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Indian Press ( 16 Dec 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Indian Press on Interfaith Relationships and Marriages, And 1971 War: New Age Islam's Selection, 16 December 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

16 December 2020

• Interfaith Relationships and Marriages: Watch Out Religious Bias

The Telegraph India Editorial

• In Kashmir, Militants Are High On Recruitment, But Weaponless

By Khalid Shah

• A Victory to Remember

By Lt Gen SR Ghosh (Retd)

• How Pakistan Lost the Plot

By Abhijit Bhattacharyya

• Language Row Led To A New Nation 49 Yrs Ago

By Abhijit Bhattacharyya

• Pakistan’s Plan To Open Punjab Flank

By Harsha Kakar

• Iranian Stew

Statesman News Service


 Interfaith Relationships and Marriages: Watch Out Religious Bias

The Telegraph India Editorial


A law is the codified expression of dominant social values. Or of the prohibitions they imply. The determination with which the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, pushed through the ordinance outlawing religious conversion undertaken solely for the purpose of marriage sprang perhaps from a desire to lead by following the followers.

The chief minister’s own penchant for discrimination flows into and feeds on the same cultural propensity of the state he governs. The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 violates the constitutional right to practise any religion and the right to privacy and personal autonomy interpreted as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court in 2017. “Unlawful” conversion assumes the State’s right to judge whether anyone has been forced to change religions.

The religious bias that the UP government takes no pains to conceal ensures that the ordinance is applied only in cases of Hindu women marrying or having a relationship with men from the largest minority community. Projecting such relationships as part of a plot by this community to change India’s demography establishes a foundational myth that becomes an alibi for the aggression of the dominant sections of UP society. The ordinance takes the myth as its premise and formalizes unconstitutional action based on community and gender hatred.

Most important, it legitimizes the intervention of families, relatives and neighbours into interfaith relationships and marriages. They willingly turn into useful representatives of the State, especially when a romance is about to flower. At a later stage, just before marriage or just after it, there are the police who can act on parents’ complaints, or temples and registration offices, where officials act as informants.

It is not even necessary to report to the administration; alerting a Hindutva organization is enough for the State to leap into action. These organizations take great pride in counting and declaring the number of ‘love-jihad’ unions they have destroyed. The entire state of UP has gradually turned into an enormous surveillance network, with its skeins running through the narrowest alleys. Social media, too, are attuned to the same purpose — of spying and informing. The informer syndrome demonstrates how the nurturing of distrust for one community can become an internally divisive weapon for the other. Hatred does not obey boundaries.


In Kashmir, Militants Are High On Recruitment, But Weaponless

By Khalid Shah

15 December, 2020

Militancy in Jammu and Kashmir has entered a crucial transitional phase. In the last five years, it kept surging, its lethality increasing year after year—in terms of recruitment, infiltration and violent attacks. The year 2020 marked a remarkable shift in the trends of militancy, indicating a downgrading in lethality despite high recruitment.

The recruitment numbers for the year 2020 do not show a big change compared to last year. As per news reports, the number of local recruits for this year (till October end) stood at 145—the second highest in a decade. The spate of recruitment suggests that the counter-offensive of security forces is proving to be a zero-sum game, as for every militant killed a new one is being recruited or infiltrated.

However, there is another data point which depicts a significant downgrade in militant operations. Data suggests that militants in Kashmir are witnessing a dearth of weaponry and logistics, which is severely denting their capacity to carry out big, lethal attacks.

Data accessed by ORF shows that 176 counter-militancy operations were conducted by the security forces till October end. Out of 245 weapons recovered, 101 were pistol or handguns and 144 were various types of assault rifles—AK47, AK56, M4, Insas etc. Many operations in which militants were killed/arrested/surrender had no major weapon recovery.

Recovery of ammunitions showed that the militants possessing pistols carried on an average 10 rounds for each weapon. In the case of assault rifles, an average of 66 rounds per weapon was recorded. A pistol is primarily a self-defence weapon and can only be used to carry out targeted assassinations at point-blank range.

