that they watched multiple videos of Hashim. Jameesha Mubin, the suspected mastermind of the Coimbatore blast, recorded a video of himself before carrying out the attack on Sangameswarar temple, as is typically done by IS suicide bombers. The farewell video was shot in a style similar to the one shot and released by Hashim before the Easter Sunday bombings. In the video, Mubin said that he wanted to become a shaheed (martyr). The module is believed to have had plans to release the video. However, that did not happen.

“Evidence strongly support that they acted like an IS module inspired by Hashim,” said the source, adding that the agency could not find links to any outside handlers in the module’s operation so far.

Common link

The investigation into the Coimbatore car blast, in which Mubin was killed, has also revealed that Hashim was the common point of inspiration for the IS module behind the car blast and another module headed by Muhammed Azharudheen, which was busted by the NIA in June 2019. Mr. Azharudheen was a Facebook friend of Hashim himself.

Y. Shiek Hidayathullah, an associate of Azharudheen in the first IS module, was also arrested for his alleged role in the car blast. Mr. Hidayathullah’s brother Sheik Safiullah and two others, namely Mohammed Hussain and A. Shajahan, were arrested by the Coimbatore city police a few days later in June 2019. The police had found that they planned to carry out a terror attack on places of worship using a truck laden with explosives.

“Several materials were seized from the trio by the police. They also studied how to make explosives. The investigation has found common links from the first module to the latest one,” said the source.

Preventing bail

NIA is nearing the completion of its investigation into the car blast and is planning to submit a chargesheet against 11 accused (Mubin was killed in the blast) before April 21. Chargesheeting the 11 persons, currently in judicial custody, before April 21 is also aimed at preventing them from getting the benefit of statutory bail in the UAPA case after 180 days. (It is normally a 90 day period, and was extended by the court to 180 days on the request of the investigating agency.) 

Corrupt Politicians Are Known to Be Shameless but Now Fearless Too

3 mins read

The respect  and public esteem that politicians commanded in India was at the highest level , when they were fighting for the freedom of the country from British rule under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. The freedom  for India was attained in 1947.  At that time, ethics and morals were considered as cardinal principles of politics.

Many stalwarts  with high level of personal integrity  and  lofty  principles and commitment to national cause such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, C. Rajagopalachari and so many others   were on the scene ,  who were respected  even by the Britishers and even as the  Britishers  harassed  them and put them in jail for their freedom struggle.

After independence in 1947, for around 15 years or so  ,  reasonably high level of standards were maintained in the Indian politics . However, with the passing away of the freedom fighters one by one who were replaced by next generation politicians , standards of politics started declining in the country.

The deterioration steadily became more  severe by the  year 1980  and beyond  when  corruption level amongst politicians  reached  alarming level and  became the order of the   day. People started losing faith and started thinking    that politicians remaining honest  would be an exception rather than a rule in India. 

In the year 2014 national elections, Mr. Modi campaigned strongly and promised to root out corruption in India in every sphere. As people were desperately looking for such  commitment from a political leader, people responded and Mr. Modi became the Prime Minister of India.

Again in the year 2019, Mr. Modi was elected  as Prime Minister of India ,  as people continued to believe that Mr. Modi could be the political leader who can root out corruption in India.  While Mr. Modi’s Prime Ministership is being applauded or criticised for several reasons, the ground reality is that most people are   impressed about the personal integrity of Mr. Modi and his success in leading the central government without any charges of corruption or nepotism against anyone of his ministers.

Mr. Modi is attempting to checkmate corruption by promoting transparency in administration , digitalisation of transactions, direct transfer  of subsidies to poor people  etc. But, corruption continues to prevail in India today.

Certainly, in the coming 2024 national election, by and large , people would evaluate Mr. Modi’s performance  based on his efforts to root out corruption in India.

Corruption free India nowhere looks   like emerging in the near future, inspite of the dent that Mr. Mod has made  in  the corruption climate in the country to some extent.  The challenge for Mr. Modi in  fighting corruption is  in reforming the calibre of  politicians in India . 

The problem is that majority of  politicians in India today are shameless  and do not think that indulging in corruption is anything wrong.  Now, further deterioration is seen  that these corrupt politicians are not only shameless but are  also becoming fearless.  Some of them seem to think that going to jail on corruption charges would  not be a bad idea , as they seem to think that they could gain  people’s sympathy and get their  votes. What sort of mindset is this?

