New Age Islam Edit Bureau
26 August 2015
Shadow-boxing to what avail?
By Suhasini Haidar
India, Pakistan struggle to climb out of talks crater
By Rezaul H Laskar
Woman's always right? Naming, shaming 'molestors' on social media
By Jyoti Sharma Bawa
The cancellation of the NSA-level talks between India and Pakistan is an indication that India’s foreign policy establishment has taken a back seat. While security issues remain paramount for the country, external relations are best coated with some amount of diplomacy
As ministers and diplomats negotiated their way out of the talks between the National Security Advisors (NSA) of India and Pakistan this week, they resembled nothing less than the family of a terminally ill and unpopular patient on life support, trying to decide just which one of them would pull the plug on the process started by the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif, at Ufa in Russia in July.
As a result, when the end came, there was little to cheer about and no winners declared: not the Prime Ministers, who despite showing sagacity in making no public statements about it, had little to show for their efforts in Ufa. Not their chosen interlocutors, who were left handing out details of the dossiers they “would have handed over” at press conferences and through leaks to national media, instead of to each other, as they would have preferred. Not the diplomats and security officials, who had burnt the midnight oil preparing lengthy drafts on just what would be said, and what could be taken forward during the meeting between the NSAs of India and Pakistan, Ajit Doval and Sartaj Aziz. And not the Generals, who may have hoped for a lull in the constant thunder at the Line of Control (LoC) that has ensured that jawans are working double shifts, while people living there who after a decade of rebuilding homes, schools and raising crops, are having to flee their homes again.
Ironically, the only man seen waving a victory sign was Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah, but even he and the Kashmiri separatists invited to meet Mr. Aziz were hardly winners. While India seems to have established its ability to firmly control the international narrative and detain these men at will, Pakistan had hardly said anything on the issue. At a press conference held an hour after Mr. Shah’s detention, Mr. Aziz merely said, “We are disturbed about the arrest of Hurriyat leaders, but if India doesn’t call off the talks we will go ahead with them.”
Enforcing the red line
This was the line the government should have then caught onto, but in a manner akin to the cliched snatching of defeat, or a tie from the jaws of victory, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj sought to up the stakes. At her press conference hours later, she said it wasn’t enough that the Pakistan NSA was coming to Delhi despite it being made clear he wouldn’t get to meet the Hurriyat. He would now have to give India an assurance that he wouldn’t meet them, and that he wouldn’t discuss Kashmir when he met Mr. Doval — all with a crudely worded midnight deadline.
The first part was puzzling indeed. In the first place, once the government had demonstrated that it could and would detain the leaders on their arrival in Delhi, why would she need the assurance from Mr. Aziz that he wouldn’t meet them? Was Ms. Swaraj worried that the Pakistani NSA would drive over to the Intelligence Bureau safehouse they were held at in Delhi to catch a glimpse of them? Or that they would slip into Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit’s residence, where the reception for Mr. Aziz was to be held without the knowledge of the police? If instead she had accepted the gauntlet thrown by Mr. Aziz, and allowed him to come while ensuring that he didn’t meet with the Kashmiri leaders, the government would have had a more powerful precedent to enforce its “red line”. As a result, India missed a vital opportunity. Finally, Ms. Swaraj’s sentence that she was imposing “no conditions” on the talks, but that the talks would only happen under the condition that Mr. Aziz gave her assurances, must have sounded hollow even to her own ears.
The ‘K’ word
Pakistan, too displayed its ability for flawed logic and folly. The agenda of any meeting between leaders is a matter for those two countries to negotiate prior to a meeting. To begin with, if Kashmir occupies quite so much mindspace and heartspace for Pakistan, why didn’t it share some wordspace in the Ufa agreement? Second, if it was so easily understood that the NSAs would discuss all outstanding issues, and Jammu and Kashmir in particular, why didn’t Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry insist with his Indian counterpart Mr. Jaishankar on clearer wording in the Ufa agreement? Finally, if “no dialogue is possible without Kashmir on the agenda”, why did Mr. Aziz feel the need to repeat it early and often, in every press conference, statement and interview he gave? Why not just arrive in Delhi and discuss his concerns with Mr. Doval? After all, the only terror India wants to discuss is that of groups in Pakistan that either originate or operate from Pakistan occupied Kashmir, so it is very likely that Kashmir would have been brought up. The LoC ceasfire violations, that most certainly would be discussed, also affect Kashmir the most. Mr. Aziz would do well to remember that when it comes to terror, it is Pakistan, and not India, that wants to discuss non-Kashmiri groups like the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, Baloch nationalist groups and political groups like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
The truth was neither side is as foolish as the answers to all these questions may suggest, but both were equally keen to call off the talks, so long as the other side would get the blame for it. As a result, the governments played an absurd version of “you hang up...no, you hang up” , with five press statements, two press conferences, followed by another press conference, and a series of tweets being exchanged between New Delhi and Islamabad over the course of two days. Interestingly, no one actually said they were calling the talks off.
