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Indian Press on Islamophobic Ranting in France, BDS Movement and Armenia: New Age Islam's Selection, 29 October 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

29 October 2020

• Blatant Islamophobic Ranting In France Is Politically Motivated

By Dr Muzaffar Shaheen

•  Women’s Groups In India, Pakistan Have A Role To Play In Afghanistan’s Reconstruction

By Rita Manchanda

•  BDS And The Islamic Lobby In US Has Found A New Target After Israel — Democratic India

By Clifford Smith

•  Armenia In For Major Trouble

By Gwynne Dyer

•  Myanmar: Hurdles On Eastern Borders

By G Parthasarathy


Blatant Islamophobic Ranting In France Is Politically Motivated

By Dr Muzaffar Shaheen

October 29, 2020



Eyeing elections in the coming year in France, the French President Emmanuel Macron has come to the lime light these days for his blatant Islamophobic ranting, and a formal and explicit approval of making Islamophobic content public. Macron’s weaponizing the anti Islamic bigotry is for sure going to boomerang. His tenure is full of distraction of several Governmental domains amid mishandling of Covid pandemic. Economic decline, unemployment crisis, and an inconsistency in foreign policy that proved to be a nonstarter, particularly with Turkey in Mediterranean face off, Libya and now Azerbaijan have collectively brought down his popularity; and he is believed to have perceived his defeat at the end of his term. Hebdo-Charlie is now rising from the grave after more than 4 years. A history teacher was reported to be complicit in a reprehensible act of instigating Muslim students by depicting blasphemous cartoons published previously by Hebdo Charlie Magazine. Obviously he was pursuing and pushing for the accomplishment of his political motivation over the past sometime masquerading into professing history through the so called freedom of expression. Without an iota of doubt he enjoyed covert support of the law and order enforcing authorities who ignored many first information reports lodged by the Muslim students. He was killed ultimately and perhaps that was exactly what authorities wanted the Muslims in Paris to do. Regrettably Muslims fall prey quite easily to sinister designs and many of them turn as pawns of intolerance, for intolerance dictates extremism that in turn churns into violence.

Islamophobia through neocons is instrumentalised in the West for accomplishment of politically motivated goals. Once the Islamic visionary late Ahmed Deedat said to Muslims “don’t wail and scream on Islamophobic incidents. It only gives pleasure to them and they do it again and again.” True, hurte time and again, sentiments take over the control of one’s mind. Historically this bears testimony to the fact that Islamophobia had been existent in the Europe from the time immemorial and crossed all limits during the medieval era when no Muslim population existed there. But in present times let us not forget to mention that Muslims are assuming second largest population in the entire Europe and America, with Jews pushed to third place. Islam today is the only faith widely researched and intellectually examined that is forging its fastidious growth across the Europe Australia and America. Islamophobia would be a natural consequence in such an ambience. Muslims need to face it perseveringly with an eye on the future.

 People living in the world are not morons; they can understand when it comes to disparaging Islam why freedom of expression is raked up then only. Where is freedom of expression when it comes to Holocaust and the Christian faith and anti-Semitic ideas? Why the far rightist white supremacists rattled by the Burka clad women and beard sporting men? We all know answers to these questions. As the European thinker of all times George Bernard Shaw points towards the future of Europe he did not forget to mention Islam with it. In present day West the torch bearer of freedom and liberty, liberty in real sense is held hostage by her own champions. One fails to understand how can freedom of expression be harboured by insulting faith of others? This inevitably is inviting trouble.

Walking this path one can only foster violence and xenophobia. We need to comprehend the core of this problem. Macron’s  propagandizing freedom of expression in today’s France is catalysed by politics of electoral democracy, already backfiring on the international arena. Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan criticized Macron on his drift towards fascism. Incidentally, the French President, who pretends to wage a crusade for free speech, took this reaction very ill and recalled his diplomat from Ankara in protest. Several other international reactions are building up gradually. The Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan also ridiculed the French President. He considered that Macron’s statements based on ignorance would spur more hate, Islamophobia and space for extremists. While the calls for boycotts are spreading across the Muslim World, supermarkets in Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan Palestine Syria Morocco and Iraq are already emptying their shelves from French products. The French government is upset by this movement. However, instead of adopting a conciliatory tone, it chose for arrogance.  This condescending behavior will only exacerbate negative feelings against France and harm French exports in a time of global recession. While most of Muslim Governments assume silence understandably for the bilateral economic and trade reasons, civil society’s trade boycott seems to be a pragmatic approach than to giving in to violence.