Everyone of the politician who have indulged in corruption which are very obvious  , call  the investigation against their misdeeds  as  vendetta , when  enforcement agencies catch them on some solid ground. Instead of feeling disturbed and shameful  for being investigated against and the charges against them certainly credible , the corrupt politicians  challenge the government and call the actions against them  as vindictive  and motivated.   With money power at their disposal , they are able to organise demonstration and protest  meetings  and issue false narratives  to mislead the gullible public.  Media is full of stories about corrupt politicians being hauled up and these corrupt politicians defending themselves and with no sense of shame or fear.

It remains to be seen how Mr. Modi would deal with such shameless and fearless corrupt politicians . Putting them down is a pre condition to ensure near corruption free in India.

The challenge before Mr. Modi is grim and he has to  live upto his reputation a s a crusader against corruption, before the forthcoming 2024 national election.

Obviously, Mr. Modi  has to be ruthless in dealing with the corrupt politicians, whether they  belong  to the  opposition political parties  or his own political party. One may think that  in the type of political climate in India today, where corruption  has become a rule rather an exception  and where corruption is no more confined to politics alone but also have trickled to all sorts of business activities at different level, Mr. Modi’s ruthless approach against corrupt politicians would   be met with fierce resistance.

The task is really daunting, as   several political parties are now  really controlled by dynastic   persons (family members ) ,  who  adopt all sort of strategies to amass wealth  by foul means and to protect their family interests  . In such conditions,  it has become necessary not only to catch the corrupt politicians but also their family members.

It remains to be seen as to whether  such anti corruption efforts would lead to a situation, where  Mr. Modi  would go down  by failing or go up by succeeding

The devastation of war and the G-20 summit

5 mins read

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.

India’s growing civil aviation industry sees greater scope for growth

2 mins read

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.

Khalistan Separatists Aided by Migrant Policy and Freedom Elsewhere Target India

3 mins read

Canada, a   rich and underpopulated country with huge land space and considerable mineral deposits, has adopted a liberal migrant policy for the last several years. It is debatable whether such an approach is influenced by the fact that Canada is underpopulated or its commitment to welcoming migrants and refugees as a humane policy.

 It is uncertain as to whether such a policy approach by the Canadian government will do well for Canada in the long run. The question is whether it would cause serious internal problems, by resulting in demographic imbalance and cultural dissimilarities amongst the natives and migrants/refugees entering Canada from different countries with divergent backgrounds.

Germany has welcomed refugees in a big way from strife-torn countries.  Availing Germany’s liberal approach, a large number of refugees particularly from Islamic countries have entered   Germany and are unlikely to go back. Such influx of refugees has been allowed by earlier German government as a humanistic approach towards refugees but has already caused serious local issues in Germany. Several Germans are protesting against such influx of refugees, most of whom have no particular skill or reasonable level of education and with different habits and priorities in personal life.

There are other countries in Europe such as Belgium, France, Britain where also migrants/refugees from African and Asian countries have entered, causing local issues.  Australia is yet another country with similar problems.  USA is also not an exception to such conditions.

Some migrants turned into separatists

This approach of the above countries have created problems for other countries like India and Sri Lanka since some separatists targeting India or Sri Lanka have also joined the group of people entering the above countries in the guise of migrants/refugees.

Sri Lanka suffered from serious internal strife resulting in a civil war launched by   LTTE separatists, who found a safe haven in countries like Canada, Britain, France and others.  Now, India is facing problems due to the Khalistan separatists based in countries like Canada, demanding a separate Khalistan region from India.

Khalistan separatists tolerated:

These Khalistan separatists virtually act and behave like terrorists and are not concealing their readiness to use violent methods to achieve their ends.  While they are firmly footed in Canada, they have also in recent times gained foothold in other countries like Britain, and Australia.

 What is unfortunate is that the countries like Canada have allowed these separatists to get a foothold, in spite of the fact that it is well known that they have separatist objectives in other countries, which would inevitably destabilize the targeted countries of the separatists, with adverse impact on their sovereignty and territorial integrity.

in the name of their commitment to free speech, individual liberty and democratic procedures,  these democratic countries like Canada which are accommodating the separatists, virtually remain silent about the activities of the  Khalistan separatists, They do not seem to realise that the activities of the  Khalistan separatist groups are similar to the double-edged sword that has two sharp edges on both the sides.  While the targeted countries of the separatists suffer due to their activities, the countries accommodating these separatists will also be seriously impacted and this is already evident from several recent developments.

