Hit You Where It Hurts: Nepal-India Relations

Nepal’s new Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda paid his first foreign visit to India in the hope of improving the bilateral relationship that went through a rough patch recently. Prachanda’s state visit came amidst suspicions about his possible acquiescing to India’s demands that might draw Nepal further into India’s fold. In India, the Modi government put its faith in Prachanda to settle differences and move forward.

As expected, as a 25-point joint statement was released in New Delhi, Prachanda was lambasted in Nepal. While some went overboard in interpreting several points in the political communiqué in a negative vein, including his former fellow comrade Baburam Bhattarai, many seemed to agree that Prachanda made a serious mistake on a constitutional matter. The fact that Nepal’s internal matter –constitution writing— was included in the joint statement has reinforced India’s meddling into Nepal’s domestic affairs. Moreover, aside from the fanfare of state visit, there has not been concrete progress in areas that have long been Nepal’s concern—no measures on reducing trade deficit, no agreements on air space, etc.

Therefore, the visit seems to be a political marriage between Indian PM Modi and PM Prachanda. The latter, unlike in his first PM term when he was the leader of the biggest party CPN-Maoist in the constituent assembly-I, has now been reduced to the leader of a party that trails behind Nepali Congress and UML with a huge margin. Prachanda has been substantially weakened due to several splits in his party; even the party ideologue Baburam Bhattarai left him and formed his own party called “Naya Shakti”. Despite his ultimate aim of being in power, Puspa Kamal’s popularity has been hugely decreasing and, judging by the way he fared in the constituent assembly-II elections, it would not be an exaggeration to say that he is a politician with hardly any constituency. Moreover, his gesture to India has further tarnished his image in Nepal. He is also heavily criticized in his own party over several points of the communiqué.

Under these circumstances, regardless of what promises Prachanda made to woo India, the hope that he would be able to take everyone on board to solve a seemingly intractable Tarai-Madhes problem remains doubtful. The president of the Sanghiya Samajwadi Forum Upendra Yadav, a major Tarai-Madhes based party leader, worries about the fact that Prachanda’s pace to address their problem is already disappointing. Moreover, how long he will remain favorable to India by keeping China at bay in the face of domestic and Chinese pressure remains to be seen. After all, although he did visit India first, he could not do so without sending one of his Cabinet ministers to Beijing.  In fact, he was the one who chose to get closer to China in his first term, although now he claims it was an immature decision.

Modi, for his part, was keen to reach out to Nepal before it becomes too late, and at the same time wanted to get across the messagethat India’s position on Nepal regarding the Tarai-Madhes issue has not changed (although some hints are emerging that it might); for these purposes he found Prachanda handy for now. However, although India has succeeded in its scheme, it must not overlook the fact that these political machinations have not helped improved India’s image among ordinary citizens in Nepal, rather the opposite. As a prominent public intellectual in Nepal puts it, “India continues to hit Nepalese exactly where it hurts.” 

India’s regional security concerns with high stakes in Nepal are often manifested in heavy-handedness that end in a zero-sum game. Its concerns are reasonable, but India should try and address them not through heavy-handedness, but through bilateral and regional mechanisms. If India emphasizes “fraternal relationship” with Nepal, it should be able to show magnanimity and accept Nepal’s relationship with China and others. The close affinity between Indians and Nepalis, if managed well, is the asset for India to match China’s economic prowess.

One way Modi could manage this, as he prioritizes neighborhood policy, is by bringing dynamic Indians with 21st century world view for Nepal policy in New Delhi and in the Embassy of India in Kathmandu. He also needs to oversee bilateral matters through official diplomatic channels rather than through parallel, unauthorized tracks. India must convey its good will and its concerns to the Nepalese people openly, leaving no room for suspicions and for domestic groups to do politics by demonizing India or over-exploiting it, whether it is about Hindu religion, security concerns, water resources or Western powers’ presence. India should encourage more visits -- official and unofficial— between two countries at all levels in which Modi government has already done a remarkable job. At the same time, it must internalize that, given the truly unique relationship Nepal and India have, Nepalese (irrespective of their ethnic identities) cannot be anti-Indians and can never harm India’s interests. 

Modi government must protect right to dissent

The essential ideals of democracy are being debated upon in India. A national debate has been urged by students, writers, and the intelligentsia community that intolerance towards any dissent is being crushed while it should be allowed to flourish, questioned, and contested. India’s independence movement was based on the ideals of secularism, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and the freedom of thought. However, India is surging with protests across the country that are continuing to fight for those very fundamental rights.

On February 9, a group of students at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) gathered to commemorate the 2013 hanging of Afzal Guru. Afzal Guru was convicted for his role in the attack on India’s parliament in 2001. The group of students was heard shouting “anti-national” slogans such as “We will fight until India’s destruction.” Members of another student group, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), at JNU protested in opposition to the “anti-national” slogans. ABVP, while an independent organisation, is known to be the students’ wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu extremist group. As Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was initiated as the political wing of RSS in 1951, ABVP is often affiliated with the BJP.

Kanhaiya Kumar, the leader of JNU Students’ Union was arrested on allegations of sedition after the protests on February 9th. At the time of his arrest it was not clear whether Kumar or the JNU Students’ Union was involved in the protest. However, he was arrested on grounds of complaints filed by BJP Member of Parliament Maheish Girri and ABVP. Many scholars including Former Attorney General, Soli Sorabjee, have come out since, to expose the lack of ground on which the arrest was made. Sorabjee went on to call the arrest on grounds of anti-national sentiments as “deplorable” as Kumar retains the right to free speech.

The situation escalated on February 15 outside the Patiala House Courts where Kanhaiya Kumar’s case was to be heard. BJP MLA, Om Prakash Sharma, openly attacked a member of the Communist Party of India, Ameeque Jamai who was their in protest to the arrest of Kumar. Sharma’s reaction seemed to have incited his supporters and around 40 lawyers in the crowd to attack members of the media and student protesters while the police half-heartedly attempted to protect them.

Sharma claims he was simply trying to stop a man from screaming “pro-Pakistan” slogans and not actually beating Jamai. However, pictures and videos of the scene clearly show otherwise. This kind of behavior does not behoove an elected member of parliament, especially one in the largest democracy in the world. Mr. Sorabjee also mentioned that “no individual can become a law enforcer” referring to the MLA leader. Sorabjee’s words could easily be referring to the lawyers beating up JNU students. The lawyers had actually communicated the day before the incident to gather in front of the court and “peacefully” teach the protesters what it “takes to be a patriot.” The controversy has since raised questions around “patriotism” and “constitutional rights.”