The above data clearly shows that the pistol-wielding members posed a lesser threat as they are not capable of carrying out big attacks against the military establishment. This also explains why there weren’t any major terror attacks in the year 2020 barring a few. The nature of attacks carried out in 2020 were mostly targeted killings of civilians and stand-off attacks on cornered soldiers. Data shows that this year, only one improvised explosive device or IED was recovered compared to the 12 recovered last year.

The critical metric to judge the state of militancy is not the disruption in supply of weapons but the surge in demand for weapons. In other words, the continuous flow of recruits suggests that the demand for weapons is much more than it has been in the last few years. Perhaps, the weapon supply chain has primarily been interrupted by shutting down of the cross-LoC trade and crackdown on the overground networks of the militant outfits. In the past, trucks involved in cross LoC trade have been caught by the security forces carrying weapons into the Indian side of the  LoC. In April 2019, India shut down cross LoC trade after investigative agencies found out the route was used for “smugglings weapons, drugs and fake currency.”

It is an open secret that militants also procured weapons through trade with rogue members of security forces. DySP Davinder Singh, currently being investigated by the NIA, brought this reality into the public glare when a former sarpanch was arrested for supplying arms to Hizbul Mujahideen. The arrest of DySP Davinder Singh and subsequent investigation has perhaps acted as a deterrent against this network and created further problems in the procurement of weaponry.

Officials of the Indian Army and J&K Police have publicly stated that the militants in Kashmir were facing a shortage of weapons. This deficit in weaponry has provoked desperate attempts by Pakistan to find new routes and modes of weapon delivery to militants in Kashmir.

On June 20, Border Security Forces (BSF) shot down a China-made drone, carrying arms and explosives, that had crossed the international border from the Pakistani side near Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir. The hexacopter was carrying an M4 Carbine rifle and seven grenades. Similarly, on September 19, two AK 47 rifles, two pistols and four grenades were recovered from three arrested militants who claimed that arms and ammunition were received via drones. The incidents of weapon drops through drones has not been limited to Jammu and Kashmir. Reports of drone drops have taken place in Punjab as well along the international border between India and Pakistan. It is possible that weapons dropped in Punjab are then transported up north to Jammu and Kashmir.

These incidents of airdrops of weapons have added a new dimension to militancy in Kashmir. Most importantly, they are an indicator of the evolution of militant groups in Kashmir. The shortage of weapons is affecting the traditional militant outfits like Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) more than the newly created ones like The Resistance Front (TRF) and People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAPF). The new recruits in HM and LeT have to make do with the handguns, thereby, limiting their activities.

After statements by Indian Army officials regarding the shortage of weapons faced by militants, TRF sought to counter the claims of security forces by issuing a propaganda video on social media. In the video, which appears to have been hurriedly recorded in a residential house, a militant of TRF is seen counting eight assault rifles of AK 47 model, seven pistols and some hand grenades put on display against a wall. The video put out a statement, which read, “there is no scarcity of weapons.”

Even as Kashmir witnessed a less lethal and downgraded militancy in the year 2020, the trends suggest trouble is far from over. The rising recruitment in militant ranks remains a point of concern and all efforts by security forces to stop new recruits from joining militant groups have had no positive outcome. This will remain a cause for worry in the coming months too. The incidents of airdrops suggest that militant outfits and their managers are utilising new methods and tactics to keep the pot boiling. Perhaps, these shifting tactics by militant outfits are just a part of a bigger plan, which is yet to come in motion. They may even be planning to launch a big assault in the future, much like the wave of militancy that emerged after the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016.


Khalid Shah is an Associate Fellow at ORF. His research focuses on Kashmir conflict, Pakistan and terrorism. Views are personal.


