IRS |Institute of Regional Studies

Islamabad

Contemporary Regional Developments in India

25th April - 2nd May
  • 14 Cities In India Rank Among World's Polluted:
    New Delhi, Gwalior, Varanasi and Kanpur were among the 14 Indian cities that figured in a list of 20 most polluted cities in the world, based on their toxic air quality, data released by World Health Organization showed. On PM 2.5, most polluted city is Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency. Major sources of air pollution from particulate matter - pollutants like sulphate, nitrate and black carbon - include inefficient use of energy by households, industry, agriculture and transport sectors, and coal-fired power plants. The study found that "around seven million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air". (NDTV, May 2, 2018)
  • India China: Modi meeting Xi
    27 April, 2018 informal talks between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping mark an improvement in relations. Last year, India and China were locked in their most serious border crisis in the last three decades. China's state-controlled media was issuing near-daily threats of war, as both sides built up forces on the edge of the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan. It would have seemed implausible that, just eight months on, Mr Modi and Mr Xi would be meeting at an informal summit. But this is exactly what it is happening in the Chinese city of Wuhan, as the two leaders convene far from their capitals, without aides or an agenda, and plenty of time to discuss their mounting differences. But the meeting does not come out of the blue. After the border dispute was defused in August, Mr Modi and Mr Xi broke the ice at the Brics summit in September, alongside the leaders of Russia, Brazil and South Africa. A flurry of high-level visits to China followed, including by India's foreign secretary, national security adviser, foreign minister and defence minister. So why is this thaw occurring now? There are several reasons. Firstly, India believes that last year's crisis marked a dangerous phase in the relationship and that tensions need to be kept in check - especially with national elections in 2019. More broadly, China's economy is five times bigger than India's and its defence spending is three times as large. While India has a local military advantage at many points on the border, it still needs time to build up its strength. Secondly, India hopes to secure Beijing's cooperation on several issues where China's role is crucial, such as putting pressure on Pakistan-based terrorist groups and securing India's admission to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a body that controls nuclear trade. In recent years, Indians have grown increasingly frustrated at what they see as Chinese efforts to thwart India's rise, but Delhi has not given up on nudging Mr Xi in a more flexible direction. (BBC, 26 April, 2018)
18th April - 24th April
  • India to create super-committee for defence planning
    The Narendra Modi government has decided to create an overarching Defence Planning Committee (DPC) under National Security Advisor Ajit Doval that will drive the country’s military and security strategy, draft capability development plans and guide (and accelerate) defence equipment acquisitions, according to a defence ministry notification seen by Hindustan Times. The move, which is a significant change in India’s defence strategy architecture, comes as the country faces several potential threats in a highly militarised neighbourhood; is trying to balance budgetary constraints with its need for arms; and is working on increasing its own expertise in manufacturing and exporting defence equipment. Until now, defence planning has been synonymous with hardware acquisition. The DPC will be a permanent body chaired by the National Security Advisor and comprise the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, three service chiefs, the defence, expenditure and foreign secretaries, and prepare draft reports on “national security strategy, international defence engagement strategy, roadmap to build (a) defence manufacturing ecosystem, strategy to boost defence exports, and priority capability development plans”, according to the notification. It will submit its reports to defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The DPC is expected to meet soon after Doval returns from Germany on April 21. Analysts point out that because the Prime Minister’s Office, the defence ministry, the finance ministry and the three services are part of the same committee, decisions on military purchases could now happen much faster. The Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman of the Chief of the Staff Committee (CISC) will be the member secretary of the committee, according to the notification, and the HQ of the Integrated Defence Staff will be the secretariat of the DPC. The notification lists four sub-committees that could be created under the DPC across four broad areas: policy and strategy; plans and capability development; defence diplomacy; and defence manufacturing eco-system. (The Hindustan Times, 19 April, 2018)
  • India journalist threatened over anti-rape cartoon
    Swathi Vadlamudi's cartoon depicts a conversation between Hindu god Ram and his wife, Sita, to criticise right-wing support for the accused. In the cartoon, Sita tells Ram she is "glad" she was kidnapped by demon king Ravan and not her husband's followers. Ms Vadlamudi said the threats have only made her "stronger".
