India 2020 – February 2021

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Worldometer India
Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi’s India

7 February
India’s vaccine diplomacy is a credit to the nation-showcasing India’s scientists, production facilities, ethos and foreign policy reach. So might it make sense to dovetail part of it into India’s growing strategic partnerships to reinforce and expand that reach even further?
[T]he countries of Oceania can’t risk letting in Covid. Most have limited medical facilities and some have very high rates of diabetes, heart disease and other non-communicable diseases that put the populations at even higher risk if Covid infiltrates the nation.
Most countries in the region are depending on the WHO-led COVAX system to get them vaccines eventually. China is providing 10 million of its vaccines to the system. The Economist Intelligence Unit just put out an estimate that at current COVAX rates some of the countries of Oceania many not be fully vaccinated until past 2023.
… A Quad exercise to deliver Indian vaccines to the countries that need it in Oceania would show that the Quad is a unique force for good in the region, while giving the four countries a chance to work together over an extended period, identifying areas to shore up, and building interoperability and trust. (See Is the ‘Quad’ Asia’s new Nato?)

8 January
Polarization and its corrosive implications: US happenings have lessons for India
Polarization over the prevailing socio-political orientation since Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office has been marked and a bitter sectarian fissure has emerged in India, writes Cmde C Uday Bhaskar (retd) for South Asia Monitor


20 October
C Uday Bhaskar: Is the ‘Quad’ Asia’s new Nato?
…other developments point to a discordant Indo-Pacific, with a grouping that includes Australia, India, Japan and the US – known as the “Quad” – coming to the fore. The countries’ foreign ministers met in Tokyo a fortnight ago. The event will have a bearing on the emerging post-Covid-19 Asian and world orders.
At a time when virtual meetings have become the norm, the ministers opted to meet in person. … The meeting was also remarkable because, despite the perception that the Quad has a single-point anti-China agenda, the ways in which the different participants chose to characterise Beijing varied widely. The US was explicit in referring to the challenge it faces from a rising China. But the other three members made elliptical references to regional affairs: the need to adhere to rules and norms at sea, the urgency for co-operation in re-wiring supply chains and the need to deal with the pandemic and its consequences and cyber security.

2 October
India @70 has moved very far away from Bapu@150
By C Uday Bhaskar
(South Asia Monitor) In a tragic departure from the values and principles dear to Mahatma Gandhi (venerated as Bapu or Father), namely the safety and welfare of the most downtrodden and vulnerable in society, the closure to the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of the Father of the Nation (October 2) is soaked in the blood of India’s savagely violated and brutalised women. Collectively, India which prides itself on being the world’s largest democracy stands diminished but alas, remains largely indifferent.
Gandhi’s abiding concern and visible compassion for the less privileged in India’s deeply ingrained caste hierarchy was manifest in his coining the term ‘Harijan’ – or the children of God. He urged the nascent Indian state, revelling in its freedom from the colonial yoke to ensure that the last tear of the less privileged citizen was wiped with compassion. However, even as India has marked 70 years of the Republic in January, the closure of the 150th birth anniversary of Bapu reveals the degree to which the nation has moved away from the Gandhian spirit and ethos.
This is reflected in the just-released annual National Crime Record Bureau’s Crime in India 2019 report which reveals that the section Crime against Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) saw an increase of over 7% and 26% respectively in the year 2019 as compared to 2018. Predictably UP recorded the highest absolute numbers in both categories.

23 August
India coronavirus cases cross three million mark as economy opens up
(Globe & Mail) India on Sunday issued guidelines to open up its media production industry with norms for social distancing, crowd management and sanitization.
“The general principles behind the SOP will help create a safe working environment for cast and crew in the industry,” Prakash Javadekar, India’s Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting said in a tweet.
Top producers, distributors and actors from Bollywood, the movie industry in India’s financial capital of Mumbai, had said in May it would take at least two years for them to recover financially from the pandemic, putting at risk tens of thousands of jobs.

4 August
Bloomberg: India’s political leaders like to boast about the country’s low fatality rate from the coronavirus. Experts aren’t so sure.
Data in the country of 1.3 billion people was already questionable before the virus struck. The vast majority of deaths take place at home and, as Muneeza Naqvi and Ragini Saxena explain, experts believe only 20%-30% are properly certified.

19 July
As India skyrockets past 1 million coronavirus cases, a mystery surrounds death toll
Experts say government data on deaths is certain to be incomplete in a country where a large majority of people die in rural areas and without any medical attention, making them less likely to be tested or diagnosed. Already there are numerous signs that coronavirus deaths are being missed or misreported. Testing rates per capita in India remain low.
6 July
With nearly 700,000 coronavirus cases, India is third worst-hit country