We now stand at a point where the talks are off, and it is by no means clear that the meeting between Mr. Modi and Mr. Sharif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly — that had been discussed at Ufa — according to officials, will fructify. As a result, the government has some breathing space to resolve some issues internally without the pressure of another high-level summit to worry about.
Reviving the ceasefire
To begin with, the LoC ceasefire must be revived. The last few months, and particularly the last few weeks, with over 160 violations on both sides combined, are of immediate concern. Indian troops and villagers living along the LoC should not have to pay the price for political tensions between the two countries. Despite using what government officials call “indiscriminate and unpredictable” return firepower including heavy mortar, there is no evidence that the Pakistani troops have flagged or that their fire on the LoC has waned. If this situation is not to be escalated, it is necessary to go ahead with the planned meetings in two weeks between border force chiefs (the Directors General of Military Operations as well as the Directors General of the Border Security Force and and Pakistan Rangers) to discuss a series of measures to put into place each time deadly fire is exchanged.
Next, it is necessary to restore the balance between security and diplomacy: the announcement and structure of the NSA talks seemed to indicate that India’s foreign policy establishment has taken a back seat on several important issues. In the past few months, first on China, then on Pakistan, and then more recently with the United Arab Emirates, it is Mr. Doval rather than Ms. Swaraj or Mr. Jaishankar who is being tasked with taking bilateral dialogues forward. While security issues remain paramount for the country, external relations are best coated with some amount of diplomacy. In the case of the Hurriyat for example, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) seemed to have been kept out of the central thinking, which would explain why when the reception for Mr. Aziz was first announced by the Pakistan High Commission, the MEA reaction was that this was seen as a “provocative” move aimed at calling off talks, and the government wouldn’t give in to Pakistan’s “objective”. However, just three days later, the government decided to fulfil that very objective, and make the Hurriyat meeting an issue over which “talks would be called off”.
The missing interlocutor
Finally, Mr. Modi must look for an interlocutor. Many in this government, including himself, have expressed their admiration for Israel, especially the country’s tough “zero-tolerance” position with its neighbours. Yet, few understand the worth of Israel’s foremost diplomat, Abba Eban, in achieving its success through diplomacy at the United Nations and with Israel’s Arab neighbours for whom he was the chief interlocutor, serving his country as Ambassador to the UN and the United States until 1959 and then as a minister, a member of the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) until 1988. After the six-day war, Eban risked being called a traitor in his own country when he insisted that Israel should return territories occupied during the war in return for peace. “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives,” he often said.
Obviously, there are no parallels here to the history and context of the Israel-Arab conflict, but it is important that the Modi government gives voice to its own possible Eban. If Mr. Modi is indeed intent on building a harder, tougher, less flexible image for India than the world has seen before, he will need an interlocutor who shares his commitment, but understands how to talk to Pakistan. This interlocutor must be able to convince the world of India’s position, but at the same time follow Eban’s most famous quote, “A statesman who keeps his ear permanently glued to the ground will have neither elegance of posture nor flexibility of movement.” At present, given the performance of his officials in the past week, he has none.
Aug 25, 2015
The agonising, bit-by-bit disintegration of their planned talks over the weekend has reduced India and Pakistan to planning low-level official exchanges and precluded the possibility of a broader engagement any time soon.
Despite a hardening of Islamabad’s stance that has raised more questions about the future of a bilateral peace process that has been stalled for more than six years, Pakistan has indicated it will go ahead with a planned meeting of the heads of border guarding forces on September 6.
But after talks between the national security advisers (NSAs) collapsed because the two sides were unable to agree on an agenda and Pakistan insisted on going ahead with a meeting with Kashmiri separatists, the leadership in Islamabad has laid down conditions for future high-level parleys.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said any dialogue with India that does not include the Kashmir issue will be futile while NSA Sartaj Aziz, the de facto foreign minister, has said Pakistan will not take the initiative for a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September. After the latest fiasco, it is difficult to see the Indian side reaching out unconditionally.
When Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Sharif met in the Russian city of Ufa on July 10, the joint statement issued after their talks clearly stated the NSAs would only “discuss all issues connected to terrorism”.
The strong criticism Sharif faced on his return home because the statement did not include the “K” word probably led to Pakistan’s subsequent gambit to expand the agenda for the meeting of the NSAs to “all outstanding issues”, including Kashmir, and to its invitation to Hurriyat leaders to meet Aziz.
Baqir Sajjad, diplomatic correspondent for Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, said both sides had dug themselves into a hole.
“India is focused on terrorism and Pakistan wants to talk about all issues that have bedevilled relations. They will have to work out a format for (future) talks,” he told HT from Islamabad.
Sajjad said the two sides will have to work to find “some sort of balance”. But that could be easier said than done.
Since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, India and Pakistan have had no substantial engagements. They have also struggled to agree on a format to take forward the stalled peace process, with Pakistan calling for the resumption of the erstwhile composite dialogue process while India has indicated that all talks should focus on terrorism and security-related concerns.
“India must remain engaged with the peace constituency in Pakistan while remaining cognisant of the deep state that has an interest in maintaining a certain amount of simmer,” said Commodore (retired) C Uday Bhaskar, director of the think tank Society for Policy Studies.
