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The Canadian Parvasi - Issue 31


The International News Weekly EDIT 08 February 09, 2018 | Toronto The India's insular dilemma in Maldives w w w . canadianparv asi. c o m Publisher & CEO Associate Editor Editor (India) Online Graphic Designer Official Photographer Contact Editorial Sales Rajinder Saini Meenakshi Saini Gursheesh Kshitiz Dalal Naveen Bashir Nasir Trudeau's Amritsar visit, will Amarinder play host? With Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's scheduled visit to the Sikh holy city of Amritsar in Punjab just over a fortnight away, it is still not clear whether Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh will play host to the visiting dignitary or not. Trudeau is visiting India from February 17 to 23 at the invitation of his India counterpart, Narendra Modi, with stops at Agra, Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and New Delhi. Trudeau's Amritsar visit to the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines, carries a political message to a huge constituency back home in Canada with a big Punjabi, especially Sikh, population settled there. While Trudeau will be feted by the central and state governments in New Delhi and other places, there is uncertainty on whether Amarinder Singh will hold a meeting with Trudeau or play host during the Amritsar visit. "There is nothing so far," Amarinder's media adviser Raveen Thukral told IANS here when asked about the status of Amarinder receiving or hosting the Canadian Prime Minister in Amritsar. Well-placed sources in the Punjab government say that the Chief Minister will have to go by the protocol issued by the Centre since Trudeau will be on a state visit. Punjab has a strong Canadian connection with hundreds of thousands of immigrants settled there and thousands of students from Punjab going to Canada annually. Amarinder had publicly refused to meet Canada's first Sikh Defence Minister, Harjit Singh Sajjan, who was born in Punjab's Hoshiarpur district, when he visited the state last April. The Amarinder government had cold-shouldered Sajjan, the first Sikh to be the Defence Minister of a Western country, as he visited various places in Punjab. No minister or senior officer of the Punjab government either went to welcome Sajjan or even accompany him during the visit. Amarinder had accused Sajjan and other ministers of Punjabi origin in the Trudeau government of links to radical elements demanding a separate Sikh state of Khalistan. Amarinder made it clear that he "would not meet any Khalistani sympathisers". "Not only Sajjan, but other ministers and MPs, including Navdeep Bains, Amarjit Sohi, Sukh Dhaiwal, Darshan Kang, Raj Grewal, Harinder Malhi, Roby Sahota, Jagmeet Singh and Randeep Sari, are well known for their leanings towards the Khalistani movement," Amarinder had said last year. The reasons for Amarinder's annoyance with the Canadian government are apparent. In April 2016, he had shot off an angry letter to protest the Canadian government's denial of permission for his interactive meetings with Punjabis in the cities of Toronto and Vancouver. He was forced to cancel his political rallies following objections raised by Sikh hardliners with the Canadian government. Amarinder, who was not the Chief Minister at the time, had protested the Canadian government's "gag order" on him. The Canadian government had officially raised its objection to Amarinder's visit through the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). One hopes that Indian diplomats and national-security managers are doing some serious soul-searching about how and why events spun, so swiftly, out of control in neighbouring Maldives. Given India's self-assigned role of regional "net security provider", the Integrated Defence Staff, in New Delhi, must be reviewing their plans for launching what they term an out of area contingency (OOAC) operation, at short notice. Should our military be called upon to render assistance to the Republic of Maldives, this will certainly not be for the first time. Nearly three decades ago, in November 1988, a group of Maldivian dissidents, led by Abdullah Luthufi, and assisted by armed mercenaries of a Sri Lankan Tamil secessionist group, attempted to overthrow President Abdul Gayoom's government. Landing in a hijacked merchant ship, the mercenaries gained control of the capital, but failed to capture the President. Gayoom, who had earlier faced two abortive coups d'état, sent out an urgent appeal for help to the US, the UK and India. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi having taken an instant decision, the Indian armed forces had launched "Operation Cactus", within nine hours of receiving the Maldivian SOS. Paratroops were landed in Hulhule airport by IAF strategic airlifters and soon regained control of the capital Male. Indian warships and naval aircraft undertook a dramatic high-seas chase of the hijacked merchantman and captured the fleeing rebels and mercenaries. The British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, is reported to have commented: "Thank God for India; President Gayoom's government has been saved." Sixteen years later, the Maldives faced another dire emergency; this time, caused by nature's fury, and put out an urgent appeal for help. The Great Asian Tsunami hit the Maldives on December 26, 2004. An archipelago of 1,200 coral islands, spanning