28 June
P V Narasimha Rao: A resolute reformer that India chose to forget
Rao qualifies in more ways than one to be conferred with the nation’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, which has become a political reward in recent years, writes C Uday Bhaskar for South Asia Monitor
The year-long birth centenary celebrations of former Indian Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao (PVNR) was formally inaugurated in Hyderabad on Sunday (June 28). It marks the 99th birthday of India’s most resolute reformer – the man who adroitly led the country towards cautious but radical economic liberalization. It would not be an exaggeration to note that but for the stoic resolve of PVNR – ably complemented by his handpicked Finance Minister Manmohan Singh – India would have been in the economic doldrums for decades and even the little prosperity that has trickled down the socio-economic pyramid would have remained elusive.
There have been many criticisms levelled against Rao including his abject failure as the Home Minister when the 1984 anti-Sikh killings took place in Delhi and the 1992 Babri Masjid destruction when he was the Prime Minister. But I have long maintained that his major contribution to steadying the ship of state in a moment of great national peril in 1991 remains monumental and, alas, inadequately acknowledged. The scale of his achievement is even more praiseworthy against the backdrop of the multiple challenges he was facing, including the fact that he was heading a minority government and was often hobbled by members from both sides of the aisle in parliament.
Compounding his constraints, Rao, who was a compromise choice of the Congress party as the prime minister when he was sworn in on June 21, 1991 after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination on May 21, 1991, was treated in a step-motherly manner by the factions within the Congress party more loyal to the Rajiv Gandhi legacy and the ‘first family’. This was an internal challenge that was complex and bitter – till the end of his life. Thus it was sad that when Rao died on December 23, 2004 he was denied a funeral in the capital by the ‘powers that be’ at the time and his body was taken to Hyderabad the next day in a manner that can only be described as graceless.
There have been no significant events post Rao’s demise to recall and pay appropriate tribute to India’s most remarkable prime minister but for PM Manmohan Singh’s remarks in March 2007 when he noted: “As I saw him from close quarters, he (Rao) was truly a ‘sanyasi’ (reunciate) in politics. He was a modernizer who was steeped in our tradition and ethos. He was a rare scholar, statesman who gave a new sense of direction not only to our economic but also foreign policies.”

1 June
In India, the pandemic is cover for Modi’s war on journalists
(WaPo) Nearly three months into its coronavirus lockdown, India is continuing its transformation into one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a journalist.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t quite manage to pass legislation completely banning independent coverage at the outset of the pandemic, the journalistic climate has been steadily deteriorating regardless.
Small media outlets are suffering financially. Restrictions on movement prevent reporters from getting to the story. And any journalists who dare to question the Modi government’s official line face threats and intimidation. All this is eroding what was once one of the world’s most vibrant media landscapes.
While online attacks against prominent and critical voices with large social media followings have received growing international attention, other journalists working in remote corners of the country, who routinely face threats on their lives, get far less publicity.

30 May
Modi @ 6: Popular and committed but is there a need to review statecraft?
Modi may not be getting the kind of feedback and reality check that is vital for effective and empathetic governance and this is where, apart from Chanakya, the Canute principle acquires relevance, writes C Uday Bhaskar for South Asia Monitor
…one of the more negative aspects of the Modi tenure has been the near-total absence of nurturing and encouraging constructive criticism on major national policy matters. The opposition in parliament has become feeble and fragmented and the COVID related lockdown has resulted in little or no rigorous legislative deliberation, the hallmark of a vibrant democracy. Dissent where it is visible is deemed to be “anti-national”.
To further accentuate this trend, Modi has not met with the Indian media in a free and empathetic manner. It merits notice that a distinctive feature of the Modi style of governance is one of imperiousness wherein the PM is inaccessible. Press conferences are unheard of and the media has been kept at a distance and what passes for the occasional ‘interview’ is that of the simpering, unctuous kind that makes the discerning citizen cringe.
Modi’s most tectonic policy decision in his first term was demonetization announced suddenly in November 2016 and it had a tsunami-like effect on the well-being of the citizen and the economy. This move was hailed by the faithful as a historic and bold decision that would re-wire India’s fiscal system but there has been no objective assessment about November 2016 and ‘yogakshema’. Much the same may be said about the manner in which Modi 2.0 has dealt with the COVID pandemic – but this challenge is still unfolding.
PM Modi will now embark upon his seventh year in office and his commitment and sincerity are palpable. In his May 30 open letter he notes that there are many challenges “that our country faces” and “there could be deficiencies in me ” but reiterates that together India will prevail. Dwelling on “action and duty” Modi signs off as “Pradhan Sevak”, or prime servitor.
Internalizing the tenet of Chanakya’s ‘yogakshema’ and using the Canute yardstick of abjuring unwarranted personal praise would perhaps enable Modi to realize the citizen- related goals of May 2014.

29 May
Cleo Paskal: COVID-19 in India
India is slowly emerging, after suffering severe economic damage, from its anti-virus lockdown. The country’s enormous economic and strategic potential as a U.S. partner and counterweight to China now faces a range of challenges.
(Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD)) Even if its caseload grows, India has little choice but to ease restrictions. Manufacturing is paralyzed, demand has collapsed, and India lost over 114 million jobs in April alone. India’s biggest car manufacturers – Maruti, Mahindra, and Hyundai – recorded zero domestic sales in April. India’s economy is expected to contract by 5 percent in 2020, its worst recession since independence in 1947.
Resurrecting the economy will be difficult. Millions of migrant laborers are now hunkering down in their home villages and will be reluctant to leave until the economy recovers enough to guarantee them daily wages. This has knocked the bottom out of India’s economy.
In mid-May, the government announced a stimulus package equivalent to roughly 10 percent of GDP. Combined with land and labor reforms, India hopes this will help build a self-reliant economy and eventually position India as an alternative to China in global supply chains.
A strong U.S.-India partnership is essential for a prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific. India’s value as a like-minded economic and strategic partner has become even more apparent with China’s coronavirus-related belligerence. China politicized medical supply chains, tried to use economic coercion to thwart scientific research, and exploited the COVID-19 crisis to push its strategic agenda from the South China Sea to Hong Kong to the Chinese-Indian border.
However, several issues hinder India’s ability to become an economic and strategic counterweight to China. India desperately needs economic reform, including a simplified tax code and a more effective court system. More importantly, India must root out systemic corruption, which is stifling growth and creating strategic vulnerabilities. Additionally, the economic distress from COVID-19 has exposed India’s vulnerability to economic predation, whether in the form of “vulture cartels” or focused Chinese investment in sensitive areas such as 5G.