Violent acts:

Khalistan separatists have attacked several Hindu temples in Canada and Australia and they have not been caught and punished for their dastardly acts by Government of Canada and Government of Australia so far.

Due to the activities of the Khalistan separatists, the law and order scenario in countries like Canada, Australia have been disrupted to some extent and is likely that the disruption would become more severe beyond tolerable level in the coming period if their accommodative attitude towards separatists would continue.  

Recently, some Khalistan separatists have created huge law and order problem in Punjab state in India, where they attacked a police station with swords and arms, demanding the release of an arrested person. Unfortunately, the Punjab government panicked and released the arrested person, which inevitably have boosted the morale and confidence level of Khalistan terrorists.

Punjab government has said that these Khalistan terrorists who attacked the police station enjoy money support from overseas countries, where they have gained a foothold, obviously implying Canada.

Need for introspection:

 For a moment, the leadership in the Government of Canada, the Government of Australia and other countries should introspect as to how they would feel bad and concerned if a similar separatist movement against them would be encouraged or tolerated in some other countries, where these separatists would gain a place.

It is high time that in the name of liberty and freedom, governments in Canada, Australia, Britain and other democratic countries should not confuse themselves,  thinking that they would be right in accommodating separatists from other countries and providing them liberty and rights for free speech and unrestricted activities to cause disruptions in other countries.

If these democratic countries were to do so, it can be definitely said that they would become the cause for destabilizing other countries and creating pockets of tension in the world and disrupting global peace and harmony.

5 Reasons Why Much of the Global South Isn’t Automatically Supporting the West in Ukraine

8 mins read

In October 2022, about eight months after the war in Ukraine started, the University of Cambridge in the UK harmonized surveys conducted in 137 countries about their attitudes towards the West and towards Russia and China.

The findings in the study, while not free of a margin of error, are robust enough to take seriously.

These are:

  • For the 6.3 billion people who live outside of the West, 66 percent feel positively towards Russia and 70 percent feel positively towards China, and,
  • Among the 66 percent who feel positively about Russia the breakdown is 75 percent in South Asia, 68 percent in Francophone Africa, and 62 percent in Southeast Asia.
  • Public opinion of Russia remains positive in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam.

Sentiments of this nature have caused some ire, surprise, and even anger in the West. It is difficult for them to believe that two-thirds of the world’s population is not siding with the West.

What are some of the reasons or causes for this? I believe there are five reasons as explained in this brief essay.

1. The Global South does not believe that the West understands or empathizes with their problems.

India’s foreign minister, S. Jaishankar, summed it up succinctly in a recent interview: “Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.” He is referring to the many challenges that developing countries face whether they relate to the aftermath of the pandemic, the high cost of debt service, the climate crisis that is ravaging their lives, the pain of poverty, food shortages, droughts, and high energy prices. The West has barely given lip service to the Global South on many of these problems. Yet the West is insisting that the Global South join it in sanctioning Russia.

The Covid pandemic is a perfect example—despite the Global South’s repeated pleas to share intellectual property on the vaccines, with the goal of saving lives, no Western nation was willing to do so. Africa remains to this day the most unvaccinated continent in the world. Africa had the capability to make the vaccines but without the intellectual property they could not do it.

But help did come from Russia, China, and India. Algeria launched a vaccination program in January 2021 after it received its first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines. Egypt started vaccinations after it got China’s Sinopharm vaccine at about the same time. South Africa procured a million doses of AstraZeneca from the Serum Institute of India. In Argentina, Sputnik became the backbone of their vaccine program. All of this was happening while the West was using its financial resources to buy millions of doses in advance, and often destroying them when they became outdated. The message to the Global South was clear—your problems are your problems, they are not our problems.

2. History Matters: Who stood where during colonialism and after independence? 

Many countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia view the war in Ukraine through a different lens than the West. Many of them see their former colonial powers regrouped as members of the Western alliance. The countries that have sanctioned Russia are either members of the European Union and NATO or the closest allies of the United States in the Asia Pacific region. By contrast, many countries in Asia, and almost all countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America have tried to remain on good terms with both Russia and the West, and to shun sanctions against Russia. Could it be because they remember their history at the receiving end of the West’s colonial policies, a trauma that they still live with but which the West has mostly forgotten.