A Victory to Remember

By Lt Gen SR Ghosh (Retd)

Dec 16, 2020

An iconic signpost on the Indo-Pak border read: “You are now entering Pakistan. No passports required. Bash on regardless.” This was for India’s 54 Infantry Division under the command of the charismatic Maj Gen WAG Pinto, spearheading the Indian offensive into the Shakargarh Bulge in December 1971.

For the nation, 1971 was a historic year and we, as newly commissioned second lieutenants, were part of this history, part of this great military success. And this victory is since celebrated every year on December 16 as Vijay Diwas.

Unfortunately, over the years, it appears that the 1971 war is gradually fading from public memory and being overtaken by Kargil, Balakot, Doklam and Galwan. Vijay Diwas has been replaced by Kargil Vijay Diwas. Has the nation forgotten the greatest ever victory achieved by its armed forces? Have all the sacrifices of our young officers and men gone in vain?

Today, many of us who were part of this great campaign are no more. The youngest alive are in their 70s. All that is left for these veterans is a brief wreath-laying ceremony on December 16 at a war memorial, for which most of them are not even invited. The rest of the nation, in any case, hardly remembers this war.

In the run-up to the 50th anniversary of the war next year, the nation needs to commemorate December 16, 1971, when under the leadership of the iconic General Sam Manekshaw, the Indian Army, supported by the IAF and the Indian Navy, blitzkrieged its way to achieve one of the greatest victories by any modern-day military, dismembering Pakistan, and bringing about one of the biggest humiliations any country could ever have to undergo.

The ‘famed’ Pakistani Army was disgraced in the eyes of the world when Gen AAK Niazi and his 93,000 soldiers prostrated themselves in front of the Indian Army in the biggest military surrender after World War II. Till today, the Pakistani military smarts from the ignominy of this defeat by an Army which it used to sneer at.

December 16 is a day of rejoicing because on this day we, along with the Mukti Bahini, liberated and created a free new nation, Bangladesh, and ended a barbaric pogrom by the Pakistani Army of mass killing and rape of its innocent and hapless people.

In a memorable conclusion to the war, young Major Ashok Tara, VrC, in a brilliant operation, rescued the entire family of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, held prisoner by the Pakistani Army, including his wife Begum Fazilatunnesa and daughter Sheikh Hasina, the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh and a great friend of India.

The war produced heroes like our young Param Vir Chakra (PVC) recipients 2/Lt Arun Khetrapal, Flying Officer Nirmaljit Sekhon and Lance Naik Albert Ekka, who along with several thousands of unrecognised, gallant soldiers laid down their lives with the words ‘Naam, Namak, Izzat’ on their dying breaths. We had inspiring officers like Major Hoshiyar Singh, awarded the PVC for his extraordinary bravery at Shakargarh, Major Ian Cardozo, who, given up for dead due to gangrene, chopped off his leg with his khukri and went on to become a Major General, or Maj KS Chandpuri, MVC, who with his small force, gallantly defended the post of Longewala against the greatly superior Pakistani forces, thus enabling the IAF to decimate the attacking enemy tank regiments.

A special place of honour should be reserved for the silent service, the Indian Navy. In a daring operation, its missile boats attacked the Karachi port, sinking and damaging several Pakistan ships and destroying critical logistics facilities. The Navy dominated both the western and eastern seaboards, thus greatly restricting freedom of action of the Pakistani Navy.

The new generations also need to learn about and honour extraordinary commanders like Capt MN Mulla, MVC, who, in the highest traditions of the Navy, chose to go down with his ship INS Khukri, along with near 200 officers and sailors.

On this occasion, we, as a nation, should forever remember with great pride and gratitude the ultimate sacrifice made by 4,000 Indian soldiers who laid down their lives on the battlefield and 10,000 more who went home wounded or disabled.

Let us also never forget our 54 officers and men taken prisoners of war, who are dead or dying in Pakistani prisons. How unfortunate and tragic that we as victors, allowed 93,000 Pakistani prisoners to return home to their families but could not bring back our own soldiers, while also returning 13,000 square km of captured territory won with the blood, toil and sweat of our men.