21 May
Modi the fanatic is using the coronavirus crisis to destroy India’s heritage
A disastrous redevelopment of Lutyens’ parliament buildings in Delhi is being rushed through to cement the PM’s legacy
Anish Kapoor
(The Guardian) Modi’s agenda is the dismantling of the Nehru legacy of a secular India. Nehru commissioned Corbusier in 1950 to build Chandigarh, the new capital of the states of Punjab and Haryana. It was seen as a gesture both of India’s modernity and as symbolically healing the wounds of colonialism and the horrors of the partition of India and Pakistan. Today Modi uses every opportunity to discredit Nehru. Modi fully understands that a new parliament designed by an Indian architect will further his Hindu India agenda and take a further step away from Nehru’s secular India.
Perhaps there is genuine need for a modern parliament building to represent India’s 1.4 billion people but this attempt to push forward without due process is shameful and then to give the job to Mr Patel is to underestimate and under value the architects working in India today. Delhi is a city in crisis – it is perhaps the most polluted city in the world. This rethinking of the centre of Indian power could and should be an opportunity to take on the power of architectural imagination and rethinking of Delhi as the capital of modern India.

2-3 May
Sage counsel by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat not to demonize one community
At a time when India is battling COVID-19, yet another malignant ‘communal’ virus has been spreading through, which prompted PM Modi, and even RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to apply the required corrective, writes Commodore (retd) C Uday Bhaskar. Bhagwat cautioned that demonizing one community for the transgressions of a few was not desirable at a time when the larger national challenge is the containment of the COVID virus from spreading.
India has just announced a 14-day ‘graded’ extension to the COVID-19 related national lockdown that will now extend till mid May and a macro review will be undertaken to assess the degree to which the insidious virus has been quarantined and contained. Experts are hoping that with effective citizen compliance, the appropriate degree of herd immunity would have developed progressively for the lockdown restrictions to be further relaxed and some degree of normalcy restored across the country.
Concurrently, another malignant virus has been spreading through the body politic of India and that is communal discord with a specific anti-Muslim focus. If the spread of this societal virus is not objectively recognized and quarantined effectively – there is a high probability that in the long term, this virus will be the more debilitating for India’s comprehensive security and the well-being of its 1.3 billion citizens.
Why Herd Immunity Won’t Save India From COVID-19
Rather than relying on mass infection to build resistance to the coronavirus, the country needs a long-term, data-driven, decentralized approach.
(Foreign Policy) India reported its first case of COVID-19 on Jan. 30. As of May 1, while the country moves through its fifth week of an unprecedented national lockdown, a total of 25,148 cases have been confirmed with 1,152 deaths. While these figures may seem relatively low compared with hot spots in Europe and North America, they may not be capturing the real picture. So far, India has tested only 902,654 samples, which equates to around 694 tests per million people—one of the lowest rates in the world; furthermore, testing figures vary by state.
India Muslims targeted in attacks over coronavirus
Muslims in India have been attacked after a religious gathering in the capital allegedly led to a rise in coronavirus cases, with the minority being blamed for the spread of the disease.
by Elizabeth Puranam
(Al Jazeera) India has rejected a report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which named it “a country of particular concern”. Muslims have been attacked after a religious gathering in the capital allegedly led to a rise in coronavirus cases, with the minority being blamed for the spread of the disease.

24 April
Bloomberg: Wave of anger | The newspaper advertisement by a cancer hospital in India’s most populous state didn’t mince words: any Muslim patients seeking treatment must prove they didn’t have Covid-19. The privately owned hospital apologized a day later but as Muneeza Naqvi and Upmanyu Trivedi report, the message shows the hostility against the Muslim minority as virus infections surge. Hashtags like “corona jihad” have been trending on social media, prompting a backlash from Gulf states where millions of Indians work.

18 April
India’s COVID-19 lockdown is among the strictest in the world but has yet to slow the spread
Chitrangada Choudhury
(CBC) Shortly after extending what was already one of the strictest COVID-19 lockdowns by almost another three weeks, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured those watching his televised address this week that “the country is in a very well-managed position.”
The situation on the ground, however, suggests otherwise: While proportional to its population of 1.38 billion, India’s COVID-19 caseload is small, it’s been rising despite the lockdown and has surpassed 16,000, with 2,154 new cases reported Saturday, the highest increase in a single day.
There had already been reports of hunger and distress among the poor, who have been hit hardest by the lockdown, and news that the 21-day countrywide shutdown would be extended by another 19 days to May 3 sparked further chaos.

17 April
In Modi’s India, virus fallout inflames divisions between Muslims and Hindus
(Reuters) The coronavirus has also exacerbated festering divisions between the country’s Hindus and its sizable Muslim minority, many of whom have seen their livelihoods threatened by the establishment of quarantine zones in densely-packed areas like Dharavi. There have been at least 71 confirmed cases in Dharavi.
There is no official breakdown of coronavirus cases by religion. But many Muslims feel unfairly blamed for spreading the disease after a cluster emerged at a gathering of Muslim missionaries in New Delhi last month. Sensational news coverage about the event, fanned by some Hindu nationalist politicians, helped spur the trending topic “Coronajihad” on social media.
The missionary gathering has been linked to at least 1,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, and more than 25,500 people connected to it have been quarantined.
Muslim leaders say a belief that the coronavirus is not real has spread in their communities, but that they have been working through mosques to change those perceptions.

