Posts Tagged ‘PM Manmohan Singh’

Pakistan condemns Mumbai attack, offers cooperation

November 28, 2008

Zeeshan Haider

Reuters North American News Service

Nov 27, 2008 12:53 EST

ISLAMABAD, Nov 27 (Reuters) – Pakistan condemned on Thursday militant attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 107 people and promised full cooperation in fighting terrorism.

Relations between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan have warmed in recent years and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has made moves to improve ties further.

But big militant attacks in India always fan suspicion of Pakistani involvement, either by Pakistan-based militants or even its security agents.

Pakistan bemoans what it sees as knee-jerk blame.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blamed militant groups based in India’s neighbours, which usually means Pakistan, for the Mumbai attacks, raising fears of renewed tension.

Zardari and his prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, deplored the attacks in separate messages earlier on Thursday.

“President Zardari stressed the need for taking strict measures to eradicate terrorism and extremism from the region,” the state-run APP news agency said. Zardari, widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, came to power after February polls that restored civilian rule.

He wants to push forward a four-year peace process with India, launched after they nearly fought a fourth war in 2002.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who arrived in India on Wednesday for a four-day visit, said he was shocked and horrified by the “barbaric” attacks in Mumbai.

Noting a spate of attacks in Pakistan, including a suicide attack on one of Islamabad’s top hotels in September, Qureshi said all civilised societies had to work to fight with terrorism.

“Pakistan offers complete support and cooperation to deal with this menace,” he said.

KASHMIR DISPUTE

The use of heavily armed “fedayeen” or suicide attackers in Mumbai bears the hallmarks of Pakistan-based militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed, blamed for a 2001 attack on India’s parliament.

Both groups are banned in Pakistan. They made their name fighting Indian rule in disputed Kashmir and were closely linked in the past to the Pakistani military’s Inter Services Intelligence agency, the ISI.

Lashkar-e-Taiba denied any role in the attacks, and said it had no links with any Indian group. Instead, the little-known Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility.

A militant holed up at a Jewish centre in Mumbai phoned an Indian television channel and complained about abuses in Kashmir.

Pakistani Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar warned against a blame game with India.

“Nobody should blame anyone without any evidence and verification,” Mukhtar told Reuters. “We have nothing to do with these attacks. We condemn these attacks.”

The main dispute between Muslim Pakistan and mostly Hindu India is the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which both claim in full but rule in part.

Pakistan for years supported militants battling Indian forces in the disputed Kashmir region. It also backed the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, then military ruler Pervez Musharraf broke off support for the Taliban and reined in the Kashmiri militants.

Pakistan says it offers political support for what it sees as a freedom struggle by the Muslims of Indian-controlled Kashmir, where troops have been battling an insurgency since 1989. (Writing by Robert Birsel)

Source: Reuters North American News Service

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India PM warns on religious hatred

October 14, 2008
Al Jazeera, Oct 14, 2008

Singh lamented “the assault on our composite culture” [Reuters]

India’s prime minister has said that increased religious and ethnic tensions are threatening the country’s social stability and blamed those “encouraging” hatred and violence.

“There are clashes between Hindus, Christians, Muslims and tribal groups. An atmosphere of hatred and violence is being artificially generated. There are forces deliberately encouraging such tendencies,” Manmohan Singh said on Monday.

Against a backdrop of religious unrest in eastern Orissa and tribal clashes in southern Karnataka, Singh said the violence threatened India’s proud “inheritance” of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-caste society.

“Perhaps the most disturbing and dangerous aspect today is the assault on our composite culture … we see fault-lines developing between, and among, communities,” he told a conference of chief state ministers in the capital, New Delhi.

In August, at least 35 people were killed in Orissa after the death of a hardline Hindu priest and four of his followers sparked violence between Hindus and Christians.

Indian Maoists claimed responsibility for killing Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, saying he was forcing tribal people to reconvert to Hinduism.

They also claimed that the state government had “made it look like Christian groups [were] responsible for the attack”.

But Hindu hardline groups rejected the Maoist claim, saying Saraswati opposed conversions to Christianity and his elimination could only benefit Christian missionaries active in the area.

In India’s northeastern Assam state, 50 people were killed in clashes between Muslim migrants and tribal groups earlier this month.

Curfew imposed

Violence between different religious groups have flared in several states [EPA]

The prime minister’s warning came as police imposed a curfew in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh two days after the latest clash between Muslims and Hindus which left three people dead.The country has also been rocked by a series of bomb blasts targeting major cities this year which killed more than 100 people killed.

