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Indian Press ( 9 Dec 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Indian Press on Draconian ‘Love Jihad’ Laws, Faisal Khan and December 6: New Age Islam's Selection, 9 December 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

 9 December 2020

• Public Discourse Surrounding 'Love Jihad' Misses One Crucial Element: Criminalisation Of Muslim Men

By Zeenia Parveen

• Draconian ‘Love Jihad’ Laws Will Rob Our Young Of The Glory Of Youth, The Very Essence And Purpose Of Life

By Captain Gr Gopinath

• Why I Think All Hindus Should Fight Against Faisal Khan's Arrest

By Sunita Viswanath

• How Should We Remember December 6?

By Apoorvanand

• Golden Jubilee Of 1971 War: Triggering A New Resolve

By Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd)

• Watch Afghanistan Closely, And Clearly

By Arun Joshi


Public Discourse Surrounding 'Love Jihad' Misses One Crucial Element: Criminalisation of Muslim Men

By Zeenia Parveen

December 08, 2020

The law against so-called 'love jihad' — formally known as the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Bill, 2020 — has come into effect in Uttar Pradesh. On paper, it has been put forward as a law that would nullify marriages if they are found to be processed through forced religious conversion. In the recent past, two BJP-ruled states, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, have already brought forth similar laws.

After the Uttar Pradesh government's proposal to table such a law, the home ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have decided to do the same in their respective states. The proposed legislation and the rhetoric of the ministers pushing it is in the same vein and reeks of anti-Muslim sentiment. This is especially so in a context where an ostensibly anti-Muslim national political party has been in power for two terms. The party's recent attacks against the Muslim community with the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act and the series of arrests and witch-hunts that followed in the aftermath are evidence of its outlook for the future of India.

This proposed law has stirred opinion across the political spectrum with many Opposition leaders condemning it. There are two central arguments in their opposition to the law. The first is the protection of 'personal freedom' of the individuals as enshrined in the Indian Constitution. It centres on the choice to choose, love and/or marry. The other comes in for safeguarding the 'agency of women'. Although, non-BJP political parties have been regular in the opposition of the proposed law with these two arguments, it is time to address the elephant in the room.

Both of these defences are reductive and ignore the critical issue at hand: The criminalisation of Muslim men. With the State hounding Muslim men for almost anything and everything, the concerning issue at this point should be to safeguard their very survival. Ironically, all rationales of love and the supposedly liberating choice of interfaith marriages fall flat if one party to the clause is running to save from one prejudiced State institution to another to save their lives.

The issue is being oversimplified with a deviation and is robustly thrust over the understanding of how the law would operate. The Left organisations, All India Progressive Women Association (AIPWA) and the All India Students Association (AISA) took up 'Love Azad' — a campaign against the lies of 'love jihad' as a national campaign. On the surface, it comes across as a sincere effort, much like the official name of the 'love jihad' law. With this take, the Left has breathed life into a deliberate lie created by its Opposition in order to criminalise Muslim men.

'Jihad' has been neologised internationally as hateful propaganda against the Muslim community. With no effort to address its theological context, its usage in the popular culture is purposefully misleading. To create an alternative to the word as a counter against itself is reinstating the binary of good and bad; it takes no time to start labelling the members of the Muslim community along these lines. Cultural hegemony has an overarching power, paying no heed to the amalgamation of language and culture and the crucial role it plays in the socio-political arena.

Moving to the question of the agency of women, this one is an insincere and partial approach. In the entire argument, the position of Muslim women is completely missing. If one were to be honest with the reality playing out, it is clear to see that this law corners Muslim women in particular. With this law criminalising Muslim men, the women of the community are pushed further away with deep socio-political and economic disadvantages. The State has so far failed to push the Muslim community up the steps of development and on the contrary, has played against them.

