Tag Archives: india

Why Britain should worry about Kashmir

Embed from Getty Images

Kashmir is one of those decades-long conflicts which rarely makes it into the mainstream UK media;  until recently. In June this year 20 Indian soldiers died in fighting with Chinese soldiers, on the border between Indian-administered and Chinese-administered Kashmir.

So what is the nature of the conflict and why has it become much more dangerous this year ?

Central to the recent upsurge in violence, lies China-India relations. To understand, we must start with ‘British India’.

After Indian independence following WW2, Kashmir was divided into Pakistan administered and Indian administered territory, with two smaller areas controlled by China. Both the Pakistani and Indian administered sides are majority Muslim, except (Buddhist) Ladakh, on the Chinese border.

India and Pakistan have more than once gone to war over territory, and so have India and China.

When Indian administered Kashmir was established, the spectre of future Kashmiri independence was raised, and significant autonomy provided for in Article 370 of the Indian Constitutions, later also by Article 35A.

Among these provisions were restricted involvement of the Indian state (foreign policy, defence etc). Land ownership and receipt of public services like education and health were restricted to Kashmiris. Article 370, leading potentially to independence, was a factor in the measure of acceptance by Kashmiris of Indian administration early on.

However, in the late 1980s an insurgency by Muslim Kashmiris against Indian administration started, with various forms of support, overt and covert, from Pakistan. This rise in violence against Indian rule was largely a result of gradual erosion of autonomy and democracy;  and fading prospects of independence.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 11 Comments

Book review – “Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism” by Dinyar Patel

This is a new biography of Dadabhai Naoroji by Dinyar Patel, who is a Professor at the University of South Carolina.

Before reading this, I knew little about Naoroji apart from him being the first Indian MP in the UK Parliament, but this biography enlightened me about his extraordinary life.

Born to a poor Parsi family, he became one of the early Indian nationalists – described by Gandhi as the ‘ father of the nation’, he was an pioneer of education for girls, a brilliant propagandist , Prime Minster of a princely state, Westminster MP, developed the ‘drain theory’ of how the British were impoverishing India – and on top of all of that a keen Freemason.

He was sent by his mother (his father died when he was four) to the English school of the ‘Bombay Native Education Society’, followed by Elphinstone College – the first institute for Higher Education in India . He became Professor of Maths there at the age of 27 and at 30 left India for London to establish the first Indian commercial firm in London. He then became Professor of Gujarati at University College and the leading Indian figure in the UK, lecturing and working to bring the attention of influential people to the poverty in India (India was seen in the UK as a rich country). One way he did this – much to the discomfort of India Office officials – was to use their own statistics (often showing they were demonstrably incorrect) and make speeches against them. He also developed the first calculation of Indian GDP per head.

Posted in Books | 9 Comments

Observations of an expat: Rooftop war

Embed from Getty Images

The Chinese and the Indians are at it again. To be more precise the Chinese are at it. They are once again pushing at the disputed 2,100 mile Sino-Indian border.

This week 20 Indian soldiers died and tensions rose as Chinese soldiers attacked with sticks and stones. Tensions appear to have subsided – for now.

But why is a border high in the sparely-populated Himalayas of any interest to the rest of the world? For a start we are talking about the two most populous countries in the world. They are both nuclear powers. They have the largest and second largest conventional armies in the world.

There is also the problem that the headwaters of the strategic Indus River run through the disputed Ladakh Region.  The Chinese have become notorious for damming fast-moving Himalayan rivers for their hydroelectric power at the expense of downriver farmers and industrialists. Several southeast Asian nations will testify to the fact.

Ladakh also borders Tibet and has historic and cultural ties with the Buddhist country which is a constant thorn in Beijing’s side. Control of Ladakh would enable the Chinese to tighten their control over Lhasa. Pakistan could also be expected to exploit the situation to renew fighting in disputed Kashmir – now under Indian martial law.