roughly 115 square miles, Maldives is Asia's smallest nation, both by area and population (less than half a million inhabitants). Most of Maldives is so low that the tsunami surge sent seawater sweeping over nearly the entire nation. Again, it was the Indian Navy which reached out to our stricken neighbours, in spite of the catastrophe on India's own eastern seaboard. Within hours, Indian warships arrived off Male and began to deliver relief by helicopter and boats. Climate change looms over us, and rising sea levels could lead to similar crises in the future, leading to mass migrations. India's expeditious response in 2004 was meant to carry reassurance to the Maldivians that they were not alone in their hour of need. The ongoing political turmoil in Maldives has placed India on the horns of a dilemma. Now, President Abdulla Yameen has not only coerced his country's Supreme Court into retracting its directive to release political prisoners but also placed the Chief Justice under arrest and declared a state of national emergency. It is possible that he may be within his rights to do all this, and the first round, therefore, goes to him. However, Mohammad Nasheed, the first democratically elected Maldivian President, currently in exile, termed the declaration of an emergency as being "tantamount to martial law... and illegal and unconstitutional". He has openly called for India's diplomatic and military intervention through "physical presence" and this could be seen by many as adequate justification or even an invitation for an attempted "regime change" in the island republic. But India needs to tread with extreme caution in this sensitive area because the developments, so far, in the Maldives are a domestic issue and remain within the ambit of the nation's "internal affairs". Both conventional wisdom and recent experience confirm that foreign-imposed regime changes, overt or covert, are doomed to failure. They not only fail to attain the objectives for which they are undertaken, i.e., improvement in bilateral relations, but invariably lead to domestic resentment and bitter opposition to the foreign-imposed leader. India needs to wait and watch how the Maldivian public and world opinion react to developments, before deciding its course of action. What also needs to be kept in mind is a Chinese statement on Wednesday indirectly cautioning India against intervening in the Maldives, saying any outside "interference" in the country's political crisis would "complicate" the situation. China also denied allegations that Maldivian President Abdullah Yameen had its backing and said Beijing follows the principles of non-interference in other countries' domestic affairs. "The current situation in the Maldives is its internal affair. It should be properly resolved through dialogue and consultation by relevant parties," said a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, adding a veiled warning; "The international community should play a constructive role based on the (principle of) respecting the sovereignty of the Maldives instead of taking actions that may complicate the current situation." India, apparently, started to lose the plot in the Maldives in 2012, when the Male airport modernisation contract with the Indian infrastructure giant GMR was aborted by the Maldivian government, which then handed over the project to a Chinese company. Although the subsequent arbitration tribunal held that the agreement was wrongfully repudiated by Maldives, India lost both "face" and influence in the island nation. The resignation of President Nasheed, under duress, the same year, caught India napping and coincided with the substantive rise of Chinese leverage in Maldives. This must be considered yet another failure of Indian diplomacy in our neighbourhood. As the strategic competition between India and China in the Indian Ocean gathers pace, we must be prepared to face such situations more frequently. Instead of complaining about China's farsighted maritime enterprises like the Belt & Road Initiative or military enclaves like Gwadar and Djibouti, we need to craft a creative and dynamic strategy to counter them. After Indian Navy's sterling performance in the 2004 tsunami relief effort, the island neighbourhood has high expectations of maritime assistance -- in terms of hardware, training and security. Denied a corpus, by the Ministry of External Affairs as well as Ministry of Defence, for extending quick assistance to neighbours, the navy has been denuding its own inventory by transferring patrol boats, ships, aircraft and helicopters to boost the security of friendly neighbours and keep them out of the Chinese maw. Such a situation needs to be speedily remedied. As a post-script, a few statistics related to "time and space" may provoke some thought amongst both Maldivian and Indian decision-makers; not just in the immediate context, but also from a long-term "realpolitik" viewpoint. From Male, the nearest Chinese port, Haikou (Hainan), is 2,700 miles as the crow flies and 3,400 miles by sea. An aircraft would take 7-8 hours to cover this distance, overflying three countries, and a ship would take 8-10 days to reach Male. Compare this to the flying time of just over an hour, and sailing time of a little over 24 hours to cover the 500 miles between Male and the nearest Indian port/ airport of Kochi. Parvasi weekly & people associated with it are not responsible for any claims made by the advertisement & do not endorse any product or service advertised in Canadian Parvasi. Please consult your lawyer before buying/hiring/contracting through the advertisement Publised in this newspaper. 