The criminalisation of Muslim men under this law would be concentrated on the economically weaker and marginalised sections of the community. Here, more often than not, the male member(s) of the family are the sole breadwinners. Framing the men of the family (even if the potential of justice awaits at some point in future) leaves Muslim women without any source of income, at the very least.

In any case, a rampant Islamophobic gaze regularly brings their decision to abide by their faith into question. This is closely linked with another critical aspect: The politics of revenge on Muslim women as a site of power executed by the men of the majority. The binary of 'us' and 'them' is built in with the historical lie of 'power-yielding majority subjected to the tyranny of this 'other': Muslims'. It creates a plot for seeking opportunistic vengeance, if Hindu women have been deceived by Muslim men, the women of the latter's community immediately become the end of their retributive justice.

When the agency of women and her choice to marry and live is being fought for in this context, why is it so difficult to stand up for the healthy survival of Muslim women — a minority within a minority? What appears at the surface is a progressive lens fogged by an elite outlook where the complex hierarchy of religion, gender, political leverage, social status and public opinion is deliberately simplified to ignore the real question.

At such a socio-political crossroads, how are we supposed to find a solution when the problem at hand is not even being acknowledged and in fact, being ignored? Not one of the rational and emotional arguments presented by stakeholders in a democracy has been at the forefront on the issue of criminalisation of Muslims, which actually is the idea central to this bizarre law. In a time when anti-Muslim sentiment is unprecedented, everything from political power-wielding institutions to the mob of the majority and the physical manifestation of this antipathy has been unfortunately quite visible; the invisibilisation of this aspect is moral bankruptcy at its peak.

'Love jihad' or any other tactic for criminalising Muslim men lies on the premise of presenting them as mere 'bodies', devoid of any value to be considered human — as an equal in the eyes of the otherwise majority. This unfortunate and brazen attempt is executed to separate the co-existing or the very quintessential quality of being a Muslim and a human together into two separate categories. The very idea of being a Muslim is quintessentially and even theologically ingrained in being a human. But with this categorisation, Muslim men are forced to choose to either be a Muslim or a human and are not allowed to exist in both of these categories collectively at all.

The idea further presents Muslim men as machinery employed by this 'other' (their religious identity) as a threat to the State and therefore, to its people. Who are the people of this State now? This State has underpinnings to this unrestrained mythical narrative of a 'Hindu Rashtra'. This depiction smoothly translates into filtering Muslim bodies away from the 'living', what is left is profane and undesired for (and by) the collective conscience of this nation.

We are falling into the collective trap of a psycho-political understanding where the only Muslim worthy of being 'asked' to be 'saved' has to be the one who fits the mould of a stereotypical Indian Muslim, who is distanced from the faith and does not claim their religious identity. Who they should marry, how they should act, how they should speak, what they should eat, what they should wear, and how they should question (if at all 'allowed' to); all of these questions are being regulated under one homogenous category. This is reiterated again and again in the rhetoric of mainstream political parties and in the 'saved' cases of the Muslim community.

Eventually, the crowd accepts it, not as a possible acceptable variation amongst the diverse nature of Muslim identity but as the Muslim identity. Soon, the maybe becomes the 'ought to be' and then, 'should be', and from there, there is no coming back for the Indian Muslims if they don't want to live as second-class citizens in this country.


Draconian ‘Love Jihad’ Laws Will Rob Our Young Of The Glory Of Youth, The Very Essence And Purpose Of Life

By Captain GR Gopinath

December 7, 2020

Love Jihad. What an oxymoron. Even moronically incongruous. As Shakespeare said,

“Doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt love.”

In my salad days ‘when I was young in blood and green in judgment,’ and impetuous as a young army officer, I and two youthful colleagues serving together in a cantonment town were courting three girls, who were boarders in a local missionary college. And it so happened one of them, who was seeing me, was a Muslim girl.

