Tag Archives: Narendra Modi

Modi’s Pakistan policy is confused

It is the right of people to know what is in the mind of our government.

If there is extreme cold in Delhi, the temperature in Bangkok was suitable for our national security advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and foreign secretary S Jaishankar to break the ice with their Pakistani counterparts. Within 48 hours of the NSA level talks between the two countries, our foreign minister visited Pakistan and held talks with her counterpart and Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled to visit Pakistan next year with the focus on resumption of the composite dialogue process.

As the leader of Opposition, incumbent external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had said on March 14, 2013 on the floor of Lok Sabha that unless Pakistan stops terrorism and destroys all terrorist camps on its soil, there should not be business as usual with them and there should not be any formal talks between the two countries.

In August when the NSA level talks were called off, the government of India decided that India will not talk to Pakistan if it involves the Hurriyat and secondly, the talks will be confined to terrorism only. On August 22 this year, the same Swaraj had vehemently ruled out the possibility of India-Pakistan talks in a third country.

Also Read – PM MODI’S PAKISTAN POLICY LACKS CONSISTENCY

Now, the definition of maturity has changed and the sincerity of Pakistan is visible to the government of India despite its increasing proximity to Beijing. Not only were the NSA level talks held, they were held in a third country and along with terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir was also discussed.

Interestingly, these talks were held in pursuance to the meeting between Modi and Sharif in Paris. The sudden change in the response mechanism of the government caught many unawares. Not only a precedent was set that Jammu and Kashmir was formally discussed bilaterally between India and Pakistan on the soil of a third country but the spirit of Ufa was also violated by agreeing to extend the scope of the talks beyond terrorism.

There is no doubt that both the countries need to engage with each other, both the countries have certain common concerns and their mutual outreach is in the interest of security, peace and tranquillity in the sub-continent but the scope, approach and orientation need to be clear and consistent. I feel the Pakistan policy of the Modi government is marred with confusion and inconsistency. Whether to talk or not, whom to talk and whom not to talk and what to talk and what not to talk – all these things are not clear and consistent. The incidents between May, 2014 and December, 2015 reflect this dilemma and confusion.

First you invite Sharif to your oath ceremony, then cancel foreign secretary level talks for the jugalbandi between Pakistan and the separatists, then send your foreign secretary to Pakistan within months without any change in the situation on the ground, thereafter there is the NSA talks fiasco and now the bonhomie to the extent of discussing Jammu and Kashmir in a third country. There has been a series of confusion.

Dialogue is a continuous process and not the final outcome. We should remember that neither India nor Pakistan is yet to achieve any concrete result from the composite dialogue process, which started 17 years ago. Even if there is no definite progress on the trials of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in Pakistan, India has agreed to move at a pace, which Pakistan is comfortable with.

While the onus now lies with Pakistan to expedite the Mumbai trials on the basis of the dossiers already provided to the government of Pakistan and to control the anti-India terror elements operating from its soil, the NDA government in India has to devise a clear roadmap, a pragmatic foreign policy to deal with Pakistan and for that it will have to first understand the internal contradictions within Pakistan, positioning of the Pakistani democratic government vis-a-vis their military establishment and also have to deal with its own internal contradictions.

Whatever the foreign minister may say about the genuineness of Pakistan in fighting terrorism, facts speak for themselves. In 2015 only, Pakistan has violated ceasefire agreements more than 400 times. If this is the genuineness of Pakistan, I doubt if any composite dialogue will yield positive result.

Pakistan has its own domestic limitations because of which it cannot go beyond a point. Thus, it will expect India to offer some concessions to keep the talking treadmill going on. It is, therefore, necessary that, before we talk, we need to have a clear idea as to what the minimum expectations we have and to what extent we can go with the Pakistani agenda on Kashmir.

