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Indian Press ( 13 Jan 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Indian Press on Love Jihad, Indian Americans and Trump's Seditious War: New Age Islam's Selection, 13 January 2021

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

13 January 2021

• Love Jihad: Chasing a Phantom in Assam

By Subir Bhaumik

• Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkaar?

By Ajoy Kumar

• Why Indian Americans, Republicans Or Democrats, Are Feeling Scared

By Savita Patel

• The Indians in Trump's Seditious War

By Vappala Balachandran

• New Year Rings In Reconciliation in West Asia

By Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty

• US, India: Stop the Uncivil Wars: When A Nation Forgets It’s One People And Institutions Weaken, We’re At The Abyss

By Gurcharan Das

• Scar-Spangled Banner: Followers of Trump Declare Civil War II on the Self-Appointed Global Exporters of Democracy

By Jug Suraiya


Love Jihad: Chasing a Phantom in Assam

By Subir Bhaumik



Gender groups have raised demands for a chain of rehabilitation homes for trafficked girls who have been rescued.



The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Assam is planning to bring a law that will make it mandatory for the bride and the groom to disclose information about their religion and income in official documents a month before their wedding. This comes after several other BJP-ruled states have enacted or expressed their intent to implement laws to stop ‘love jihad’ — a pejorative term used by Hindutva groups to berate interfaith marriage.

Himanta Biswa Sarma, the most visible face of the Assam government, claimed that the law is “not against love jihad”. But he added to the confusion by saying that the law ‘would be somewhat similar’ to the ones in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. “It would be inclusive of all religions and would empower our sisters by bringing transparency... One will have to disclose not only religion but earning source. Complete family details, education etc. Many a time even in same religion marriage we have found that the girl later finds that the husband is in an illegal business,” said Sarma. “The proposed law will require the man and the woman to disclose their source of income, profession, permanent address and religion in a government-prescribed form a month before the wedding. Failing to do so would lead to legal action against the couple.”

Neither Sarma nor any of his party leaders in the state has provided any data on interfaith marriages in Assam, let alone evidence that such a trend is on the rise. So the question is whether the BJP is contemplating such a legislation to polarize Assam in the run-up to the assembly elections scheduled next year. Or was it trying to score brownie points by emulating BJP governments in UP and MP?

Gender activists and women leaders in Assam, such as the Congress spokesperson, Bobbeeta Sharma, insist that the ‘love jihad’ phenomenon was unfounded and that it may be a tactic to create communal polarization after the BJP failed to push through the Citizenship (Amendment) Act because of stiff resistance from regional groups that don’t want religion to decide citizenship. They treat migration as an ethnic issue rather than a religious one.

Assamese women’s groups insist that trafficking is a far bigger problem than love jihad. “This is something the government should worry about, the urgent need to prevent illegal trafficking of our girls elsewhere in India by luring them with fake job offers,” said Sharma.

My own investigations into the trafficking of Assamese women (“Assam’s missing women and the sex trade”) led to interesting revelations. According to statistics officially provided by Assam police, 3,184 women and 3,840 girl children had gone missing in Assam between 1996 and 2007. The figure works out to about two women going missing every day. According to the Bureau of Police Research and Development, trafficking may have reduced with a dip in ethnic conflicts but it remains a serious problem, especially in flood-prone areas that witness substantial annual displacement.

Armed conflicts and internal displacement in Assam have contributed to the problem. Nearly half a million people were displaced and lodged in makeshift camps in Western Assam in the 1990s due to large-scale violence involving Bodo tribesmen, Bengali Hindus and Muslims and adivasis brought to Assam from central India by the British to work in tea plantations. Similar displacements took place elsewhere in Assam as well as in Manipur and Tripura because of ethnic conflict.

Assam police have been rescuing local girls from brothels in Delhi and Mumbai. In recent times, women have also been rescued from wealthy landlords in Punjab and Haryana. Gender activists say that in these cases, the ‘marriage’ was a ruse and the women were not treated as wives at all. The Bureau of Police Research and Development say that an organized racket of ‘recruiters’ lure women with fake job offers outside the state. Poverty and helplessness forced the women to accept these deals.