Her parents who were in the Middle East got wind of it, rushed back to India, grounded her and locked her up in the house. And fixed up a boy for marriage post-haste. She called me one day when I was wondering why I had not heard from her for a week, and in desperation pleaded with me to get her out of her house at night before it was too late, or she would be doomed.

She suggested I arrange to have her secretly lifted out of her room past midnight and send her to her friend, who had a place in Bangalore and agreed to give her board and lodging till she found some job. She was shy of 20 and still an undergraduate. I was in my mid-20s. Marriage was not on our minds.

Young blood danced through our veins and there was tumult in our hearts. It all did seem “apparelled in celestial light.” If in youth girls and boys – hearts enflamed and suffused with tender emotions – don’t love, what can be more unnatural and unholy?

Coming back to the story, swept away by reckless emotions, imagining myself a white knight to the rescue of a damsel in distress, I went with my buddies at midnight to her house, jumped the high rise compound wall and clambered up to her room on the first floor. We helped her out of the house over the barriers and on to my motorcycle pillion, whisked her away to the railway station and packed her off to Bangalore in the overnight mail train.

When her parents discovered next morning that their daughter had taken flight, all hell broke loose. Police were alerted, and eventually the girl went back after extracting assurance from her parents that she wouldn’t be married off forcibly. I escaped court martial thanks to an army commander who was magnanimous and forgiving.

Luckily the Muslim family never accused me of jihad, or dharmayudh. They were conservative, just as my parents were, and they were not supportive of their children marrying outside their community and their comfort zone.

It’s presumptuous and delusional of upper castes to think the families of backward communities and Dalits are happy when a girl or boy marries a Brahmin or a Thakur or a Jat. In the main they all are as chary of it and don’t encourage their children marrying outside their castes and religions. But when the young, on reaching adulthood, fall headlong in love and wish to tie the knot, it’s barbaric of elders to come in the way and stop the union of hearts.

Love Jihad is also cruel double speak. The campaign by many saffron parties and the UP ordinance is selectively aimed at Muslim boys marrying Hindu girls and not targeted at Hindu boys marrying Muslim girls.

It’s also perverse logic because Hinduism is resilient and all embracing, and has absorbed influences and enriched itself without losing its core civilisational identity. No other religion has celebrated love in all its many splendoured facets and through its rich mythology, glorified in its temple architecture and other forms of art and literature, Lord Krishna being its pre-eminent deity and beloved symbol of love.

This fear of an imaginary ‘love jihad’ reflects an insecurity and inferiority complex, stemming from a diminutive and dwarfed civilisational outlook that does injustice to a mighty civilisation as imagined by the rest of the world. As the Allahabad high court commendably said in its November 11 verdict: “Right to live with a person of his/ her choice irrespective of religion professed by them, is intrinsic to right to life and personal liberty. Interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment into the right to freedom of choice of the two individuals.”


Why I Think All Hindus Should Fight Against Faisal Khan's Arrest

By Sunita Viswanath

9 December 2020

On November 3, just about a month ago, my dear friend and colleague Faisal Khan was arrested for doing namaz in a Hindu temple in Mathura. He was about to go outside to pray, but the priest invited him to pray right in the temple compound. Faisal bhai is being charged with praying in the temple without permission, with an intent to cause communal disharmony.

Faisal bhai is on the advisory board of my organisation, Hindus for Human Rights. We are in regular touch because his work of peacemaking takes him to temples and mosques, and I am myself devoted to interfaith dialogue and unity. Faisal bhai is a devout Muslim, but he can also recite Hindu prayers and scriptures with more authority and passion than most Hindus I know.

A few months ago, I interviewed Faisal bhai for a blog on present-day nonviolent resistance movements. Every time I broached politics, he steered the conversation towards love. He said, “Of course I am very concerned about the state of the Indian democracy. It is a challenging time, I don’t deny that. A dark time. Some people think I am mad, but I maintain that the only way we will bring light to this darkness is with even more truth and love. Khudai Kidmatgar is doing it, but we need to do more. We must take from Gandhi’s example and Bacha Khan’s example, and go among the people with love and humanity. And the most important thing is to work with both Muslim and Hindu youth.”