Next year is the golden jubilee year of the war. On this landmark occasion, not just the Indian military, but India as a nation also needs to celebrate Vijay Diwas 1971 and remind the world of this great victory of the ‘righteous over evil’. Apart from declaring 2021 as the Year of the Soldier, December 16 should henceforth be celebrated as the Armed Forces Day and do away with the irrelevant and antiquated Armed Forces Flag Day on December 7.

Let a chapter be added to our history books so that future generations read about this momentous victory and continue to remember and honour the sacrifices made by the gallant soldiers of India.


How Pakistan Lost the Plot

By Abhijit Bhattacharyya

Dec 16, 2020

Commentator and Author

WAS the birth of the linguistic state of Bangladesh in 1971 a rare accident of history? Or was it owing to invisible and inexorable forces of history? It’s the ‘geography of the demography’ that played a pivotal role, which, more often than not, has been ignored.

India rightly claims credit for her ‘politico-military midwife’ role in the creation of an independent Bengali-speaking state in 1971, despite apprehension and concern in some quarters as India’s border areas are vulnerable to turbulence caused by China-aided and Pakistan-backed actors. Hence, the completion of 49 years of sovereign Bangladesh is all the more creditable if one assesses the overlapping physical contours of geographical Bengal as a whole.

The stark geography of the east was succinctly described by Dr Sudhindra Nath Bhattacharyya, an eminent historian of Dacca University, in The History of Bengal. How the Mughals faced problems in suppressing Bengal: “The task of conquest and consolidation was rendered more complicated owing to insuperable difficulties arising out of the nature of the country (side) and its peculiar geography. Bengal, with its numerous rivers, streams, nalahs, creeks, swamps, its damps and moist air, and its prolonged rains half the year, peculiar vegetation, absence of barley and wheat, its no less peculiar language, foreign to Urdu and Hindi alike — all these made Mughal grandees intensely dislike service in Bengal.” Did the Pakistani army repeat the Mughal history in 1971? Notwithstanding the brute force and savagery perpetrated on ‘blacks of the east’, as infamously referred to by its army brass?

‘Blacks of the east’, nevertheless were not the sole obstacle to Pakistan’s forces. There existed something more deep-rooted. The geomorphology and terrain being the biggest mismatch of demographic civility and civilisational chemistry between the eastern geography of Bengal and the non-eastern topography of South Asia, as gleaned from the monumental research work of Dr Nihar Ranjan Ray in his path-breaking History of the Bengali people (1950).

Thus described Yuan-ch’uang: “People of Pundravardhana (south of Brahmaputra) were straightforward, virtuous and had great respect for culture and learning... Tamralipti (coastal town Tamluk) people were brave, industrious, fond of learning but rough in their manner. People of Samatata (coastal area) were hard-working, while those of Karnasuvarna (central Bengal) were gentle, of fine character, and gave much support to scholarship.”

On the linguistic front, however, things didn’t appear optimistic. Bodhayana Dharmasutra didn’t have good things to suggest on Bengali. “On return from Vanga (Bengal) to central lands, or Aryavarta, it was necessary to perform expiation” owing to ‘Vanga being barbarian territory and their people of low origin” (does it have an uncanny similarity with the views of the army of undivided Pakistan?) The contrary view, too, speaks for itself. The in-built contradiction and confrontation between Bengal and Aryavarta: “Aryan language and culture had neither understanding of, nor respect for, the language, customs and culture of non-Aryan or pre-Aryan people of Gauda (Central Bengal), Pundravardhana and Vanga.”

The uniqueness of Bengal’s geography, therefore, constitutes an oft-forgotten reality. That a country’s political boundaries and natural geographical boundaries may not always be the same even if there exists a common linguistic or homogenous ethnic group. Hence, the fertile land of Bengal invariably attracted those who hailed from a comparatively barren and less fertile land — for a better livelihood.