Gender groups have raised demands for a chain of rehabilitation homes for trafficked girls who have been rescued. They have also asked the police to focus on the menace of missing girls. Instead of chasing the phantom of ‘love jihad’, the Assam government must take concrete measures to stop trafficking and rehabilitate victims.


Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkaar?

By Ajoy Kumar

13 January 2021

The PM may have distanced himself from Trump following the Capitol attack but we have recently seen many examples of violence in India, too


As a doctor, one of the fundamental things you are taught in the medical college — and, frankly, a lot earlier — is the difference between the symptom and the disease and the importance in tackling the disease rather than just the symptom. A fever, for instance, is a good example of the symptom that is common to a number of illnesses, such as various types of flu as well as different types of infections. However, a paracetamol or Crocin cannot cure such illnesses, though such medicines may prove effective in containing the fever briefly. The ill-informed may be led to believe that the disease is cured but, in reality, the disease is alive and kicking and, without proper care and attention, the symptoms (including the fever) would also return.

In today’s time and age, we are battling and struggling with a disease that has turned our world upside down: A virus that has literally brought the world to a standstill and whose inertia we are still trying to break away from. The COVID-19 crisis has gripped the entire world but afflictions like fake news, propaganda and conspiracy theories that endanger our fundamental understanding of democracy are possibly where the true threat to humanity lies. The most recent example of this harm that these diseases can cause is when violent mobs stormed the Capitol (which is the American equivalent of our Parliament) on the back of calls from outgoing President Donald Trump and other politicians and commentators from the Right wing to stop the transition of power in the United States of America. While Trump and these leaders did attempt to distance themselves from the violence and said that they never intended any violence to take place, it is hard to argue that by stirring emotions and by acting contrary to the fundamental principles of a democracy, the President and his supporters (both in the media and in politics) do not have blood on their hands.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi distanced himself from his good friend, Trump, by tweeting against the attack. However, what should pain Modi more than the unceremonious exit of his dear friend from the office is the fact that India too has, unfortunately, not been immune to the disease of unsubstantiated propaganda, and provoked — or, at the very least, inspired — violence. And after the Emergency of 1975, the most severe impact of these illnesses has been seen in his tenure as the Prime Minister. Therefore, while the attack on the Capitol was shocking, we have seen just as many disturbing examples of violence recently in our very own country.

In the attack on the students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, for example, we saw a mob enter the campus of a major university and beat up and threaten students and teachers alike. While reports show that there are video clips and reasonable evidence of the prime actors of this violence being from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the Right-wing student organisation affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), there has been no substantial action against the instigators, including those who are clearly seen on camera.

We have also seen several of the Union Ministers raise a rallying cry on the election trail in New Delhi, raising slogans of “Desh ke gaddaaron ko…”, with the faceless crowd responding with chants of “…goli maaron saalon ko”. Similarly, during the protests against the BJP’s Citizenship Amendment Act, we had another shocking incident where a man fired at least two shots from a distance of 50 metres from the stage of the protest. In a video captured by eyewitnesses, the man can be seen brandishing his gun and shouting: “Hamaare desh mein kisi ki nahi chalegi, sirf Hinduon ki chalegi (No one except Hindus will have their way in our country).” The man was subsequently identified as Kapil Gurjar and this same man was a few months later inducted into the BJP at a public function. At the ceremony, which took place in Ghaziabad, the district convener of the BJP inducted him into the party with the words: “Kapil Gurjar has joined with hundreds of supporters. He has influence and support base in the area. He has been impressed by the party’s policies, the work being done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ji.” While one does not expect such honesty from politicians, the BJP at least removed him from the party and cancelled his membership in the face of the serious backlash that followed.

Similarly, in a shocking case of mob violence in Bulandshahr, a police inspector, SK Singh, was shot and killed by a violent mob over an alleged incident of cow slaughter. According to reports, those named in the charge sheet for Singh’s murder include Bajrang Dal’s local convener Yogesh Raj and the BJP’s youth wing leader Shikhar Agarwal. Other than this, we also saw the horrific abuse of power in Hathras where the UP Police claimed that there was no evidence of rape but the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has subsequently filed a charge sheet against four men accused of the gang rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman.

