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1.Our collective cross to bear (The Hindu) 

2.In South Asia, be the Un-China (The Hindu)

1.Our collective cross to bear (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on issue how identity politics which is is ripping apart the social fabric of the countries. (GS paper II)

Overview 

  • Ethnic inequality, the political and economic disadvantages felt by racial minority groups persists across the globe. Not only is such discrimination unfair, it is a drag on global economic growth. Inequality affects two main groups of ethnic minority populations. Long-term settled communities, which often pre-date the boundaries of nation states by many centuries, are more commonly found in Asia and Africa.
  • Dalits and Muslims conditions in India, ill-treatment of minorities in Bangladesh, Rohingyas in Myanmar, suppress a Tamil minority on grounds of difference in Sri Lanka racists, Christian accused of being blaspheming Islam in Pakistan and in Nepal people of the hill country disempower those of its plains through constitutional manoeuvre. There is a common thread to these ghastly incidents, and it would be difficult to name another region of the world that produces as much hate as South Asia.
  • These acts are the outcome of identity politics that enforce behaviour based on sectarian values derived from religion. Across the region, the state in South Asia is culpable of empowering the mob against the weak.

South Asia progress

  • With most of the countries of the subcontinent is going to celebrate 70th anniversary of their Independence, it is apparent that identity politics is ripping apart the social fabric in all the countries of South Asia except tiny Bhutan.
  • South Asia as a region lags behind the rest of the world in human development.  These countries not moving forward in eliminating socio-economic deprivation, leaving it as one of the most backward regions of the world. When the state responds to identity politics by allowing the mob to dictate its goals, it has the potential of holding back economic and social progress.
  • Class is a significant part of the explanation of why human development has progressed so slowly here, identity politics embraced by the state camouflages its abject failure to advance it. This is true everywhere but it is perhaps in Pakistan that the people have suffered most from state-sponsored identity politics.
  • While Pakistan’s per capita income was 35% greater than India’s it had significantly lower levels of literacy, school enrolment and access to safe drinking water. This when by international standards, India itself had low levels of these indicators and was not the best performer even in South Asia.
  • India and Pakistan together spent more in the global arms bazaar than Saudi Arabia, a country with per capita income 25 times theirs. There is huge economic burden of defence expenditure in South Asia.
  • The situation in India is more complex given its diversity; there had been agitations for the formation of linguistic States. The case of identity politics has led U.P. to be remains the most backward among India’s States in terms of human development. In the countries of South Asia with their diverse populations, identity politics destroys social cohesion and stands in the way of economic progress.

Way ahead

  • Peace in South Asia can be assured only by secular democracy. Hate in these regions is not aimed outside our countries but within them. However, we cannot escape the consequence of hate even when it is not aimed at us. South Asians can flourish only when hate is quelled.
  • Ethnic inequality is a problem that affects developing and developed nations, albeit in different ways and policymakers everywhere must do much more to tackle it. Global economic growth and the stability of our democracies depend on it.

Question– What are the implications of identity politics in Indian scenario?

In South Asia, be the Un-China (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on issue what India need to do in order to secure historical affinity with its neighbours. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • India and China have faced off frequently since fighting the bloody 1962 war that ended with China seizing control of some territory. Troops from both sides still regularly patrol other unmarked territories, though neither side has fired any shots in decades. Negotiations since 1985 to settle the boundary dispute have seen little success.
  • The Doklam stand-off between the Indian and Chinese militaries enters its third month and it is not just Bhutan that is keenly anticipating the potential fallout. The entire neighbourhood is watching. There is obvious interest in how the situation plays out and the consequent change in the balance of power between India and China in South Asia.
  • India must regain its role as a prime mover of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in order to secure historical affinity with its neighbours.