    The illustration has been shared by thousands on social media, but her use of the characters from the Hindu epic Ramayana in the cartoon has sparked controversy. Ms Vadlamudi told BBC Telugu's Prithvi Raj that drawing satirical cartoons was a hobby of hers. She said the illustration was meant to condemn two gruesome incidents of rape which made national headlines last week. In an interview with BBC Telugu, Ms Vadlamudi said both incidents "involved India's ruling BJP - either leaders who have committed a crime or supporters who have backed the offenders". She said that many of those who defended the accused or insisted on their innocence identified themselves as "bhakts" or "zealous devotees" of the god Ram. Given the brutality of these crimes, she said she couldn't help but wonder what would have happened to Sita if, in the epic, she had been kidnapped by these so-called "Ram bhakts".
    After the cartoon was published, she has received numerous threats online, with many calling for her arrest. Some of the threats also referred to the recent murder of an Indian journalist who was known for casting a critical eye on Hindu fundamentalism. "I can't sleep at night because of the threats on social media," she said, adding that her family was concerned over her safety. Indian police have registered a case against Ms Vadlamudi after a right-wing group insisted the cartoon hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus. Women's groups and the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) have condemned the complaint against her, calling it an "attack on the press". In the last few years, journalists seen to be critical of Hindu nationalists have been berated on social media, while many women reporters have been threatened with rape and assault. The Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-governmental organisation, has ranked India as a country with a poor record in safeguarding journalists. (BBC 18 April, 2018)
  • Modi-Xi meeting brings optimism, may help India and China step out of Doklam shadow. (22 April, 2018)
  • China, India are new vanguards of globalisation, says Chinese foreign ministry.(The Hindu, 23 April, 2018)
12th April - 17th April
  • Muslim Child rape-murder case in India disrupted by Hindu hardliner groups
    When police in northern India went to court to lodge a charge sheet, they were confronted by dozens of lawyers determined to keep them out. The lawyers were Hindus. The charges, which police managed to lodge only after calling backup, implicated eight men in the rape and murder of a Muslim child. The killing of eight year-old Asifa Bano, details of which were released, and ongoing efforts by Hindu groups to disrupt the police investigation have sickened many Indians and deepened concerns about a growing sense of impunity among religious nationalists. Asifa, a member of a nomadic Muslim tribe, was grazing horses on 10 January in Kathua, a district of Jammu and Kashmir state, when a farmhand lured her away. She was confined in a small Hindu temple, drugged, raped for five days by a group of men and killed with a rock. Police allege the crime was intricately planned by Sanji Ram, the temple custodian, who they say agreed to pay local officers 500,000 rupees (£5,400) to create false evidence that would lead investigators away from him and his men. Ram had been a staunch opponent of the settlement of the Muslim tribe, known as the Bakarwals, in the area, and saw Bano as a soft target in a plot to frighten the group into leaving, police said. The arrest of Ram, his men and several police officers quickly took on religious overtones in Jammu where, as in other parts of India, rightwing Hindu groups have become increasingly active.
    (The Guardian; April 12, 2018)
  • PM Modi lands in Sweden(The Hindu; 17.4.2018)
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi, centre, is greeted by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven on his arrival at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, Sweden.
12th April - 17th April
  • Muslim Child rape-murder case in India disrupted by Hindu hardliner groups
    When police in northern India went to court to lodge a charge sheet, they were confronted by dozens of lawyers determined to keep them out. The lawyers were Hindus. The charges, which police managed to lodge only after calling backup, implicated eight men in the rape and murder of a Muslim child. The killing of eight year-old Asifa Bano, details of which were released, and ongoing efforts by Hindu groups to disrupt the police investigation have sickened many Indians and deepened concerns about a growing sense of impunity among religious nationalists. Asifa, a member of a nomadic Muslim tribe, was grazing horses on 10 January in Kathua, a district of Jammu and Kashmir state, when a farmhand lured her away. She was confined in a small Hindu temple, drugged, raped for five days by a group of men and killed with a rock. Police allege the crime was intricately planned by Sanji Ram, the temple custodian, who they say agreed to pay local officers 500,000 rupees (£5,400) to create false evidence that would lead investigators away from him and his men. Ram had been a staunch opponent of the settlement of the Muslim tribe, known as the Bakarwals, in the area, and saw Bano as a soft target in a plot to frighten the group into leaving, police said. The arrest of Ram, his men and several police officers quickly took on religious overtones in Jammu where, as in other parts of India, rightwing Hindu groups have become increasingly active.
    (The Guardian; April 12, 2018)
  • PM Modi lands in Sweden(The Hindu; 17.4.2018)
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi, centre, is greeted by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven on his arrival at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, Sweden.
4th April - 11th April
  • India has always been selective in human rights discussions, says Secretary General of Amnesty International. (The Hindu 11 April 2018)
  • Soldier, civilian killed in Kulgam encounter in Kashmir, gunbattle on (The Hindu).
Credit: Maryam Mastoor

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