The above instances are horrific examples of violence and show a clear disregard for the fundamental principles of an effective democracy. However, these acts of violence and disorder only catch our attention when they reach a terrifying crescendo. Much like how the mob in the United States (US), after being fed hours and hours of lies and fake news, was convinced that they were participating in an act of legitimate defiance; so have we too seen mobs in India that are fed streams of fake news and falsehoods through social media and through “legitimate” news outlets till the point that they are stirred into a violent frenzy. It is here where the BJP and the Prime Minister have been found woefully wanting. While the Prime Minister may not himself be making such inflammatory statements, his acceptance and silence around the conduct of those he has direct control over and those who regularly engage in such malpractices speaks volumes. While Modi has tried to distance himself from Trump and his horrific legacy, he has much to do to address and fix his party’s own legacy in the country. In the words of Voltaire, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities”, and by allowing such people to face no consequence for their action, Modi is leaving his own legacy which has just as many black marks as the man who called him “a great friend”.


Ajoy Kumar is a former IPS officer and member of the Congress party. The views expressed are personal.


Why Indian Americans, Republicans or Democrats, Are Feeling Scared

By Savita Patel

12 Jan 2021

An Indian American Trump supporter from Virginia travelled to be a part of the White House ‘Save America March’ called by Donald Trump. Seen holding the Indian tricolor outside the US Capitol on 6 January, Vincent Xavier Palathingal who represents the Republican Party of Virginia State Central Committee intended to display his ethnic diversity and love for America,

Vincent condemned the crowds that infiltrated the Capitol building and mentioned that he remained on the lawns and did not attempt to go onto the steps or inside the Capitol building.

A handful of Indian American supporters of Trump from states including Minnesota, Michigan, Virginia, and New Jersey were outside the White House and US Capitol on 6 January.

Indian American Republican Voters Still Support Trump

Hemant Bhatt, Chairman of ‘South Asian Republican Coalition’ heeded to Trump’s calls to attend the White House ‘Save America March’, where Trump spoke to the crowd about their ‘election victory being stolen from us by the bold and radical left Democrats’, and called on his supporters to march on to Congress.

Bhatt was with a group of American Republican supporters from Flemington in South Jersey, “I was the only Indian person in my group. I went as a representative of the SARC (South Asian Republican Coalition). We were not able to listen to President Trump as we were not on that side of the White House. We were very far from the Capitol.”

Bhatt condemned the violence at the US Capitol.

Also known as the Gujarati friend of Donald Trump, he was part of Trump’s India visit ‘Chalo Gujarat’ program.

He alluded to Trump’s rallies being by and large peaceful, and the violence having been caused by others, “We were surprised with thousands and thousands of supporters there. Lot of other people are involved in it. I don’t think that Trump supporters would do that”.

There are no signs that Trump’s base which includes his desi supporters, are leaving him behind.

What Indian American Supporters Think of Capitol Hill Violence

Florida based real estate developer and hotelier, and an advisory board member of the ‘Indian Voices for Trump’, Danny Gaekwad also got invited to Trump’s White House rally, “At least 10 times, different organisations messaged me as I am on national teams. Emails, texts, phone calls calling out for support, for the rally in DC. I did not attend as I recovered from Covid-19 recently”.

A Republican for 27 years, Gaekwad recognises that Trump’s desi supporters stick with him, “If it was not for Covid, five times more people would have attended. I would have gone there with at least 500 Indians from Florida. We are hundreds and hundreds. I condemn the violence and looting.

Referring to the frustration among Trump supporters, Gaekwad is concerned about possibility of more violence, “This is not the end of it. It is not going away. People are really angry. 100% at the inauguration (Biden’s inauguration is on 20 January) we might see a lot of problems. It is just the beginning. It will go regional, state by state, just like Democrats did. The trend is set unfortunately and not ending soon. They waited for the results peacefully for a long time and now everybody is disgruntled. 39% people believe it was a fraud election”.