Doklam stand-off

  • Doklam is the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan that sounded the alarm; Chinese soldiers had arrived with bulldozers and excavators, and were building a high-mountain road near India’s border in an area the two nuclear-armed giants have disputed over for decades.
  • India responded to the call by sending troops to evict the Chinese army construction party from the Doklam Plateau. Within a few days, Indian media were running leaked video footage of soldiers from both sides shoving one another atop a grassy flatland.
  • The tense standoff has only escalated, raising concerns in both capitals of an all-out military conflict. Both sides have made threats while simultaneously calling for negotiations. Even the U.S. State Department has urged the two sides to work together toward a peaceful resolution.
  • Recently India told China that it was ready to hold talks if both sides pulled their forces back from the disputed border area. But China countered on by insisting the road was being built on its sovereign territory, and warned India not to “push your luck.
  • India has said the two governments reached an agreement in 2012 that the status of the Doklam area which falls between China and India on a Bhutanese plateau would be finalised only through joint consultations involving all parties.
  • Bhutan said the road China has been building would run from the town of Dokola to the Bhutanese army camp at Zompelri. Bhutan’s Foreign Ministry called it a “direct violation” of agreements reached in 1988 and 1998 to maintain peace and refrain from unilateral action in the area pending a final border settlement.

A strategic area and equi-distance

  • For India, securing the Doklam Plateau is seen as essential to maintaining its control over a land corridor that connects to its remote north-eastern States. India has said the Chinese road project threatens its access to the corridor, while China has questioned why India should even have a say in a matter that concerns only Beijing and Bhutan.
  • According to the foreign affairs analyst and retired Indian diplomat G. Parthasarathy, this is not the first time that we have a standoff with China; he is predicting a period of stalemate followed by a political compromise if the tensions follow past patterns. China is in an ultra-nationalist mood of establishing a hegemony power in Asia, the best thing for China is to sit down and talk.
  • In the the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) regional summit, the Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister mentioned that it will not get dragged into this or that side in the border dispute over Doklam conflict.
  • Bhutan blaming China for violating agreements at Doklam, but not mentioning India. Columnists in the country too are increasingly advocating that Bhutan distance itself from both Indian and Chinese positions.
  • A policy of ‘equidistance’ for our closest neighbours is a far cry from India’s past primacy in the region. When the Maldives first turfed private infrastructure group GMR out of its contract to develop Male airport in 2012, few could have imagined the situation today with Chinese companies having bagged contracts to most infrastructure projects. This includes development of a key new island and its link to the capital Male and a 50-year lease to another island for a tourism project.
  • Today, China is building a railway to Nepal, opening up Lhasa-Kathmandu road links, and has approved a soft loan of over $200 million to construct an airport at Pokhara. According to the Investment Board Nepal summit, Chinese investors contributed $8.2 billion, more than 60% of the foreign direct investment commitments made by the seven countries present.
  • Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port construction project went to the Chinese in 2007, only after India rejected it. Today, China doesn’t just own 80% of the port; it has also won practically every infrastructure contract from Hambantota to Colombo. Chinese President visit to Bangladesh last October was another such overture, with $24 billion committed in infrastructure and energy projects.
  • And also earlier this year, the largely state-owned Chinese consortium, Himalaya Energy, won a bid for three gas fields in Bangladesh’s north-east shoulder from the American company Chevron, which together account for more than half of the country’s total gas output.
  • India must regain its role as a prime mover of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the organisation it abandoned a year ago over its problems with Pakistan. If one of the aims of the action in Doklam is to save Bhutan from the same fate, and to ensure that China doesn’t succeed in creating similar space for itself in a country that stood by India in its objections to BRI, and bring its other neighbours back.
  • There have been no steps taken to restore the SAARC process is unfortunate. This will hurt the South Asian construct and further loosen the bonds that tie all the countries together, thereby making it easier for China to make inroads. It should be remembered that despite China’s repeated requests, SAARC was one club it never gained admittance to.
  • The most importantly India must recognise that picking sides in the politics of its neighbours makes little difference to China’s success there. As seen with the countries, they hasn’t changed course when it comes to China. In Bhutan’s election next year, it is necessary that India picks no side, for nothing could be worse than if the Doklam stand-off becomes an India-versus-China China election issue.

Way ahead

  • India must recognise that doing better with its neighbours is not about investing more or undue favours. It is about following a policy of mutual interests and of respect, which India is more culturally attuned to than its large rival is.
  • Each of India’s neighbours shares more than a geographical context with India. They share history, language, tradition and even cuisine. With the exception of Pakistan, none of them sees itself as a rival to India, or India as inimical to its sovereignty.  When dealing with China in South Asia, however, India must do exactly the opposite, and not allow itself to be outpaced.

Question: India shares a unified culture and history with its neighbours. What more can be done to reach a synergy with the neighbours?