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The International News Weekly INTERVIEW/OPED February 09, 2018 | Toronto 09 BJP planning 'major assault' on Constitution: Tharoor Indo-Asian News Service New Delhi: The BJP government is looking to make a "major assault" on the Constitution if the ruling party gets a majority in both the Houses of Parliament, says Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who feels the attack on various constitutional provisions, like Article 370 on Kashmir and secularism, will be part of attempts to create a "Hindu rashtra" (nation). Tharoor, a second-time Lok Sabha member from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, also feels that the Congress and like-minded secular parties should come together on a common platform to resist the Hindutva onslaught in the next Lok Sabha elections. Even the Left parties could come on that platform post elections if necessary, according to him. "I think a lot of their real agenda is waiting for the time when they have both Houses under their control. And once they do, I think you can certainly look to a major assault on the Constitution. Then the question is, will the Supreme Court stand by the basic structure doctrine and interpret it to include these principles of equality, freedom of religion, freedom of worship, nondiscrimination, etc., which would make it impossible to reduce the Constitution to the document of a religiously-derived majoritarianism," Tharoor told IANS in an interview. He recalled that during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee a constitution review committee was formed under former Supreme Court judge M.N. Venkatachaliah, but it didn't work on the idea of a Hindu rashtra. But, Tharoor said, it seems a committee under K.N. Govindacharya, an ideologue of the Rashtriya Swayamseval Sangh (RSS), is working for the present dispensation, according to media reports and interviews, which have never been challenged. Govindacharya has already talked with some candour to journalists about what he is trying to do. "He says socialism, secularism, all that will have to go. If they are embarking on such a project, I think they are quite serious about it. The only thing is that they probably felt this would be too much of a risk to be taken on in the first term, unless they also have a majority in the Rajya Sabha." Tharoor said the BJP doesn't have a two-thirds majority now because almost no other party is going to go along with its approach. "So, I think they were really hoping, and perhaps unrealistically hoping, to consolidate two-thirds majority in both Houses and then go for the kill. Rather than fighting the battle prematurely, when they could lose." Meanwhile, he said, the BJP did some "test-drives" like the triple talaq bill as one way of trying to get an issue that they believe will both be dogwhistle at their hardcore base and at the same time test their strength on an issue of religious significance. "But once they get twothirds in both Houses, I do believe the Constitution, including Article 370 on Kashmir... on the Hindu rashtra concept, on use of words socialism, secularism, all of these would be up for grabs. There is little doubt about it." He said he was surprised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi prescribing that Jana Sangh leader Deen Dayal Upadhyaya's ideology is the one those in the ruling party should follow, as it was the same Upadhyaya who said the Constitution should be torn up because it is full of imported ideas. At the same time, the Prime Minister said the Constitution is the holy book for him, Tharoor said. Asked if Modi should not be holding this view because he is occupying high office, the Congress leader said: "That will be terrific, I think, if the Prime Minister were to say 'I admire many things about Upadhyaya, but I don't agree with him on the Constitution'." In the context of his latest book "Why I am a Hindu" (Aleph), Tharoor was asked whether he would like his party to counter the BJP on the lines of what he had written about Hinduism and Hindutva. He replied he would not like to overemphasise on this issue because of the inherent strength of Hinduism. "In other words, while we were behaving like we were good people who worshipped in private but thought it unseemly to demonstrate our faith in public, they (the BJP) were the ones ostentatiously being religious and saying to their voters 'see, we are Hindus like you and you should vote for us and those are godless secularists'. "So, by Rahul Gandhi going to temples in Gujarat and so on, what is he saying: He is saying they go to temples, we also go to temples. So, let's neutralise our issues. Now let's talk about vikaas, talk about development, let's talk about whether your life has become better in five years of the BJP ruling you." Tharoor said ultimately the key political arguments ought to be that these people made all sorts of promises five years ago that they have not fulfilled. North America’s Largest Punjabi Culture & Sikhism Store Wedding Decor Available for Rentals Tel: 905-791-1515 / 905-799-9400 30 Malenie Drive, Unit 10, Brampton, ON L6T 4L4

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