China and India are world economic engines. A Sino-Indian War – especially in the midst of an economically disastrous pandemic – would join Brexit and American race wars in tipping the world into an even deeper economic abyss.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

Daily View: 18 June 2020

I ought to start today’s piece with an invitation – a Returning Officer’s privilege, I guess…

But seriously, if you are a member of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats and you want to know more, drop me a line. My contact details are in the e-mail that you should have received…

Elsewhere, a military rock fight in the Himalayas has killed dozens of Chinese and Indian soldiers, leading to fears of war in territory not at all suited to fighting. Whilst the Indian Army has recent experience of high-altitude action – the Kashmir border with Pakistan sees the occasional clash – Ladakh remains contested …

Posted in Daily View | Also tagged , and | Leave a comment

Daily View 2×2: 22 May 2020

2 big stories

Speak softly, but carry a big moral stick, seems to be the lesson to be drawn from the Government’s u-turn on the question of the NHS surcharge for migrant health workers. All credit to Keir Starmer for putting the issue in such a way as to give backbench Conservatives cover to press Al and Priti to axe it. And yes, the NHS surcharge is just another way of extorting money out of people who already pay their taxes plus visa fees for the right to work in this country, doing jobs that mostly aren’t attractive to locals, …

Posted in Daily View | Also tagged , and | 2 Comments

How British liberals should advocate for the human rights of the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir

This past month, the Government of India has escalated military presence in Jammu and Kashmir, already perhaps the densest in the world, enforced curfews, a media blackout, blocked all communications and arrested Kashmiri politicians without issuing warrants under a draconian law. Reports of torture of civilians are now coming through the BBC.

This comes accompanying the Government of India’s attempt to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status per the conditions of it joining India after India became independent.

Civilian casualties over the past 12 months were already at a decade high, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as of April 2019 who found in his 2018 report the Indian state to be guilty of ‘excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries’, and to be guilty of denying access to justice to Kashmiris. The report recommended measures to eliminate the impunity with which security forces were able to act and improve accountability for human rights violations of the state, as well as for the self-determination of Kashmiris in both Pakistan and Indian administered Kashmir. Instead of adopting its recommendations, the Government of India’s recent actions will worsen the situation.

Being committed to fair, free and open societies, British liberals will be itching to intervene. However, British involvement in the bilateral (but asymmetric) issue between Jammu and Kashmir and India could reek of colonialism.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 5 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: Kashmiri powder keg

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi should consider the age-old truism “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Actually, to say that Kashmir isn’t broke would be putting an optimistic gloss on the Asian sub continent’s number one flashpoint. Since independence and partition in 1947, the mountainous region has been the cause of three wars and numerous border clashes which have threatened to escalate into full-blown conflicts.

Kashmir is a simmering political cauldron whose lid has largely been kept in place by two clauses in the Indian constitution which give the Muslim-dominated, but Indian-controlled region autonomy in all matters except foreign affairs, defence and communications.  Kashmir has its own flag and has passed laws favouring the property rights of the Muslim majority. Modi has revoked the constitutional clauses—articles 370 and 35A—and dropped big hints that he wants to develop Indian-administered Kashmir with imported Hindu settlers.

The result has been riots, demonstrations and the recall of the Pakistani ambassador to India. But that could only be the start. Both states are armed with about 150 nuclear weapons each and blinkered by a dangerous religious zeal. The conflict also has the potential to drag in China and possibly the US. China’s interest is its claim to a desolate and sparely-populated section of Kashmir.  The Chinese have also $46 billion investment in Pakistan to protect.

America’s position is more ambivalent. It needs Pakistani support the fight in Afghanistan, but is angry at what President Trump has called Pakistan’s  “lies and deceit” in combating the Taliban. At the same time, Trump and Modi enjoy close personal relations through a shared right-wing populist approach to political issues.

The problems started with partition. Kashmir has three religious populations: Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist. The overwhelming majority of the inhabitants are Muslim. But at the time of partition it was ruled by a Hindu Rajah. As the sub-continent edged inexorably towards partition, Irregular troops from Pakistan moved into Kashmir to claim the entire country. The Hindu Rajah, Hari Singh, appealed for help to the Congress Party in India who dispatched troops to the region.

The result was a stand-off; A UN-mediated ceasefire and the division of Kashmir which left Pakistan in control of the under-developed provinces of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir which are 100 percent Muslim and India in control of the more prosperous Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir  provinces which are 66 percent Muslim with the balance made of up Hindus and Buddhists.

The UN ceasefire agreement included a clause for a referendum over the decision of who governs the whole of Kashmir. The Indians failed tocomply with this part of the agreement as their part of Kashmir was 66 percenty Muslm.  Instead they came up with the compromise of autonomy in the form of constitutional clauses 370 and 35A. The Muslims in Indian-administered  Kashmir were generally satisfied  with this. They were not as zealous as their co-religionists in Pakistan and were happy to remain part of India as long as they were allowed control of domestic affairs.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 7 Comments

LibLink: Jo Swinson: 100 years after the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, will the UK Government do the right thing and apologise?

Yesterday marked 100 years since the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar, India.

