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Indian Press ( 6 Jan 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Indian Press on Owaisi's Visit to Furfura Sharif and India's UNSC Engagement: New Age Islam's Selection, 6 January 2021

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

6 January 2021

• Why Furfura Sharif, Muslim Shrine Owaisi Visited in Bengal, Could Be Key to Mamata’s Return

By Madhuparna Das

• Eliminate State and Social Interference in Matters of Conscience

By Gautam Bhatia

• Aesthetic Values, Environmental Concerns

By Dr. Mumtaz Ahmad Numani

• Dear Indian Filmmakers, Stop Showing Dalits & Minorities As ‘Weak’

By Abhinav Mehrotra

• Will India-Born Lawyer Make Biden’s US Senate Dream Come True?

By Savita Patel

• Delhi Must Integrate Its UNSC Engagement with Broader National Goals While Adapting To Changed Realities

By C. Raja Mohan


Why Furfura Sharif, Muslim Shrine Owaisi Visited In Bengal, Could Be Key To Mamata’s Return

By Madhuparna Das

6 January, 2021


Peerzada Abbas Siddique | Facebook


Kolkata: A prominent Muslim cleric is all set to ensure that Furfura Sharif, an influential shrine located around 45 km from Kolkata, will be critical to the West Bengal elections scheduled to be held later this year.

Peerzada Abbas Siddique, 33, told ThePrint that he will launch a political party and fight the elections to take on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as “she has divided the state on communal lines”.

In an exclusive interview to ThePrint, Siddique accused the chief minister of “appeasing, rather than uplifting Muslims”, and blamed her for “paving the way for a communal force like BJP” to enter the state. All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi had visited the shrine and met Siddique Sunday.

“It is her cheap appeasement policies that has created a divide between Muslims and Hindus in Bengal. Our Hindu brothers think that we get favours from the ruling party, and they are deprived,” Siddique told ThePrint. “It is this perception that has allowed the ruling Trinamool to use Muslims as vote-banks. My Hindu brother now hates me for no fault of mine. And this is the reason they rely on a communal force like BJP.”

This is the first time that a Muslim leader has accused the chief minister of adopting communal politics, a charge usually hurled at her by her political opponents, including the the BJP, the Congress and the CPI(M).

An influential cleric

Furfura Sharif is located in Hooghly district’s Jangipara. The shrine, which follows the teachings of Sufi saint Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddique who is popularly known as ‘Dada Huzur’, is one of the prominent religious sites for Muslims in the state.

Peerzada Siddique is a fourth-generation descendant of the Sufi saint. He will be the first of the clerics to float a political party. Toha Siddique, his higher-ranking uncle, had endorsed Mamata in the 2011 assembly elections but never formally joined politics.

The shrine is believed to hold command over Muslims in Howrah, Hooghly, South 24 Pargana, North 24 Pargana and Dinajpur districts in the state. These five districts are spread over at least 90 assembly constituencies where Muslims are a dominant force.

Over the past decade, political leaders from all parties including the CPM, the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and even the BJP have made a beeline for the shrine.

Siddique told ThePrint that the political patronage has not benefited the community.

“Every political party, including Congress and CPM, used us but Trinamool brought the maximum damage by being the self-pronounced saviour. They, in reality, did not do anything for upliftment,” he said. “We appealed to the chief minister in 2019 to fight the National Register of Citizens (NRC) at the Supreme Court. But that day, she sent police to our holy shrine, levelled criminal charges against us and put many of us behind bars. This is her politics.”

Siddique said he will be the face of the alliance that he has formed with the AIMIM and “eight other organisations”. “We are talking to several tribal, Dalit and other Muslim organisations. We have also appealed to the downtrodden Matua communities to join hands with us,” he said. “As of now, we have nine organisations that have agreed to join us. We will announce the name of the front next week.”

Siddique said his party would field candidates in at least 44 seats, while other constituents of the new front may field candidates in another 45 to 50 seats.