While Macron’s ill-meditated policies have a boomerang effect internationally, many French observers are predicting that he will also fail domestically. The Islamophobic discourse was already tested by his predecessor Sarkozy, and it did not help him win the elections back in 2012. The September 2020,  opinion poll reflected that the French population has a pessimistic view of France under the Macron presidency with  78 percent of the respondents showing dismay that France was in decline and 27 percent of them said that such a decline is irreversible.


Dr Muzaffar Shaheen is Professor at SKUAST- K


Women’s Groups in India, Pakistan Have a Role to Play in Afghanistan’s Reconstruction

By Rita Manchanda

28 October 2020


A girl looks on among Afghan women lining up to receive relief assistance in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, June 11, 2017. Photo: Reuters


If ever Gayatri Spivak’s narrative of ‘white men saving brown women from brown men’ rang true it was in the discourse of ‘liberating’ Afghan women, mobilised to morally justify bombing a country continents away and of plunging its people into a war that “they did not ask for”. In four decades of violent strife as intra and international players laid waste Afghanistan’s land and society, Afghan women’s protection and rights were weaponised in the geopolitical manoeuvrings of powerful global and regional actors, driven by ideological and strategic interests.

All the more amoral then that the international community should be impatient when Afghan women’s groups appeal for a ‘responsible’ and not the peremptory retreat of international forces, which are tired of fighting an ‘unwinnable’ war. What human security audit will register that they leave behind male sadist warlords and their militias, which the international forces armed to fight alongside them, thereby militarising and destabilising post-war transition?

What realpolitik prevails to make the international community disavow responsibility and turn indifferent to Afghan women’s collectives to support their struggle as they fight for respect for the equal rights of women, ethnic and religious minorities in Afghanistan. What happened to the narrative of emancipating Afghan women which was so integral to the geopolitical imaginary of the internationally decreed war for ‘enduring freedom’?  The endgame Afghan women are likely to face as the Taliban stands poised to takeover is to be punished for the universal freedoms that many Afghan women embraced at great risk. Already the warlords and their militias which propped up the governance structure are changing sides and making deals with the Taliban.

A ‘Superpower’ Hubris

It was within this context, that the patronising tone of Cheryl Bernard, American author of Veiled Courage and the wife of US special envoy on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, sounded a sharp post-colonial dissonance as she chastised Afghan feminists for trying to prevent or delay the overdue U.S. pullback and accused them of not fighting for themselves.

In an opinion piece in The National Interest, Bernard-Zalmay has hailed American sacrifices of men and money, and hectored “Afghan feminists to put their shoulders to the wheel and start doing what women everywhere have had to do when they wanted their rights: fight for them … emancipation and equality aren’t the product of pity or guilt, and you aren’t owed them by someone else’s army or taxpayer dollars”.

Reeking of superpower hubris, it trivialised the courage of so many Afghan women who ran underground schools during the oppressive Taliban rule. It obscured the historical reality that before the Americans came, during the Soviet-backed communist Tariki-Amin regime masses of women got university education and entered professions.

Responding to Cheryl Bernard, Afghan women’s rights defender and High Peace Council member, Palwasha Hassan, said, “Afghan women have been fighting for our rights long before the American military arrived and will continue long after it has withdrawn…We kept our struggle going when American money went to who were more interested in personal enrichment than advancing peace.” Hassan emphatically said that this was a war “we did not ask for”.

“We are not begging for our seat at the table. We are fighting for it. All we are asking is for those who call themselves our allies not to actively work against us,” she further noted. 

That exchange was a year ago, prior to the US-Taliban agreement of February 2020 which makes no mention of women’s rights, and before the intra-Afghan talks in Doha began on September 12, stuttered and now waiting to be resumed to end 18 years of violence. The call for owning shared international responsibility is directed at US-NATO allies, and also at regional actors: Tajikistan, Iran, India and especially Pakistan. Their role is highlighted in the flurry of troubleshooting visits of US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to Islamabad, Delhi and Dushanbe in October. Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan negotiating team, has been in Pakistan, playing the role of facilitator in the talks with the Taliban, and in India, which till recently refused to deal with the Taliban.