6 April
India could be staring at a human security catastrophe
India has about 450 million workers in the informal sector and about a third of them are in the migrant cluster. Even if it is estimated that half of this workforce is grappling with hunger, the numbers are mind-boggling, writes C Uday Bhaskar for South Asia Monitor
Reviewing the massive disruption that the 21-day COVID-19 national clampdown has had on India’s economy and as to when this may be lifted, a senior government official provided a useful ready-reckoner in relation to national GDP. It was indicated that a back of the envelope calculation showed India’s daily GDP to be roughly $8 billion (Rs. 60,000 crores) and that “a 30-day lockdown can approximately lead to a loss of little over $250 billion. If the lockdown is eased and lifted soon, the economy can recover some lost ground in financial year 2020-21. A long lockdown will push things beyond recovery.” For the record, the financial year began on April 1.
This is a major national macroeconomic concern and has many domain experts working on policy options for the political leadership to review and make the appropriate choice. However, it is not evident that a similar exercise has been conducted or is in the pipeline when it comes to the loss of human lives due to the COVID-19 clampdown.
There is no single point of reference or governmental responsibility when it comes to the vast demography of India that lives in dire poverty and this is the spectrum that has been most affected by the 21-day clampdown. However, two weeks after the clampdown that began on March 25, the images and reports that have surfaced are heart-rending and testify to the deteriorating human security index of those displaced or rendered jobless by the clampdown.

28 March
1.3 billion people. A 21-day lockdown. Can India curb the coronavirus?
(Science) Fewer than 600 cases had been confirmed at the time of Modi’s announcement, although that number is widely believed to be an undercount. But without control measures, 300 million to 500 million Indians could be infected by the end of July and 30 million to 50 million could have severe disease, according to one model. And the world’s second most populous country has large numbers of poor living in crowded, unsanitary conditions and a weak public health infrastructure, with just 0.7 hospital beds per 1000 persons, compared with Italy’s 3.4 and the United States’s 2.9; India also has fewer than 50,000 ventilators.
Modi’s lockdown had social and economic impacts even sharper than lockdowns in richer countries. Millions of Indians who depend on each day’s wages for their daily meal were thrown out of work. Migrant workers packed buses and trains home, potentially taking the virus into rural areas. And as transport options dried up, many families in New Delhi and other major cities simply began to walk to their distant villages, with little access to food. “We risk converting a health crisis into a socioeconomic crisis,” says Ravi Duggal, a public health activist.
India coronavirus cases rise amid fears true figure much higher
Low levels of testing and poor access to healthcare means many people not reporting
COVID-19: Death toll in India rises to 38 with 3 more fatalities
Number of coronavirus cases in country climbs to 1,637

The pain of the migrant worker: State must not be selective in concern for Indian citizen
C. Uday Bhaskar
Saturday (March 28) marked the fourth day since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day national lockdown that has had huge disruptive consequences across the country and differently affected the lives of more than a billion people
While containing the potential for a galloping public health challenge was no doubt the highest priority when Modi took his decision (March 24), the fact that the country was totally unprepared is now becoming tragically visible in different clusters across India. Predictably the more privileged citizen has been cushioned to a large extent and the state has taken a number of enabling measures to ensure that the basic essentials are available – albeit in a restricted manner. The challenge for this demography is not about life and hunger but discomfort due to being confined to one’s home and uneven wi-fi access.
The divide and pain is most stark when it comes to the migrant worker, the homeless citizen and those who do not have the safety of home and immediate family or a circle of friends or community that can be a modest safety net in times of such a crisis. Images of migrant workers with bewildered children on their shoulders, walking back to their villages in UP and Rajasthan from the national capital Delhi is heart-rending.
The callousness of the state has also been on display and local police have been captured on video – either being ‘lathi-happy’ or forcing those fleeing Delhi to squat and undergo physical punishment. With no support from the government by way of transport arrangements and all local buses and other modes of transport being under clampdown, the plight of those caught in this corona trap is tragic. Many have had no food or water for the last few days since they decided to ‘walk’ home and It is feared that more lives will be lost due to such deprivation than the actual corona virus.
The state alas has been selective in its concern for the corona affected citizen. While it is commendable that India was able to air-lift most of its stranded citizens from foreign locales, Delhi has not shown the same compassion for the less privileged in the capital and elsewhere who have had to flee to rural safety after the Modi diktat that citizens have to ‘stay-home’ to ‘stay-safe.’

25 March
Coronavirus: India enters ‘total lockdown’ after spike in cases
(BBC) The restrictions came into force at midnight local time (18:30 GMT) and will be enforced for 21 days.
“There will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” Mr Modi said in a televised address.
He appealed for people not to panic – but crowds quickly mobbed stores in the capital, Delhi, and other cities.
Correspondents say it is not clear how – or even if – people will now be allowed out to buy food and other essentials.
The new measures follow a sharp increase in cases in recent days. There have been 519 confirmed cases across India and 10 reported deaths.
(NYT) The breadth and depth of such a challenge is staggering in a country where hundreds of millions of citizens are destitute and countless millions live in packed urban areas with poor sanitation and weak public health care.
Mr. Modi did not make clear how people would get food, water and other necessities during the lockdown, or how they would maintain a safe distance from one another in the cramped spaces where many now live.
The Home Ministry issued a statement after Mr. Modi spoke saying that food shops, banks, gas stations and some other essential services would be exempt from the lockdown. But the ministry warned that anyone who refused to follow the restrictions faced up to a year in jail.
Mr. Modi acknowledged that his decree would create “a very difficult time for poor people.”
Even before he spoke, confusion about India’s restrictions was widespread. Police officers have aggressively shut down some food stores, despite government directives to keep them open. Officers have also beaten journalists, accusing them of violating lockdown rules even though government directives explicitly allow journalists to work.
India’s 1.3bn population locked down to beat coronavirus
Extreme measure intended to avert catastrophe in country with poor healthcare services
(The Guardian) There are currently only 40,000 ventilators in India, one isolation bed per 84,000 people and one doctor per 11,600 Indians. More than 1.8 million people across the country are being monitored because they have shown symptoms of the illness, travelled from abroad or been exposed to confirmed cases.
It is feared that the low infection figures are linked to a lack of testing, with only around 17,000 tests carried out so far. The virus has now spread to almost all states in India, with the highest number of cases in Maharashtra, where the city of Mumbai is located, and the southern state of Kerala. There are 41 foreigners among the infected.
In his speech, Modi said that the government and experts had spent the past two months studying coronavirus outbreaks in other countries and had concluded that forcible social distancing via a lockdown was the only solution to prevent it taking hold in India.
He added: “If we are not able to manage this pandemic in the next 21 days, the country and your family will be set back by 21 years. If we are not able to manage the next 21 days, then many families will be destroyed forever.”