Another important scenario of the east pertained to language, literature and learning, traditionally the strongest features of the demography of Bengal. Its true that ancient India’s learning is well known to have begun with Vedas, Brahmanas and Upanishads. “However, the learning and scholarship embodied in Vedas, Brahmanas and Upanishads, even in the Dharmashastras and Dharmashutras, had no effect on Bengal for quite a long time,” according to Dr Nihar Ranjan Ray.

That said, there also existed a notable characteristic of the Bengali language: the flexibility to take/accept words, and usage, from the likes of Mon-Khmer and the Kola-Munda group of languages. The latter brought about by a stream of the Dravidian family of languages. Further came the language of the Tibetan-Burmese people. This introduction, acceptance and induction of diverse languages in Bengal, which began centuries before the birth of Christ, ultimately led to what one sees today as the rich and easy-to-learn and understand lingua franca of 32 crore people of the world. Thus, those known as Bengali today are not all from one, but diverse ethnic groups, their commonality and strongest bond being the Bengali language.

Regrettably, however, the historical challenge of geography, coupled with the depth of sensitivity and conviction of Bengali-speaking people, conspicuously remained incomprehensible to the gun-toting army rulers of Pakistan. Thus, when the former chief of Pakistan’s Eastern Command, Lt Gen AAK Niazi, wrote in his book, The betrayal of East Pakistan (1998) that “Bengalis had little chance of standing against my well-disciplined and experienced troops”, it showed the undiminished and ingrained arrogance and ignorance of the vanquished General. Essentially, a military junta’s lack of knowledge led to an unprecedented battlefield disaster. Little wonder the history of the Bengali-speaking demography stands tall, dwarfing the army of Pakistan before its former eastern wing. Sovereign Bangladesh has truly added a rich chapter to the history of South Asia. The change from the Karachi-Dhaka axis in the 1950s to the Delhi-Dhaka friendship of the 2020s appears impressive. At least for now.


Language Row Led To A New Nation 49 Yrs Ago

By Abhijit Bhattacharyya

Dec 16, 2020

Jinnah’s toxic temper, mixed with arrogance, sowed the seeds of irreversible Bengali nationalism in the world’s most fertile soil

The world knows that Bangladesh is South Asia’s youngest nation state, but few people — and particularly those born well after the cataclysmic events surrounding its birth, who are now in their 20s, 30s and 40s — are fully aware of the torturous processes over a long period of time that led to the creation of arguably one of the few linguistic nation states through blood, sweat, toil and tears? The experience of living through the tumultuous 24 years (1947-1971), between when India attained freedom from British rule and the December day 49 years ago when Dhaka (then Dacca) became “the free capital of a free country” — in Indira Gandhi’s ringing phrase in the Lok Sabha — are hard to fathom for those who didn’t personally experience those momentous times. East Bengal, of course, had known the agony and humiliation of separation even before 1947 when undivided Bengal was partitioned into two halves, but nothing quite prepared it for the experience of those 24 years as the eastern enclave of the nation called Pakistan — and being treated as a vassal province.

The beauty and reality of history is that it is usually written, rewritten or unwritten by the victors, or deliberately distorted for the sake of the polity. When British India was split into two with the independence of two nations in 1947, it also created a geopolitical impossibility: two wings of the new nation of Pakistan separated by the mother state with a 1,000-mile crater. It was an unbridgeable disconnect making a mockery of a unified Pakistan, ostensibly founded on a common religious identity. Its two wings were a political reality, but remained a geographical and cultural disconnect since birth.

Just ask any 74-year-old (or older) Bangladeshi (born in 1946 or earlier) about his or her life journey. One is likely to hear the agonising experience he/she underwent, changing his/her nationality. Ceasing to be Indian in August 1947. Being a Pakistani for 24 years, being treated as an inferior and a second-class citizen, discriminated against, till December 1971, and then attaining his/her present identity as a free, independent Bengali-speaking Bangladeshi.

