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Friday, February 17, 2017
Is It Time For India to Spearhead the Indian Ocean Treaty Alliance
Asia needs a powerful regional treaty alliance for defense cooperation. Asian nations should cooperate not only in trade, but also in military and defense strategy, jointly developing techniques to counter terrorism and regional military threats. Asian Treaty Alliance might be the answer to a number of geo-political issues of Asian nations especially the South Asian and the Southeast Asian countries. Fragile foreign relations also affect the economic relations thus hampering growth and development of the region. It is the only way like-minded nations with similar political structure can come together to impact change in the region.
Asian nations are still locked in the political and economic relations handed down to them in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries through their colonial rulers. Even though most of the nations obtained independence in the twentieth century, they still fail to utilize self-determination in their foreign relations. India should aim to correct its course of history by re-aligning itself with long lost friends in the Indian Ocean region. It is time for Asian nations to think beyond their geo-political neighborhood and foster an Asian Treaty alliance aimed to preserve peace and prosperity in the region.
India if it plans to be member of an association for economic and defense cooperation it should look towards the Indian Ocean. India should take lead in developing an association similar to the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) by including other states on the Indian Ocean economic zone. Indian Ocean Treaty alliance could include democratic nations such as Japan, Thailand, Australia, Phillippines, Vietnam, and South Africa.
China is landlocked on its northern borders and is limited in its sea access by its close neighbors. In this close China is resorting to techniques to force its neighbors to surrender to its expanding sphere of influence. China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines and Brunei have competing claims on South China Sea. As its international arbitration bid failed recently, China is coming back with a renewed vigor to establish superiority in the region, which has recently faced a setback in the international court of arbitration with Philippines. With China militarizing heavily on its land and water borders, it is more than ever necessary for Asian democratic nations to not only come together in temporary gesture of cooperation, but a permanent treaty alliance.
India is in a geographical bind, surrounded by states that are steeped either in political turmoil brought on by terrorism (Pakistan and Bangladesh) or crushed under the weight of totalitarian regimes (China and Iran). India’s immediate neighbors, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal, although considered democratic states, suffer under the shadows of military coup in their recent past. Brexit has recently proved that a nation does not always have to remain in alliance with its immediate neighbors, but could foster relations with far off neighbors in order to optimize economic progress and development. Any association dictated by geographical proximity rather than political, social and economic ideals is bound to fail in the face of crisis. Therefore, India must look beyond its geographical border to foster stronger relations as it embarks on its path of progress and development.
India’s geographical fate is further complicated by the international economic and political cooperation (SAARC- South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and NAM-Non Aligned Movement) groups it is part of, which also include some of these troubled countries in its neighborhood. SAARC (South Asian Association for Cooperation) represents an acronym that could not be easily understood. The acronym is a true representation of the hodge-podge of states that it includes. Other than geographical proximity of its member states (India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Srilanka, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan) are completely different from each other in political, economic and social structures. It is strange that Myanmar is still not a member of this group. Similar is the case with NAM. India joined the Non Aligned Movement with Nehru's initiative with lofty goals, but due to the nature of states that joined it, there is very little that it accomplished. It exists only in name, while a number of its members are currently in conditions that are similar to civil war, no diplomatic or military initiative is ever undertaken by this group. Emerging crises have rendered the NAM become an association that holds periodic meetings with no significant contributions. Half of the nations that are members of this group, such as Algeria and Egypt are struggling with internal terrorist organizations, while some states such as Zambia, Cuba, and Iran are still struggling to establish democratic states. India is the only stable, and established democracy in this group of nations. With the internal and external terror threats, and border disputes, it is impossible for NAM to progress beyond the basic economic cooperation.
Any association dictated by geographical proximity rather than political, social and economic ideals is bound to fail in the face of crisis. Half of the nations that are members of this group are struggling with internal terrorist organizations, and some are still struggling to establish democratic states. India is the only stable, and established democracy in this group of nations.