Nelson Mandela often said that it was the Soviet Union’s support, both moral and material, that helped inspire Southern Africans to overthrow the Apartheid regime. It is because of this that Russia is still viewed in a favorable light by many African countries. And once Independence came for these countries, it was the Soviet Union that supported them even though it had limited resources itself. The Aswan Dam in Egypt which took 11 years to build, from 1960 to 1971, was designed by the Moscow based Hydro project Institute and financed in large part by the Soviet Union. The Bhilai Steel Plant in India, one of the first large infrastructure projects in a newly independent India, was set up by the USSR in 1959. Other countries also benefited from the support provided by the former Soviet Union, both political and economic, including Ghana, Mali, Sudan, Angola, Benin, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Mozambique.

On February 18, 2023, at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the foreign minister of Uganda, Jeje Odongo, had this to say, “We were colonized and forgave those who colonized us. Now the colonizers are asking us to be enemies of Russia, who never colonized us. Is that fair? Not for us. Their enemies are their enemies. Our friends are our friends.”

Rightly or wrongly, present day Russia is seen by many countries in the Global South as an ideological successor to the former Soviet Union. These countries have a long memory that makes them view Russia in a somewhat different light. Given the history, can we blame them?

3. The war in Ukraine is seen by the Global South as mainly about the future of Europe rather than the future of the entire world.

The history of the Cold War has taught developing countries that getting embroiled in great power conflicts generates few benefits for them yet carries enormous risks. And they view the Ukraine proxy war as one that is more about the future of European security than the future of the entire world. Furthermore, the war is seen by the Global South as an expensive distraction from the most pressing issues that they are dealing with. These include higher fuel prices, food prices, higher debt service costs, and more inflation, all of which have become more aggravated because of the Western sanctions that have been imposed on Russia.

A recent survey published by Nature Energy states that up to 140 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty due to the higher energy prices that have come about over the past year.

Soaring energy prices not only directly impact energy bills, but they also lead to upward price pressures on all supply chains and consumer items, including food and other necessities. This hurts the developing countries even more than it hurts the West.

The West can sustain the war “as long as it takes” since they have the financial resources and the capital markets to do so. But the Global South does not have the same luxury. A war for the future of European security has the potential of devastating the security of the entire world.

The Global South is also alarmed that the West is not pursuing negotiations that could bring this war to an early end. There were missed opportunities in December 2021 when Russia proposed revised security treaties for Europe that could have prevented the war and which were rejected by the West. The peace negotiations of April 2022 in Istanbul were also rejected by the West in part to “weaken” Russia. And now the entire world is paying the price for an invasion that the Western media like to call “unprovoked” and which could have been avoided.

4. The world economy is no longer American dominated or Western led and the Global South does have other options.

Several countries in the Global South increasingly see their future tied to countries that are no longer in the Western sphere of influence. Whether this is their perception of how the power balance is shifting away from the West, or wishful thinking as part of their colonial legacy, let us look at some metrics that may be relevant.

The U.S. share of global output declined from 21 percent in 1991 to 15 percent in 2021, while China’s share rose from 4 percent to 19 percent during the same period. China is the largest trading partner for most of the world, and its GDP in purchasing power parity already exceeds that of the United States. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China, India, and South Africa) had a combined GDP in 2021 of $42 trillion compared with $41 trillion in the G7. Their population of 3.2 billion is more than 4.5 times the combined population of the G7 countries, at 700 million.

The BRICS are not imposing sanctions on Russia nor supplying arms to the opposing side. While Russia is the biggest supplier of energy and foodgrains for the Global South, China remains the biggest supplier of financing and infrastructure projects to them through the Belt and Road Initiative. And now Russia and China are closer than ever before because of the war. What does it all mean for developing countries?

It means that when it comes to financing, food, energy, and infrastructure, the Global South must rely more on China and Russia more than on the West. The Global South is also seeing the Shanghai Cooperation Organization expanding, more countries wanting to join the BRICS, and many countries now trading in currencies that move them away from the dollar, the Euro, or the West. They also see a deindustrialization taking place in some countries in Europe because of higher energy costs, along with higher inflation. This makes quite apparent an economic vulnerability in the West that was not so evident before the war. With developing countries having an obligation to put the interests of their own citizens first, is it any wonder that they see their future tied more to countries that are not Western led or American dominated?