What does it say about our world, about India, that a man that represents love and peace is in prison, accused of inciting communal disharmony, and denied bail twice?

This time last year, my organisation along with so many others in the diaspora took to the streets to protest the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens.

Sunita with her son Gautama and a friend at an anti-CAA rally in NYC, in January 2020. Photo: Special arrangement

But things seem so much worse than they did a year ago. More activists and dissenters have been imprisoned – Faisal bhai is one of thousands in a growing list of prisoners of conscience. Amnesty India has been shut down. The mainstream media in India speaks of a parallel universe to the one I am aware of: one in which freedom of speech, protest, expression, thought and belief are being diminished to the extent that I wonder if India can still be called a free country.

In the past month, I have been working daily on the #FreeFaisalKhan campaign. We were part of a press conference as soon as Faisal bhai was arrested, and will soon have a second press conference. We have been mobilising Hindus to defend Faisal bhai. We have launched a petition, and have been promoting it. Rajmohan Gandhi and Anand Patwardhan, both of whom are close to Faisal bhai, wrote heartfelt appeals for his release. Anand ji also made a short video on Faisal bhai’s arrest, in both English and Hindi. We cannot and will not give up.

And yet, I feel powerless. Are the things we are doing making any difference, or worse, causing the enemies of justice to be even more entrenched in their position? Some of the conversations I have had during this month of trying to bring attention to this crisis have been painful and discouraging..

One Hindu friend who didn’t think Faisal should be in prison, still felt the need to ask: Is there any mosque in the world that would allow aarti?

I don’t know if there are mosques that would allow aarti. This is a question for Muslims to answer, not me. I know that if Faisal bhai ran a mosque, he would allow aarti.

For my part, even if not a single mosque in the world would allow aarti, I would still ask that Hindu temples remain open to all. In the Bhagavad Gita, when Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, “If anyone offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it,” he didn’t say he is only addressing Hindus. Hindu philosophy and faith are expansive and inclusive, and invite us to see the divine not only in each other, but in every leaf, flower, river and mountain.

Is our faith as Hindus so insecure today that we need to constrain and limit this universal and eternal notion of the divine?

The Taittiriya Upanishad tells us, Atithi Devo Bhava. Atithi means guest or stranger, and we are being told, “Be one for whom the guest or stranger is God.” And it doesn’t describe atithi in any way. It doesn’t say “atithi of the same faith, race or opinion.” The stories of our Gods include so many instances when God arrives in disguise, and people are either blessed or cursed depending on how they treat the stranger. I believe that the Nand Baba Temple priest did see his atithi, Faisal bhai, the way the Upanishads taught. The video and photos of the visit shows pleasant exchanges: Faisal bhai reciting the Ramcharitmanas, and the priest inviting Faisal Bhai to have prasad.

However, four days later, the same priest filed the FIR against Faisal bhai. When an aggressive journalist asked Faisal bhai repeatedly about this just before his arrest, Faisal bhai refused to speak badly of the priest. Faisal Khan is the best kind of Indian, the best kind of human. He sees no difference between us, he devotes his life to peace and harmony between us all, and he refuses to focus on the negative, but instead lives and spreads love. Why are we so threatened by Faisal Khan’s message of love that we need to imprison him?

Recently, a prominent Hindu priest in India, who cannot go on the record for his safety, told me: “They (the BJP government) don’t care about Badshah Khan and Khudai Kidmatgar. As far as they are concerned, India was born in 2014. Any of us who care for Hindu-Muslim unity are a problem for them.”

I wept during this conversation because I desperately want this priest to stand up in our press conference and say these words openly. I understand that he is a good man, on the side of truth, but he has to be responsible to his temple and his family. He does not want to land up in jail.