A British General ordered his troops to open fire on crowds gathered in a park to celebrate a Spring harvest festival and at the very least estimates, hundreds of people were killed.

In the Independent this week, Lib Dem Deputy Leader Jo Swinson called on the UK Government to apologise for this atrocity:

This centenary year falls at a time when the term ‘Global Britain’ is increasingly being touted by the Conservative Government as they point to the Commonwealth in the wake of the Brexit shambles. But what weight does that term carry if Britain refuses to comprehensively repudiate and recognise its responsibility for such atrocities? Refusal to help heal the wound left by the Amritsar Massacre by not issuing an apology only serves to demonstrate a pig-headed stubbornness that harks of an inward facing island, not a progressive, outward-looking country.

The massacre is a shameful stain on the history of British foreign policy. It is a wrong that continues to mark our foreign policy for as long as the Conservative Government refuse to apologise. Acknowledging what happened, the gross abuse of human rights and the rule of law, and issuing a formal apology is long overdue.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , , and | 21 Comments

Catching up with Danny Alexander

Danny Alexander was probably best described as the marmite minister of Lib Dem coalition politics.

As Chief Secretary to the Treasury, he completed the “Quad”, the 4 ministers who decided the course of the coalition government. He, Nick Clegg, David Cameron and George Osborne fought out the major battles of those years.

It’s no secret that he and Osborne got on very well. After the Coalition, Danny ended up as Vice President of the Asian Infrastructure  Investment Bank, based in Beijing.

A BBC Scotland programme, Scots in China, caught up with Danny and his family recently. You see him at his work, talking about how he spends a lot of time focusing towards India. A sure sign of where the balance of power now lies in the world. We also see him trying to learn Chinese.

Neil Oliver caught up with his family, including their new dog, Rocky. Their older daughter has some really compelling insights to offer about life in city of 22 million people. Her liberal heritage is clear.

Obviously, in China, Danny is much closer to the natural habitat of the panda. Some of you might remember the 2011 Christmas song “Danny Alexander, feed him to the pandas.” I restrained myself from sharing this on any form of social media until I came across him laughing his head off at it at the Party’s Inverness Conference in 2012. And having mentioned it, it would be so rude of me not to let you see it.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 16 Comments

Welcome to my day: 10 September 2018 – in the absence of a plan…

Time to start another week, as the Party’s Autumn Conference beckons. Of course, much of the talk will be about the proposed “Momentum for Moderates”. In truth, the Party needs to build a broader coalition of support in order to gain power, and I can’t say that I’m terribly fussed about the terminology, as long as we remain a liberal force in British politics. And no, that doesn’t mean centrist, unless you can anchor centrism somewhere on the political spectrum. But I don’t doubt that there will be numerous contributions over the coming days.

The knives are out for Boris Johnson, …

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 2 Comments

India’s demonetisation: a monumental cock-up

Imagine if Theresa came on live TV at three o’clock this afternoon to say that, from seven o’clock this evening, all five and ten pound notes will be banned and cease to have any value as free currency.

There would be mayhem.

Now imagine if such an action was taken in a country with a population twenty times that of the UK, with an economy that is almost entirely cash-based – with virtually no card or internet transactions.

Well that is what happened in India in 2016. I was there just a few days after the announcement. I wrote a “Postcard from India” for LDV, which said:

…we arrived just a couple days after a major monetary change by the government. To wrong-foot terrorists and criminals, there has been a monumentally huge exercise called “demonetisation”, going on across this, the second most populous nation in the world. All the old 500 and 1000 rupee notes have been withdrawn from circulation at two hours’ notice.

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments

Postcard from India – monumental bank note upheaval

cow-mini-market in Goa by Paul Walter
Paul Walter is now back at home. As is often the case, this postcard arrived after the sender returned to Blighty!

We’ve had an enrapturing holiday in Goa, India. The welcome from the Goan people was wonderful. The beauty of the place was breathtaking.

By coincidence, we arrived just a couple days after a major monetary change by the government. To wrong-foot terrorists and criminals, there has been a monumentally huge exercise called “demonetisation”, going on across this, the second most populous nation in the world. All the old 500 and 1000 rupee notes have been withdrawn from circulation at two hours’ notice.