5. The “rule based international order” is lacking in credibility and is in decline.

The “rule based international order” is a concept that is seen by many countries in the Global South as one that has been conceived by the West and imposed unilaterally on other countries. Few if any non-Western countries ever signed on to this order. The South is not opposed to a rule-based order, but rather to the present content of these rules as conceived by the West.

But one must also ask, does the rule based international order apply even to the West?

For decades now, for many in the Global South, the West is seen to have had its way with the world without regard to anyone else’s views. Several countries were invaded at will, mostly without Security Council authorization. These include the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria. Under what “rules” were those countries attacked or devastated, and were those wars provoked or unprovoked? Julian Assange is languishing in prison, and Ed Snowden is in exile, for having the courage (or perhaps the audacity) to expose the truths behind these actions.

Sanctions imposed on over 40 countries by the West impose considerable hardship and suffering. Under what international law or “rules-based order” did the West use its economic strength to impose these sanctions? Why are the assets of Afghanistan still frozen in Western banks while the country is facing starvation and famine? Why is Venezuelan gold still held hostage in the UK while the people of Venezuela are living at subsistence levels? And if Sy Hersh’s expose is true, under what “rules-based order” did the West destroy the Nord Stream pipelines?

There appears to be a paradigm shift that is taking place away from a Western dominated world and into a more multipolar world. And the war in Ukraine has made more evident those differences or chasms that are part of this paradigm shift. Partly because of its own history, and partly because of the economic realities that are emerging, the Global South sees a multipolar world as a preferable outcome in which their voices are more likely to be heard.

President Kennedy ended his American University speech in 1963 with the following words: “We must do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless for its success. Confident and unafraid, we must labor on towards a strategy of peace.”

That strategy of peace was the challenge before us in 1963 and they remain a challenge for us today. And the voices for peace, including those of the Global South, need to be heard.

Sri Lanka’s Intelligence Agencies: Debunking the Pseudo-Nationalist Narrative

5 mins read

by a Special Defence Correspondent

“Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

Nationalism and patriotism have the potential to unite a nation and instil a sense of shared identity, but their abuse by those who do not understand the importance of national interests can jeopardize a country’s long-term well-being. Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka, these concepts have been widely misused for political purposes, making it rare to find genuine nationalists and patriots. Instead, the country is plagued by pseudo-nationalists and fake patriots who exploit public sentiment and national interests for their own personal gain, posing a threat to the country’s future prosperity.

Pseudo-nationalists and fake patriots are individuals who use nationalist rhetoric for their own political gain, without any real understanding of what it means to act in the best interests of the nation. These individuals are often more interested in promoting their own personal agendas than in advancing the greater good of their country.

One of the key dangers posed by these individuals is that they are often willing to play politics with everything, including national security and foreign policy. They may take positions that are popular with their base or that score political points, but that ultimately weaken the country’s position on the world stage. For example, they may oppose important trade agreements or alliances that are critical to the country’s economic or military strength, simply because they do not want to be seen as “weak” or as ceding control to other nations.

Irony is pseudo-nationalists and fake patriots often lack a nuanced understanding of the complexities of international relations. They may take simplistic, black-and-white views of issues, failing to appreciate the subtleties of diplomatic negotiations and compromise. This can lead them to take hardline positions that are ultimately harmful to the country’s long-term interests.

MP Wimal Weerawansa’s recent statement in Parliament claiming that Sri Lanka is at risk of becoming an American colony is a prime example of how pseudo-nationalists can harm a nation’s long-term interests. By making baseless accusations that US officials disarmed Sri Lanka’s intelligence agency, including its Director General, Weerawansa is playing on people’s fears and prejudices instead of offering constructive ideas for the country’s future. Weerawansa’s political opportunism resembles the behaviour described by Samuel Johnson’s famous saying, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Unfortunately, Weerawansa is not the only one to play this game. Unfortunately, Weerawansa is not the only one to play this game. Many politicians, NGO activists, and religious leaders have criticised intelligence agencies and security apparatus without any real understanding of their structures and vital roles in keeping the country safe. In Sri Lanka, people often blame intelligence agencies without recognizing their hard work and limited resources to protect the country from potential dangers.

Moreover, Weerawansa’s claims are not only baseless, but they also show a lack of understanding about how intelligence agencies operate. It is highly unlikely that any foreign country, let alone the US, would demand that another country disarm its intelligence agency. Such a demand would be seen as a violation of national sovereignty and would likely trigger a diplomatic crisis. Instead, visits between intelligence agencies are often conducted in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, with both sides learning from each other and sharing best practices.