The worst humiliation for the Bengali-speaking citizens of what became East Pakistan was the insensitive linguistic policy forcibly imposed by an insolent, dictatorial governor-general, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the country’s founding father, who contemptuously treated them as inferior creatures in contrast to the full-fledged citizens of West Pakistan.

Jinnah’s toxic temper, mixed with arrogance, sowed the seeds of irreversible Bengali nationalism in the world’s most fertile soil, and ploughing their mind with confrontational ideas. Bengalis sullenly, but silently, bore this up to a point. Till Jinnah left Dhaka, on his sole (and last) visit to East Pakistan, which helped to create a “distinct Bengali nation within an indistinct and intolerant Pakistani state”.

On March 21, 1948, Jinnah met a delegation of the Scheduled Castes; and on March 22 received another delegation of upper-caste Hindu members of the East Bengal Legislative Assembly. However, what happened on March 21 at a public gathering, addressed by Jinnah, was a bombshell. “Let me make it clear to you that the state language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language,” he declared. “Anyone who tries to mislead you is really the enemy of Pakistan… Every Mussalman should come under the banner of the Muslim League, which is the true custodian of Pakistan”. It was a warning-cum-threat to the Bengali language of “united” Pakistan. Jinnah misread the mood on the ground — and the fact that Bengali-speaking people across the world usually define themselves by their language, despite the significant role that religion may play in their lives.

Thus, while already nurturing a genuine feeling of deprivation, discrimination and humiliation, it didn’t take long for East Bengalis to fall back upon their linguistic pride. Rabindranath Tagore and Nazrul Islam were always dearer to the Bengali head and heart than the divisive, hate-filled politics of violence and murder of the rest of South Asia. Little wonder Rabindranath Tagore’s eternal rhythmic words and sonorous lyrics were wholeheartedly embraced and adopted as Bangladesh’s national anthem in 1971. It spontaneously took to the 1905 composed lines of arguably the greatest philosopher poet to have blossomed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries east of Suez.

“Amar shonar Bangla, ami tomay bhalobashi; Chirodin tomar akash, tomar batash, amar prane bajay bashi” (My golden Bengal, I love you. Forever thy skies, thy air set my heart in tune as if it were a flute).

Jinnah was to face some of his worst moments in Dhaka before he returned to Karachi, which was then Pakistan’s capital. His speech at Dacca University’s convocation March 24, 1948 had a kinetic effect. “There can be only one state language… and that language in my opinion can only be Urdu”. Dhaka was instantly rocked by student agitations: the pent-up feelings and suppressed grievances of Bengalis didn’t take long to crystallise and burst. People fell back on the facts to disprove Jinnah’s views as absurd and unacceptable to Bengali-speaking East Pakistanis, who were a majority of the population.

Jinnah had ignored the fact that Urdu was the mother tongue of only four per cent of Pakistanis, while 55 per cent considered Bengali their mother tongue. Only the Muslims of northern and northwestern India, from where most of the Muslim League’s leadership came from, would benefit from Urdu as the state language, along with some Punjabis and Pashtuns working for the state. The choice of Urdu as state language also meant a total absence of Bengali-speaking Pakistanis from state affairs.

What happened later, in 1971, is of course part of the folklore of the proud new nation. History will surely judge Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as an outstanding leader of geopolitical vision who, ably supported by the Indian armed forces under General (later Field-Marshal) Sam Manekshaw, managed the shatter the myth of invincibility around Jinnah’s creation – and ensured the surrender of Pakistan’s entire military in the eastern sector to the Indian Army at Dhaka’s Ramna Maidan on December 16, 1971. What, however, remains an abiding mystery is how Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in Washington and Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai in Beijing so misread the signs on the ground and tried their best – unsuccessfully – to abort the birth of an independent Bangladesh.