A home-grown Islamic group, the Indian Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the attacks in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and New Delhi, saying they were in revenge for attacks on Muslims across India.

Singh said in his speech that “there can be no compromise with terrorism, and terrorists have to be dealt with firmly”.

“We need to meet today’s mindless violence with the requisite amount of force but must also ensure that this is tempered by reason and justice which is the normal order of governance,” he added.

India, which is majority Hindu with a large Muslim minority, is officially secular.

Dealing With the Indo-US Nuclear Deal

October 6, 2008

by: J. Sri Raman, t r u t h o u t | Perspective, October 3, 2008

photo
Activists shout slogans during a protest in New Delhi against the Indo-US nuclear deal. (Photo: Reuters)

India received a strange and darkly significant gift on a once-sacred day of its annual calendar. In the early morning of October 2, marking the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi of hallowed memory, the nation heard the news about the victory for the US-India nuclear deal in Washington.

We can leave it for historians to answer the deeper and larger question arising from this dramatic irony: how did the India of a nonviolent, anticolonial struggle end up as a nuclear-weapon state proudly entering into a pact of strategic partnership with a neocolonial superpower? We will deal here with a simpler question.

How did the deal come to be done, and with little difficulty? How did this happen despite presumed opposition to it from many quarters and predictions of its defeat at several stages? The answer may help us face and fight the after-effects better than the deal struck originally between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Capitol Hill on July 18, 2005.

When the two leaders uttered the D word, the deal seemed an indefinite distance away. Opponents and independent observers of the move assumed the obstacles were too many to overcome easily. The chief obstacle was deemed to be democracy in both countries. The presumption has proven premature.

Bipartisan backing for the deal was considered extremely unlikely. The hurdle of political opposition in the USA did not even stop the first stage of the process – the Henry J. Hyde US-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of December 2006, passed as enabling legislation for a bilateral agreement. Such an accord, the 123 Agreement as it is called, was signed in July 2007, just about two years after the Bush-Singh brainwave, despite the many differences that media depicted as almost unbridgeable.

Bipartisan support, of a hidden kind, helped Singh at home too. The main opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party, which in its term of power had set India on the path of strategic partnership with the US, had no basic objection to the Bush-Singh advance upon the idea. The objective took precedence over all else for the main political players in both countries. Little wonder, the Singh government won a trust vote in Parliament on July 22, 2008, on the deal without any difficulty that the numbers seemed to denote initially.

The next stage where the deal was expected to be stalled also proved smooth. On August 1, 2008. the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approved the deal. India’s earlier votes against Iran in the IAEA were not the only reason, with more Iran-friendly states also helping to facilitate the deal. It was expected to meet its nemesis at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). On September 8, 2008, however, the Bush administration succeeded in bullying and cajoling the NSG into a consensus in the deal’s favor.

The peace movement in India and the world campaigned against the deal all through, with indisputable persistence and determination. If the campaign still failed, the main cause should not be far to seek. It fought the deal, above all, as a dire threat to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and sought to undo the deal through an appeal to pro-NPT states. Founded on a false hope, perhaps, the campaign was bound to fail.

The illusions entertained about the NPT never really helped the cause of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in India or elsewhere. The discriminatory and hypocritical treaty, which allows five nuclear powers to preserve formidable arsenals and prescribes nuclear abstinence for the rest of the world, does not deserve any credit for any decrease in the global stock of these weapons due to other factors. The much-hyped Article VI of the treaty – a polite plea to the P5 to proceed towards nuclear disarmament “in good faith” – does not detract from the global terror posed by the self-appointed guardians of non-proliferation.

Not only in the US of Bush, but also its allies swearing uncompromising commitment to the non-proliferation cause have lent powerful support to the pact for the sake of larger strategic and corporate interests.

Prominent sections of the peace movement have proceeded on the assumption that the NPT represents the strongest weapon in its hands. Experience, however, makes it eminently clear that the treaty, in fact, places the strongest weapon in the hands of nuclear hawks in nations like India. They have only to turn to their people and tell them of patent discrimination in the NPT’s provisions to peddle their nuclear-weapons programs.

Sections of the peace movement in India and elsewhere have also played into the hands of these hawks by stressing the issue of sovereignty while talking of the NPT and the deal. The absurd argument that national sovereignty can be asserted by producing nuclear weapons cannot defeat either devotees of the treaty or advocates of the deal. It is egregiously erroneous to see the deal as damaging to the NPT or “the current world non-proliferation regime” as it is incorrectly described. The deal, on the contrary, must be viewed as one of the results of the faith placed in a fundamentally flawed and false treaty.