TMC could face the heat

Political analysts ThePrint spoke to said the new front could hurt the ruling Trinamool Congress’ prospects as the party holds all the 90 Muslim-majority seats in South Bengal. 

“Malda and Murshidabad are strongholds of the Congress. CPM also has a vote bank among Muslims in these districts. Mamata’s forte is South Bengal’s Muslim-dominated districts and that is close to 30 per cent of the vote share,” political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty said. “If AIMIM and Abbas Siddique join hands, Mamata Banerjee’s Muslim vote-bank in South Bengal may get fragmented.”

According to Prof Abdul Matin of Jadavpur University, who has done an elaborate research on Furfura Sharif, the shrine has at least 2,200 mosques across the state under its command, and some of them are directly affiliated to the shrine.

“It has remained a significant place for Bengal politics,” he said. “Senior politicians across parties visit the shrine before elections to get blessings of the Pir saheb and ensure support of Muslim community in their favour. This trend has increased even more in the past 10 years.”

The Trinamool Congress, however, feels none of this will affect its electoral chances. “Muslims in Bengal are with Mamata Banerjee. They will not fall prey to outsiders,” TMC MP Sougata Roy said. “They are aware of how the AIMIM works. It is the BJP’s B team.”


Eliminate State And Social Interference In Matters Of Conscience

By Gautam Bhatia

Jan 05, 2021

Uttar Pradesh (UP)’s Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion law — colloquially called the “love jihad law” — has attracted controversy ever since it was initially enacted as an ordinance two months ago. On the surface, the law proclaims itself to be against “unlawful conversions”, which, in turn, are defined broadly as conversions secured through coercion or other forms of inducement.

To start with, it is unclear why the State should be specially concerned with something as personal as religious conversions, when the Indian Penal Code already has provisions against both criminal intimidation and various forms of fraud. However, as such laws have existed on the statute books for many years — and have been upheld by the Supreme Court — their continued existence needs a larger and longer debate.

More specifically, however, there are two ways in which UP’s law contravenes fundamental principles of the Constitution. First, it discriminates on the basis of gender. The law provides for greater penalties if the unlawful conversion is with respect to a minor, a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, or a woman. Furthermore, the law also stipulates that an unlawful conversion conducted for the purpose of marriage will be void in cases where the woman has been unlawfully converted before the marriage. This provision makes it clear that the law continues to be based on a patriarchal mindset that views women as lacking agency and autonomy, and therefore in need of “special protection.”

Such logic has been strongly repudiated by the courts — most recently while striking down the criminalisation of adultery, which had a very similar gender asymmetric provision — and it has been made clear that the Constitution does not allow ostensibly “beneficial” laws for women that are based on patriarchal or stereotypical assumptions.

Second, the law requires an advance notice of any conversion to be provided to the district magistrate, who is then required to initiate an inquiry — through the police — into the “real intention” behind the conversion. To this is added the fact that the law places the “burden” of proving that a conversion is not illegal upon the person who desires to convert (or someone who has facilitated the conversion). Shorn of legalese, therefore, the effect of the law is that any person who wants to change their religion must first convince the State and the police that they are doing so for reasons that the State deems to be genuine.

It should be clear that the law infantilises Indian citizens, reduces them to the level of subjects, and authorises State intrusion into the most personal of domains, that of individual conscience. Secular law already has provisions penalising coercion, intimidation, and fraud, and there is no reason why coercion or fraud deserves any special treatment where religion is concerned.

The requirement of a public notice accompanying a decision of conversion also requires a larger debate, as variants of it are found in many laws, including the Special Marriage Act, which was ostensibly enacted to protect the rights of inter-faith couples. Let us, for the purposes of argument, assume for a moment that the State has some interest in regulating valid marriages and conversions. This does not change the fact that both marriage and conversion are decisions that lie firmly within the domain of individual choice, and individual privacy.