Pakistan’s Plan to Open Punjab Flank

By Harsha Kakar

December 15, 2020

The farmers’ agitation in India drew support from the global Khalistan movement. In London, there were thousands of protestors outside the Indian High Commission waving Khalistan flags. Amongst the participants were members of the Sikh Federation, UK, known to be associated with the Khalistan movement. Also present in the protest was Paramjeet Singh Pamma, a man wanted in India for his connection to the banned terror group, Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), which is believed to be funded by Pakistan’s ISI. Attempts in the UK parliament to back the protest were turned down by Boris Johnson, describing it as India’s internal matter.

The US-headquartered SFJ threatened to shut down Indian consulates in Europe and North America through rallies in support of the ongoing agitation. Pakistan also waded into the farmer’s protest. Their interior minister, Fawad Choudhary, tweeted, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We must speak up against injustice done to Punjabi farmers. Modi policies are a threat to the whole region.” Pakistan has openly been attempting to rekindle the Khalistan movement.

Simultaneously, Delhi Police arrested five individuals who were planning a high-profile assassination in the city. The group consisted of two Khalistan supporters and three Hizbul Mujahideen members. Indian intelligence agencies, in coordination with their counterparts in the UAE, detained ISI henchman, Sukhmeet Pal Singh in Dubai. He had masterminded several killings this year, including that of Shaurya Chakra awardee Balwinder Singh Sandhu. His arrest will be a major setback for Pakistan as their links to the organization would be revealed.

Pakistan’s involvement in the Khalistan movement is well documented. Zulfikar Bhutto had stated in support of Khalistan, “Pakistan will also have a Bangladesh carved out of India, except that it will be on Pakistan’s border.” This agenda was further pushed by Zia-ul-Haq. Hussain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to the US, gave Pakistan’s reasons for supporting the movement. Firstly, it could bleed India. Secondly, if the Khalistan plan succeeded, it could create a buffer between the two countries and finally cut India’s land access to Kashmir. He added that the Pakistan leadership is aware that Khalistan can never emerge, however, it could result in turmoil within India.

A study of the proposed Khalistan map displays the direct involvement of Pakistan. Historically, Lahore was the capital of the erstwhile Sikh empire and amongst its holiest shrines remains Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, now connected through the Kartarpur corridor. None of these figure in the Khalistan map. The fact that the Khalistan boundary runs along the Indo-Pak border indicates that movement leaders are unwilling to anger their main financer, ISI. The presence of Gopal Singh Chawla, a known Khalistan supporter, display of banners for the referendum, and presence of members of the SFJ at the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor, proved Pakistan’s intentions.

While in India there are few takers, abroad there is some support for the movement. In a recent report titled, ‘Khalistan, a project of Pakistan’, Terry Milewski writes, “Fantasy or not, it’s clear who’s really driving the Khalistan bus: Pakistan – the same Pakistan where countless Sikhs were murdered and expelled in the name of Islam.” He adds, “while separatist Sikhs complain loudly and properly about the killing of several thousand Sikhs in 1984, there are no rallies to demand justice for at least a quartermillion Sikhs massacred by Muslims in 1947.” Milewski also quotes Hussain Haqqani whose comments on the proposed referendum for Khalistan were, “the referendum is just a gimmick. And gimmicks make headlines – they don’t change maps.”

Pakistan has attempted to revive support for Khalistan by despatching drugs and weapons across the border, employing traditional smuggling routes and drones. Narcoterrorism is their current preferred option for purchasing supporters in the state, an act which Indian security agencies are seeking to nip in the bud. SFJ attempts to lure Sikh youth into joining the movement have largely failed.

Khalistan supporters abroad have little link with realities in India. The last elections where separatists received a drubbing is proof enough. Most supporters from abroad protest on occasions such as the current agitation by farmers. Their protests in the vicinity of Indian consulates and embassies give them media coverage. Few would attempt to actively participate in anti-national activities in India. On the other hand, anti-Khalistan supporters are in far greater numbers within and outside the country.