Hence it is time for India to look beyond its geographical region to think strategically and join a treaty alliance with a view to obtain military and diplomatic cooperation in addition to economic development. India if it plans to be member of an association for economic and defense cooperation it should look towards the Indian Ocean. India should take lead in developing an association similar to the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) by inviting democratic nations on the Indian Ocean economic zone such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and Japan. Asia needs a powerful regional association of cooperation. These nations should cooperate not only in trade, but also in military and defense strategy, jointly developing techniques to counter terrorist and military threats.
India Should Embrace Its Lost Children
Each major historic event in India left a number of Indians displaced and lost to History. The first waves of such lost children of India begins in the tenth century with the beginning of Muslims raids into India under Mohammad Ghori and Ghazni and only continue under British rule until the 20th century. A thousand years of displacements and disenfranchisement left millions of Indians across the globe. It is time for India to recognize and grant its lost children some type of overseas citizenship.
Caribbean and African Diaspora Hindus of the 19th and 20th Centuries
British colonial government permitted numerous colonial enterprises to use exploitative recruitment tactics to lure young men and women seeking work. They transported them long distances across the oceans. Such workers were called indentured laborers and were only provided minimal facilities. Wherever it is possible the British companies or landlords posted the newly arrived indentured laborers at barracks only then evacuated by the slaves on numerous plantations across the world from Eastern African countries and South Africa to the West Indies. The story is not much different from Fiji to Guyana. It is the same exploitation. The indentured have no way of connecting with their families back in India, nor did they have facilities to practice their religion or culture. Most of them lost touch with their families and the place of their origin. They did not even know that India achieved independence or that they had any opportunity to return to India. They are the lost children of British colonial India. Colonial governments forgot about them, while India had no accounts of their situation and issues.
Hindus of Pakistan and Bangladesh
People were not given an opportunity to choose where they may live. British colonial regime divided the country without conducting a ground survey. India is divided into two countries by drawing a line on the map, without conducting ground survey, which divided the country arbitrarily overnight. In Some places the border went through houses, and sometimes through land belonging to a farmer, putting half of his land on one side and the other half of his land on another side. In a complete disregard for the lives of the common people British regime did not provide security forces on the borders leading to chaos and murder spree, which was equal to perpetrating genocide on the part of Britain. Numerous people found themselves stranded in the country they did not seek to live. Whatever Pakistan might say it is the responsibility of India to provide an opportunity for its Hindus to return to their homeland. Pakistan was created for Muslims to give a separate nation for Muslims. If Indian Muslims desire to go to Pakistan they must be free to do so also. Pakistan must accept Indian Muslims freely.
Bangladesh (East Pakistan) is another case. Bangladesh is ethnically uniform even though it is a Muslim majority country. Bangladeshi Muslims also spoke Bengali (although they call it Bangla), practiced syncretic style of Islam and had nothing in common with West Pakistan. However, that does not mean that Hindus are treated any better in Bangladesh than Pakistan. Hindu population is mistreated and declined gradually since 1950 (28%), currently at about 8% according to the 2011 census. Being ethnically and linguistically homogeneous has not prevented ethnic cleansing and mass killings of Hindus in Bangladesh.
It is heartening to note that India is considering steps to allow relocation the mistreated minority groups from Pakistan and Bangladesh to resettle in India. Similar facilities must be extended to Hindu diaspora across the world.
Hindus in Malaysia and other Southeast Asian Countries
Hindus entered and flourished in Southeast Asia since 3rd century C.E. Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Philippines derive their early empirical foundations from India and its early Hindu and Buddhist groups arrived from India. More Hindus brought since the 16th century by successive states of India join these ancient Hindus. British colonial regime brought more Hindus to work in plantations across Southeast Asia. However, the current status of Hindus in these countries is precarious. Although native to Indonesia, indigenous Hinduism is not allowed to be practiced in Indonesia, while Malaysia treats Hindus as unwanted citizens. India should recognize the diaspora and grant overseas citizenship to all the Hindus of Southeast Asia.