After the arrest, security agencies revealed to the Home Ministry that Kanhaiya Kumar might not have raised any anti-national slogans and that the sedition charge could be “over enthusiasm” on the part of police officers present at the scene. In fact the speech that he was arrested for condemned violence, and rallied “to strengthen democracy.”  In his speech Kanhaiya Kumar said:

"We have full faith in our country’s Constitution. And we want to firmly assert that if anyone lifts a finger against this country’s Constitution — whether the Sanghis or anyone else — we won’t tolerate it..."Then why are they (ABVP and RSS) so uncomfortable? They have a problem when the people of this country talk about democracy.”

This incident is similar to the recent Hyderabad Central University incident where a PhD student, Rohith Vemula, committed suicide. His suicide seems to have stemmed from a disciplinary action by the university and expulsion from hostel against 5 students including Vemula. Letters from Union Minister Badera Dattreya and Smriti Irani seem to have influenced the decision for expulsion.

The disciplinary action was taken due to his involvement in protests by the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) in August of 2015 in which the student group protested against the ABVP chapter’s actions to disrupt the screening of the documentary “Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai.” It was based on the 2013 anti-Muslim massacre in Western Uttar Pradesh. It is believed that his suicide is in protest of the way Dalits are being treated in India.

Vemula’s letter to the University vice-chancellor, his suicide letter and the protests that followed brought to light that casteism in India was still a reality overlooked and often dismissed by many. He had asked the chancellor to make “ropes available to rooms of all Dalit students” and “to give poison to them at admission” instead of the humiliation that Dalits faced in the community. In his suicide letter he wrote:

“The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing.”

His words expose how his identity was reduced to a single thing, being a Dalit, and not that he wanted to be like Carl Sagan and explore nature. These incidents have just added more questions to the debate: of “lack of pluralism,” “nationalism” and “treatment of minorities.”

In both cases chapters of ABVP, a BJP affiliated student group, opposed the rights of other student groups to voice their opinions, to gather and to demonstrate peacefully. These are rights protected by the Indian constitution and are crucial to the functioning of a democracy so large and diverse.

Additionally, in both incidents local members of the BJP party supported the ABVP in its protests. These incidents showcase right-wing Hindutva elements within the BJP and student groups allied to it that have often tried to silence opinions that differ from their own. Their tactics aim to ambush and stifle opposing views that include farcical police cases, private complaints, social intimidation and legal petitions.

This is evidenced in the case of the arrest of GN Saibaba, Professor at Delhi University, who was arrested due to alleged maoists links. In support of Mr. G.N. Saibaba, Ms. Arundhati Roy, a renowned author and activists, faced criminal charges for writing an article in Outlook Magazine that interfered with the administration of justice. Many including former Chairman of the Press Council of India, Markandey Katju, failed to “see how it (Roy’s Article) could be regarded as contempt of court in a democratic country.” The intolerance towards dissent or freedom of expression are not just through formal criminal charges like in the case of Ms. Roy but also through an intolerant rhetoric by elected representatives.

Several members of BJP reacted with hostile comments towards actor Aamir Khan when he spoke out against rising intolerance in India at Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards ceremony. BJP MP Yogi Adityanath declared that "If Aamir Khan wants to leave the country he can go. The population of the country will come down." Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Vice President of BJP and Minister of State Parliamentary Affair disregarded Khan’s opinion by saying, "neither is he going anywhere nor will we let him go." Naqvi continued to dismiss Khan’s comments by assuming that Khan was “under someone else’s influence.” These comments were followed by Khan being berated on Twitter. Some claimed his comments were spreading communal behavior and fear in India. It is not the first time that a public figure has been shut down for speaking out.

A leading Indian thinker and president of Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, Pratap Bhanu Mehta has been very vocal about his discontent with the current government being the primary institution responsible for “threatening democracy.” Mehta argues that in the case of the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, essentially on the terms of being anti-national, is a trend by the state to create an atmosphere of “patriotism” that requires no tolerance to any dissenting thought.

Mehta is not just criticising the role of the state in the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar in violating the law of sedition, but, also the use of power by the state “to crush thinking.” He called it “malign” and “politically stupid.”

Mehta is not alone in calling out the government in this case or previous ones. Soli Sorabjee, in an article in the Hindu, wrote that the “right to dissent and tolerance of dissent are sine qua non of a liberal democratic society,” a couple of years ago and has been steadfast in that belief with these current incidents. Mr. Mehta differs slightly in his analysis that there is no room for speculation in this case as there was no “immediate instigation to violence” that is part of the IPC 124A referred to as the law of sedition. The real threat to democracy is the government’s suppression of free speech and to gather peacefully.

The “immediate instigation to violence” is actually coming from the opposition to the JNU students protest. A video taken by Jagat Sohail, student at Delhi School of Economics, shows a group of students chanting threat of murder to students of JNU who gathered on the anniversary of the hanging of Afzal Guru. The Indian government under the leadership of Mr. Modi has tried to promote economic optimism, growth and development as its primary agenda, however, in the past two years the national debate has reverted back to social issues of freedom of expression, freedom of religion and some have said even the “freedom of thought” is under siege.

Elements within the RSS, VHP, ABVP allied with the BJP have been at the front and center of what Sorabjee terms as “the menace of intolerance.” A poll taken by Times of India revealed that 62 per cent of the country believes that the “Sangh Parivar hotheads are adversely affecting the development agenda.” This intolerance may prove to be quite abrasive to the movement towards economic growth for India that Modi intends to be the champion of.

The national debate surrounding the recent JNU and Hyderabad University incidents are around the intolerance towards dissent and what it means to be Indian. Kanhaiya Kumar urges in his speech that the Sangh Parivar and groups like ABVP should not be the ones to justify patriotism or certify nationalism in India. He spoke up against “institutional violence” and appealed for the preservation of “constitutional rights” for the citizens of India. This surge of debate around these concepts are not new in the national arena and definitely not new since Narendra Modi took office.

There has been a constant battle between secularists and the government, from the beef ban to the “Award Wapsi” by the intelligentsia in India. This has now reached the doorstep of educational institutions where debate is not only necessary, it should be encouraged even if it is to debate the “hanging of Afzal Guru.” Being the world’s largest democracy and having had a national movement not 70 years ago must live up to the ideals of secularism, pluralism and inclusivity on which it was built upon.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Modi government to challenge fringe, extremist elements in society in order to uphold the rights of its citizens to dissent that will only strengthen democracy, not weaken it.