There is, therefore, no justification for requiring people choosing to be married under the Special Marriage Act — or individuals choosing to convert — to publicly announce their intention to do so. In essence, this sanctifies social interference with individual privacy, and goes far beyond any interest the State may have to ensure that the laws are upheld.

The UP conversion law is unconstitutional. But the debate does not end with this one law, as it also replicates many existing provisions from other laws, which have been left standing for too long. India cannot call itself a constitutional democracy until social interference in matters of conscience is eliminated from its laws, once and for all.


Gautam Bhatia is a Delhi-based advocate


Aesthetic Values, Environmental Concerns

By Dr. Mumtaz Ahmad Numani

January 5, 2021

“Gardening, as [an aesthetical] and/or cultural activity, matters deeply, not only to the look of our landscape, but also to the wisdom of our thinking about the [ecology] and environment.” Michael Pollan, Beyond Wilderness and Lawn.

Gardens of any type are important to our ife on earth. These, particularly in our age (and in future), act as a safeguard to the environmental crisis everywhere. And scholars tackling the core environmental issues consider gardens as an important discipline of study now. Therefore, the questions are: do Mughal landscape gardens of Kashmir valley represent aesthetic, and environmental concerns and values? And what makes them fit to obtain UNESCO world heritage recognition?

An established fact is that, “in this age or before, one can hardly think of a natural system that has not been considerably altered, for better or worse, by human culture”.  The contemporary reports so far documented are replete with references in this matter. And Mughal emperors like other rulers (or human fellows) are no exception. They also have brought immense changes in the landscape of what is now: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. And if one has to look at regional level, these changes are visible in Kashmir valley as well.

Therefore, of many, but one visible vision of the Mughal emperors and their nobles, was their keen interest of outlaying landscape gardens—designed with a sense to command both: aesthetic, and environmental concerns and values. This cultural act got the Mughal emperors and their nobles closer to the idea of preserving the treasure of Kashmir landscape ecology. And if one has to observe it, such a deep concern is visible in their choice of ‘selection, observation, and design, planning and management’. For example, the landscape architectural design that the Mughal architects have applied in the outlaying and maintenance of gardens and springs is significant for more than one reason. One, it channelizes the abundance of water with an appropriate momentum and direction. Two, it prevents soil erosion. Third, the selection of plantation in the gardens arranged technically around the water channels is truly phenomenal. And all these valuable attributes and techniques thus serve an example of outlaying garden design—with a sense to command both: aesthetic, and environmental concerns and values.

Here it bears to mention that what garden historian James Wescoat has aptly viewed: “although climate was not a major topic, which is a significant point of negative evidence, some hydroclimatic incidents were recorded that led to infrastructure and policy adjustments. For example, the first Mughal ruler Babur complained bitterly about the climate, waters, and culture of Hindustan immediately after the conquest in 1526 CE. To counter these deficiencies, he ordered the construction of waterworks, gardens, and baths to make the capital city of Agra resemble the landscape of Kabul. Three decades later, Mughal documents began to present a favourable perspective on the climates of India”. However, unlike other Subahs (provinces) of the Mughal empire, warm climate and the deficiency of water although was not an issue with Kashmir valley, but, despite that, the descendants of Babur showed a deep ecological and environmental concern towards the Subah of Kashmir.

Since climate change is a major issue of concern all over the world, it would be wrong of us to assume that the Mughal emperors did look upon Kashmir valley just as a pleasure ground, so far as traditionally underscored, rather their persistent ecological engagement with its landscape provides a somewhat deeper concern with what now constitute core environmental issues. And this act of theirs serves one of the best examples of ‘human-earth-relationship’ in the existence of life.