I ask anyone reading these words to remember that there are many like this Hindu priest, who are decent and kind, but are not yet speaking up openly. I will keep pushing Hindus to speak up because otherwise India will keep moving towards Hindutva authoritarianism (if not fascism). My deepest fear is that they will only speak when it is too late.


Sunita Viswanath is a co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), a US-wide human rights advocacy group that is committed to the ideals of multi-religious pluralism both in the United States and India, the country of her origin. She was honoured by President Barack Obama at the White House in 2015 as a “Champion of Change” for her work. Sunita has edited Women for Afghan Women: Shattering Myths and Claiming the Future (Palgrave McMillan), a book of essays.


How Should We Remember December 6?

By Apoorvanand

9 December 2020

“…[T]here are two types of human relations and the obligation to remember is not moral but ethical. I try to make memory and communities of memory a basic unit. The notions of nation and community rely upon the idea of community of memory. I think that the discussions about what is a nation and what is ethnic, if a nation is ethnically based or whatever, should rely upon the idea of whom we think belongs to the same community of memory. An identity, namely a group identity, for me depends on the idea of a community of memory.”

~ Marglit Avishai

We started from home for Mandi House. We were late. The march was to start at 11 am. Suddenly, a message from a friend popped up in my inbox, telling me that the demonstrators had been detained by the police and the march was disrupted. He advised me not to go to the protest site.

It was December 6. We wanted to remember the sixth of December, 1992. Together. A day when a mosque was torn apart, razed to the ground by hundreds of goons under the watch and open instigation by leaders of a political party which is now ruling India. One of them, riding on this wave of hatred, became the deputy prime minister of India and was in charge of the home ministry. Rakesh Batabyal had likened nation building to home making, in his essay from Nehru’s India: Essays on the Maker of a Nation. Here was a man who had created walls in this home and was later assigned to supervise its functioning. Another one of the hate mongers became the education minister of India and equated intellectuals with terrorists.

There was also the presence of an absence. The absentee legitimiser of the politics of hate. Who made hate against Muslims palatable to those who wanted to be known as decent people. He had flown away from the place of the atrocity after cleverly instigating his crowd the previous evening to raze the ground where the Babri Masjid stood. The man rose to be the Prime Minister of India. He was used as an excuse by a great many people to support his politics of division and hate. They argued that not everything could be appalling about a party which had a “poet” like him at its helm.

The man in question brings to the mind another absentee participant in this act: the invisible hand of the Supreme Court. The man had, in his exhortation, told people that what was to be done the next morning was nothing but an implementation of the order of the Supreme Court to do ‘kar seva‘. The wise heads had permitted kar seva on the site where lakhs of people had been mobilised as part of a long campaign of hatred against Muslims. It was not reverence or love for Lord Ram which had brought them to his imagined land of birth but a pent up desire to put Muslims in their place in India – to humiliate and subjugate them. If the honourable justices could not foresee what their permission would ultimately do, can it be dismissed as a mere error of judgement?

This ostensible lack of judgement is further reinforced by the fact that the Supreme Court did not think it was necessary to punish those who had violated the undertaking to ensure the safety of the mosque. That case is still lingering in the Supreme Court. Rakesh Bhatnagar recalls his interaction with Justice Venkatchaliah and Justice G. N. Ray who were astonished that the Supreme Court could be treated in this manner by a state government.

The Supreme Court, however, never corrected this ‘mistake’ on their part. It only perpetuated it. Last year on November 9, it handed over the land on which the Babri Mosque had stood for more than five centuries to those who had demolished it. The order which accepted the status of the VHP representative as the guardian of Lord Ram who was to be ‘given back’ his birth place demonstrated that the crime of the demolition of the mosque had been legitimised.

The Supreme Court has again allowed the central government to go ahead with another kar seva, this time in Delhi while placing a condition before it not to demolish or construct anything for its dream project, the Central Vista. Some will argue that the issue in question is an entirely different matter and any reference to demolition of the Babri Masjid, while discussing it, is unwarranted. But is the similarity entirely misplaced?