This article was first published through Daily O.

Pakistan’s Terror Game

Coming on the heels of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore last month, the attack on Pathankot Air Force Station in Indian Punjab by Islamist militants on January 2nd is seen by many as an attempt to derail the nascent peace process between the two countries. This is a serious misunderstanding of this particular attack and such thinking obfuscates adequate appreciation of how Pakistan employs its jihadi assets to prosecute its varied strategic interests in the region. Rather than being a spontaneous response to recent developments, the attack on the Pathankot Air Base is the latest manifestation of a Pakistani national security strategy that addresses its own internal challenges while also pursuing its revisionist agenda against India.

Why Pakistan Uses Militants

This attack was not meant to spoil a peace process for the simple reason that there can be no meaningful peace process with Pakistan. Prior to the partition of the sub-continent in 1947 key Muslim political leaders argued that Muslims were a separate, but equal nation and required their own state because they could not live with dignity and security under a Hindu majority state. Leaders such as Mohammad Ali Jinnah were able to garner adequate support for the “Two Nation Theory” such that the British agreed to create two new states when they decolonized the sub-continent. Pakistan believed that it was entitled to the territory of Kashmir because it was a Muslim majority state in British India.  However, as the Indian Independence Act of 1947 makes clear Pakistan was never entitled to the territory. In fact, Kashmir and the hundreds of other so-called Princely States were allowed to choose the dominions they would like to join.

Most of the princely states made their choices prior to partition in August 1947. Three did not. One was the enormous, princely state of Hyderabad which accounted for much of southern India’s land mass, with a Muslim sovereign who governed a Hindu majority. The sovereign opted for independence and staged an increasingly sanguinary rebellion to retain his sinecure. India forcibly annexed it in a police action.  The second hold out was Junagarh with a Muslim sovereign and a Hindu majority population. He opted for Pakistan even though the territory was well within India’s borders and even though most of his subjects were Hindu. India forcibly annexed Junagarh as well.

   The third holdout was Kashmir. The Hindu sovereign, Hari Singh, presided over a Muslim majority. His territory abutted both Pakistan and India. He wanted independence and even signed a stand-still agreement with Pakistan to preclude it from invading. However, fearing that Kashmir would remain independent or join India, the nascent state of Pakistan dispatched militants to forcibly seize the state.  Singh’s own militia forces were unable to stop the advance and sought India’s help. India agreed to defend Kashmir provided that Singh accede to India. Singh signed the instrument of accession and India began air lifting troops in defense of what had become sovereign Indian territory. When this first “Indo-Pak” war  ended in 1948, Pakistan controlled about one third of Kashmir while India controlled the rest. Pakistan initiated wars again in 1965 and 1999 to secure more territory but failed to make permanent gains in both cases.

   In 1948, the United Nations Security Council passed its 47th resolution calling for a plebiscite to be held to discern the desires of the Kashmiri people. But before any plebiscite can be held, the UN outlined specific conditions that both Pakistan and India were required to fulfill. Pakistan must first evacuate all Pakistani personnel from Kashmir. Conditional upon Pakistan withdrawing its forces, India was required to withdraw the majority of its forces, retaining only a defensive contingent. Only then, upon fulfillment of both of these conditions, the resolution called for a plebiscite to be held under international auspices. Pakistan never demilitarized nonethless Pakistanis, including senior political and military leaders, continue to call for a plebiscite in accordance with the resolution while ignoring the Pakistani actions that were required to enable it.

Pakistan has sustained a low intensity conflict in Kashmir to wrest the territory from India since 1947.  Pakistan’s claims to Kashmir are predicated on ideological concerns rather than security concerns.  Without Kashmir, Pakistan is incomplete per the jalebi-like logic of the so-called Two Nation Theory.  For Pakistan to concede Kashmir and forge an enduring peace with India, Pakistan and its citizenry must evolve their interpretation of the Two Nation Theory. For generations raised on Pakistan’s intertwined narratives of Islam and nationhood, particularly those in the military, this is a price too high to pay. In fact, during a recent visit to Washington D.C., Pakistan’s army chief Raheel Sharif made it clear that “surrendering” Kashmir was something he would never be prepared to do. Since the military exercises de facto control over Pakistan’s foreign policy—not politicians and elected officials such as Prime Ministers—no peace process is currently possible. In fact, if Pakistan wanted peace it could have peace. India has no interest in Pakistani territory as India is a territorially status quo power notwithstanding some Hindu nationalists’ assertion of the bizarre geopolitical notion of an undivided India, known as “Akhand Bharat”.

So why does Pakistan continue with its use of terrorism? It’s remarkably easy to explain. First, it’s inexpensive. Compared to Pakistan’s defense budget of some $7 billion, operating militant groups such Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is mungphalis. Second, it requires no commitment of Pakistani troops to combat. Third, it provides the cover of plausible deniability. Fourth, Pakistan never suffers any material consequences for its jihad habit because of its ever-expanding nuclear arsenal, inclusive of tactical nuclear weapons.   These weapons deter India from undertaking military action and ensure that the international community, always afraid of Pakistan failing, stays engaged politically and financially. These are weapons of coercion—or blackmail by another name.

Finally, and most importantly, Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attacks in India immediately prompt international calls for “India and Pakistan” to resolve all outstanding disputes peacefully. This may be the most important outcome yet, given the low cost of this strategy.  When the international community imposes this false equivalency over the two states, Pakistan’s version of history is vindicated.  Along similar lines, when India reaches out an olive branch to Pakistan and agrees to discuss “outstanding disputes,” India invariably plays into Pakistan’s hands by allowing Pakistan to claim that even India recognizes the legitimate nature of Pakistan’s claims. As long as Pakistan continues to garner these benefits while incurring virtually no costs, these attacks will continue.

An Attack That Was Long in the Making

Following initial reports of the attack, Pakistan’s media, notoriously under intense pressure from the military, immediately went into damage control, mocking their Indian counterparts for jumping to the conclusion that the attackers were from Pakistan. Major news outlets in Pakistan suggested that the attack was an Indian “false flag” operation, a quotidian conspiracy theory that contends that India actually attacks itself to defame Pakistan, Muslims or some other sinister domestic agenda.

Later, the United Jihad Council (UJC), a coalition of Kashmir militant groups with close ties to Pakistan’s military, claimed responsibility for the attack. This too may be an effort to foster the illusion that the attack was about the so-called “Kashmir dispute.”