Tailpiece: In view of the preserving cultural heritage, and the ecological and environmental concerns in focus all over the world, it is therefore imperative that the Mughal gardens of Kashmir be assigned ‘UNESCO world heritage recognition’.  Because, these historical gardens: aesthetically, functionally, symbolically and ecologically, reflect deeper ‘environmental concerns’. Therefore, any lapse in assigning the ‘world heritage recognition’ on part of the decision makers and/or officials would fail us to recognise the ‘continuity’ and ‘proximity’ of these historical gardens in our age of ‘environmental crisis’.


Dr. Mumtaz Ahmad Numani has worked as chief coordinator of The Peace Gong (global children’s Newsletter-connecting children for a non-violent planet) and is currently working as faculty at higher education, Srinagar Women’s College Zakura.


Dear Indian Filmmakers, Stop Showing Dalits & Minorities As ‘Weak’

By Abhinav Mehrotra

05 Jan 2021

Even as Richa Chadha-starrer ‘Madam Chief Minister’s’ first look — the release of its poster — on 4 January caused controversy due to its tagline being ‘poorly-worded’ and a ‘Savarna’, ‘upper-class’ woman playing the role of a Dalit (the film is loosely based on Mayawati’s life), a fresh debate began over the use of the word ‘untouchable’.

What needs to be understood is that ‘untouchability’, although banned, continues to prevail, interestingly also among the marginalised Dalit community itself.

Also, the group of people who have suffered even more among the Dalit community are the Dalit women — being doubly ‘oppressed’ among the oppressed.

It is worth noting that various legislations, programmes and policies do not specifically deal with the atrocities committed against Dalit women per se, and they are not given prominence in news media. However, many incidents of atrocities faced by Dalit women have been highlighted through cinema. For example, the Tamil movie Pariyerum Perumal (2018) highlights the impact of caste hierarchy on Dalits.

The Dominant Caste Male ‘Saviour’

Historically, it is the dominant caste protagonist in movies who protects the marginalised communities and fights for their rights. This is how our visual imagination has been shaped — seeing a dominant caste ‘saviour’. However, when cinema is seen through the lens of a member of the Dalit community, the same imagination is reversed because the difference between the story and storyteller is blurred. For example, in 1928,a Dalit Christian woman named PK Rosy  became the first actress from the community in a Malayalam movie called Vigathakumaran. In this case, the storyteller JC Daniel was a (disadvantaged) Nadar caste Christian filmmaker, and was shunned — and had to leave the film which threw him into poverty.

For example,  in the movie Sujata (1959), the protagonist is from a Dalit family but is adopted by a Brahmin family . On realising this fact, she begins to live a quiet existence and suppresses her voice.

How Films Like ‘Masaan’ & ‘Article 15’ Are Changing The Game By Showing Empowered Dalit Characters

Further, movies like Achhut Kanya and Ankur showed marginalised caste women as people without agency or autonomy, and who could be sexually exploited at will. The character of Kasturi in Achhut Kanya is — as the film’s title suggests — an ‘untouchable woman’ who falls in love with a dominant caste man but is not allowed to marry him. Similarly, the character of Laxmi in the movie Ankur is a marginalised caste woman who is unable to conceive, and her vulnerability is exploited by Surya — a dominant caste man — who gets involved in an intimate relationship with her but refuses to take responsibility for her child after impregnating her.

For example, the character of Gaura, who is a Dalit woman in Article 15, is seen fighting for her sister in particular, and Dalit rights in general. Similarly, the character of Devi in Masaan (2015), a Dalit, despite being blackmailed by a dominant caste police inspector continues to chase her dreams to pursue higher studies.

Maybe scenes like these from the movies Article 15 and Masaan is the way forward — depicting, for instance, marginalised caste women standing up for their rights and fearlessly encountering obstacles.


Abhinav Mehrotra is currently working as Assistant Lecturer at Jindal Global Law School and holds an LL.M. degree in International Human Rights Law. He tweets @AbhinavMehrot13. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. New Age Islam neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)


Will India-Born Lawyer Make Biden’s US Senate Dream Come True?