Dejection of Desi Trump Supporters

According to a Politico/Morning Consult survey, 70% of Republicans say they don’t believe the 2020 election was free and fair, compared to 90% percent of Democrats who say that it was free and fair. The Republican base trusts Trump like no other. Desi Trump supporters’ political emotions are running high.

One of them shared with me her strong belief that they had won the presidential election but it was ‘snatched away from them by the Democratic establishment and media’. The prominent Indian American Trump supporter added, “I believe in democracy that is why I chose this country, but hamari voice ko band kiya jaa raha hai. Trump supporters ko track kiya jaa raha hai. Hum log pure ek sal ruke rahe. Now I don’t want to come out and make any statements. It is meaningless.”

Indian American Trump supporters are feeling dejected with the lack of support from the Republican party. Along with many conspiracy theories proving the election ‘fraudulent’, random calls are circulating in desi whatsapp groups to form a new political party of ‘80 million Trump supporters’.

Desis in America Are a Deeply Divided Community

Donald Trumps’s victory margin in 2016 and the campaign rhetoric for the 2020 election was a clear indication of a nation divided deeply. An NBC poll of early and election day voters indicated that 63 percent of Asian American voters across the country voted for Biden. A minority of the group voted for Trump, at 31 percent.

AAPI data predictions from September were that Indian Americans at 66% are the most inclined to vote for Biden among all Asian American groups. AAPI voters have leaned more toward Democrats over time. Democrats have a longer history of investing in the AAPI community, while Republicans have raised it in the last 10 years.

In 2016, Republicans saw modest gains among Indian Americans, who are the most Democratic-leaning group of Asian Americans, due to the mobilation efforts by Republican Hindu groups, who capitalised on ideological overlaps between Trump and Modi.

The crisp divisions are reflected in a survey released by YouGov which found that 45% of Republican voters supported the attack on the Capitol Building. 96% of Democratic voters said they strongly or somewhat opposed the actions of pro-Trump protestors.

Desi Democrats Are Afraid Like Never Before

Watching the siege of US Capitol by Trump supporters reminded me of numerous Indian Americans I have spoken with in the last many months for the US presidential election coverage, who feared exactly this kind of a violent day.

A community divided, the desi Republican supporters worried about higher taxes and India’s security vis-à-vis China if Biden became president. South Asian Democratic supporters feared more polarisation, racism and anti-immigrant sentiments, since Donald Trump won the 2016 election.

The larger chunk of the Indian American community, desi Democrats’ apprehension grew throughout Trump’s term with his anti-minority stance and harsh immigration policies. They solidly supported Biden-Harris because they perceived Trump’s party to be unwelcoming of migrants, scared of his frequent attacks on people of colour.

Desi participation in American politics as candidates, organisers, canvassers, funders and voters rose during the Trump years, with a vision to have their voices heard in corridors of power. The horror of Trump playing divisive politics was on display at the US capitol.

Desi Biden-Harris supporters are strongly condemning the violence at the US Capitol. Not the ones to own guns, desis as far away as California are feeling vulnerable, especially after how easily the law enforcement teams were compromised in Washington DC. They care about the country they now call home.


Savita Patel is a senior journalist and producer. She’s currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.


The Indians in Trump's Seditious War

By Vappala Balachandran

January 13, 2021

Vincent Xavier Palathingal, a businessman from Kerala, now living in the United States, has attracted a lot of attention in our media. He was noticed waving an Indian flag at the Trump rally in Washington DC on January 6 which turned violent as it attacked the Capitol building, resulting in deaths.

He told our media that he had migrated to the US in 1992 after his education in the Government Engineering College, Thrissur. He claims to be a member of the State Central Committee of the Republican Party in Virginia and had gone to attend the Trump rally to protest against a ‘stolen election’. He added that he was formerly a Democrat and had voted for Barack Obama twice.