The Importance Of Pakistan And India In Afghanistan

Pakistan and India have been waging a covert struggle on and off for more than 60 years over their competing influence in Afghanistan. Since the 1980s, Pakistan supported US-backed Afghan Mujahedeen to overthrow the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and later its offshoot, the Taliban. Following their ouster in 2001, Taliban members found sanctuary in Pakistan along with two million Afghan refugees.

Modi Ghani

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani inaugurate the Indian-funded Salma Dam in Herat, Afghanistan on Saturday. The dam has been constructed at a cost of about Rs 1400 crore. Photo: PTI/Kamal Kishore

Pakistan’s army views the jihadi groups as a cost-effective means of controlling events in Afghanistan, which its strategic doctrine positions as providing it with depth against its existential security threat. Taliban’s capture of Kabul in 1996–2001 fitted that doctrine. Afghanistan borderlands became havens for terrorist groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, which executed Mumbai terrorist attack, and Tehriq i Taliban, responsible for Army Public school massacre in Peshawar.

Post-Taliban, while Kabul and Islamabad accused each other of providing breeding grounds to terrorist groups opposing each other’s government, India expanded its assistance for the civil reconstruction of Afghanistan. Military assistance was eschewed till 2016 when India supplied four attack helicopters, and in a trilateral deal with Russia, India agreed to supply aircraft spares.

India’s development assistance in Afghanistan has demonstrated gender sensitivity. Afghan women were significant beneficiaries of India’s Small Development Projects. India’s former ambassador to Afghanistan Jayant Prasad was explicit, “For the consolidation of peace, women have a key role in ensuring that the process of reconstruction is not disrupted and the positive transition, currently underway, is not reversed. In most post-conflict situations, and Afghanistan is no exception to this general trend, women’s active and constructive role as potential peace builders tends to be overlooked.”

The Dubious Role Of India And Pakistan

The above notwithstanding, India like NATO countries was implicated in the weaponisation of the emancipatory narrative of Afghan women for geopolitical interests. India joined NATO powers in projecting the military achievements of women in the Afghan forces, thereby justifying NATO’s role of transferring responsibility to Afghan forces.

In an article, Devaditya Agnihotri and Katharine Wright showed that combat training of Afghan women officers was hailed in media reports at a time when they were not only underrepresented in Afghan forces, but also in American, British and Indian forces. Contradicting India’s own ban on women in a combat role, Afghan women officers of the army and air force were undergoing training in Chennai Officer’s Training Academy.

Among India and Pakistan women’s networks, there is a growing awareness of the complicity of our countries in the troubles in Afghanistan and the need to own responsibility for the action of our countries in damaging the rights and lives of women with whom we express kinship and solidarity.

In Pakistan, the leading women’s collective, Women’s Action Forum (WAF), has recognised with regret Pakistan’s “major role in adding to instability and violence not least with support for the Taliban” and urged that “peace talks overseen by US and supported by Pakistan” ensure Afghan women’s meaningful inclusion.

WAF in a statement acknowledged the suffering of Afghan women “as stateless refugees in host (Pakistan) countries without means or wherewithal”. Resurgent violence and suppression of human rights will propel masses of Afghans, especially women and children, to flee across borders, regardless of the barbed wire fencing being put up, and produce a massive humanitarian and human rights crisis in the region.

Women from India and Pakistan have jointly appealed to their government representatives at the Doha talks “to honour their national and international obligations and support Afghan women and their struggle for rights and peace”. Initiated by members of Women Regional Network (WRA), rights activists, Rukhshanda Naz and Rita Manchanda, expressed concern that instability in Afghanistan will “widen the space for extremists to misuse ethnic, religious and linguistic differences to create division and conflict within our countries and between our countries….  Escalation of tension and violence will increase militarisation of our societies and economies and challenge our democratic governance structures”.

Also, Afghanistan’s best-known women’s collective,  Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), has appealed to the region’s civic leaders and human rights defenders to “hold your leaders accountable and call on them to play a positive role toward an end to the violence in Afghanistan”. In an open letter dated 21 October, AWN acknowledged “the strained politics of the region” but added that “our regional interdependence, and our joint values of peace and justice” require that we work together.