How does one recall December 6? As an event or as a milestone of a process in which nearly all actors of Indian politics played their role? Was it only the political class? Could December 6 be possible without active complicity from the Hindi media? We, who rue the downfall of the media in our times, forget that it had long been acting as the mouthpiece of the ideology of hate against Muslims.

So, when we remember December 6, we understand that we never seriously attempted to define the content of a decent society that we should have become. For us there was no non-negotiable. The ideology of hatred against Muslims always got its validation by those who called themselves ‘secular’ or ‘humanists’. Can we imagine December 6 without the date when the lock on the Babri Mosque was removed under the leadership of a moderniser prime minister, a nice loveable man?

Remembering December 6, therefore, not only entails condemning active criminals but also those who made it possible for the crime to happen in the first place, those who allowed it to be done on their behalf.

There were dates before December 6 and after December 6 which give meaning to it. February 28, when the Gujarat pogrom started, August 5, when Jammu and Kashmir was dismembered and downgraded, November 9, when the land of the Babri Mosque was granted to the demolishers, December 11 when the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed in the parliament.

It is important to remember December 6. But now the number of those who have borne this memory is dwindling. We did not hear any major political leader, barring a few left leaders, talking about the meaning of December 6 for us. The Congress wants us to ignore it, for the regional parties it is too national a date to stir their partial memory, for the media there are far too pressing and relevant issues vying for its attention. Good natured and peace loving people will advise us to forget the day to make living possible.

A life which does not examine itself is no life. Memories help us in this act of scrutiny. If an event or a date evokes two disparate and antagonistic memories in two sections of society, it is impossible for us to become one people.

December 6 is a date which forces us to think about our laziness, our compromises and our complicity which led to a crime which was not inevitable. It could have been pre-empted and prevented. December 6 was a culmination of events which could not have been possible without well thought out decisions and was also the beginning of the processes which have led us to the present state – a situation in which all of us feel trapped.

There is a responsibility we have with our memories of December 6. What is that?  It has do with the damage that it was meted out to our cognitive and affective faculties. It is a task to create a decent society. A society in which atonement is possible and memories are not tools to humiliate a section of society and isolate it.

Remembering December 6 is, in the words of Marglit Avishai, a necessary step in creating a community of memory, a moral task, of moving away from the thick to the thin and feeling responsible towards each other.


Apoorvanand teaches at Delhi University.


Golden Jubilee of 1971 War: Triggering a New Resolve

By Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd)

08th December 2020

India is stepping into the 50th year after its spectacular military campaign that led to Pakistan’s capitulation on 16 December 1971. Current public knowledge of those landmark days remains severely limited. The Golden Jubilee year of the successful completion of the 14-day war will no doubt be celebrated but it must equally be utilised to enhance public knowledge on how victory was achieved. People are aware of the 1971 Indo-Pak war as a dot in history but not with the nuances of it.

Pakistan existed from 1947 to 1971 with two segments separated by 2,000 km of India. United only by religion, East and West Pakistan had major cultural, linguistic and ethnic differences that could not allow their integration as a nation state; the entire two-nation theory based on which Jinnah’s Pakistan was created struggled to justify its existence. Proportionally in minority, West Pakistan attempted to dominate the East in every way, the Punjabis, Sindhis, Balochs and Pakhtuns of the West looking down upon the Bengalis of the East and hoisting their perceptions on the majority.

Language was one of the major issues as was the allocation of funds. Attempts to make Urdu the dominant language of the state was the trigger which led to a chain of events that ultimately saw efforts to scuttle the majority electoral mandate won democratically by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League in December 1970. Wishing to avoid rule by the Bengalis, the Army in connivance with the crafty Zulfikar Bhutto avoided the convening of the Assembly session that would have led to Sheikh Mujib proving his majority and thereby being handed the reins of power. Instead, the Army went on a killing spree, many times referred to as a virtual genocide. Sheikh Mujib, although arrested, declared secession from Pakistan and a war of independence began.