Vincent claimed that a few delinquents had infiltrated the otherwise peaceful rally and committed acts of violence. He told a Malayalam news channel that the lawbreakers appeared to him to be from the left wing ANTIFA (Anti-Fascist and Anti-Racist Front) or BLM (Black Lives Matter). This was the fifth time he had attended Trump’s rallies and the first one which ended in violence. Trump had always blamed ANTIFA for violence during the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations.

In any case the US Justice Department is probing the incident in cooperation with the Capitol Police who would no doubt investigate the claims made by Vincent too. Latest reports from the US indicate that the man with a painted face with “Viking” horns, whose face was beamed all over the world was identified as Jake Angeli from Arizona, a regular Trump supporter belonging to the Far Right wing “QAnon”.

However, the purpose of this piece is not to look into the incident at Capitol Hill but to offer a retrospective of the political activities of Indian Americans based on my personal experience in the US and how it transformed from the original bipartisan movement into a community deeply divided on religious lines.

The Indian diaspora in the US was politically active during the 1920s-30s under the leadership of Taraknath Das, Har Dayal, Mubarak Ali Khan and J.J.Singh and many others. Their canvassing efforts paved the way for the election of Dalip Singh Saund, the only Indian to be a part of the US Congress (1957-63) till the 1990s. However, it was an epic struggle as all immigration was stopped during the Second World War.

In 1946 the Luce-Cellar Act 1946 allowed Indians to be considered as a special category for immigration. This was due to the bipartisan campaigning with Congressmen by J.J.Singh, President of the India League. Others who supported this legislation were famous scientist  Albert Einstein, noted writer Pearl S. Buck,  and former California governor Upton Sinclair.

However, the 1946 law re-introduced the quota system established under a 1924 Act. It was heavily in favour of Northern and Western Europe. Notwithstanding this limitation, the 1946 law benefited 3,000 Indians already living  in the US,  and help them get naturalised. The McCarran-Walter Act, also called The Immigration & Nationality Act, passed in 1952, continued quota-based immigration. Asian countries were given a meagre quota of 100 visas each per year.

The real benefits occurred under the presidentship of Lyndon Johnson when the 1965 Immigration & Naturalization Act (Hart-Cellar Act) gave preference to reuniting immigrant families after abolishing the quota system based on national origin. However, the arrival of a large number  of South Asian families led to a peculiar cloistered style of living, confining their activities around temples or mosques and celebrating South Asian festivals. This was the period of the ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) syndrome.   The growing Indian community remained only a fringe group in national politics since they made no attempts to integrate into the American mainstream by taking part in the political process.

It was Dr. Joy Cherian, a former Youth Congress activist and his colleagues like Krishna Srinivasa, Gopal Bashist, Dinesh Patel, Dr. Suresh Prabhu, Swadesh Chatterjee and many others belonging to the Republican and Democratic parties who exhorted Indian Americans to join American political activities in the 1980s. They replicated the tactics of the Jewish bipartisan lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) founded by Tom Dine in 1963 to build constituency pressure on American Congressmen to look after the interests of Israel. In a similar way the bipartisan Indian American leadership established the Indian-American Forum for Political Education (IAFPE) in 1983 to further the interests of India.

Other Indian American activists like Dr.Thomas Abraham and Inder Singh widened the ambit of Indian Americans to several   countries like Fiji, Guyana, Surinam etc which were the destinations of old Indian indentured labour. They did so by establishing a global Indian diaspora platform named Global Organization of Indian Origin (GOPIO) in 1989. The visibility of the Indian diaspora improved. All of them were secular, bipartisan groups belonging to all religions and communities.

Unfortunately, the first blow to the bipartisan movement of the Indian American Community was given by, of all persons, senior Congress leader the late Siddhartha Shankar Ray as Indian Ambassador to America. In 1993 he excluded the “Overseas Friends of BJP” from the “1893 Vivekananda Chicago Speech Centenary Celebrations” in America, with the bureaucratic reasoning that it was strictly an official programme of the Indian government. Since then, the BJP segment of Indian Americans, seen taking an active part in all the bipartisan programmes of the Indian American organisations earlier, started staying away.