AWN has emphasised the “shared fight against extremism” as manifest in atrocities across the region such as “June 2020 attack on the maternity hospital in Kabul, the April 2019 attacks in Sri Lanka, the December 2014 school massacre in Peshawar, and the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai”.

It is evident that in the vacuum that the international forces leave behind will enable Afghanistan’s regional neighbours to step in. The power dynamics of Pakistan–India competition in Afghanistan impacts the futures being imagined at Doha, but instability will produce a flood of refugees crossing borders; escalating insecurities will bring down the region’s already poor human security indicators; and a male sadist utopia sanctified by a version of sharia and culture will undermine women’s freedoms in the region.

October 2020 marks the anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which for the first time recognised the relevance of women for the international peace and security agenda. Quantitative studies have bolstered the resolution’s emphasis on the importance of women’s participation, making peace agreements last. Four Afghan women have been included in the intra-Afghan negotiations, their security and meaningful participation need to be supported by India, and especially Pakistan.


Rita Manchanda is a researcher, writer and human rights advocate specialising on conflicts and peace building in South Asia with particular attention to vulnerable and marginalised groups. Her latest publication is Women and the Politics of Peace: Narratives of Militarisation, Power and Justice (Sage:2017).


BDS And The Islamic Lobby In US Has Found A New Target After Israel — Democratic India

By Clifford Smith

29 October, 2020


PM Narendra Modi with Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the Olga Beach, in Israel | Photo: PIB


The worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or the BDS movement, against Israel now appears to have found a new target: democratic India. The BDS has been widely denounced as anti-Semitic and hypocritical because it singles out the only Jewish State and the only democracy in the region, Israel, for unique criticism. But now Kashmir is emerging as their new punching bag. The BDS brigade recently claimed that “India’s policies in Kashmir resemble Israel’s settler colonialism,” that “India also borrows methods of repression from Israel,” and also, absurdly, that “the weapons that Israel ‘field-tests’ on Palestinian bodies are today being deployed in Kashmir.”

Nobody has called for a boycott against India. But this kind of comparative language and suggested equivalence is unique and deserves to be flagged.

India The ‘Oppressor’

Writing earlier this month in The Muslim Vibe, a media outlet aimed at Western Muslims, commentator Hamzah Zahid made a forceful case  about what Muslims in the West must do concerning the issue of Kashmir, the Muslim-majority region long coveted by Pakistan, saying that Kashmir needs to be turned into “a similar vein as the anti-Apartheid, anti-Fascism, and the Palestine movements.”

While Zahid’s pronouncement was unusually specific, there have been campaigns going on for years that propagate similar thought. This campaign does not solely consist of groups with a South Asian origin, such as the Western branches of Jamaat-e-Islami, but of Middle East-linked groups that had previously focused almost solely on Palestine.

In fact, the campaign was underway even before the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. In early 2019, New York-based journalist Azad Essa published an op-ed declaring that “when it comes to Palestine and Kashmir, India and Israel are oppressors-in-arms.” According to Essa, “Free Gaza” and “India Go Home” are the same message to those who champion the cause of separating Kashmir. Essa insists that both the issues surrounding Kashmir and Israel represent the same sort of “settler-colonialism” theme and are, in essence, the same issue.

Increasingly, Western-focused foes of both Israel and India are acting to make Essa’s claims ubiquitous. Painting India as the “oppressor,” as Essa’s op-ed did, just two weeks after a brutal terrorist attack killed 40 Indian security personnel in Pulwama district in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, may seem bold. But Israel’s foes in the West, driven largely by theocratic Islamic organisations and their allies on the far-Left, now use this sort of rhetoric as a matter of course.

Indian Patriots And Zionists On The Same Page?

BDS is hardly alone. American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) explicitly claimed that by removing the special status of Kashmir, India was adopting a “Zionist settler-colonialist model,” and that “like Israel, the Indian government has brazenly violated several UN resolutions and human rights conventions,” accusing it of a “brutal crackdown.” They steered their members toward the newly created, shadowy group, Stand with Kashmir (SWK), an entity that frequently lauds terrorists and assorted theocrats as inoffensive and peaceful political actors.