By Savita Patel

05 Jan 2021

This is how Indian American Sachin Varghese describes his affirming of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s win in Georgia. Sachin Varghese, a high-power lawyer, chosen as a Democratic elector in Georgia, was honoured to cast his prestigious Electoral College vote that formalised the Biden-Harris win in Georgia.

When Americans go to the polls in the presidential elections, they are not directly voting for the president. They are actually voting for a group of ‘electors’ like Sachin Varghese that make up the electoral college. They are party loyalists, lobbyists, influencers, lawmakers, civil rights crusaders, who after Biden’s victory in Georgia, were in charge of casting the state’s 16 electoral votes for the Democrats on 14 December. It was a historic day for Sachin Varghese who is also the General Counsel of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

Kerala-Born Sachin Varghese’s Role In US Senate Race

Born in Kerala, Sachin was 16 months old when his family moved to the US in 1983. He grew up in Georgia, worked as a teacher for a year as part of the ‘Teach for America’ program before joining law school, and is now a partner attorney at an influential firm. As General Counsel, Sachin is the lead lawyer of the Georgia Democratic Party. He monitors and advises the party in all legal issues, litigation being a big part of that.

“Litigation was designed to throw out votes in Democratic areas in Georgia. Our party had a strong interest that litigation does not suppress the will of the people. The party intervened even though it was not a defendant originally, but requested the courts to be allowed to become a party to the lawsuits, which was allowed. We moved to dismiss the litigations and our efforts succeeded,” he said.

Biden won Georgia by an extremely narrow margin but the two Senate seats had to go in for the re-election happening on 5 January, as no candidate won the minimum required 50 percent vote.

It is expected to play out a lot like November’s presidential election. High absentee voting and near-record turnout could slow count. Both parties expect court challenges to follow. Sachin Varghese believes that one doesn’t have to be a skeptic to expect litigation.

Ensuring No Ballot In Georgia Remains ‘Uncured’

With the expected intense scrutiny over mail-in absentee ballots, both parties have been running vote-protection programs. A lot more time is being spent on the ground in explaining ballot paperwork to voters to ensure their vote and registration signatures tally. ‘South Asians for Biden’, a civic advocacy group dedicated to mobilising the desi vote, is doing extensive ‘ballot rescue’ canvassing.

With 48 hours of sending in a ballot, Georgian voters can check online if their ballot has been rejected. This could be for various reasons including their signature not tallying with voter registration documents. To ‘cure’ their ballot, voters have to send an affidavit along with an identity proof document. Director of the Georgia chapter of ‘South Asians for Biden’, Sonjui Kumar and her team of volunteers ensures that no ballot remains uncured.

Georgia law allows voters to fix errors on their ballots within 3 days after election day on 5 January. Voting advocacy groups and local election commissions around the state are working to make sure that absentee ballots rejected for technical errors have a chance to be ‘cured’ and tallied.

US Senate Race: Importance Of The Desi Vote In Georgia

The level of diligence shows that each and every vote in Georgia will count. The state surprised the country by flipping blue, but Biden’s margin of victory was just over 14,000 votes. Biden could not have carried the state without winning the Indian American vote. There are more than 150,000 desi voters in Georgia.

In response to my questioning the significance of contribution of Indian American vote in Biden-Harris victory he smiled and said:

The Asian American organisers who support the Democratic Party are trying to make it happen again in the Senate runoffs, using every possible canvassing style and opportunity, in what is a turn-out election. Sonjui Kumar’s team has left no voters un-contacted. “We have made multiple calls and there has been lots of outreach. We did everything we could. We went all out. We have got a tremendous response from volunteers and voters. At this stage if some are not going to vote, it is because they don’t want to vote, not because they haven’t been called or told about the election.”

Will Kamala Harris’s Be The ‘Tie-Breaking’ Vote In US Senate Race?