This schismatic trend was reinforced after Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed power in 2014. Only pro-BJP or pro-RSS Indian Americans were involved in Prime Ministerial and high-level visits. Others were not invited. Just prior to the 2016 American Elections, a new organisation named “Hindus for Trump” came on the scene.   The old bipartisan group felt left out. In the process, the Indian lobbying power  in the US has suffered to Pakistan’s advantage because of the exclusion of non-Hindus from the mainstream of Indian American activities.


Vappala Balachandran is a former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat) (Syndicate: The Billion Press


New Year Rings In Reconciliation In West Asia

By Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty

13th January 2021

The Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman greeting the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, upon the latter’s arrival at the airport in Saudi Arabia heralded the new year. Arguably, it marks the beginning of a significant geopolitical step towards reconciliation among the Gulf Arab nations. It must have surprised many in the Arab world and may have caused some concern in Iran and Turkey, as both countries have taken advantage of dissensions among the Gulf Arab nations. Qatar, an estranged member of the six-country regional organisation, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) founded in 1981, had been at loggerheads with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE since 2017 over its policies that came into conflict with those of the three fellow Arab nations.

These policy differences related to ties with Iran, support for the Muslim Brotherhood, support to different factions in the ongoing civil war in Libya and Syria, and the editorial slant of the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera media group. The differences were serious enough for the three GCC countries and Egypt to cut off ties and blockade Qatar, which has a land border only with Saudi Arabia. The GCC convened its 41st Annual Summit on January 5 at Al-Ula in Saudi Arabia and the Qatari Emir was invited to attend, after reconciliation agreements were worked out behind the scenes. It was Kuwait that mediated in the dispute and announced that Saudi Arabia and Qatar had agreed to restore full diplomatic, land, air and sea links, which had been cutoff in June 2017. During the summit, the Gulf leaders signed a “solidarity and stability” agreement.

Ties between Qatar and the three GCC members went downhill after uprisings in Arab countries that began in Tunisia, the beginning of the so-called “Arab Spring”. As these uprisings spread to other Arab countries, these wealthy GCC members aided and supported preferred local factions in Syria and Libya, while Qatar chose to support opposing factions, leading to charges against Doha of supporting terrorism. In Libya, for instance, Qatar, Italy and Turkey are supporting the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) that is locked in a civil war with General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which has received support from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Russia, France and Egypt. Gen Haftar had helped Col Muammar Gaddafi usurp power in 1969 and is reported to have joined hands with the CIA to overthrow Gaddafi in the 1990s.

Suspicions were also raised by Qatar’s friendly relations with Iran, a major player in the regional power struggle with Saudi Arabia and her Gulf allies. In 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Doha. Though the ambassadors returned to Doha after a few months, an insecure Qatar, with meagre military resources of its own, felt threatened by a far more powerful Saudi Arabia. It did what nations tend to do in such situations—it reached out to allies like the US, whose CENTCOM is based at the Al-Udeid air base in Qatar. It also reached out to Turkey, which has been spreading its wings in West Asia in its quest for influence and leadership of the Islamic world.

Qatar permitted Turkey to open a military base and start training Qatari military and security forces. This led to a further deepening of the hostilities between Qatar and the three GCC nations, and ties plummeted. In June 2017, Qatari ambassadors were expelled and an economic blockade was imposed. Immediate closure of the Turkish military base was one of the main demands. This led Qatar to start an ambitious expansion of its military and security forces. Bahrain has had several disputes with Qatar over their maritime boundary.

Qatari Coast Guard ships have intercepted Bahraini ships and Doha has complained that Bahraini Air Force fighter aircraft have flown over her territorial waters. Qatar’s oil and gas resources have made it the world’s richest country in per capita income. Its wealth enabled it to beat the blockade and the deadlock had reached its expiry date, as it was going against the interest of all GCC countries. Pressure has also been building for joint action against the Covid pandemic and the need for economic measures to revive flagging economies.