Furthermore, by making such claims without any evidence to back them up, Weerawansa is potentially damaging Sri Lanka’s relationships with other countries. Such unfounded accusations can be seen as inflammatory and can lead to a breakdown in trust between nations. This can have serious consequences for Sri Lanka’s foreign policy and its ability to engage in diplomatic negotiations. By playing politics with everything and making baseless claims, such individuals can undermine a country’s relationships with other nations and damage its reputation on the world stage. It is important for citizens to be vigilant against such individuals and to support leaders who are committed to acting in the best interests of the country, rather than advancing their own personal agendas.

Sri Lankan intelligence agencies have demonstrated the importance of cooperation in achieving strategic objectives and fighting common enemies.

Needless to say, cooperation between intelligence agencies is critical for the safety and security of nations around the world. Sharing intelligence and working together to achieve strategic objectives on national interests is a well-known fact. Intelligence cooperation enables nations to fight common enemies such as terrorists and drug traffickers, and it is essential in the fight against transnational organized crime and other threats to national security. Leading intelligence officials from not only the United States but also countries such as India, China, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Russia, among others, often visit Sri Lanka due to our country’s commitment to maintaining neutral foreign policies and strategic defence partnerships. We believe that politicians and others who do not fully understand the depth of these partnerships should refrain from making political statements that could potentially cross these boundaries.

As Chen Wen, Director-General of the Department of International Cooperation at the Ministry of State Security in China, says “intelligence cooperation is a vital tool for enhancing international security and countering transnational threats. China is committed to working with other countries to promote intelligence sharing and cooperation.” Similarly, General David Petraeus, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the United States, says “the ability to gather, analyze, and share intelligence is the key to national security. Intelligence cooperation among nations is, therefore, a vital component in maintaining global security and stability.

Concurrently, Sri Lanka is one of the countries that recognize the importance of intelligence cooperation, and its intelligence agencies have been working closely with their counterparts in other countries to achieve strategic objectives. In the past few months, Sri Lankan intelligence agencies, with the support of their counterparts, have successfully accomplished many operations. These operations have contributed to the protection of national security and the safety of Sri Lankan citizens.

Data gathering and analysis are critical components of the intelligence process. Intelligence agencies collect and analyze data to transform them into actionable intelligence. This process is complex and time-consuming, requiring adequate resources and skilled personnel. Intelligence cooperation allows countries to share resources, skills, and knowledge, making the intelligence process more efficient and effective as it is critical for the safety and security of nations.

Sri Lankan intelligence agencies have demonstrated the importance of cooperation in achieving strategic objectives and fighting common enemies. Data gathering and analysis are critical components of the intelligence process, and intelligence cooperation allows countries to share resources, skills, and knowledge, making the intelligence process more efficient and effective. It is essential for nations to strike a balance between cooperation and protecting national interests. Intelligence cooperation is not only critical in fighting common enemies but also in advancing economic, political, and social interests.

Our intelligence agencies work tirelessly to protect our nation with limited resources, and without strong partnerships with each country, our security is at risk. Therefore, it is crucial that politicians and other members of society approach these issues constructively and prioritize national interests. Unfairly targeting and using them as scapegoats by pseudo-nationalists for political gain will have only unwanted tussles between our strategic partners. It is the responsibility of politicians and society as a whole to understand the complexity of intelligence work and the challenges they face, rather than using them as a convenient target for blame. A constructive approach to intelligence cooperation and strengthening national security is crucial for ensuring a safe and prosperous future for any nation.

The views expressed are the author’s own

China Urges Sri Lanka to Avoid Default: A Cautionary Tale

1 min read

by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor

It is well known that Sri Lanka is currently facing a significant debt crisis, with one of its major creditors being China. As such, the recent visit by highly placed delegates from China to Sri Lanka during the tenure of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa came as no surprise. What was surprising, however, was the strict suggestion made by the Chinese delegation for Sri Lanka not to declare default.

According to reliable sources with knowledge of the issue, China strongly believed that Sri Lanka would lose its grip irreversibly if the country declared default. Furthermore, they warned that such a move would have a series of bad impacts on the country’s future. Despite China’s warning, the Rajapaksa government decided to stand with India and the USA.