Roma across European and Eurasian countries
Another forgotten long lost diaspora of India is the Roma living across Europe and Eurasia. Roma were forcefully removed and taken away from Indian regions conquered by the Muslim raids from 10th century onwards for fear of rebellions in their conquered territories. Roma are the first diaspora of India. Hence, India should embrace this group of people immediately. Roma across Europe and Eurasia suffered discrimination lasting over a thousand years. Recent removal and resettlement of Roma in Ukraine (An event similar to the Babyn Yar Tragedy of WWII) drew criticism from Israel and Holocaust Museum of USA (http://www.jta.org/2016/08/31/news-opinion/world/u-s-holocaust-museum-condemns-attack-on-ukrainian-roma), but no statement from India, which shows missing place of Roma from the national conscious of India.
Being treated as refugees in lands where they settled for close to a thousand years haunts the Roma across Europe and the Eurasian region. Roma are largely missing from public debates on human rights violations. Numerous Roma across Europe were discriminated and killed during the Second World War alongside Jews, but Roma massacres did not draw any attention from international community. Initiatives to create and bring awareness to Roma issues in Europe are helping raise awareness in the recent years (http://www.errc.org/about-us-overview).
India could be forgiven for its lack of empathy towards its diaspora in the past since it was also under colonial rule lasting for a thousand years until 1947. However, as India enters a new phase of development and place of strategic importance in the international sphere, attention should be paid to its lost children. India must support and embrace its lost children from across the globe.
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One of the greatest and successful invasions as far as colonial regimes are concerned is the invasion Azteca (Mexico) by the Spaniards, in which a few hundred soldiers successfully crushed a large civilization, looted enormous amounts of gold and silver, while inflicting huge loss of life on the Aztec, and Mexican populations, wiping out an entire civilization. Loss of cultural heritage is almost complete. With their emperor burned at stake, their books destroyed, their languages, cultures and life styles vanish in a mere hundred years. What is left of this forceful Spanish occupation is a mixed South American people and culture, commonly referred to as Latino culture a non-European Spanish civilization, with unique elements of Catholicism mixed with native understanding.
This fifteenth century historical incident of invasion, occupation, and replacement of native culture on the continent of America, has inspired colonial historians to apply this to any culture any where in the world. Its mutations can be found in colonial dual race theories perpetrated across the world on every continent from Africa to Australia.
All of the invasion theories have some common elements although they are customized to fit to each region. The invaders always came from north, fair skinned (at least fairer than others), tall, rode horses, brought the Neolithic package (seeds, wheel and steel). Even though contrary evidence exists in the regional cultures, it was overruled to establish that the migration theories explain the establishment of culture and civilization in each region. Genocide of Rwanda is a direct result of these invasion theories. Although sharing a language and culture, colonial theories of invasion led the Tutsi and Hutu believe that they belong to distinct racial groups. These groups that existed in peace for thousands of years earlier were pitched against each other since the 1800s as conquerors and the conquered finally culminating in ethnic cleansing leading to the worst genocide of the 20th century. According to this theory of invasion, conquest and settlement, first setttlers of Rwanda were Hutu, who were conqured by the pastoral Tutsi (cattle keepers) from the north possibly of Cushite origin, and hence Caucasian and superior to the Hutus. Hence the successive colonial regimes employed the Tutsi for in administrative positions between 1880-1950. Therefore, it is a privilege to be recognized as Tutsi under these colonial regimes, which separated the Tutsi and from the majority of the population while using them as ramparts of the colonial regime against the native populations. One can only imagine what would happen once the colonial regime fell and Rwanda became independent.