Clearly, there was strong US pressure to resolve the impasse and the presence of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, at the Al-Ula Summit confirms the American role. The  priority of the US is to keep the GCC together and consolidate a common front against Iran. The reconciliation in the GCC is only the first step. There are simmering differences that will require sustained effort to resolve. Clearly, Saudi Arabia has taken the lead and MbS has attempted to play a statesman’s role in the reconciliation effort.

As the sun sets on the Trump administration, the GCC has to reckon with Iran’s growing nuclear and missile capabilities. The incoming Joe Biden administration in the US has indicated its preference for rejoining the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA). Iran’s announcement that it has resumed enriching uranium to 20% and its seizure of a South Korean tanker have not gone unnoticed. Clearly, Iran is raising the stakes and repositioning itself for negotiations with the incoming Biden administration.

The Obama administration’s support for the nuclear deal with Iran was deeply unpopular not only in Israel, but also in the Gulf countries. Iran and her military proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen are viewed as security threats by the GCC. The reconciliation is also a signal to the US that her GCC allies have their reservations about potential accommodation of Iran by the Biden administration.Having nurtured good ties with all GCC countries, India will have cause to be satisfied with the reconciliation effort. India’s energy ties with the GCC countries and the large Indian expatriate community in these nations are important bonds.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are important suppliers of oil and natural gas to India. Post-Covid economic recovery in the GCC nations will aid India’s economic recovery as well, as these countries are major trading and investment partners as well as employment destinations for Indian workers. With the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco establishing full diplomatic ties with Israel, India will have reason to be satisfied, given the close security ties it has with Israel. Whether the reconciliation will help the Turkey-Pakistan axis will depend on how Qatar plays its cards. It is very likely that Qatar will attempt to balance its ties with the GCC and the Iran-Turkey axis.


US, India: Stop The Uncivil Wars: When a Nation forgets its One People and Institutions Weaken, We’re At the Abyss

By Gurcharan Das

January 12, 2021

Indians didn’t know what to think. They woke up last Thursday in disbelief to shocking scenes of President Donald Trump’s supporters overrunning the US Capitol. The deliberate assault on democracy by a sitting president, attempting to overturn a fair election, was an ominous moment in American history.

The reaction in India was divided. Some worried that a weakened America would be unable to help India to contain aggressive China breathing down our borders. A few were smug, seeing an America at odds with itself, getting a taste of its own medicine after lecturing the world for decades about democracy. The WhatsApp brigade was busy forwarding gags: “Owing to Covid travel restrictions, this year’s US backed coup will take place at home.” Most thoughtful Indians were fearful, however: If the oldest and longest existing democracy had seen the edge of an abyss, what if it happened in India with much weaker institutions?

Instead of fear, I had the opposite reaction. Trump’s supporters had failed to subvert the constitutional order. It’s because democracies entrust power in institutions, not in rulers. US Congress went on to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Even Trump in the end wasn’t above the law. It was a victory for America’s democracy, which had proven its resilience. Liberal democracies are only as robust as their institutions are independent and their officers are honest. The lesson for India is to strengthen our weak institutions.

More worrisome is the tragic divide in America and India which has brought about an ‘Age of Hatred’. The storming of the Capitol wasn’t a one-off occurrence instigated by an unhinged leader. It’s a symptom of a deeper disease that President Biden will have to live with.

In India we must worry about our own uncivil polarisation. Our BJP and Congress parties resemble America’s Republicans and Democrats, behaving like prehistoric tribes that live in wholly different realities determined to annihilate each other. They have forgotten that they are one people, one nation, and part of a common humanity with a conscience.

This tribalism endangers the existence of the world’s two largest democracies. Democracy accepts differences and dislikes, allows room for protest and disagreement, but always under the basic rules of cooperation.

The lesson for India’s divisive politics is that the insurrection in America wasn’t limited to a lunatic fringe. A survey by YouGov reported that 45% Republicans approved of the storming of the Capitol. According to a Reuters/ Ipsos poll, 68% of Republicans believe that the recent US election was ‘rigged’, and 52% believe that Trump had ‘rightfully won’. Since 73 million people voted for Trump, this means that nearly 50 million people in the US doubt the election’s legitimacy. It also explains why 78% of Democrats called the mob on Capitol Hill ‘domestic terrorists’ but 50% of Republicans said they were ‘protesters’ and a third called them ‘patriots’. America is in the middle of an uncivil war.