The SWK was quick to ‘return the favour’, quoting an article by Zainab Ramahi, a ‘coordinating member’ of Students for Justice in Palestine, which is heavily funded by AMP and shares a common founder. According to Ramahi, “Hindutva nationalists and Zionists often try to reframe the conflicts,” over Kashmir and the Palestinian territories, as caused by Islamists, which she claims is merely an effort to distract from what she calls “repression” in the name of fighting terrorism.

The countless victims of US-designated terrorist groups such as Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir and Hamas in Gaza, go unmentioned.

Not much later, the SWK partnered with AMP to organise a march in San Francisco on Kashmir.

Of course, the South Asian-origin radicals are also part of this push. The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which Professor Vali Nasr of Johns Hopkins states is one of the eight most important franchises of South Asia’s violent Islamist movement Jamaat-e-Islami, a group long dedicated to separating Kashmir from India, worked with the SWK to support protests shortly after the removal of Kashmir’s special status.

But they were not alone. ICNA partnered on these protests with foes of Israel more closely aligned with Middle Eastern Islamist movements, such as the Muslim American Society (MAS), which prosecutors named in 2007 as an “overt arm” of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an unindicted co-conspirator in a scheme to fund the Hamas terrorist organisation in the Palestinian territories, founded by Palestinian Nihad Awad, a self-declared supporter of Hamas, also promoted various protests over Kashmir. Awad even spoke at the protest outside India’s embassy.

Islamists, Hard Left And Their Identical Argument

The above examples are by no means exhaustive and meant only to illustrate the nearly ubiquitous events, articles, tweets and newsletters of various Islamist groups and their friends on the hard-Left, making identical arguments. These efforts have clear, real-world effects. Decision makers and opinion leaders with significant political power, such as Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN), are now high-profile opponents of India.

Last year, Omar went out of her way to join a hearing on Human Rights in South Asia, in spite of the fact that she was not a member of the relevant Congressional Subcommittee, to viciously attack Indian reporter and witness Aarti Tikoo Singh, a Kashmiri Pandit exiled from her home by Islamist militants almost 30 years ago, after she suggested Jihadists were at the heart of the problem in Kashmir. Omar used rhetoric closely echoing an article that SWK had published the day before the hearing attacking Singh. Omar later appeared in an interview for the SWK conducted by Professor Mark Lamont Hill, notorious himself for expressing extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Anti-Israel Network Politically Invaluable For India’s Foes

Given that Kashmir is an issue few Americans are intimately familiar with, one might question why this movement would want an ally like Omar. Known for rhetoric so anti-Semitic that it earned her the support of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon David Duke, Omar’s support comes with drawbacks. But the support of Omar, and the broader anti-Israel community, also comes with a built-in constituency, and tailor-made rhetoric to rally supporters. That’s politically invaluable. Indeed, fellow “Squad” member, Representative Rashada Talib (D-MI), an ethnic Palestinian, has joined Omar in supporting the Islamist cause in Kashmir.

Of course, this collaboration is not purely tactical. In significant part, it is ideological. While there are fair-minded critiques of India’s and Israel’s governments, their most steadfast critics are not enlightened advocates of liberty, but theocrats who recognise no higher good than Islamist rule. This is doubly clear upon examining the rhetoric and actions of both Western Islamist organisations and Jihadist groups in both South Asia and the Middle East.

The Indian community has largely been caught flat-footed by this activism campaign. Islamists had a ready-made network, a built-in constituency, and pre-programmed rhetoric to indoctrinate indifferent politicians and a largely naïve public, based on their decades of activism on behalf of the Palestinian cause.

Friends of both Israel and India must work to counter this shockingly effective political activism before it is too late. To do otherwise risks enshrining this inaccurate, but effective, narrative into Western policy.


Clifford Smith is director of the Middle East Forum’s Washington Project. Views are personal.


Armenia In For Major Trouble

By Gwynne Dyer

29 October 2020

Now the Azeri refugees will go home and 1,50,000 Armenians will have to seek new homes in Armenia proper

The month-old war between Azerbaijan and Armenia is so low on everybody else’s list of concerns that when Azerbaijan won the war, hardly anybody in the media elsewhere even noticed. Shortly after 8 am local time on October 26, Azeri troops gained control of the road through the Lachin Pass. That is the sole land route between Armenia proper and Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian enclave inside the borders of Azerbaijan that the whole war is about. A new road further to the north, offering a quicker link between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, was opened in 2017, but it has been closed since October 1, shortly after the war started, “for the safety of civilians (i.e. because of shelling from Azerbaijani territory). Until October 26, the Lachin road was crowded with Armenian refugees fleeing west to safety and Armenian troops and military supplies heading east to the war.