Increasingly, evidence suggests that the attack was perpetrated by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which is not a member of the UJC. JeM is a Deobandi Islamist terrorist groups with close ties to the Deobandi Afghan Taliban, anti-Shia groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi/Sipah-e-Sahaba-e-Pakistan, and al Qaeda. If JeM conducted this attack, it would underscore a serious development in terrorism in South Asia.  

JeM was founded when Pakistan’s ISI allegedly worked with several Deobandi terrorists associated with Harkat-ul-Mujahideen to hijack Indian Airlines flight 814 in late 1999, which departed Kathmandu in Nepal for New Delhi.  The plane eventually landed in Kandahar, the base of Afghanistan’s Taliban, where terrorists agreed to free the surviving passengers upon the release of three Pakistani terrorists incarcerated in India: Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar.  Indian officials delivered these terrorists to Kandahar where they were refused asylum by the Taliban and given 10 hours to leave the country. The three terrorists and the hijackers received safe-haven in Pakistan.  Omar Sheikh later became notorious for the killing of Daniel Pearl three years later in Pakistan. Azhar become famous when he announced the formation of JeM in Karachi only a few days after his departure from Kandahar.

Pakistan raised JeM with Azhar as its leader to up the ante in Kashmir and to serve as a competitor to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which the ISI also raised and deployed to Kashmir in the early 1990s to escalate violence. While LeT pioneered the “high risk mission,” JeM pioneered the use of suicide attacks in Kashmir in April 2000 in Badami Bagh.

JeM’s coherence was short-lived: The organization split in late 2001 when its leadership disagreed on whether the organization should stay loyal to the Pakistani state or begin attacking it to punish it for helping to bring down the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The Taliban shared JeM’s Deobandi ideological orientations and represented the only regime that enforced the version of sharia they all espoused. Many Deobandi militants that Pakistan’s deep state had nurtured were furious that their patrons in uniform had seemingly turned their back on the Afghan Taliban. However, despite the pressure from his confederates to defect, Masooz Azhar remained loyal to the state and reported the developments to the ISI and, as such, he remained a high value asset to the ISI. The new organization launched from the remnants of JeM under the name of Jamaat ul Furqan began a series of deadly suicide attacks and were the fundament for what would emerge as the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP or Pakistani Taliban).

Even though JeM and its leader Masood Azhar are explicitly proscribed by the United States and the United Nations Security Council, among other entities, Pakistan persisted in its support for the organization and its leader, who freely operated in his home town of Bahawalpur in Southern Punjab. In fact, despite being technically proscribed by Pakistan, the organization actually expanded its stronghold. This was not an accident. Since at least 2011, Pakistan’s intelligence agency had been rehabilitating JeM as a part of its internal security management strategy. By 2013, one of the authors learned during fieldwork in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, that Pakistan had resolved to take the Pakistani Taliban seriously and begin launching military offensives against them in Pakistan’s tribal areas. After months of warning, Pakistan’s military formally commenced a selective campaign against those militants in the tribal areas attacking it in June 2014 under the operational name of Zarb-e-Azb.  Prior to the onset of these operations, Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies sought to persuade elements of the TTP to abandon the fight against Pakistan by either rejoining the fight in Afghanistan to help the Taliban or to rejoin the JeM to kill Indians. Those members of the TTP who could not be so rehabilitated to fight the external enemies and remained committed to fighting Pakistan were deemed enemy combatants who must be eliminated.  

Revivifying JeM was a cornerstone of Pakistan’s strategy of managing its own internal security challenges. Officials with the United Nations office tasked with monitoring these groups told one of the authors that JeM activists have long been poised for infiltration into India. Thus, the only thing surprising about this JeM attack is that it didn’t happen sooner given the imperatives of recuperating this group as a means of diverting TTP terrorists away from targeting Pakistanis towards targeting Indians. Thus denervating JeM is not only a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy of nuclear blackmail to achieve ideological objectives in Kashmir, it is a critical part of Pakistan’s internal security strategy to rehabilitate TTP militants. The JeM is Pakistan’s own “ghar vapasi” program for bringing errant terrorists back into the fold.

Pakistan’s Regional Strategy

While most commentators on this attack focus upon the contested disposition of Kashmir this is a narrow vision of Pakistan’s continued strategy of employing Islamist terrorists under its nuclear umbrella as part of a broader national security posture that arches across the countries of South Asia, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka as well as throughout India. In fact, it remains a goal of Pakistan-backed militant groups to operate outside of Kashmir.  In the wake of the Pathankot attack, Indian intelligence has warned of the possibility that militants are planning to carry out similar attacks targeting Indian air bases in the Eastern part of the country. Attacks on targets in the Eastern part of India would less likely be carried out by infiltrators from Pakistan than Bangladesh, where Pakistan-based militants have been recruiting and organizing for years.     

Members of the Pakistani Punjab-based militant organizations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba have been arrested in Bangladesh, and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) has had close ties with JeM, which has operated in Bangladesh for years. In the past year, two Pakistani diplomats were expelled from Bangladesh for allegedly operating as ISI liaisons with jihadi militant groups, and Pakistani militants are regularly arrested in raids on jihadi militant groups in Bangladesh. Pakistan’s militant groups such as LeT and JeM have cultivated based in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Nepal in effort to encircle India with bases from which persons can be recruited or launched for operations within India. Ultimately, Pakistan’s Islamists believe that they can coerce Bangladesh into rescinding its independence gained after a hard fought war in 1971. Hafiz Saeed posted on Twitter on the 2013 anniversary of Bangladesh’s liberation that “#WeWillNeverForget #1971 – History has not ended yet, will be rewritten,” and last March told a crowd of supporters that “the implementation of Sharia will make Pakistan a model state attracting even Bangladesh to rejoin Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s interests with regards to India are not exclusive to wresting all of Kashmir; rather, Pakistan has arrogated to itself the retardation of India’s projection of power in South Asia and beyond. As is well-known, Pakistan’s obsession with controlling events in Afghanistan by backing a Islamist militants such as the Taliban are due in considerable measure to Pakistan’s interest in denying India access to Afghanistan and stemming India’s larger ability to compete with it in Central Asia. Pakistan’s ISI continues to encourage groups such as the Jalaluddin Haqqani Network and LeT to attack to Indian assets and personnel in Afghanistan.  Pakistan-backed terrorist groups have attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul twice in 2008 and 2009 and several consulates including those in Herat and Kandahar in 2014, Jalalabad in 2013 and most recently in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. In addition to other attacks on Indian personnel working in Afghanistan.    