For India, the choice was to either watch from the sidelines the slaughter of innocents and the pouring in of thousands of refugees into its territories or proactively do something about it. The global community had no resolve to end the internal turbulence in Pakistan but India was suffering the consequences of it. PM Indira Gandhi called the then Army Chief General Sam Manekshaw to a meeting with her important Cabinet colleagues and asked for his readiness to undertake proactive operations to enter East Pakistan, put an end to the massacres by defeating the Pakistan Army and help create an independent state for the Bengali people of Pakistan.

Manekshaw’s conversation with Indira Gandhi’s cabinet is legendary and mentioned by him in his numerous speeches, although many today contest that no official record of the same exists. What is clear is that Manekshaw told the PM that entering the erstwhile East Pakistan territory would be tantamount to a declaration of war with Pakistan on both eastern and western fronts, which he was in no position to fight given the state of the Army and the timing of the events. He demanded time and resources to ensure the Army was fully ready to deliver what the government demanded.

Among the constraints he listed were lack of spares and ammunition. Regarding the timing, he did not wish to engage Pakistan in the approaching summer when China’s PLA could prevent our pulling out troops from the northern borders. In addition, the war in Punjab and north Rajasthan would lead to movement of our tanks destroying the summer crop, which would be most harmful for an economy already stretched by the war effort. Lastly he informed the PM that the war could extend to the monsoon season when the east-west movement of reserves would be severely hampered by the state of communications in northern India. The PM could not have had more sage advice given by a professional soldier, frank and to the face.

The PM gave Manekshaw a free hand in planning while she undertook the diplomatic campaign. The signing of the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship was a landmark achievement to bolster the confidence in the military effort underway. Pakistan perceived that India could not fight on two fronts and that the fear of Chinese intervention would dissuade it from launching a war. When it discerned serious Indian intent, Pakistan decided to trigger hostilities on the western front in the fond hope that it could prevent India undertaking operations in the East; 3 December 1971 witnessed air attacks on Indian airfields all along the western front, which gave New Delhi sufficient reason to unleash its plan.

Manekshaw decided to fight limited on the western front and go for a focused campaign to liberate East Pakistan. Only once marked success was achieved in the east with no loss of territory in the west would he allow his commanders to undertake any offensive operations in the latter. In the east, he built a sizeable advantage by concentrating three corps size formations and tasked them to advance rapidly, bypassing major opposition. The Indian Army engineers played a significant role in bridging the many rivers and creating loop roads for sidestepping main arteries.

Capture of Dacca was not the initial aim. It was due to the operations led by Lt Gen Sagat Singh, in command of 4 Corps, which were unconventional and achieved such spectacular success in quick time that capture of Dacca became a possibility. With Dacca as the revised centre of gravity, rapid concentration was achieved around it even as islands of Pakistani resistance had enough ammunition and supplies to last a month.

With all means of reinforcement cut off, the Indian Air Force ruling the skies in the east and progressively in the west, and the Indian Navy undertaking spectacular operations against the Karachi harbour threatening Pakistan’s national logistics, the die was cast for a massive Pakistani defeat. It eventually happened with the surrender on 16 December 1971 at Dacca’s famous Maidan as Lt Gen A A K Niazi handed over his pistol to Lt Gen Jagjit Aurora, India’s Eastern Army Commander and 93,000 Pakistani servicemen overnight became prisoners of war.

Bull-headedness and inability to foresee anything beyond conflict initiation became a characteristic of Pakistan’s leadership. Hopefully 2021 will see a mature awakening there for the need to pull back from conflict as the only means of resolving differences.


Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd)is Former Commander, Srinagar-based 15 Corps. Now Chancellor, Central University of Kashmir


Watch Afghanistan Closely, And Clearly

By Arun Joshi

December 8, 2020

A number of foreign policy experts have listed Afghanistan on the to-do-list of President-elect Joe Biden, though only next to China. These analysts have viewed things through American prism; how soon American troops would return home from the war-torn country where nothing is stable except the instability, and also how that will help the new administration to establish its good foreign policy credentials.

America has no other interest. It is plain and simple. India cannot sit pretty in this kind of situation unless its strategic interests are served. The country has an interest in ensuring that things stay under control in Afghanistan and its influence in the region doesn’t suffer any erosion.

America will serve its strategic interests only for it will help India only in as much of space where it could without getting involved directly into any conflict situation. At best, it will offer mediation and that any self-respecting sovereign country like India will never accept .

Each anti-China statement from Washington is seen as an endorsement of the Indian stand against Beijing’s belligerence and aggressive expansionist policy. There are other dimensions too. Simple aggressive statements by Washington are not going to help India to see back of Chinese troops from Ladakh.  The US has its own reasons to prick China. Its anti-China stand against Beijing’s expansionist policies is not India-centric. Its anti-Beijing narrative anti-China stance fits into  its worldview wherein China is seen as an aggressor, be it what it is doing in South China sea where reefs have been militarised or where it is threatening Japan over Senkaku islands, encroaching Bhutanese villages. Therefore, it is necessary to understand that anti-China statement will not ease situation for India in Ladakh where China has amassed tens of thousands of its troops.

America will say and do only as much its institutions permit. Joe Biden, as per the rules of the constitutional democracy demands, owes accountability to other institutions too. He is unlike his outgoing predecessor Donald Trump who gave a damn to the democratic institutions. There are consequences, Trump must have understood it by now.

China and Afghanistan have figured on the foreign policy agenda of the Biden administration that will start functioning from January 20, 2021. But the importance of these issues varies.

China poses an altogether different problem for Washington where it has to navigate the trade issues and check its growing influence in the markets across the continent. There is not going to be any direct or indirect military confrontation between the two countries.

In Afghanistan, the US is trying to wriggle out of the situation of its own creation. It had attacked Afghanistan in October 2001 in less than a month after 9/11. It thought that its aerial bombing has done job for it. Far from it, the things have lingered on till date. There were more complications. One after another experiment was undertaken to find a way out, but without success. A lesson, which is universally true, must have been learned by America, never enter a land where neither geography and demography is known to you.

Satellite images are not the true reflection of the ground situation nor drones achieve the political and strategic objectives. What they had thought was an opening turned out to be a dark alley. That explains why the war went on for 19 years and it is continuing.

Whatever America may decide to do vis-à-vis Afghanistan, it will affect the geo-political landscape of South Asia. With China supporting Pakistan to the hilt, because of its huge investment there, it will strengthen Islamabad’s hold on the levers with which it controls affairs in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan are rooted in history. Pakistan controls levers of Taliban that controls most parts of the country. The Ashraf Ghani government in Afghanistan is having very limited influence, that became clearer when despite Doha agreement of February this year, Taliban did not downscale the violence. That has all the parties worried.

India is worried, too. No doubt Pakistan’s influence will grow because there will be less of American oversight. China is fully backing Islamabad. China will have its own share in the whole scene that will emerge. It wants complete security of its assets in Balochistan and for that it is committed to help Pakistan in all manners. Chinese footprints are deepening in the area and it would not like those to overrun by any quarter. Pakistan’s support is crucial to its long-term strategic goals that it seeks to achieve trough One Belt Road Initiative. This will push the scale of balance of powers in the region .

India facing tough situation on borders with China and locked in daily skirmishes at the Line of Control needs to devise its own strategy to stay in control of things. It will have to sort out the problems within, and in that context, it’s very crucial that Jammu and Kashmir is stable.



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