Similar system of invasion theories is employed successfully in India to create fault lines within the native populations of India. The first is the Aryan invasion theory- based on the linguistic theories. This is the most imaginative application of invasion, conquest, settlement model adopted by the West. In order to make this theory seem real a number of corrections were needed, which were carried on very deftly by the colonial history writers. First issue is that the Aryans were never mentioned as a race in the Vedas. All that the Vedas talk about is Aryas, an educated elite. Arya (its another form is ayya) is still used in India to refer to elders and educated elite. It is changed to say Aryan a known race of Iran. Then it gets more confusing. Aryans are considered to have conquered Dravidians (Dravida-Dramizha-Tamila). But then who are these Aryans and Dravidians. No such races exist by those names either in India or anywhere else. Now wild theories are constructed on who the Aryans might have been and from where they might have come from. Then there is also the second part of the theory, who are the Dravidians, but for the theory to work they must be indigenous, and also poor and uncivilized. The Dramila (so called Dravida) are neither uncivilized tribes nor poor. Anotehr issue is that numerous elements of South (Dramila) are prevalent in Vedic texts and Hindu practices and religion. Therefore, some new scapegoat has to be found to fit this poor, uncivilized tribe styreotype. As an offshoot of this necessary theoretical imbroglio, the Dalits were fit into this mold. Some more theories were proposed which were enthusiastically lapped up and embraced by modern day lower castes of India, the Dalits. With one stroke of genius the colonial regime divided India vertically into opposing sections without any regard for its history, culture, or tradition. Professional castes of India including the leather workers (chamars) were neither low nor poor in pre-colonial India. It was only after the colonial regime introduced the mill-made goods for sale in India that the professional castes of India became poor and disenfranchised from their professions. Aryan and Dravidian languages are theoretically not that different, but pronounced different by the colonial regime to facilitate its program of cultural division, and racial segregation to fragment India. The British regime did not rest easy with such broad fragmentation. It further divided India in to various ethnic categories based on race characteristics, calling them Martial races, etc.
The question is does all the people speaking a single language belong to a single race? The answer is no, when one examines language historically.
Buddhist monks of Tibet cannot write letters to world leaders or the UN unlike the Muslims clerics in Palestine and South Asia. The Tibetan monks also cannot get the media attention that some of the Islamic terrorist groups get, which perpetrate heinous crimes in Israel and India. However, the suffering of Tibet is well established in the past, although the information has declined drastically in the past few years. The UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) during its recent sessions in Geneva last week (September 21-22) leveled intense criticism against China regarding its human rights violations in Tibet. In addition to the EU statement, the USA, Germany, France and UK also expressed concerns and released independent statements on human rights violations in Tibet. Still the media coverage of Tibet issue is meager when compared with other issues raised at UNHRC. Even Dalai Lama’s speech at the Parliament of European Union (EU) in France got scant media attention than the incendiary retaliatory statement issued by Chinese administration in Tibet. The Tibetan administration expressed anger at Dalai Lama merely for speaking up for the rights of Tibet, and said that its “highest priority” in Tibet is to curb Dalai Lama’s influence. It is clear that China is treating Tibet not only as its subsidiary territory, but also exploiting it with its Han-centered administrative policies.
It is also surprising that the concerned Human right groups focus is India, Israel and to some extent on the West, but fail to raise their voice against state supported atrocities or terror activities committed in other parts of the world such as China (Tibet), West Asia, Middle East or Pakistan. The mild mannered Buddhists do not want to appear rash, or blame anybody for their misfortunes under totalitarian regime in current state of Tibet. But there is no excuse for the rest of the world community to remain silent on Tibet. Tibet hardly gets the attention it deserves. Hence, Tibet takes a back seat on the world stage, even though it is on the verge of collapse, if not in human terms, but in ecological terms, which when finally it happens would push the world in to an emergency situation. Should the world stay silent to the environmental and ecological cost of Tibet?
Tibet would have existed as a happy land akin to Bhutan if India and Tibet had not committed the missteps that they had committed between 1950 and 1960. Especially, India’s Himalayan mistakes are noteworthy in this instance. Under Nehruvian shortsighted foreign policy India surrendered all its treaty rights and in a more shocking gesture accepted Tibet as part of China on April 29th 1954. It is a mistake and more so since China has not given any written commitments on borders with India either accepting the McMohan line or western borders at the Aksai Chin. The shortsighted Nehruvian policies of 1954 still haunt India in its relations with China and Pakistan. In return for this generous gesture from India, China returned battles at Barahoti (south of Niti pass) on 17th July 1954. Nehru also did not know about the secret talks between China and Pakistan in 1954 and applauded China at Bandung Afro-Asian conference. The result is that Pakistan surrendered its occupied Akai Chin area to China and China continued incursions into Indian territories on its borders, which also culminated in the war of 1961. All this is part of China’s global expansion plan including its Northern Eurasia and Africa extension plan. Tibet and Pakistan were mere pawns in this major plan of China to reach its international markets. However, the most important question is, should the world remain and and watch the ecological and human cost inflicted on the world due to China’s expansionist plans?