Pakistan’s larger goal of preventing India’s rise requires analysts to stop viewing these groups beyond the buzz word of Kashmir and endeavor to understand the larger context in which they function as a force multiplier in Pakistan’s broader national security strategy. Allowing jihadi militant groups groups to operate semi-autonomously and nominally dedicated to jihad in Kashmir provides the Pakistani state plausible deniability, and masks the militants’ full role in the region.

An Action Plan

In an ideal world, India and the United States-among other interested parties—would be able to cooperate to contain the various threats that Pakistan poses through uses of military, economic, diplomatic and political tools of national power.  However, India lacks the offensive capabilities to decisively defeat Pakistan in a short war and has been reticent to invest in the requisite military modernization and personnel policies required to decisively defeat Pakistan.  The United States for its part seems unable to find any other policy approach to Pakistan that does not involve handsome emoluments in hopes of securing even marginal cooperation with Pakistan.  The sad truth is that both countries are blackmailed by Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and are loathe to move away from status quo policies.

This does not mean that there is nothing that can be done.  One of the simplest things that the United States and its international partners can do is change the way it talks about Pakistan and its terrorist clients attacking India. Americans and Indians who advocate engaging Pakistan at all costs, need to understand that what Pakistan craves is attention to its joint causes of Kashmir and standing up to a hegemonic India. When the international community predictably calls for both sides to settle their outstanding disputes peacefully, they unwittingly reward Pakistan while punishing India by imposing a false equivalency across the two.  If the international community instead called for Pakistan to accept the status quo – a reality even Pakistan’s former Army Chief Gen. Musharraf had come to accept, and stop using terrorism and nuclear coercion as tools of foreign policy, Pakistan would be deprived of the benefits its seeks even if it does not incur costs for its behavior. Until the time comes when the international community is prepared to punish Pakistan for transgressing international norms, refusing to reward it is a good place to start.

C. Christine Fair is an associate professor at Georgetown’s Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. She is the author of  Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War(Oxford University Press 2014). Her twitter handle is @cchristinefair.

Seth Oldmixon is a DC-based political communications consultant who served in rural Bangladesh as a Peace Corp Volunteer. He is the founder of Liberty South Asia, an independent, privately funded campaign dedicated to supporting religious freedom and political pluralism in South Asia. His twitter handle is @setholdmixon.

Pakistan: Change but No Change

On January 2, 2016, terrorists attacked an Indian Air Force at Pathankot, in the northern Indian state of Punjab resulting in the deaths of seven soldiers and six terrorists. The next day terrorists attacked the Indian consulate in Mazar e Sharif, in northern Afghanistan. The Pathankot and Mazar e Sharif attacks demonstrate that the worldview of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment has not changed with respect to India as the existential threat and jihad as the lever of foreign policy.

From New Delhi's perspective every step forward in India-Pakistan relations results, within a short period of time, with a stab in the back that harms relations between the two countries.

In February 1999 Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee undertook his famous bus yatra, where he along with his top officials, crossed the border into Pakistan and signed the Lahore declaration with his counterpart Nawaz Sharif. Within a few months the Kargil conflict occurred when the Pakistani army and affiliated jihadis intruded on the Indian side of the Line of Control near Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian military launched a campaign to repel this intrusion.

In July 2001 Prime Minister Vajpayee invited then Pakistani military dictator and President Pervez Musharraf to India to re-start the peace process between the two countries at the Agra Summit. In October 2001 there was an attack by jihadis on the Jammu and Kashmir assembly which resulted in 29 deaths and in December 2001 a terror attack on the Indian Parliament in which 12 people were killed and 22 injured

In September 2008 soon after taking over as Pakistan's civilian President, Asif Ali Zardari, in an interview to an Indian journalist stated that in his view, India was not the biggest threat to Pakistan. On November 26, 2008 Mumbai, India's financial capital, was struck with a series of terror attacks that resulted in 164 deaths and 308 injured.

On December 25, 2015, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertook a gamble by a surprise visit to Lahore to meet his counterpart Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and restart the peace process. On January 2, 2016, jihadis attacked an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, Punjab. The United Jihad Council, an umbrella group of jihadi organizations located in Pakistan, has claimed responsibility. However, most analysts agree that the group behind the attack is Jaish e Mohammad, founded by Maulana Masood Azhar, one of the three jihadis freed by India after the 1999 Kandahar airplane hijacking when an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked to Kandahar by jihadis demanding the release of their associates.

Pakistan's founding generation believed that India and Indian leaders had not accepted the creation of Pakistan and would always try to undo Partition. India was thus seen as the existential threat to Pakistan and as Ambassador Husain Haqqani notes in his seminal work Pakistan Between Mosque and Military a national security state was created around this belief.

For the last six decades, Pakistan's foreign and security policy has been centered on seeking parity with India. Conventional military parity has been impossible with India, a much larger and economically more powerful neighbor. So, jihad has been used as a lever of foreign and security policy with the aim being to create enough internal domestic problems so that India's focus is internal. Pakistan's support of Jihadis in Afghanistan and India is tied to its belief that these proxies will further Pakistan's foreign and security policy of securing parity with India and preventing Indian influence over Afghanistan.

For decades, as the only American ally in South Asia, Pakistan was able to convince Washington to look the other way when it came to jihad and terrorism in the region. From the 1990s onwards when ties between New Delhi and Washington became closer American administrations started to apply pressure on Pakistan.

Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment then changed its tactics and as demonstrated in two excellent books on US-Pakistan relations --- one by Ambassadors Teresita and Howard Schaffer How Pakistan negotiates with the US and other by Ambassador Husain Haqqani Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States and an Epic History of Misunderstanding --- what we see is a series of Pakistani army chiefs from Musharraf to Raheel Sharif who are able to convince Washington of their desire to change Pakistan's policies.

Right from the 1950s, Washington has often been seduced into believing that if a leader speaks English, dresses in a suit (civilian or military) and former American Ambassador to India Chester Bowles wrote in his diary "knows the difference between an olive or an onion in a martini" they are the right person to deal with. Pakistan's army chiefs have fallen in this category starting with General Muhammad Ayub Khan right down to General Raheel Sharif.

The reality however, is that Pakistan is unwilling to change its policy on the use of jihadi groups and their ideology even as it tries to reassure the international community that it is ready for a drastic transformation. All it seeks to do is to speak the right words and use the right body language and implement enough cosmetic changes that will convince the U.S. that Pakistan is serious about giving up its decades old sponsorship of terrorism.

