CECIL VICTOR. Editorial. XXIII.VII.XVIII
Fraying At The Periphery
By Cecil Victor
Nepal has escaped the Indian sphere of influence on the wings of a perception that has persisted in the Nepali psyche that India was responsible for the blockade of essential goods during the Madheshi agitation of 2015. Nepalis decided that such a situation would not be allowed to recur again. So they turned to China which was waiting with open arms and bagsful of money. Hence, perceptions matter.
Playing out this scenario in all its wretched nuances geopolitics has induced developments that will have a long-lasting deleterious effect on India-Nepal-China relations and could well be irreversible. For one, the coalescence of the two major Maoist political entities in Nepal means the creation of an anti-India phalanx that could have a nexus with the Maoists operating in the Indian heartland. The image of India has taken a beating.
“Special relations” have gone for a six and now the hitherto “open border” will have to be plugged to curb the Pakistan Army Inter-Services Intelligence from taking full advantage of the Chinese backing for the Pakistani terrorist groups that will now increasingly use the new arrangement to accelerate what it has long hoped to achieve -- a vivisection of India. That will be a new irritant. Further down the line is the issue of recruitment of Nepali personnel in the Indian Army.
While it must be admitted that the essence of the Doklam crisis was the Chinese intention of testing Indian inclination and ability to defend its special relations with Bhutan. India did well to respond with alacrity and determination to call the Chinese bluff. The perception that prevailed from this crisis was that India can and will defend Bhutan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. It is a perception that needs to be preserved and nurtured with actions in both the military and the diplomatic arena.
However, there have been developments along India’s periphery, particularly in the Indian Ocean region that have shown up India in poor light. The Maldives fiasco and the failure to finalise the deal to create a military complex in the Seychelles group of islands off the eastern seaboard of Africa. The standard textbook method of using public opinion to sabotage an idea was utilized to create a groundswell against the project. India could not either politically or diplomatically counter the adverse reaction to the project. The gainer again is China who has established a military base in the former French colony of Djibouti north of Seychelles.
Back home, blinkered by the brute majority in Parliament, the BJP led National Democratic Alliance government is either uncaring because the victims of the phenomenon known as vigilantism largely belong to a particular community or prefers to play the card for a majoritarian polarization. The consequences could be terrible for the unity and integrity of India.
Already the narrative in Jammu and Kashmir is shifting from ‘greater autonomy’ to undiluted ‘Aazadi’. Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement in Parliament laying the onus of remedial action on the Chief Ministers of States (because law and order is a State Subject) and social media service providers to exercise control practically washing his own hands off the problem.
Clearly the Government of the day has not learned any lessons from the Nepal fiasco. Much as it may be denied there is no gainsaying the fact that the Jammu and Kashmir issue is increasingly gaining international traction.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh needs to be reminded that the State of Jammu and Kashmir is now under Governor’s Rule. As Union Home Minister he is an important cog in the wheel in the governance of the State.
The perception is growing that the government is complicit in the vigilantism and the lynchings. There is little evidence that the government has done enough to stop it. Reports of arms training to youth with the specific mission of dealing with ‘love jihad’ could have been countered more effectively if, indeed, it was fake news. But the wrapping of the body of a person who was the main accused in a lynching could at least have attracted the penal provisions of the Indian Flag Code (no new law is required) for those who performed the act.
Worse, the persistent perception in Jammu and Kashmir is that persons are being targeted for being Muslim. For a State on the periphery with large parts in occupation of Pakistan and China backed by military presence underscores a scenario vastly different from when a Pakistani General planned the invasion by infiltration in the hope that the local population will rise up in support.
That did not happen then. That it will happen now or in the new future can be guaranteed by the factum of the emergence of photographs of 14 armed young men.
In all respects it is another Pakistan in the making.
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