The negotiators of India have to be clear on this in any talk with Pakistan. Talks should not be held only for the sake of diverting attention from the domestic challenges. Secondly, the people and Parliament of both the countries should be taken into confidence for the talks to prove sustainable. It is the right of people to know what is in the mind of our government when it offers to sit down with Pakistan for a composite dialogue, including Jammu and Kashmir and Modi and his government are expected to keep these concerns in mind while talking to Pakistan on formal platforms. People-to-people contact and sports and cultural exchanges between the two countries should also be encouraged.

Without continuous interactions at the people-to-people level, India and Pakistan cannot cross the psychological barrier and the talks at the level of politicians and bureaucrats only will not break the ice. But, will the RSS allow the Modi government to engage with Pakistan in a consistent and long-term manner or the recent change in the heart is because of the domestic reasons is to be seen.

Source: http://www.dailyo.in/politics/india-pakistan-narendra-modi-nawaz-sharif-sushma-swaraj-ajit-doval-kashmir/story/1/7945.html

Parliament Logjam

One third of the Monsoon Session of Parliament is over without conducting any substantial legislative business. The hot and humid Delhi has become hotter and suffocating for the Modi Government inside Parliament. We have all seen how the Winter Session of Parliament had witnessed more pandemonium than productivity because of the conversion issue and notorious remarks of a Minister.

The credit for Parliament’s functioning and passage of bills during the Budget session goes to Congress as it respects the institution as a “responsible” Opposition. The adamant attitude and arrogance of the Government is once again failing the legislature during this Session. The party that disrupted the Parliament the most in the last five decades crying foul that the “obstructionist” Congress and the Opposition are not allowing the House and the Government to work.

The picture of the 15th Lok Sabha is still fresh in the memory of people. Frequent parliamentary disruptions led to Question Hour being held for 40% of scheduled time in Lok Sabha and 43% in Rajya Sabha. In the 15th Lok Sabha, disruptions by BJP MPs resulted in almost no parliamentary business being transacted in two sessions. The irresponsible manner in which it had brought the last Lok Sabha to a historical low, to be the most disrupted Lok Sabha during the last 25 years, seems to be suffering from amnesia or short term memory failure as it accuses the Opposition of “undemocratic” behaviour.

Parliament

Yes, the Parliament should function and must transact business but for that the Government has to address the genuine issues raised by the Opposition as they are issues of public interest.

Given the present context, the onus lies on the Government and its leaders to smoothly run the House. It can be possible when the Government will shed its arrogance and stubbornness. A combative government with no respect for Opposition is not a healthy attribute of a parliamentary democracy. The tu-tu mein-mein approach is definitely not a legislative mechanism to deal with issues relating to governance.

The Government must reach out to the Opposition and welcome valid suggestions and concerns of the opposition, and the parties must work together in the interest of public welfare and in the spirit of a true functional democracy. Mexico is a good example for all of us to learn.

The major political parties in Mexico have signed a ‘Pact for Mexico’ committing consensual support to vital policies. Obviously, Opposition is also a stakeholder in the democratic process and they are equally concerned about public welfare. The Narendra Modi-led government must take a cue from Mexico by working with the Opposition intelligently, ensuring that reforms are adopted and implemented.

Paradigm shift and Institutions

A functional democracy requires functional and effective institutions. Institutions being the nerves of a democratic order, their growth and autonomy are vital for smooth functioning of democracy – political, economic and social.

History has witnessed how institutions have evolved over a period of time and contributes to the nation building process. History has also witnessed how key institutions have been weakened deliberately by forces not conducive to democratic affairs, consequently threatening the decline of democratic values in the society.

Paradigm-Shift-300x213

The Indian National Congress (INC), since it was constituted in 1885, has espoused nation building through institutionalization of democratic values. The history of the Indian National Congress is the history of institution building. After winning Independence, the Congress Party in India was faced with the task of carving out a modern, democratic State from a traditional society.

The party started with a clear definition of the aims and purposes of the new State —Sovereignty of the People, Constitutional Democracy and Fundamental Rights. An inherited stable governmental machinery and administrative structure, the adoption of parliamentary and federal government and the setting up of the Planning Commission provided the formal apparatus with which these purposes could be realised.