Apart from one or two big strikes by Israeli-made LORA quasi ballistic missiles (hypersonic, 400-km. range, GPS and television terminal guidance), the road was fairly safe. But now there are Azerbaijani armoured vehicles across the Lachin road, and all of Nagorno-Karabakh is cut off: No more reinforcements, and more than half the Armenian civilian population of 1,46,000 people still there, trapped under constant shellfire and drone attacks. At least 2,000 people, most of them Armenians, have been killed in the fighting. The outcome of the war was inevitable once it became clear that Russia was not going to intervene militarily to help Armenia, despite the fact that both countries are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). Azerbaijan is clearly the aggressor in this round of fighting, but it is a CSTO member too, so Russia had to make a choice. Azerbaijan has three times Armenia’s population and a great deal of oil, and Armenia is of no great strategic value, so Russia restricted itself to mediating futile ceasefires. The Azeris signed each time, but they knew they were winning and they never stopped their advance.

The most recent (third) ceasefire was actually negotiated with the help of the US and was supposed to come into effect at 8 am on October 26, but the Azeris broke that one too. As usual, they blamed the Armenians for having broken it within five minutes of its coming into effect (that is, at 8.05 am) — but they tweeted their protest at 5 am, which rather undermined its plausibility. The Azeris did not commit to an all-out offensive until about 10 days ago, confining themselves to probing attacks and random shelling until they were certain that the Russians would stay out. Then they sent an armoured column west along the Iranian border through territory that had been emptied of its Azeri inhabitants in the 1994 war. The Armenians, outnumbered, overstretched and outgunned, did what they could, but by October 22, the Azeris had reached the Hakari River valley. There they turned right and headed north up the valley — and on the 26th they took Lachin. End of game.

It was a move that they would never have risked against a more mobile and better equipped enemy. The Hakari runs through the narrow strip of territory that separates Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia proper, so they had Armenian-held territory on both sides of them, and a 100-km supply line behind them that was overlooked by Armenian troops on the right-hand side all the way. Fortune favours the bold but it’s easier to be bold when you have total air superiority. Armenia has nothing to match Azerbaijan’s Turkish-built drones and Israeli-supplied missiles and massive firepower on the ground. So now Azerbaijan holds the Lachin Pass, and all that remains is for Armenia to negotiate the return of Nagorno-Karabakh to its legal Azeri rulers (probably minus its Armenian residents). That will be very painful for Armenians after a quarter-century of holding the territory but they have no way of taking it back. They were bound to lose it in the end unless they could more or less match Azerbaijan’s military spending, and they couldn’t; the Azeri military budget was at least five times bigger, maybe more.

Like the Balkan wars of the early 20th century, nobody is in the right in the various wars that have been waged in the Caucasus since the old Soviet Union collapsed. The ethnic groups were already numerous and hopelessly intertwined, and Soviet policy deliberately made the situation even more complex.

The Armenians drove over half a million Azeris out of the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and large adjacent entirely Azeri provinces in the 1992-94 war. Now the Azeri refugees will go home and 1,50,000 Armenians will have to seek new homes in Armenia proper. With supply lines severed, civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh could be cut off from food, running water and heat during the forthcoming Caucus winter. Furthermore, they may be denied a route by which to flee to Armenia. The result could be a humanitarian disaster in which casualties of trapped civilians spike due to lack of food and medical supplies, exposure to cold, and non-stop artillery bombardment. None of it is fair but that’s how it still works in much of the world.


Gwynne Dyer’s new book is ‘Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy and Work.’


Myanmar: Hurdles On Eastern Borders

By G Parthasarathy

Oct 29, 2020

The recent visit to Myanmar, undertaken jointly by Army Chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane, and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, was a manifestation of the strategic importance India accords to ties with its northeastern neighbour, with whom it shares a 1,643-km border. The border extends from China to Bangladesh. Despite good political ties, there was little economic cooperation between India and Myanmar till the 1990s, primarily because of Myanmar’s isolationist economic policies. Security cooperation for dealing with cross-border armed insurgencies, involving armed separatist groups, like ULFA in Assam, the NSCN (IM) in Nagaland, and their counterparts in Myanmar, like the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), was minimal or non-existent.