In the Times of India, Santosh Desai wrote: “86% of the currency in circulation becomes illegal virtually overnight”. That relates to an estimated $210 billion worth of money notes. $210 billion! That is a mind-boggling figure.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | 1 Comment

Theresa May went to India, and all I got was a lousy T-shirt…

I am one of those people who have often wondered why British governments pay relatively little attention to India. After all, it’s a big country, with an emerging middle class who want to travel, buy luxury goods and send their children to good universities overseas. Why wouldn’t we want to build stronger links with a Commonwealth country that is likely to be one of the world’s largest economies before too long? And yet, the attention of our politicians and diplomats often seems biased towards China.

Frankly though, after Theresa May’s trip to New Delhi and Bengaluru, I almost wish that she …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 9 Comments

Time to start building for Britain

I am currently travelling for a year and am currently visiting India. This vibrant and growing economy has lessons for the UK. Everywhere you go there is building going on. New houses, new factories, new shopping complexes. In addition there is an ongoing repair programme for roads, public buildings, ancient monuments, temples. Sure, India still has slums, some schemes take an age to complete, but the thrust of the country is building for the future.

The government – at national, state and local level – is funding a lot of this work, in conjunction with the private sector and heritage and other charities and voluntary groups. What is clear is that government in all its forms has no problem with taxing its citizens and spending a chunk of the money on improving infrastructure, growing the economy, providing jobs and encouraging tourism. Compare that with Brexit UK. Governments of all hues have spent decades convincing us that tax is wicked and must under no circumstances be increased – especially for the rich – and that cuts in public services are vital for the health of the economy. As a result the building trade is on its knees, there is a chronic shortage of houses, public services are being trashed, the NHS is in crisis and vital infrastructure repairs and improvements are being put off into the distant future.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 14 Comments

Flood protection or overseas aid? A false choice

Help UK
Over the festive period, I saw the image on the right on a social media site, stating, against a backdrop of flooded housing:

It’s time to STOP sending money abroad and help people in the UK now. LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE if you agree?

A comment under the image mentioned:

…the 250 million we are giving to India to fund their Space Programme.

Oh dear. Where to start? Call me an old pedant, but I’m naturally suspicious of any entreaty which feels the need to include block capitals. But that’s just one of my little foibles.

My mind boggled at the idea that we are giving “250 million” to India to fund their Space Programme. It took just a quick Google to see where that came from. Our old friend the Daily Mail had a remarkably thoroughly, if one-sidedly, researched article on 15th February 2015 which was headlined as follows:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

Lynne Featherstone writes on violence against women in India and Burma

Since 2010 I’ve had the pleasure of serving as the UK’s ministerial champion for tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) overseas – a role that’s followed me from the Home Office to Department for International Development and back, which makes sense. It’s a clear sign that as well as our commitment to tackling violence against women and girls in the UK, this Coalition Government is committed to working internationally to end this global problem.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

A postcard from… Chennai

Here in the LDV office, we’ve received another postcard from Baroness Ros Scott. Typically, she’s arrived long before the postcard did…

The failure of the Lokpal Bill in Parliament is a good example of just how difficult Parliamentary business can be in India. The Lok Sabha is directly elected on a constituency basis, but with regional loyalties such a strong determinant of voting, thirty-four political parties are represented, as well as nine independents.

If you think that two party coalition is tough, consider for a moment the job of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose ruling Congress Party governs as part …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged and | 1 Comment

A postcard from… Mumbai

Baroness Ros Scott has been away visiting family for the past fortnight, and has let us have some thoughts on what she has found there…

As a politician, starting the day with newspapers and coffee is a habit that is hard to break. Indian newspapers are a joy, with their old fashioned use of English – “the altercation ended in fisticuffs”, “the ruffians were apprehended” and a diet of celebrity gossip and above all, politics. All Indian media give detailed blow-by-blow accounts of the machinations of politicians in the national and state governments and, although there’s a lot going on, …

Posted in Europe / International | Also tagged | 1 Comment

Opinion: the sordid world of electronic voting

When I was picked to stand as a candidate in the local elections, one of the most sobering realisations was the law and procedures in place to ensure the integrity of the ballot. The rules and regulations, safeguards and cross checks are strict and rightly so. A question remains on how compatible this safety is with electronic voting. The camps are very divided on this, but what is agreed is the principles of openness, accountability and challenge of the process we use to elect our representatives.

A few months ago, news came out that serious security problems had been found

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 16 Comments

The Independent View: Arms deals with India – why Lib Dems should say no

PM Cameron’s heavyweight government plus business trip to India went swimmingly, so we are to believe, despite that diplomatic faux pas about Pakistani support for terrorism and Indian discontent about proposed immigration quotas. One fortunate outcome for Mr Cameron was that both issues diverted attention from a highly contentious arms deal involving arms giant BAE.