What was needed was organisation and drive to give content to the constitutional forms by building up an institutional continuum that world lay the basis of a modern, democratic State. The Congress party attempted to strengthen national unity, to modernise the country, and to operate political and governmental institutions in order to lay the basis for democracy in India and remained successful in this endeavour.

Ever since, staunch secularism and socialist economics are the Congress’s “core beliefs. The Congress is committed to the four pillars of Nehruvianism — democratic institution -building, staunch secularism, socialist economics and a foreign policy of non-alignment — that were integral to a vision of Indianness.

It is in the interest of the country that these institutions be nurtured and allowed to evolve to meet the newer challenges. Divisive elements should not be allowed to work towards weakening the forces that make for national unity by strengthening parochial identities by the means of their traditional and conservative politics obstructing the process of modernisation and democratisation.

The conflict between the Congress Party and political parties like the BJP is the conflict of ideas i.e. between the politics of modernisation and the politics of power in a traditional society. The process of institution building begins with the government. As the new government has taken charge, it becomes important, in the public interest, to discuss and deliberate on institution building in India in the light of shift in political power.

To begin with, the highest institution of a democratic set up is the Parliament. Opposition parties and their constructive role improve the efficacy of Parliament as a legislating authority. The role played by the BJP as an Opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha is a glaring example how the national party had sullied the institution of Parliament, the sacred forum, by not allowing it to function effectively.

Parliament was prevented from discussing issues of public importance and to legislate on matters of public welfare. The 15th Lok Sabha was not allowed to utilize even 40 percent of its allotted time on legislation / discussion. 60 percent time of Question Hour was lost due to disruption by the BJP led opposition, only 10 percent of the starred questions could be answered orally. Now, they have moved to the other side of the House and hopefully will allow the Parliament to function.

Despite the slogan of Modiji that the new Government will not do badle ki rajniti but will do badlab ki rajniti, the Congress party and the UPA (which fought the general elections as a pre-poll coalition) is being denied the post of Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

Over time and by virtue of Supreme Court orders and legislative rule making and also in consideration of the role played in appointment to high positions like the Lokpal, CVC, CIC, CBI Director, NHRC Chairman and Secretary – General, Lok Sabha, the post of Leader of Opposition has assumed a central role in Parliamentary functions.

Therefore, instead of focusing on petty politics, the NDA Government should institutionalize the LoP post and allow the single largest party in the House of the People to have the leader appointed as the Leader of Opposition in the House.

Another institution which was dishonored by the then Opposition was the position of Prime Minister. Dr. Manmohan Singh, a leader honest to the marrow, was described as ineffective and remote controlled. It was forgotten that when the entire world was going through recession, it was Dr. Singh who protected Indian economy from that recession with his knowledge and acumen. Congress party is a democratic party which gives ample freedom to its leaders and moreover, there is separation of power between the Party and the Government. Internal democracy is evident in the structure and functioning of the Congress party. It is not like other party which is remote controlled from neither Nagpur nor its policies and leaders are imposed on the party by a super authority.

It is of highest importance in a democratic set up that the independence of Judiciary, the balancing institution between the Legislature and the Executive, be uphold and the institution may be kept over and above political considerations and political victimization. The recent tug of war between the executive and the judiciary on the Gopal Subramanian case is a dangerous trend.

It was highly improper on the part of the NDA government to bring the judiciary into controversy by politically victimizing Shri Subramanian. The matter went to the extent that the Chief Justice of India had to express his displeasure on the course of action taken by the government on this issue. This was not the first time that the judiciary has been brought into controversy by the self-proclaimed party with a difference.

Taking exception to the Supreme Court verdict charging yoga guru Baba Ramdev of ‘contributory neglect’ that led to the midnight police crackdown at the Ramlila Maidan, the Bharatiya Janata Party had said that by the same logic Mahatama Gandhi contributed to the crackdown by the British raj on his protests. Such an unscrupulous comparison reflects its mindset. A judicial decision or executive order needs to be tolerated whether or not it facilitates the political agenda of a party.