Democratic supporters from across the country, including desi teenagers and elderly, are sending letters, texting and calling voters in Georgia requesting them to cast their ballots in this crucial Senate election. Record funds raised, harnessing relations and culture, digital and social media outreach, sign-waving on streets – the energy from the presidential election is being poured into the state.

The world’s eyes are on Georgia as the special election will determine control of the Senate, either enabling Biden to carry out his policy agenda in the early years of his administration, or leave Republicans in control. Democrats would need to capture both of the seats to secure a 50-50 tie in the Senate. Then Kamala Harris’s could be the tie-breaking vote. Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are running against Republican Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, in the Senate elections.

Sachin Varghese May Have To Ride Waves Of Legal Battles To ‘Hand’ US Senate To Biden

More than 3 million Georgians have already voted. Of those votes, 928,069 are absentee by mail and 2,072,948 are from in-person early voting. After the 3 November US presidential election, Georgia was one of the states that saw Trump campaign unleash baseless lawsuits, mostly questioning mail-in votes. Ballots were counted and recounted in Georgia, thrice. 'Georgia Bureau of Investigations' audited mail-in ballot voter signatures.

The Senate runoffs are expected to unfold similarly.

Court challenges have begun — on 28 December, a federal judge dismissed Atlanta lawyer Lin Wood’s attempt to stop the Senate elections calling the claims ‘too speculative’. Considered an ‘extreme Trump advocate’ Wood appealed that the procedures being used by Georgia election officials to conduct absentee balloting violate Georgia’s election laws.

Sachin Varghese, General Counsel of the Democratic Party of Georgia, will ride waves of legal battles that will rise in the coming days, with an aim to deliver the US Senate to Biden — a critical role for the Kerala-born American attorney.


Savita Patel is a senior journalist and producer, who produced ‘Worldview India’, a weekly international affairs show, and produced ‘Across Seven Seas’, a diaspora show, both with World Report, aired on DD. She has also covered stories for Voice of America TV from California. 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 New Age Islam neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)


Delhi Must Integrate Its UNSC Engagement with Broader National Goals While Adapting To Changed Realities

By C. Raja Mohan

January 5, 2021

As it enters the United Nations Security Council for the third time since the end of the Cold War, India finds a very different dynamic than the one it encountered during the earlier stints in 1991-92 and 2011-12. India, too, has changed over the last decade. The range of Indian interests has expanded and so has the circle of India’s international partners.

Delhi’s attitudes have also shifted from the reactive to the proactive. That, in turn, should make India’s new stint at the UNSC more purposeful and pragmatic. Purposefulness is about tightly integrating its UNSC engagement with India’s broader national goals. Pragmatism demands adapting to the changed conditions at the UNSC and avoiding overly ambitious goals.

During 1991-92, Delhi saw the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the new Russia’s turn to the US and the West. The People’s Republic of China was focused on getting its house in order, opening its economy and keeping a low profile in the unipolar moment. India, too, had good reasons to keep its head down. Delhi had to fix its broken economy, put out political bushfires across the country and rejig its foreign policy to cope with the post-Soviet world.

The West could not resist the temptations for geopolitical overreach at the UN. Liberals across the Atlantic sought to transform the “inter-national” forum into a “supra-national” institution that would actively reshape the domestic structures of different societies. For India, it was a moment to hunker down and resist external imposition of solutions to its manifold problems — especially on the Kashmir question and the nuclear issue.

Fast forward to 2011-12. A revived Russia and a rising China began to demur against the sweeping Western agenda at the UN. India’s own relative position improved in the first decade of the 21st century, thanks to rapid economic growth. Delhi was certainly less defensive than in the 1990s, but struggled to turn its new strengths into practical outcomes.

A decade later, India has walked into a far more contentious UNSC. Differences between the US, China and Russia have become intractable. China has risen to be a great power and is making expansive claims and trying to redeem them. Meanwhile, Washington and Moscow have drifted apart and Russia has moved closer to China.