After 9/11, then military dictator General Musharraf was able to convince Washington that he was going to eliminate all terrorist groups but all he did was take action against some foreign militants while allowing those he referred to as freedom fighters - those fighting in Afghanistan and Kashmir - to maintain their safe havens. Musharraf admitted recently that his government continued to support Afghan Taliban even after ostensibly abandoning them at Washington's behest, to 'counter India's influence' in Afghanistan. In a recent interview Musharraf asserted that the jihadis fighting in Kashmir were freedom fighters and not terrorists.

In the last year the Pakistani military has taken action against some jihadi groups but only those that attack the Pakistani state, which means some elements of the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan. No action has been taken against groups like the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and the India focused groups like Lashkar e Taiba ( and

Jaish e Mohammad ( that attack Pakistan's neighbors, Afghanistan and India.

Jaish e Muhammad is one of the two main jihadi groups focused on India that are favored by the Pakistani military, the other being Lashkar e Taiba, that was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. For now, however, it looks like Lashkar has been asked to lay low primarily because of sustained international pressure on Pakistan to act against Lashkar e Taiba, especially from the United States. This may be the reason why Jaish, which has been inactive for a number of years, now, has been suddenly reactivated in the last few months.

In November 2014, Pakistan's National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz asked "Why should Pakistan target those who do not pose any threat to its security. Some of them are a threat to Pakistan, while others pose no threat to Pakistan's security. Why should we antagonize them all?"

In November 2015, General Raheel Sharif was feted on his second trip to the United States and his words that Pakistan was no longer differentiating between jihadi groups were taken at face value. This time again Washington could either fall for Pakistan's narrative, as it has often done in the past, or accept the reality that Pakistan became its ally only to advance its rivalry with India.

Pakistan's military sees India as the main threat, as always, while seeking American arms on the pretext of fighting communism or terrorism. There has been no change in the narrative of the Pakistani security apparatus. What has grown in the last few years is the size of the security establishment's propaganda machinery. Today the largest wing of Pakistan's intelligence services, the Inter Services Intelligence Division or ISI, is its media wing called ISPR or Inter Services Public Relations. A colonel led at one time ISPR, today it is headed by a Lieutenant General.

Pakistan's military intelligence establishment believes it can still play the games of yesteryears and be a critical player in its region and beyond. And it has built a massive propaganda machine that helps it sustain that belief within Pakistan and use Pakistani media as the echo chamber to propagate the message internationally.

There has been no introspection over the Pakistani national narrative that allows the country to violate all international norms as long as Pakistan can be seen by the world as India's equal. Instead of accepting fresh promises from people who have repeatedly broken each one of the earlier ones, maybe the United States needs to understand that Pakistan's security establishment will continue to use terrorism as long as it believes Washington will keep buying its promises of change.

This was first posted through Huffington Post.

India and Pakistan Talk, Yet Again!

When Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi and his counterpart from Pakistan, Mr. Nawaz Sharif met on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Russia in July 2015, one of the agendas they agreed upon was that the NSAs of their respective countries would meet in New Delhi “to discuss all issues connected to terrorism.” While the NSAs were all set to meet, India did not see eye-to-eye with Pakistan’s precondition to meet Hurriyat leaders while in New Delhi. After a lot of back and forth, and unwelcome additions to the talks, to discuss the “K-word” (referring to Kashmir) and about LoC violations, they were cancelled or how Ms. Sushma Swaraj put it, “Toh baat-chit nahin hogi”. The possibility of a re-start of dialogue between the two nuclear powers seemed bleak at best.

However, when the two leaders met again, this time on the sidelines of COP21, it seemed like a step in a positive direction. It was within a week after their handshake at COP21 that the NSAs from India and Pakistan met in Bangkok for a four-hour meeting on December 6th. It was held away from the scrutiny of the media in both countries. The purpose, agenda and the very existence of the meeting was revealed only after the meeting had concluded. This is unusual for the two countries as Pakistan has repeatedly insisted on including the dispute over Kashmir as a precondition for any dialogue with India. Dr. Aparna Pande, Research fellow at the Hudson Institute, mapped out a threefold trend in India-Pakistan dialogues. It begins with Pakistan iterating the importance of Kashmir, followed by Pakistan’s request for assistance by the United States on the issue, concluding with the United States asking the two countries to work it out. The NSA meetings earlier this year were cancelled following a similar trend. Given this round of the beginning of talks, Jammu and Kashmir is being discussed in terms of terrorism, according to the Joint statement issued after the meeting was held. In addition, ceasefire violations will also be discussed to establish “tranquility along the LoC.” This is the first step of the established trend. The “constructive engagement” moving forward might be the breaking of this trend. It may even take a more fluid path in order to achieve some realistic goals rather than India or Pakistan being stubborn about the agendas of their respective policies towards each other. The United States has welcomed the talks with optimism. While the BJP contends that the talks were in accordance to the Ufa Joint Statement as well as the Simla Agreement, Congress party has a bone to pick with the location of the meeting. Congress Spokesperson, Mr. Abhishek Singhvi, while welcoming the prospect of talking with Pakistan, demanded that the policy towards Pakistan be clearly “coherent, consistent and known.” Mr. Manish Tiwari, a Congress leader, criticized the NDA government calling the NSA talks on the soil of a third country a “grand betrayal.” This is what he had to say-

“If you look at the track record of this government over the past 18 months, their Pakistan policy has been an extravaganza, a somersault, flip-flops and 180-degree U-turns and this [the Bangkok meeting] is absolutely the crowning glory.”

Although these criticisms continue to be played out on national media platforms, the talks between India and Pakistan have officially begun. India and Pakistan continue to undertake this long-sought after process. This could very well fall into the specter of the same trend that has been observed over and over again. Or this shift, to talks that are private, untouched by the media or by external pressures, and off-the-soil of both nations to avoid domestic influences, could become the new template of how India and Pakistan interact to discuss and possibly resolve issues.

India-US Relationship: A help or a hinderance to COP21?

The Paris Climate Change summit (COP21) is being hailed as a significant milestone, in a concerted journey to unify over a single cause - to mitigate the challenges that have arisen due to climate change. It is also a milestone to explore new goals, limits and agreements; not only for developing but also developed countries. Only two weeks since the terror attacks in Paris, “leaders of 150 leaders, along with 40,000 delegates from 195 countries” are in Paris for the 21st annual meeting-- Conference of Parties-- of nations under the United Nations Framework for Climate Change. While there have been annual meetings since 1995, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon deems COP21 as a “great opportunity” with conviction that “a political moment like this may not come again.”