Under the deal, 57 Hawk jets will be manufactured under licence in India with BAE’s Indian partner, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), with technical support from BAE. Roll-Royce also gets a slice of the deal as its jet engines will be used in production. The deal is …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Also tagged , and | 8 Comments

Daily View 2×2: 14 February 2010, featuring news from India and the easiest delivery round ever

It’s Sunday. It’s 9am on the day when in 1984 Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won gold at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. You want to see the easiest leaflet delivery in the world, don’t you? But first, the news and blogs.

2 Must-Read Blog Posts

What are other Liberal Democrat bloggers saying? Here’s are two posts that have caught the eye from the Liberal Democrat Blogs aggregator:

Spotted any other great posts in the last day from blogs that aren’t on the aggregator? Do post up a comment sharing them with us all.

2 Big Stories

You probably know the news from the UK. So here’s the news from India.
Blast breaks lull – Foreigners among bakery bomb victims

Posted in Daily View | Also tagged , and | Leave a comment

Daily View 2×2: 31 January 2009, presenting RISO: The Movie

It’s Sunday. It’s 9am. It’s time for RISO: The Movie, but first the news.

2 Must-Read Blog Posts

What are other Liberal Democrat bloggers saying? Here’s are two posts that have caught the eye from the Liberal Democrat Blogs aggregator:

Spotted any other great posts in the last day from blogs that aren’t on the aggregator? Do post up a comment sharing them with us all.

It’s nearly time for RISO: The Movie. Nearly, but not quite…

2 Big Stories

India keeps Copenhagen pledge on emission cuts

Posted in Daily View | Also tagged , , , and | 3 Comments

Furore over twitter transport joke doesn’t stop international diplomacy in 140 characters

Shashi Tharoor is probably not a name familiar even to readers of The Voice who follow online politics closely, but he’s one of the highest profile politicians on Twitter. The Deputy Foreign Minister of India, he has approaching half a million followers on Twitter.

He’s had some criticism for travelling in first class air travel and staying in five-star hotels, even though in both cases he says he pays for it himself.

Asked in September whether he’d consider travelling in standard (aka “cattle class”) in future, he deployed humour: “Absolutely, out of solidarity with all our holy cows.” The result? Complaints from …

Posted in Europe / International and Online politics | Also tagged and | 1 Comment

The LDV 2×2 Daily View (17/05/09)

Welcome to the first Sunday outing for The Voice’s new daily post series highlighting two big stories from the media and two “must read” blog posts from Liberal Democrats. As it’s a Sunday, there’s also a bonus extra supplement. If you spot anything for future posts, do let us know on [email protected]

2 Big Stories

Indian elections
The big election story of the week is India: massive democracy, increasingly influential in the world and located right next to some of the world’s trouble spots which most make their impact felt here in the UK.

The election results, which have been coming through on Saturday, are looking good for the Congress Party. Indian politics are sufficiently complex and different from the UK’s that for Liberal Democrats it isn’t a simple matter of cheering on one party in particular, but overall it looks like religious extremists are faring poorly. The BBC has an extensive write-up of news as it came in, including the person with a majority of over 350,000, the political analyst who commented that expert predictions turned out to be less accurate than astrologers, the Twittering candidate and links through to lots more detail.

Parliament and Labour in race to the bottom
It’s a tough call at the moment as to who is taking the worst battering: Parliament’s reputation or the Labour Party, who are plumbing new polling depths and now bumping along in the low 20s. There are stories aplenty in the Sunday papers, but the one I’d pick out is The Observer’s round-up as it contains perhaps the oddest comment from a Minister:

“This has been Gordon being too scrupulous: it’s not that he doesn’t get it, but he has felt you have to take parliament with you,”

Silly me, I thought he’d tried to bounce Parliament with his expenses reform proposals and had to pull key parts after it turned out hardly anyone supported them.

2 Must-Read Blog Posts

Is our electoral system partly to blame?
Mark Reckons asks the question and does some analysis, concluding that the safer an MP’s seat, the more likely they are to have abused the system – and of course our electoral system means that many MPs have safe seats.

Our political system is still getting some things right
Meanwhile, Caron’s Musings rightly highlights that there is more to our political system than MPs’ expenses and lists some of the good things that MPs have done in the last week.

Sunday Bonus

For a bit of Sunday enjoyment, here’s a great spoof advert from last year’s American elections:

Posted in Daily View | Also tagged and | Leave a comment
Advert



Recent Comments

    No recent comment found.