This tension among the US, China and Russia has been reinforced by sharpening disagreements between Washington and its European allies, amidst President Donald Trump’s questioning of America’s traditional alliances. Although President-elect Joe Biden wants to work closely with European allies in the global arena, not all wrinkles can be smoothed over.

As India looks for a productive tenure at the UNSC, five objectives present themselves. One is about making the UNSC “effective”. Delhi, however, might be sensible to pare down that ambition. The UNSC is becoming less effective today thanks to the deep divisions among the major powers.

The UNSC system was designed to function as a concert of five powers. Unanimity among the five permanent members with veto powers was rare during the Cold War decades. After a brief moment of great power cooperation in the 1990s, we are now back in an era of contestation. But there will be enough room for India to carve out a larger role for itself amid renewed great power rivalry.

The UNSC offers room for sustained diplomatic interaction between the major powers, who could minimise tensions and create new opportunities for cooperation. Much like the US and USSR that cooperated on issues relating to nuclear proliferation at the height of the Cold War, the US and China could explore potential common ground even amidst their broad-based confrontation. All other powers, including India, will, of course, want to be sure that the US-China cooperation is not at the expense of others.

Two, making the UNSC more “representative” has been one of India’s demands since the end of the Cold War. Pessimists would urge Delhi to curb its enthusiasm. China has no interest in letting two other Asian powers — India and Japan — join the UNSC as permanent members. Optimists would suggest Delhi’s campaign, in partnership with Brazil, Germany and Japan, to expand the UNSC must continue. For the campaign is about an important principle and revealing the nature of political resistance to it.

Three, Delhi has no choice but to deal with China’s growing hostility to India. At the end of the Cold War, India had bet that cooperation with China on the multilateral front was valuable in its own right, and would also help generate the conditions for resolving the boundary dispute and expand the areas of bilateral cooperation. Delhi, which was eager to build a multipolar world with Beijing, now finds itself in a unipolar Asia that is centred around China. Meanwhile, the boundary dispute has worsened over the last decade. India now joins the UNSC amid a continuing military standoff between the two armies in the high Himalayas following the Chinese aggression in the Ladakh region.

Senior Indian officials have promised to “work with” China with an open mind. Sceptics would discount that sentiment. China has repeatedly tried to get the UNSC to focus on India’s constitutional changes in Kashmir. On the question of cross-border terrorism, Beijing protects Pakistan from the international pressures that India has sought to mobilise at various fora. On the nuclear front, China continues to block India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Four, the engagement with peace and security issues at the UNSC will allow India to strengthen its new coalitions such as the Quad — which brings together Australia, India, Japan and the US. India could also use the UNSC tenure to deepen collaboration with its European partners like France and Germany in the security arena, and find common ground with “Global Britain” that is carving out a new international path for itself after breaking away from the European Union. Delhi must also sustain an intensive dialogue with Moscow on all international issues, notwithstanding Russia’s worsening problems with the West and closer ties to China.

Fifth, Delhi needs to revitalise its engagement with its traditional partners in the “global south” by articulating their peace and security concerns in the UNSC. Two sub-groups of the global south should be of special interest. The numerous small island states around the world face existential challenges from global warming and rising sea levels. They also struggle to exercise control over their large maritime estates. Supporting the sovereignty and survivability of the island states is a crucial political task for India.

Africa is the other priority. Nearly half of UNSC meetings, 60 per cent of its documents, and 70 per cent of its resolutions are about peace and security in Africa. The continent has three seats in the UNSC (Kenya, Niger and Tunisia) and there is regular consultation between the UNSC and the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU). The UNSC tenure is a good moment for Delhi to intensify India’s engagement on peace and security issues in Africa at bilateral, regional and global levels.


C. Raja Mohan is director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore and contributing editor on international affairs for The Indian Express



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