5 March
Modi’s India Is Racing to a Point of No Return
Indian culture may be ancient, but its unity is rare and recent. A growing hostility to Muslims threatens to upend the world’s largest democracy. … If Modi remains the most popular leader in India, it is because he has stoked and weaponized Hindu rage.
(Foreign Policy) Although Modi has personally eschewed explicitly divisive rhetoric since being lofted into the prime minister’s office, surrogates in his party adopting poisonous speeches as the route to instant political glory are only following in the footsteps of their leader. Back in 2007, when he was still persona non grata in much of the world for presiding over the slaughter of nearly a thousand Muslims in 2002 as the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi roused a crowd of wealthy Hindu voters by ridiculing liberal protests against the extrajudicial execution of a Muslim prisoner on his watch. “If AK-57 [sic] rifles are found at the residence of a person,” he told the crowd, “you tell me what I should do: should I not kill them?” The audience yelled back in unison: “Kill them! Kill them!”
As he plotted his ascent to national power, Modi’s reputation was deodorized by India’s biggest tycoons, who, in return for expedited clearances for their projects, anointed him the savior of the country. Modi’s reign as prime minister is a reprise, on a larger scale, of his rule as chief minister of Gujarat. Instead of development, there is only the mirage of development. The so-called smart cities he conjured up in his speeches are nowhere to be seen, and the man who hypnotized young voters in 2014 with the promise to create 10 million jobs now oversees the worst unemployment crisis in 45 years. Independent institutions—from the media to the courts—have been subverted. India now has a surfeit of jobless young men permanently on edge, a state machinery that is imploding under the authoritarian weight of the prime minister, and a craven judiciary that refuses to rein him in.
Yet if Modi remains the most popular leader in India, it is because he has stoked and weaponized Hindu rage. Survey the past, for a moment, from the perspective of newly politically conscious Hindus. Their land is repeatedly invaded for centuries. Their liturgical heritage is methodically razed. And their sacred geography is ultimately amputated to accommodate the demands of Muslim nationalism in the form of Pakistan—a state where Hindus, like all other minorities, have been accorded the status of second-tier citizens in law and are often forcibly converted to Islam. These grievances cannot be brushed aside, or censored, or dismissed with scholarly putdowns that deny the historical memory and experience of a people. History demands resolution. Yet that resolution cannot come from fights on the streets, and a wound that clamors for the blood of fellow citizens to heal itself deserves to be cauterized, not nursed. India cannot survive if it degenerates into a platform for the periodic airing of homicidal Hindu self-pity.
India, of course, has endured other episodes of communal bloodletting in its history. For much of the 1980s, a government led by the nominally secular Indian National Congress party brutalized Sikhs in Punjab. Today, Punjab is ruled by a Congress government headed by a Sikh chief minister. India has a tremendous gift for recovery. But this quality is often mistaken for a limitless capacity to absorb horrors. Muslims are not Sikhs, who make up just 2 percent of the Indian population: There are 200 million Muslims in India.

3 March
Gwynne Dyer: India’s anti-Muslim pogrom has disturbing similarities to Nazis’ Kristallnacht
(London Free Press) The anti-Muslim pogrom in northeastern Delhi last week only killed 43 people, and a few of them weren’t even Muslims. But then on Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) in Germany in 1938, only 91 Jews were killed. It was still a Nazi declaration of war on the Jews, and a forewarning of the six million Jewish deaths to come.
Is this India’s Kristallnacht? History does not repeat, but it does have patterns, and there are disturbing similarities.
… Narendra Modi is not squeamish about dead Muslims. He presided (deniably) over the slaughter of at least 1,000 Muslims in targeted “rioting” as chief minister of Gujarat state in 2002, and for three days last week said nothing about “rioting” targeting Muslims in Delhi. Then he made a vague appeal for “peace and brotherhood,” and that was all.
Modi is a realist, and his project is not genocide. It is the redefinition of Hindus as the only “real” Indians, and the demotion of Indian Muslims to second-class citizenship at best. But it will still take a lot of violence to cow Muslims into accepting their new lower status, and that is what we were seeing in Delhi last week.
Modi’s project went into high gear soon after his landslide re-election last May. In August, he stripped Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, of the special status it had enjoyed since joining India in 1947. The state has been locked down under military occupation ever since, and most senior Kashmiri politicians are still in detention.
Then in December, he brought in two new laws that will, if they stand, make second-class citizenship for Muslims a reality. One is the Citizenship Amendment Act, which makes it easy for immigrants of every faith, except Muslims, to become Indian citizens.
The other is the National Register of Citizens, which will force the hundreds of millions of Indians who have no documents proving their nationality to apply for citizenship, as if they were migrants from somewhere else. Getting Indian citizenship will be easy if they are Hindu (or Sikh, or Christian, or Buddhist), but almost impossible in practice if they are Muslim.
The huge non-stop protests since December show many Indians, including many Hindus, are appalled by these discriminatory laws, and by Modi’s frontal assault on the principle of a secular Indian state whose citizens are equal before the law. But most Hindus seem to approve, and Hindus are 80 per cent of the population.
Modi hasn’t won yet. The protesters have not given up, the courts are not completely subjugated by the ruling party, and the BJP actually lost the election for the Delhi state assembly last month. But a BJP leader who lost his seat in that election, Kapil Mishra, then incited Hindu mobs to attack Muslims in Delhi.