The objective of COP21 is to hopefully “agree on legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions meant to hold global average temperatures short of a 2 degree Celsius increase over preindustrial global temperature.” This two-week long summit, from November 30 to December 11, is expected to be a testament to a political collaboration of nearly 200 countries. The need for this is urgent as the previous commitment on greenhouse gas emissions expires in 2020. The anticipated challenges to the success of these talks can be boxed in four packages. One, the simple logistics of an agreement that is unanimously agreed upon by all the parties is, in fact, quite complex. Second, for any legally binding agreement, domestic pressures might play a significant role in the implementation of the goals of the agreement. This would in fact question the legitimacy of any agreed upon terms. Third, an ideational challenge that is likely to occur could be in terms of limitations imposed on developing countries that lack the resources or funds to invest in cleaner energy for growth and development. And lastly, the implementation structure and the consequences of not adhering to the agreement is always difficult as is evidenced by the fact that “none of the countries that failed to meet their commitments under Kyoto have been sanctioned.

The United States, being the world’s largest economy and the second-largest emitter, intends to play a big role in helping this agreement come through. President of the US, Mr. Obama, quite candidly accepted America’s responsibility in “creating the problem” of climate change, which is quite typical of Mr. Obama. His opening remarks at the First Session of COP21 at Le Bourget were a combination of a rhetoric in favor of an agreement, America’s on-going and future commitments and a promise that growth and clean environment can go hand in hand. However, his urgency in combating climate change has met a lot of criticism, most recently, by Presidential Candidate Ms. Carly Fiorina. During a segment on Fox News, Ms. Fiorina claimed that Mr. Obama’s declaration and emphasis on the issue-- climate change “poses a greater threat to future generations” than any other-- is “delusional.” While Forbes deemed Mr. Obama’s proposed Climate Action Plan “uninspiring,” there are harsher criticisms to his climate policy. Climate Researcher and Expert, James Hanson considers his policy “practically worthless.” In the same article by MSNBC that covered Mr. Hanson’s critique, Mr. Obama’s outlook towards mitigating climate change was summarized as “meek and dangerously self-congratulatory, sapping the movement of urgency while doing almost nothing to maintain the future habitability of the earth.” A final issue that Mr. Obama might face in terms of an overarching agreement is it not being ratified by Congress as exemplified in the absence of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. Fellow and Climate Policy Expert at the Hudson Institute, Mr. Lee Lane, has also been known to criticize Mr. Obama’s leftist and extremely expensive climate policy. In an article in the New Atlantis, Mr Lane proposes a conservative viewpoint in establishing a more sustainable, long-term and effective climate change policy for the United States. While these criticisms emerge, Mr. Obama is still committed to bringing home a deal of cooperation.

While these criticisms are directed at Mr. Obama, there are rallies and protests around the world, and in Paris, criticizing that not enough is being done and urging world leaders to make bolder decisions. At one of the protests in Paris, there are lines of pairs of shoes on the streets with messages like “taking action against climate change and stopping pollution.” This was a unique, and creatively silent protest as mass demonstration are not allowed in the city in light of the November 13 terror Attacks. However, there have been demonstrations where the police has had to use force-- water cannons, batons, and shields -- to disperse the protesters.

In a New York Times article, another problem to COP21 was identified that converges the ideational and structural challenges mentioned earlier--

“The greatest threat to reaching a binding climate accord may be a loose coalition of developing nations, led by India, who argue that they should not be asked to limit their economic growth as a way of fixing a problem that was largely created by the others.”

While this may turn in to a significant problem in finalizing a larger agreement, India certainly intends to play a pivotal role in the Climate Talks. Right at the beginning of the Paris Summit, Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Modi and French President, Mr. Francois Hollande launched the ‘International Agency for Solar Technologies & Applications (INSTA)’ or as it is being popularly called the “solar alliance.” India played a key role in bringing together over 120 solar-rich countries in order to “create collaborative platforms for increased deployment of solar technologies to improve access to energy and create opportunities for better livelihoods, especially in rural and remote areas.” India has already promised a commitment of $90 million dollars to house the headquarters in India and is building a network of investments in order to push the project off the ground. Mr. Modi has taken a more direct narrative to establish that “advanced nations” must take the lead. His words while strict were not new that “the prosperous still have a strong carbon footprint. And, the world's billions at the bottom of the development ladder are seeking space to grow.” This remains another possible point of contention or cooperation between Mr. Obama and Mr. Modi who have shown the possibility of an actual relationship between the United States and India. While the opposition party to Mr. Modi’s BJP in India seems to be reluctant in recognizing the “warm rapport” that Mr. Obama and Mr. Modi share, the White House continues to support India’s role in helping achieve an agreement, that does not curb the growth of countries like India. However, there continues to be a lot of back and forth on what role India is likely to play during the process of the Paris agreement. While a New York Times article said that “Narendra Modi could make or break Obama’s Climate Legacy,” only time will tell whether the relationship between Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama can help create a global political collaboration to mitigate the effects of climate change, that scientists have warned, if not taken care of, will be “catastrophic and irreversible.”

Highlights from Modi's visit to the UK

“Modi! Modi! Modi!,” cheered almost 60,000 supporters gathered in Wembley Stadium to welcome the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, who was on a three-day visit to the United Kingdom. UK Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron introduced Mr. Modi as the “Chaiwala” who no one expected would lead the “largest democracy in the world.” During Mr. Cameron’s welcome address, Mr. Modi stood a few feet back, sombre and waiting. The audience erupted in cheering and applause when Mr. Cameron reiterated that, for India “Acche din Zaroor Ayenge,” “Great days will definitely come,” but the enthusiasm was more in anticipation for what Mr. Modi had to say to them.

Since becoming Prime Minister in May 2014, UK is the 28th country that Mr. Modi has visited as a concerted effort to continue his active engagement with the world. This is his first visit to the UK, since the country lifted the diplomatic boycott of the leader in 2012. This was only when his popularity was at a peak and his involvement in the Gujarat riots of 2002 had been dismissed multiple times by the Supreme Court of India. Mr. Cameron and his team welcomed Mr. Modi with a red-carpet treatment, that some criticized was meant only for visiting heads of state, which in the case of India would be its President. However, Mr. Modi was escorted and treated like the head of state by Mr. Cameron. Here are six highlights from the trip that attempt to encompass his visit to the United Kingdom.