Chinese hegemony in Tibet brings forward two very important issues for the world: the first is geo-political and strategic balance of power and the second is ecological and environmental damage that could result in worst consequences in the form of climatic effect for the rest of the world.
International strategy is evolving fast in the Tibetan borderlands. China has formed a formidable alliance with Russia and Pakistan. China is also moving ahead in collaboration with Russia in forging relations with Iran and other Eurasian states as far as Turkey. Unless an equally formidable alliance of nations is evolved in the South Asia and Northern Eurasia that works to liberate Tibet and Mongolia from the tight control of China, balance of power will shift in favor of China. Current conventions of geopolitical strategy proposes evolution of multi-polar world in the next decade, however, the current changes in Asian alliances seem to indicate the global power balance shifting in favor of China and Russia emerging as strong allies and also as counter balance to the EU (European Union) and US (United State of America).
Although it may not seem as urgent the environmental damage in Tibet is as important as the geo-political strategy. The ecological issue is of immense importance. World had witnessed damaging floods across South Asian in the last decade. With the warming climate, and incessant developmental projects undertaken in Tibet mining, power sector, hydro-electric and geo-thermal projects, in addition to the transportation projects (road, rail, and flight network) may cause increased geological activity in the rest of the lower Himalayan zone. The lower Himalayan region is densely populated than Tibet and any geological change might cause immense damage, which will have a direct bearing on the lower regions (India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh). The world could not stand mute to the ecological and geological damage being done to Tibet through the Chinese interventions, which will also indirectly have an effect on the environment of the rest of the world.
Dalai Lama was precisely right in his recent comparison on the immense ecological damage of Tibet akin to the raging fire on the roof of the world. The comparison is very apt, since Tibet (3700 meters above the sea level) is the highest plateau of earth, and numerous rivers have their origin in the Himalayan zone. Melting glaciers on the Himalayas bring increasing water flow into the Himalayan Rivers and lakes, resulting in damaging flash floods in India, Nepal, China, Japan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. Compounded with this warming climatological issues are the geological fault lines of Himalayas, which result in earthquakes that are constant and unpredictable. China has always focused on road and train routes, and hydroelectric and water projects in the Himalayan region with little regard for it neighbors. China works hard to promote positive image of itself, calling Tibet ‘China’s Tibet’ and organizing tourism, mostly for Han Chinese from the rest of China. Tourism in Tibet increased hundred-fold between 1960 and 2010 which is reaching to about 15 million tourists generating about 18 billion Yuan ($3 billion) in 2015. Han centered tourist development commercialized Tibetan culture and religion with a view to providing an opportunity for Han Chinese to experience the minority cultures in its borderlands. Tibet is slowly losing its identity and individuality, while quickly becoming a romanticized spiritual tourist destination for other Chinese to visit. There are immense limitations on foreign travel to Tibet. Hence, very little news or information comes out of Tibet, if at all any news leaked out, it is always about the happy camping stories in the mystic land (Shangri-la) of Tibet.
Tibetans are held under tight control, and monks commit ‘self immolation,’ to express their opposition to Chinese rule. But there is only a limited role any protest can play in a peaceful Buddhist society to demonstrate its woeful living conditions. Chinese propaganda films depicting Dalai Lama and the Buddhist monks have failed to capture the loyalty of Tibetans. China is using the plan of ‘waiting game’ on Tibet. It is only waiting for the current Dalai Lama to leave this world. If the current conditions of Tibetans are woefully difficult now, one can only imagine a ‘reign of terror’ to be unleashed once it gets full command of Tibet, following Dalai Lama’s exit from this world.
Syria may be strategically important in the West Asia, but Tibet is also equally important in the Eurasia and the broader Asian regional co-operation, which may have significant consequences for the world. When Tibet holds such important place in the world, any thing that happens there must be of concern for the rest of the world. One must seek more information rather than the simple official notes that trickles out of Chinese administration in Tibet. It is important that the world must pay close attention to Tibet and work for a permanent solution to the Tibet issue. It is time the world paid special attention to Tibet.
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