“Those who think India scored a point over the NSA-level talks should realise this will be a Pyrrhic victory in the long run. We should not close the windows so that there is an opportunity for Pakistan can come back on track.”
Some observers feel the atmosphere was further sullied by Aziz’s recent remarks about nuclear-armed Pakistan being capable of defending itself against “Modi’s India (that) acts as if they are a regional superpower”, but Bhaskar noted that such threats are part of the sabre-rattling to which Islamabad has traditionally resorted.
The BJP-led government in New Delhi will be under no pressure for a quick resumption of contacts with Islamabad. Building relations with Pakistan is not a priority for its core constituency and the government will be reluctant to make a fresh push after its attempt to reach out to Pakistan at Ufa ended in the NSA talks fiasco.
In Pakistan, Prime Minister Sharif and his government have little say in deciding foreign policy, which is directed by the generals in Rawalpindi, and any effort to normalise ties is unlikely.
It is now becoming increasingly obvious that India and Pakistan will have to go back to the drawing board to find ways to take the peace process forward. But terrorism will be central to this process – New Delhi may have to make concessions on its terrorism-first stance while Islamabad, which has taken a series of steps against domestic terrorist groups, will have to finally come good on its pledges to counter anti-India militants.
Aug 26, 2015
In March 2015, a woman on-board an Indigo flight clicked pictures of two men who were allegedly taking pictures of an air hostesses and ogling at a woman feeding her baby. She forwarded the images to the airline’s official handle which then took action against the offenders.
In April 2015, Telugu TV actor Ashmita Karnani posted pictures of two men who had harassed her in Punjagutta, Hyderabad. Her post went viral and the two men were arrested.
If you are a woman and travelling alone, obscene comments are something you learn to tune out. Do they fill you with an impotent rage? Yes. Are you desperate to lash out? Yes. And then, when it becomes too much to handle, you do react only to be met with, at best, indifference of bystanders or, at worst, a voyeuristic glee.
So, next time when those horrendous comments or that shaming pat on the back, or worse, happens, you just cannot gather the courage to shout out aloud. That is till women realised that through social media, they can not only name and shame those perpetrators, but also help the police to find and arrest them.
ven if the face-off with the harasser failed, even if the he ran away before the police arrived, even if those present preferred to be mute spectators, your Facebook/Twitter handle and pictures/videos clicked by your smartphone could come to your aid. If trial by Twitter was what it took to get some of your self respect back, it was fine by the women.
A woman in Mumbai took photograph of a man who masturbated in front of him and put it on Twitter. She asked for help to identify him.
Another posted the video of a man who tried to touch through the gap in the seats while onboard a flight. A police case was filed against it.
Social media not only proved its worth when it came to empowering women, it also gave them a voice in a country where harassment out on the road is so common, nobody gives it a second glance. However, is the woman always right? What if the man who has been named and shamed on social media is innocent? Even if he is absolved after an investigation, there are always the serious ramifications from the public trial on social media.
Read: Social media rage against harassment
And what about a he-said-she-said fight? Who wins that in the vitriolic town square that is social media.
A case in point is what happened in west Delhi on Sunday night. A young woman posted the picture of abiker, along with the number of his motorcycle, alleging he passed lewd remarks at her. When she reportedly objected and said she will post his picture on social media, his remark – which probably all women have heard at various times – was “Complaint karke dikha, fir dekhiyo kya karta hun main".
Read: Delhi biker arrested after FB post on harassment goes viral
The tweet by the DU student went viral and the man was arrested based on the woman’s complaint. And then, the man took to Facebook and alleged that it was the woman’s fault. He said that she was an AAP volunteer who was trying to control traffic and get some publicity. A verbal skirmish ended with her threatening to send police to his house, according to him.
Who’s right and who’s wrong in this case? We would not know till the police end its investigation but in the meanwhile, social media rages on blatantly taking sides and heaping scorn on anybody who dares to state an opposing point of view.
Cyber crime expert Priyadarshi Banerjee says, “Police today has a presence in the cyberspace and if such a post is escalating on web, it will take cognizance of it. It is considered intimation of a crime and police considers it as an FIR.”
And what if the man accused in the post is found to be innocent after the due process? “He can start a criminal prosecution and bring an action for defamation. Sec 499 and 500 of IPC can be invoked to safeguard interests. A civil case can also be started to claim damages. He doesn’t need to wait till the case finishes in the court for these steps. Depending on the police investigation and depending on if they fail to find any basis to the accusation, this process can be started.”
Meanwhile, there are others who believe shaming online will act as a deterrent. “It gives the offenders the publicity they deserve. It also encourages other women to fight against offenders,” says Chaitali, project co-ordinator, Jaagori, a women’s rights NGO. Psychologist Pulkit Sharma also believes that online shaming can stop men from becoming repeat offenders. “Shame is an intense feeling. It positively alters behaviour,” he says.
For all of those who are clicking on likes and venting online in the case, here’s a thought: What’s stopping you from reacting in the same way when you see a woman being molested in front of your eyes?