1 March
In India, Modi’s Policies Have Lit a Fuse
By Jeffrey Gettleman and Maria Abi-Habib
Many Indians believed it was only a matter of time before Hindu nationalism provoked the kind of bloodshed that exploded in New Delhi.
This past week, as neighborhoods in India’s capital burned and religiously driven bloodletting consumed more than 40 lives, most of them Muslim, India’s government was quick to say that the violence was spontaneous.
But as reality has settled in, critics say the killings were neither spontaneous nor without warning: They were inevitable.
The question before the nation is whether the bloodshed will change the direction of Mr. Modi — who first ran for prime minister in 2014 under the slogan “Together for all, development for all.”
In that campaign, Mr. Modi presented himself as a strong nationalist leader and economic reformer, playing down his Bharatiya Janata Party’s history of Hindu-nationalist aims and vilification of Muslims.
Some doubt clung to him personally as well. Despite his having been cleared by a court, accusations remained that he was complicit in the massacre of hundreds of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, when he was the state’s chief minister.

28 February
Post Partnership With US, How New Delhi Engages With Washington, Beijing Over Next Few Decades Will Be A Test
China factor has been a driver in India-US relationship since 1962. To see India as a junior military partner of the US will be misplaced, writes director of Society for Policy Studies C. Uday Bhaskar
The global significance of Trump’s India visit
By Brahma Chellaney, geostrategist and author of the award-winning Water: Asia’s New Battleground.
The blossoming of the U.S.-India strategic partnership has become an important diplomatic asset for both countries, which explains U.S. President Donald Trump’s just-completed stand-alone trip to India. Mr. Trump’s visit, like that of his predecessor Barack Obama five years ago, may not have yielded any major agreement, but it has set the direction toward greater U.S.-India collaboration in the face of a growing China-Russia alliance.
… India is important for the U.S. because of its massive market and strategic location. It is the only resident power in the western part of the Indo-Pacific region that can countervail China’s military and economic moves. For New Delhi, a robust relationship with the U.S. is pivotal to advancing long-term interests. Despite bilateral differences over the Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran challenges, the U.S.-India partnership, as Mr. Trump noted, “has never been as good as it is now.”
Mr. Trump’s personal diplomacy with Mr. Modi has stood out. Both are right-of-centre nationalists who have faced similar criticisms, including accusations of being blinkered demagogues, pursuing divisive policies and choosing populism over constitutionalism.
Indeed, each has become an increasingly polarizing figure at home. Citizens either love or loathe them. And like the Washington establishment’s antipathy to Mr. Trump, the privileged New Delhi elite has never accepted Mr. Modi.
Mr. Trump’s critics at home say that, under his leadership, the world no longer respects the U.S. or the American president. Mr. Trump’s adulation-filled India visit showed otherwise. Mr. Modi’s domestic critics claim he is isolating India and making it less tolerant. Mr. Trump’s solo visit to India – and the praise he lavished on India’s tolerance and freedom and on Mr. Modi’s commitment to religious freedom – showed otherwise.
The trip was not without substance. It yielded a US$3.4-billion military helicopter contract, the latest in a string of major U.S. arms sales to India in recent years. The United States has become India’s largest weapons supplier, with the two countries also holding more frequent joint military exercises. As Mr. Trump put it before leaving India, “I believe the U.S. should be India’s premier defence partner and that’s the way it’s working out.”

25 February
New Delhi Streets Turn Into Battleground Between Hindus and Muslims
As President Trump toured India’s capital, at least 11 people were killed in communal clashes that have upended a working-class neighborhood.
(NYT) Gangs of Hindus and Muslims have been clashing in the neighborhood, Maujpur, and surrounding areas since Sunday, killing at least 11 people, including a police officer bashed in the head with a rock.
While President Trump and his host, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, discussed geopolitics and lunched together in another part of the capital, thousands of furious residents faced off again, hurling petrol bombs, attacking vehicles, hospitalizing several journalists and drawing more and more police officers and paramilitary troops.

24 February
India’s media is failing in its democratic duty
India ranks so badly for press freedom because much of the media has simply stopped doing its job.
By Siddharth Varadarajan
(Al Jazeera) …why is it then that India – a country with a free press and an independent judiciary – does so badly on global indices measuring media freedom? In 2019, the country slipped two places down to 140 out of 180 in the World Press Freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. How do we reconcile the fact that there is a constitution, laws guaranteeing press freedom, and media platforms fiercely doing their job, with India’s falling rank?
What has happened over the past few years is that a major section of the media has crossed over to the dark side.
Without being formally censored or compelled by other means to comply with official diktats, these media houses have simply stopped doing their job. They have stopped asking difficult questions about the government and its policies. They are in awe of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his senior ministers and are reluctant to be critical of them.