I too became a small victim of our own uncivil polarisation in the past two weeks. On January 4, I was called vile names by trolls while I was defending the recent sensible reforms in agriculture. Unfortunately, the TV channel headlined only the first part of my statement: “It’s difficult to do reforms in a democracy.” The trolls accused me of supporting dictatorship. What I said, in fact, was: “It’s difficult to do reforms in a democracy; hence, smart reformers spend 20% of their time doing reforms, 80% selling them, carrying people along. Mr Modi failed to do this and he’s got farmer protests.”

The second incident happened at IIT Jammu on January 9, where I was giving the convocation address. I was asked to remove a lovely black cap given to me by the organisers to wear on this festive occasion. Hindu nationalists thought it resembled a Kashmiri Muslim cap and found it offensive. Both incidents left a bad taste in my mouth and are the outcome of the unhappy divide between those who love and those who hate Modi.

There’s no room for the aam admi in the middle, the average Indian who is neither a Modi bhakt nor a Congressia – someone who judges issues on their own merit, not through the lens of those who’d divide us.

America must now impeach Trump to confirm that it holds its president accountable for going rogue. India should take this as a cautionary tale and strengthen its institutions, especially checks on arbitrary power. Some of our institutions have delivered such as our Election Commission, which conducts impeccably much larger elections than the US with few complaints from the losers.

But our judiciary, our police, our bureaucracy and Parliament are in crying need of reform. Why do one in four lawmakers in India have a criminal record? Why should it take 15 years to get justice in the courts? Why is the Indian police the handmaiden of the chief minister, and why does an innocent man fear entering a police station? During the siege of the US Capitol, some bewildered law makers had asked, ‘Where are the police?’

Covid has given both America and India a chance to heal the wounds of divisive politics, an opportunity to show that its citizens are one people. This dastardly deed in America proves that the old hatreds are alive and well. India, at least, has slowed the mad rush towards CAA/ NRC, but that doesn’t mean the old revulsions won’t return. The animosities are extracting too heavy a price in both nations, consuming the energy that should go to restoring the economies after the pandemic. Both nations must stop their uncivil wars!


Scar-Spangled Banner: Followers Of Trump Declare Civil War II On The Self-Appointed Global Exporters Of Democracy

By Jug Suraiya

January 12, 2021

On the lawns of the Eternal White House in the Sky where US presidents go after they have demitted Earthly office, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln confer about recent happenings in Washington DC and in other parts of the US.

Washington: The whole wide world has been shocked by that gang of goons claiming to be supporters of a successor of ours rioting in the city named after me. Did you see the video clip of that woman crying?

Lincoln: No, I missed it. What’s her name?

Washington: I don’t think she’s got a name as such, Abe. Everyone just calls her the Statue of Liberty, or Libby for short. I feel like crying myself. It’s tragic that such things should happen in a country which has always claimed to be a champion of democracy ever since I fought for freedom from British rule and you fought a Civil War for the freedom of slaves.

Lincoln: I did indeed. But now it looks that there might be Civil War II down there, even after that bozo who started the whole thing has finally been kicked out of his job, which he should never have got in the first place.

Washington: You’re right, Abe. But whatever happened to that thing called democracy that guys like us believed was our birthright?

Lincoln: Well, that’s the problem, George. Some of those who came after us convinced themselves that democracy was not just our birthright but that we had a patent on the darn thing, and the God-given right to export it to other countries – like Vietnam, and Afghanistan, and Iraq – which didn’t want Made-in-America democracy, with the result that things got pretty messy.

Washington: You mean things got messy there?

Lincoln: They got messy here as well. Because having exported, or tried to export, all our democracy, we don’t have much of it left in the US itself, as shown by the guy who’s facing impeachment.

Washington: Golly. I guess democracy is like charity: It should begin at home – and stay there …



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