Economic Optimism

During the three-day visit, Mr. Modi attended multiple events that were business and economy related in pursuing his agenda of economic optimism and rapid growth of the Indian economy. In his meetings he emphasized the significant role that Indian business professionals and their businesses can play in building a more modern India. Mr. Modi attended the Guildhall Business Meeting and in his address enumerated various domestic and trade policy changes that would make India more conducive to do business in including “expedited regulatory clearances including security and environmental clearance.” Earlier this year, Times Magazine reported that prominent Indian businesses were concerned of growing intolerance in India making it harder to do business, and Mr. Modi used all the positive information to convince them otherwise.

Indian and British Companies also pledged £9 Billion ($13.6 Billion) to build smart cities in India in Amravati, Indore, and Pune through a 5-year strategic partnership.  Mr. Cameron proposed that UK would be involved in Mr. Modi’s ambition and promise to build 100 Smart Cities across India. In addition to this announcement by the British Prime Minister, Mr. Modi was involved in over 27 deals ranging from increase in foreign investments from OPG Power Venture plc, and Merlins Entertainment plc, investment in alternative energy development projects from Solar PV Generator and Lightsource, investment in healthcare advancement by Advatech Health and King’s College Hospital and multiple other MoUs with other corporations. Investments were promised for Mr. Modi’s national initiatives like “Digital India,” and “Skill for Life.” Mr. Modi also addressed the UK-India CEO Forum during his trip.

These deals and Mr. Cameron’s enthusiastic promise of working with India as a partner was deemed a success for Mr. Modi’s economic agenda.

Cultural ties with the United Kingdom

Mr. Modi’s opening speech at the UK Parliament on his first day encompassed not only his economic agenda but the cultural relations he aims to build with Britain. Of the cultural aspects India and Britain shared, he remarked that whether it be “Jaguar... Brooke Bond Tea, or curry,”  that “there are many things on which it is hard to tell anymore if they are British or Indian.” Mr. Modi’s cultural agenda, however, was made solid when Mr. Cameron announced that 2017 in UK would be the year of UK/India Year of Culture, and showed how integral the British-Indian Community is to the United Kingdom. The highlight of cultural engagement was Mr. Modi’s visit to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen. The Queen shared some items from the Royal Collection with Mr. Modi including a shawl made from yarn that was spun by Mahatma Gandhi. Mr. Modi gifted award winning Darjeeling Tea, organic honey, and Tanchoi Stoles, to the Queen along with pictures from her visit to India in 1961 and gifted silver bookends to Mr. Cameron with Bhagvad Gita verses inscribed on them. Vikas Swarup from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs tied India-UK soft power relationship in a perfect bow deeming it as “building on the bonds of history.

Address to Indian Diaspora at Wembley Stadium

Mr. Modi’s address at Wembley was an extravagant affair attended by around 60,000 supporters and cultural performances including dance, music and a display of yoga. Mr. Cameron addressed the crowd first and with his attempt to say a few words in Hindi won the hearts of the audience that erupted in cheers. After his speech, Mr. Cameron embraced Mr. Modi in a hug that was emblematic of a true moment of friendship between the nations. Mr. Cameron, however, was just the opening act for the Indian Prime Minister. Mr. Modi emphasized two different FDI’s that Britain could help India with; one being Foreign Direct Investment and the other, he wittingly exclaimed, being “First Develop India.” The Wembley Stadium arch was lit up in the colors of the Indian flag and the event concluded “featuring the biggest fireworks display in the whole country.”This event was almost three times the size of Mr. Modi’s successful address to the Indian Diaspora at Madison Square Garden in the United States in 2014. This event was, infact, a reiteration of Mr. Modi’s motivation to extend his leadership to the Indian diaspora and a stark reminder that Indian communities around the world have a crucial role to play in the future of India. Parul Malhotra, who attended the event, shared her conviction that Mr. Modi had finally put India on the world map as a significant power to reckon with.”

Modi-Cameron Joint Press Conference

The first day of the visit, Mr. Modi and Mr. Cameron stood in front of their respective national flags and addressed the press that had gathered in a joint press conference speaking of the “true potential” of the relationship between India and UK. A significant note that Mr. Cameron shared in this meeting was UK’s support for India’s permanent seat the United Nation Security Council. They also spoke of signing a civil nuclear agreement Mr. Modi mentioned that UK-India relationship was developing on “mutual trust” between the two nations. Mr. Cameron was sure to mention that “british businesses already support nearly 700,000 jobs in India, and India invests more into the UK than it does in the rest of the European Union combined,” which he brought up during his Wembley speech as well. Mr. Cameron, in the same conference, promised to deploy a Royal Navy Warship to participate in “India's first major international gathering of warships” in February of next year.

Protests and Modi’s Response to growing intolerance in India

Mr. Modi’s visit was not without controversy, not just during his visit but even before he landed in the United Kingdom. In light of BJP losing elections in Bihar that was essential for Mr. Modi’s influence in the Rajya Sabha, Upper House of Indian Parliament, as well as the multi-faceted protests against rising intolerance in India, Awaaz Network, organized protests against Mr. Modi. These protests had support from organizations such as “South Asia solidarity Group, Sikh Federation UK, Southall, Black Sisters, Dalit Solidarity Network UK, Indian Muslim Federation, Indian Workers Association as well as the Muslim Parliament and Voice of Dalit International.” The Awaaz network took responsibility for projecting an image onto the House of Parliament of Mr. Modi yielding a sword next to a swastika which on close observation is actually an “Om,” which is from Hinduism. Some harsh critics like Anish Kapur, in the Guardian, have blatantly claimed that India is being run by the “Hindu Taliban.” Other protests involved Director Leslee Udwin wanted to urge the Prime Minister to lift the “absurd and misguided” Indian ban on her movie ‘India’s Daughter.’ The movie, the purpose of which was to bring awareness and an end to gender-based violence in the country, was banned and declared an “an international conspiracy to defame India”. These protests signified that the Indian community in UK is inextricably linked to the events going on in India and play an active voice in the debate. While Mr. Modi continues to invigorate Indian diaspora abroad to play a role in the future of India, he must also recognize these voices might protest against him. However, the surprise came with Mr. Modi being asked about growing intolerance and the country and Mr. Modi finally spoke on the matter that he has been reluctant to break his silence over. The Guardian reported his response that was short yet strict-

“My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence,” Modi said. “My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly,” he added.

Mr. Modi who only a few months ago had called the killing of a man who allegedly ate beef in Dadri an “unfortunate” event, may have just begun to change his rhetoric towards the intolerance in the country.