21-23 February
Trump visit: US can help India shore up its naval power
Just before the American president sets course for India, a senior US official noted that the US wants an India that is strong with a capable military that supports peace, stability, and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region, writes Cmde C Uday Bhaskar (retd) for South Asia Monitor
A US presidential visit to India has a certain politico-diplomatic symbolism and strategic significance and the officials on both sides burn the proverbial midnight candle to have some major takeaways that are formalized during the visit.
The truly big-ticket item in the till-recently-troubled bilateral relationship was the 2008 civilian nuclear agreement and this was steered by the political perspicacity and quiet resolve of the Bush-Manomohan Singh combine with little or no flamboyance.
The Trump visit is very different and the public diplomacy element is very visible. On the more substantive side, the boxes have been ticked and it is expected there will be no major trade deal or breakthrough in the impasse over tariffs and India’s unhappiness at being brought into the grouping of developed nations. Its is in the security and strategic domain that the bilateral remains robust and the emphasis on the maritime dimension is evident.
C. Uday Bhaskar: A contra-polar world is the new political reality
The Trump visit testifies to a new international system, where contradictory policies and impulses are prevalent
United States (US) President Donald Trump will make a high-visibility two-day trip to India, starting Monday. His first stop will be Ahmedabad, where he will be received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Referring to his maiden visit, Trump said: “He [Modi] told me we will have 7 million people between the airport and the event.” The event will be similar to the “Howdy Modi” extravaganza in Houston, Texas, in September, where Trump also made an appearance at a large gathering of the Indian-origin diaspora in the US.
However the scale of this public diplomacy will be in contrast to the modest outcome during the formal meetings in Delhi. Speaking on February 18, Trump dashed hopes of any major trade deal. “We can have a trade deal with India but I am really saving the big trade deal for later on.” But as expected, while the trade relationship is in the doldrums over tariff issues and dismay in Delhi about the US removing India from the list of “developing” countries, the military supplies’ relationship remains robust and points to a shared albeit unequal strategic partnership in the maritime domain.
… the current White House team is diluting its commitment to globalisation and free-trade to protect US interests. The ensuing turbulence has had its impact on both Beijing and Delhi, and the Trump visit reflects this unrelenting focus on the transactional element and the benefits that would accrue for the re-election campaign of the US President.
… India has a deep security and strategic trust deficit with China but seeks to improve the trade and economic relationship with Beijing to reach the coveted $5- trillion GDP figure that Modi aspires to reach by 2024. Consequently, India will have to work towards enhancing its trade footprint with the top two global economies — the US and China — even while managing the individual security-strategic dissonances. The security engagement with the US enables India to better manage its China dilemma.
Journalism is under attack in India. So is the truth.
By Rana Ayyub 
As India heads down the path of authoritarianism and hyper-nationalism, the price for speaking up is rising. Minorities are being stifled and intimidated. Protesters speaking against tyranny and discrimination are demonized. Never has journalism in India been in more urgent need of resolute moral clarity.
(WaPo) Journalists are facing enormous pressures and intimidation in India. Fabrication, hyper-nationalism and self-censorship are on the rise as the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi tightens its grip on the country’s political and economic life. High-profile journalists have been pushed aside for not toeing the line. As a result, many of India’s finest journalist and editors can’t find supportive newsrooms. …the tactics have become more brazen and are not even restricted to journalists based in India. After the New York-based writer Aatish Taseer wrote a cover story for Time critical of Modi, Taseer found his Overseas Citizen of India card revoked, which will now make it difficult for him to visit his home country.
As India’s Economy Sags, Even the Trump Brand Is Struggling
(NYT) As Donald J. Trump prepared to run for president, Indian real estate magnates made a bet that licensing his name would sell apartments. Now India has more Trump-branded projects than any country except the United States — six residential towers in four locations, including Pune, a quiet industrial city of more than 3 million people.
But when Mr. Trump touches down in India on Monday to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his first official visit as president, he will enter a country caught in a grave slowdown. As the Indian economy faces its lowest growth rate in more than a decade, developers have abandoned residential projects and slashed prices to attract buyers. It is not just the Trump brand that is suffering from weak demand. Thousands of apartments are vacant nationwide or trapped in construction delays and prices have stagnated. Debt-strapped builders cannot secure loans.
Though his brand has not surmounted India’s luxury slump, Mr. Trump remains quite popular here, with many Indians seeing him as tough on terrorism, pro-business and a crucial ally for Mr. Modi, another outspoken populist.

11 February
Modi’s party concedes defeat in Delhi after polarising campaign
Anti-establishment AAP on course to win 62 seats after BJP played up anti-Muslim rhetoric
(The Guardian) India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party has suffered a major defeat in another key state election, after failing to win over voters in Delhi with a campaign that was one of its most polarising yet.
The anti-establishment Aam Aadmi party (AAP), which has governed the capital for the past five years, is on course to win 62 seats in the 70-seat assembly after running on an agenda centred on anti-corruption, healthcare and education, which have hugely improved during its time in power.
Much of AAP’s popularity is centred on its leader, Arvind Kejriwal, once a self-confessed anarchist and anti-corruption activist, who has been highly critical of the BJP government during his time as Delhi chief minister. Speaking at a press conference after his party’s victory was assured, a visibly emotional Kejriwal said: “It is a victory of people of Delhi who considered me their son.”
While the Delhi polls are always among the most closely contested elections in India, determining who will control India’s capital city of more than 20 million people, this year felt particularly heated due to the protests that have rocked Delhi and the rest of the country in response to Modi’s new citizenship law (CAA), which critics say is prejudicial against Muslims.