Every nation has radicals as part of its society. These are invariably exploited by hostile countries to their advantage. The US Black Life Matters and antifa movements are alleged to be funded by China. Radical Muslims in Europe are being exploited to commit heinous crimes by the Islamic state. In India, radicals in Kashmir and Punjab are exploited by Pakistan and in the North East by China. A few slogans of Khalistan and Pakistan, even if raised during the current farmer protests, are a sign of miniscule radical elements seeking limelight, which must be ignored. They do not represent the majority nor are they backed by the majority.

There are reports of SFJ seeking to incite Indian army personnel into joining their organization. This too is destined to fail. It is only when the government turns a blind eye for political reasons to such movements is when they gain support, which is not the case presently.

The receding Kashmir terrorism, evident from the successful conduct of the District Development Council elections, low local recruitment, incarceration of the Hurriyat and limited political support, indicates Pakistan’s Kashmir policy has failed. As an alternative, it is attempting to bring the Kashmir and Khalistan causes together hoping to create internal strife within North India. The recent arrest of the group consisting of Khalistan supporters and Hizbul Mujahideen militants highlights this new attempt.

The abrogation of Article 370 and failure of their Kashmir policy will push Pakistan to attempt reviving the Khalistan card. For them, the closing of one door implies opening a second. While support to the Khalistan cause will never ever be a repeat of the eighties, security agencies must maintain a close watch and prevent the movement from gaining steam.


Harsha Kakar is a retired Major-General of the Indian Army.


Iranian Stew

Statesman News Service

December 13, 2020

The announcement by Iran that it is prepared to return to the 2015 nuclear deal shepherded by former US President Barack Obama is a welcome development, coming as it does soon after President-elect Joe Biden said he would bring his country back if Teheran resumed compliance.

The statement by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that his country would agree to a snap return to treaty terms as soon as other parties resumed commitments is therefore welcome. Mr Rouhani said on Wednesday that as soon as the five permanent members of the Security Council ~ the US, Russia, the United Kingdom, Russia and China ~ plus Germany who had joined the 2015 agreement resumed their commitments, so would Iran. President Donald Trump had unilaterally withdrawn the US from the deal in 2018 saying it was one-sided. But a change at the top in Washington, and Mr Biden’s desire to bring the relationship back to pre-Trump levels has been seized upon by Mr Rouhani, whose country has faced crippling sanctions in recent times.

Certainly, the chokehold applied by the sanctions may have played a part in Iran’s announcement for the country has said they are coming in the way of procurement of coronavirus vaccines. While officially there is no bar on procurement of vaccines, clearly the shadow of sanctions has overwhelmed bankers. On Monday, the governor of Iran’s central bank had said the country was unable to access the Covax facility jointly managed by the World Health Organisation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

While Iran had parked billions of dollars in won-denominated accounts in Seoul to fund vaccine procurement, it has reportedly been told by South Korean bankers they cannot guarantee the funds will not be seized or blocked when payments are processed. Vaccine procurement is of critical importance for Iran, the worst-hit country in the region with more than a million infections and 51,000 plus deaths. Already, the Trump administration’s top official dealing with Iran, Special Envoy Elliott Abrams has advised the incoming President to use sanctions to arm-twist Iran into a deal which not just ensures full compliance of treaty terms, but defangs the threat he believes Teheran poses to the region.

The severity of the sanctions and the urgent need to tie up vaccine supplies, though, are not all of President Rouhani’s problems. Iran’s parliament, dominated by conservatives after a poll in February, passed a bill this month to relaunch enrichment of uranium to 20 per purity and included other legislative measures that if approved would scuttle any deal. The bill must be signed by Mr Rouhani in order to take effect, and his hands were weakened by a decision approving the legislation by Iran’s Guardian Council that settles disputes between parliament and the government. Mr. Rouhani has hinted he may yet not sign the legislation. But clearly matters are on the brink and all parties will have to work together quickly if the 2015 agreement is to be rescued and a humanitarian crisis averted.



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