India and the USA had promised not only to strengthen cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but also to protect Gotabaya Rajapaksa under any circumstances, reliable sources said. However, “at the last moment, none of those countries came to help Rajapaksa to protect his presidency. Instead, they manoeuvred political scenarios to mark his exit while defaming his political career,” the sources added.

The cautionary tale here is that countries like Sri Lanka should exercise caution when dealing with foreign powers. In particular, the country should not rely too heavily on one country or group of countries, as this can lead to a dangerous dependence.

China’s warning to Sri Lanka not to declare default is a timely reminder of the importance of foreign relations. While it is important for countries to seek out economic opportunities, it is equally important to ensure that they maintain their independence and protect their national interests. Sri Lanka’s experience should serve as a cautionary tale to other countries that may be tempted to rely too heavily on foreign powers.

Whither Anti-Corruption Drive in India

3 mins read

In the last nine years after Mr. Narendra Modi assumed office as Prime Minister of India, there is no doubt that India has achieved significant progress and has made rapid strides in multiple directions. Several infrastructure projects, welfare programmes, proactive policies towards industrial development and number of reform measures have been implemented. However, one area where there is not much of difference is in the level of corruption at different levels all over India.

While Mr.Modi has ensured that top administration in central government is nearly transparent without corrupt dealings, this is not so in the case of lower level of administration and in several states in the country.

Cross section of people living in various parts of India in different age groups, educational level and economic strata are of the view that the most serious problem confronting India today is the widespread corruption in government departments and public life. Not only several politicians, bureaucrats, but government employees at various levels are also indulging in corruption, widespread corruption is prevalent in private educational institutions, private hospitals, real estates and even in places of worship and other areas from bottom level to top level. Of course, occasionally , it is also seen that there are honest and incorruptible people in government departments and public and private sector organisations. They are few and far between. The non-corrupt person today is considered as an exception rather than a rule.

It is extremely distressing to note that many people have started thinking that corruption is the order of the day, whether in private or public sector activities. As a matter of fact, corruption has become cyclical , in that one person who takes bribe at one place also gives bribe at another place to get things done.

In spite of such conditions, Prime Minister Modi remains as the most popular leader in the country enjoying public confidence, as people believe that he is a man of great personal integrity and if anyone in India can root out corruption in India today , this cause can be achieved by only Prime Minister Modi.

On more than one occasion, Mr. Modi has said or give an impression by his decisions that the best way of rooting out corruption in India is by making changes in the system of transaction and administration. He has been stressing on the importance of massive and large scale digitalization as the best method of promoting transparency and rooting out corruption.

Mr. Modi has taken some steps in this regard by opening zero bank account for millions of poor people in India and ensuring that welfare fund for the poor people including agricultural farmers would be provided by bank transaction, so that middle men would be avoided and syphoning of the fund would be eliminated. This is good as far as it goes ,but certainly many other stronger steps are needed.

It is well known that most of the corrupt dealing takes place in the form of cash transaction. Therefore, high level of digitalization and minimum amount of currency in circulation is the strategy and pre condition that is required to root out corruption.

While the level of digitalization in the country has been steadily increasing, unfortunately the currency circulation has also increased to high level.

The currency circulation in value terms has soared from ₹17.74 lakh crore on November 4, 2016, to ₹32.42 lakh crore on December 23, 2022. Currency in circulation, which was ₹18.04-lakh crore in end-March 2018, jumped to ₹31.34-lakh crore in end-March 2022 and further to ₹32.42-lakh crore as on December 23, 2022.

With huge currency in circulation, many raids carried out by investigating agencies like enforcement directorate, Income tax authorities have seen huge bundle of currency notes worth several crore of rupees kept in the raided premises. Obviously, this bundle of currencies are the black money and corrupt money accumulated by evading taxes and indulging in corrupt dealings.

While campaign for honesty in public and private life by various sources have been taking place for long time in the country, this has not seen any reduction in the level of corruption in India. The repeated catching of corrupt persons by vigilance department have also not yielded much benefits ,as they are only the tip of iceberg.

The only way is to reduce rapidly the circulation of currency note in the country, which inevitably would lead to greater level of digitalization and transparency in transactions and bring down the currency led corruption. The recent rapid increase in currency circulation by Reserve Bank of India is a mistake with serious adverse consequences.

This situation has to be retrieved by steadily decreasing the level of high value currency notes in circulation.

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