There is increasing recognition in the world peace movement of the need to replace the NPT with a UN convention to ban nuclear weapons. The movement, however, must beware of attempts by nuclear hawks in India and similar other states to extend hypocritical support to the effort. The government of India, for example, has already named former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, intimately associated with the initiation of the “strategic partnership” as its representative in an international commission for nuclear disarmament set up by Australia and Japan!

The deal could have been stalled only through democracy. Only the people of India and the US could have done so by declining a mandate for nuclear militarism. Only democracy of this kind can combat the consequences of the deal, too.

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A freelance journalist and a peace activist in India, J. Sri Raman is the author of “Flashpoint” (Common Courage Press, USA). He is a regular contributor to Truthout.

When faith uses force

September 30, 2008

Behind a new outbreak of violence against Christians in India lies a long-running campaign for Hindu cultural dominance

Protest in New Delhi against Hindu anti-Christian violence in India

An activist demonstrating in New Delhi against the violence of hardline Hindu groups against Christians in several Indian states, September 29 2008. Photo: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Standing next to France’s President Sarkozy, the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh today made a heartfelt plea over the spread of anti-Christian violence in India. The sight of Hindu mobs smashing churches and prayer halls while Christians in the country are killed or left cowering under tarpaulin sheets in refugee camps is, as Dr Singh rightly described, a “national shame”. There are calls from within the ruling Congress party, which relies on the votes of Christians and Muslims in India, to ban Hindu extremist organisations such as the Bajrang Dal, which uses force when the force of argument fails.

There has been bloodshed on both sides. One Christian priest was “cut to pieces” in front of his wife. A Hindu priest was shot dead for campaigning against religious conversions. The violence, which has left nearly two dozen dead, has spread across six states. Even after the Pope intervened, the Roman Catholic archbishop of one of the worst affected areas in eastern India said the situation was “out of control”.

What lies behind this violence is nothing less than a struggle for the soul of India. Religion is deeply rooted in this country of one billion. The divine was fundamental in the creation of post-independence India. Unlike Europe, in India the Gods will not disappear in a blaze of rational thinking.

But views of God led to a schism in Indian nationalism. One side is rooted in secular thinking: that beneath the differences among India’s religions there is a common creed, a moral order articulated in the country’s constitution. Opposing this is the Hindu right. Their philosophy aims to unify the country under the banner of the majority religion. It sees the country’s post-independence constitution as an instrument forged by “pseudo-secularists”, which now needs to be updated to reflect the Hindu character of India.

Christians in India long pre-dated the British, who sponsored missionary activity with little success. In 1947, only 3% of the country was Christian. There’s an unmistakable tint to Christianity in India: the priests are mostly upper-caste Brahmin converts and the flock is mostly drawn from the country’s untouchable communities known as Dalits. Contemporary Hindu anger centres on the idea that India’s rise will see an explosion of Christians in the country – a takeover by a foreign ideology like that experienced by South Korea in the 1960s.

The Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata party, says it is against proselytisation through coercion, inducement, or by vilifying any faith. That conversion continues, therefore, and that it remains legal, drives Hindu groups into a bloody frenzy. By decrying the violence but remaining powerless to prevent it, the Indian prime minister exposes his strength and weakness. The Indian federal government could suspend state administrations – for failing to quell violence. This is the nuclear option of unseating a democratically elected local regime. Instead, the Indian prime minister chooses only speak up.

Martha Nussbaum, the noted American philosopher, draws a comparison with 1950s America where only a few groups such as the Ku Klux Klan would openly advocate violence, but “where the whole society was suffused with attitudes that … often condoned violence against African Americans, attitudes that clearly affected the behaviour of the police and other officers of the law”. This remark is telling because, in the southern Indian town of Mangalore, it was Christian churches that were attacked, yet the leaders of Hindu mobs walked free for days, untouched by the police.

The violence is the really about the clash within. Like the United States, India has never had a state-imposed religion. It has always had a tradition of sects and religious minorities, which coexist and compete with each other without suffering state persecution or patronage. Instead of trying to capture state power for the purpose of waging a cultural war, the Hindu right would do the country a service by reforming itself from within – promoting equality and unifying its own denominations and sects.

Religion’s role in India must be one of restraining passions, not inflaming them.

To keep up with Randeep Ramesh’s blog from India, go here.


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