India and Myanmar got together in the 1990s for negotiations that resulted in agreements to deal with cross-border insurgencies and drug smuggling. These agreements have been effective in containing groups like the NSCN (IM) and ULFA, and their Myanmar counterparts, like the Arakan Army (AA), based in Myanmar’s Kachin province. Their links with Myanmar separatist groups also helped Indian groups to enter and operate from China’s bordering Yunnan province, while also securing safe haven and military support from Chinese agencies.

Facing sanctions since the 1990s, cash-strapped Myanmar became excessively dependent on China. But it expanded ties with India and East Asian countries like Thailand, Singapore, Japan and South Korea. It has dealt firmly with Indian separatist groups seeking to move across its borders to China. Given their disregard for the strategic importance of Myanmar, the US and its allies imposed sanctions on Myanmar, because of its alleged human rights violations against the Rohingya. However, the UN Sanctions Resolutions they proposed were vetoed by China. The US and its allies have also not joined Myanmar’s immediate neighbours and Japan to work out plans for financing the return and rehabilitation of the Rohingya. The main beneficiary of such policies of the US and the EU is China, as Myanmar now depends on its support to veto western resolutions in the UN.

Taking advantage of Myanmar’s dependence on it, China is developing a port at Kyaukphyu in the Bay of Bengal and linking the port by rail and road to Yunnan. Chinese companies are moving into areas like minerals and precious stones. Moreover, China has close links with a large number of Myanmar’s 26-armed ethnic groups, including the powerful 12,000-15,000 strong Kachin Independence Army, which operates along Myanmar’s borders with both India and China, and the 20,000-25,000 strong United State Army along the China-Myanmar border. These groups are armed and used as a lever by China to interfere in and influence Myanmar’s internal affairs.

China even has an ambassador to liaise with armed groups. It influences these armed groups, which are participating in a conference organised by the Myanmar government for drafting a new constitution. China is determined to dominate Myanmar’s internal politics. Beijing also uses such leverage and its political support to obtain contracts for infrastructure and other projects involving construction of ports, dams, roads, bridges and for mining of precious stones, minerals and metals across Myanmar.

India’s Border Roads Organisation did a splendid job in road building, linking Moreh in Manipur with Kalemyo in Myanmar, thereby opening the door for border trade between our Northeast and Mandalay. But the progress on the Kaladan corridor has been delayed. This crucial project links Mizoram and India’s other Northeastern states to the Sittwe Port in Myanmar, located in the Bay of Bengal, at a short distance from Kolkata. The completion of this corridor has been delayed by attacks on workers by the AA, an insurgent group with links to China. But close cooperation between the Indian and Myanmar armies has led to the destruction of camps of the AA along the India-Myanmar border.

India’s economic cooperation in Myanmar has been disappointing, with two-way trade reaching barely $1.52 billion, with our exports amounting to $973 million last year. While the ONGC has done well in offshore oil exploration, our private sector has not done well in investments in Myanmar, in comparison with the performance of its counterparts in neighbouring ASEAN countries, China and Japan. India has, however, done well by establishing training institutions in IT and agricultural research in Myanmar. Military cooperation is set to expand, with the supply of a Kilo Class Submarine and torpedoes, with discussions reportedly underway for the supply of 105 mm artillery guns, radars and sonars.

The visit by the Army Chief and Foreign Secretary enabled a comprehensive exchange of views on the entire range of relations. The Indian delegation exchanged views with two of the most powerful leaders in Myanmar, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who is engrossed in campaigning for the parliamentary elections on November 8, and the Chief of Defence Services, Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing. Recent comments by General Hlaing suggest that the army will support the Union Solidarity and Development Party led by former army officers and not Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. Differences between the hugely popular Suu Kyi and the Myanmar army have been continuing, an inevitable feature of Myanmar’s present-day politics and national life. But the continuing Rohingya problem has to be addressed for regional peace and security across the Bay of Bengal. This will require international cooperation, in which India should actively involve its Quad partners. It is not reasonable to expect Bangladesh to bear the entire burden of hosting 9,00,000 Rohingya refugees. The continuing tensions between Bangladesh and Myanmar on the issue can only be addressed by an inclusive international effort.



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