7 February
C Uday Bhaskar: The interplay between politics and the military
While the politicisation of the military remains a concern, so is the militarisation of political discourse and practice
(Hindustan Times) Pakistan is cast as the abiding enemy and more recent domestic political protests over the Citizenship (Amendement) Act have been packaged in an adroit, but potentially dangerous manner, as being “anti-national”, supportive of jihadi terrorism, and an insult to the memory of the brave soldier. In summary — the citizen who either engages in peaceful protest, or decides to vote for a party other than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is now cast as a security threat and the deplorable exhortation “goli maaro saalon ko (shoot the scoundrels)” is part of the militarisation of the prevailing political discourse. The observations by the CDS, however freewheeling, are perplexing and indicative of this nascent internalising of the political discourse by the military apex. Specific to the fiscal allocation for the armed forces, General Rawat averred that the budget allocated to the military was adequate, and added : “Management of budget is critical. Budget is more a management issue than an issue of adequate funds.”
This goes against the guarded statements made by successive service chiefs for decades that the overall allocation is inadequate to maintain the operational edge that the security environment warrants.

23 January
C Uday Bhaskar| Is India becoming less democratic?
The government should listen to the President’s counsel, and engage with aggrieved citizens
As India prepares to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of its majestic Constitution that empowered “We the people” on Sunday (January 26) , its democratic credentials have come under less than flattering scrutiny. The 2019 Democracy Index report of the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) released on January 22 placed India at the 51st spot, marking a sharp drop of 10 places from the previous year’s rankings.
While Norway leads the list, and is in the category of “full democracies”, North Korea, ranked 167, is at the bottom of the ladder and clubbed among “authoritarian regimes”. India has been placed in the category of “flawed democracies”, which has a total of 54 countries. It is instructive to note that the world’s oldest democracy, the United States of America, is deemed to be similarly “flawed” and is at the 25th spot. Furthermore, in the neighbourhood, Bangladesh has moved up eight rungs to the 80th rank.
Clearly, 2019 has been a blighted year for democracies, for the report notes that the average global score for democracy declined from 5.48 in 2018 to 5.44, and added that “this is the worst average global score since the EIU index was first produced in 2006”.
India has also been accorded its lowest score since the democracy index was mooted 14 years ago… India has, in the past, rejected international assessments that have been critical of its track record even while enthusiastically accepting more positive endorsement of its achievements. Selective petulance is not the hallmark of a self-assured democracy that can accept objective and constructive criticism, and the Narendra Modi government has been particularly sensitive on this score.

22 January
India tests K4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile: Still a long way to go?
India recently entered the global nuclear weapon club, with the successful test of K4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile being the latest development in this regard. In this article, Commodore C Uday Bhaskar (retd) has stressed upon the long path that the country has to travel before the SLBM could become fully operational. Going by the experience of other nations, despite being powerful, this dream project requires a requisite degree of national will and financial resources before it attains the credibility that it desires

21 January
Sambandh as Strategy: India’s new approach to regional connectivity
(Brookings) Marked by a history of political divisions, economic differences, and geostrategic divergences, the Indian subcontinent remains deeply divided, with exceptionally low levels of integration. No other regional power is as disconnected from its immediate neighbourhood as India. Recognising this disconnect as a challenge to India’s economic and security interests, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made both intra- and inter-regional connectivity a policy priority in 2014. Speaking on the importance of the Indo-Pacific region at the 2018 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, he emphasised the country’s new strategic imperative.
Within South Asia, Modi’s government framed a Neighbourhood First policy to signal India’s commitment to regional connectivity. From.a policy of strategic insulation and neglect during much of the Cold War, and a reluctant embrace of regionalism thereafter, India’s regional policy has now shifted irreversibly towards strengthening cross-border relations. Progress has been significant (reviewed ahead), and even unprecedented, including the laying of new pipelines, building electricity networks, upgrading port, rail, and airport infrastructure, and reinvigorating people-to-people exchanges. However, despite such extraordinary progress on various fronts, Delhi’s regional activism and ambition has also been a victim of its own success, exposing implementation deficits. After decades of regional introversion and policy stagnation, new government and private stakeholders struggle to flesh out connectivity on the ground, revealing challenges in coordination and execution.

15 January
Cracking down on student protests augurs ill for Indian democracy
The dissent by young India is being cast as a diabolical anti-national act, even while many of the leaders in the BJP led government cut their teeth in politics during their student days, writes C Uday Bhaskar for South Asia Monitor.
(South Asia Monitor) The brutal, premeditated attack on the students and faculty of JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University ) by a group of masked hoodlums on Sunday (Jan 5) and the visible reluctance of Delhi Police to act against the perpetrators of this violence raises some disturbing questions about the health of Indian democracy and the eroding faith of the young citizen in the Indian state.
Ironically, a week later (January 12), the 158th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, was celebrated nation-wide as National Youth Day. In the intervening seven days after the dastardly attack on JNU, young India as represented in the many universities and colleges across the country expressed their solidarity with their injured colleagues in JNU and the other two universities that have been targeted – the Jamia Milia Islamia in Delhi and the Aligarh Muslim University.
What began as a limited protest against a sudden and steep fee hike by the JNU students acquired a national footprint over the CAA that began in Assam and soon spread to major universities. The linking of citizenship to religion and the inherent anti-Muslim bias was perceived to be a means of distorting the spirit of the Constitution and the protests in Aligarh and Jamia in December permeated the larger body of civil society across India – from the common citizen to retired bureaucrats, academics, film celebrities and other strata that included the heroic housewives of Shaheen Bagh, a Muslim-dominated residential neighbourhood near the Jamia university in the capital.

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