After 16th May, 2014 when it was decided that the BJP will form the Government at the centre, discreet news items are appearing in the media that the new Government will undo the policies and the executive decisions of the previous Government. In this context, constitutional posts like State Governors and positions of policy importance like the RBI Governor have been dragged into discussion which are not symbols of healthy governance.

The Governors who act as links between the Centre and the States are being advised to resign from their positions. Such moves by the Government have been criticized by intellectuals who are well aware of the critical role played by the incumbents. Recently, former RBI Governor Shri Bimal Jalan has expressed his considered view that office of the RBI should not be politicized. It is only hoped that better sense will prevail and institutions like RBI, CVC and CAG will not be politicized.

The case of Planning Commission needs special mention. It is in the public domain that for the present government, Planning Commission is a defunct body of no relevance and it will have no impact if it is dismantled or its powers and functions are restricted by taking away its key role of allocating development funds to central ministries.

But the fact is that since its inception in 1950, the Planning Commission has played a crucial and responsible role for planning how resources would be mobilized and on what they would be spent. Despite the role played by the private sector, the planning process and the planning commission are still very much relevant to our economy.

The UPA Government, both in its first and second tenures, has enacted and implemented various historic laws institutionalizing pro-education, pro-welfare and anti-poverty measures and bringing transparency in administration. Schemes like MNREAGA and acts like the Right to Information Act and the Right to Education Act are conspicuous examples reflecting the objectives and concerns of the UPA Government.

Health was another area which has been given due importance by the Congress government, be it UPA or be it the previous Congress Governments. Steps were taken to ensure health insurance cover to all the citizens, starting with health insurance to the BPL families. If we look at how these welfare schemes were implemented in non-Congress ruled states, a comprehensive picture can be obtained about the priorities of the political parties like the BJP.

Gujarat model of development, flagged as the best development model by the BJP, has no place for development of human development index. Infant mortality, malnutrition and dropout rates in the State reflect the areas of neglect by the State Government there. A small Google search reveals that Gujarat occupies one of the top slots in the list of states where RTI activists have been killed in recent years.

A quick scan of those “killed” reveals that five out of some 23 odd killed in recent years (22 percent) were from Gujarat. Gujarat is a laggard in the implementation of the RTI Act. If it hadn’t been for a constitutional necessity to follow the laws of the land, the Gujarat Government would have done away with the RTI totally. It’s the same with the Lokayukta, Why have a Lokayukta at all? Gujarat hasn’t had one since 2003. These are key elements in the Gujarat model that Shri Narendra Modi has promised us all.

Secularism is the pillar on which the pluralistic society of India rests on. India is best described as a nation where unity is possible amidst the diversities. The history of India and the idea of India are not about domination of minority cultures by the majoritarian culture but about celebration of diverse cultural entities that exist peacefully within the constitutional framework of the country. Therefore, the Government of the day should recognize this diversity and work towards its promotion and protection instead of evoking a sense of fear among those who do not believe in the theory of cultural hegemony.

But now that the BJP has controlled the central government, the threat of subversion of the Constitution and the Parliament is very real. To conclude, as long as the extremist political forces are not ideologically weeded out from the body politic, the threat of extremism subverting Parliament will be real.

The legislature and its capacity to assert its independence flow from the executive’s accountability. This is how the makers of the Constitution conceived the parliamentary system in our country. Given the obnoxious record of the BJP, the threat is all the more serious. In democracies the world over, the functioning of the legislature is inseparably linked to the functioning of a free press reflecting truthfully the development and proceedings in Parliament. Therefore, in the coming days, vigilance has to be multi-fold to safeguard Parliament from such pernicious attempts at subversion.

* The writer is a Lawyer and the National Spokesperson of the Indian National Congress.