To achieve the impossible, it is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought,” wrote a famous novelist. To that end, Prime MinisterNarendra Modi’s unannounced visit to Kabul and surprise stopover in Lahoreis certainly as unthinkable as it is a transformational moment for India. While several Indian Prime Ministers have attempted to turn ties with Pakistan into something more neighbourly, nothing defines good neighbours more than Mr. Modi’s “dropping in” for tea to wish his counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on his birthday and to give his good wishes for his grand-daughter’s wedding. With the two visits on Christmas day, bringing together India’s interest in engaging both Afghanistan and Pakistan, he has also reclaimed the ‘SAARC moment’ of his swearing-in ceremony in 2014, which many had called a masterstroke at the time. What is perhaps the most surprising is not just that Mr. Modi decided to make the stops, but that they come at the end of a year when relations with both Afghanistan, over talks with the Taliban, and Pakistan, over LoC firing and the NSA talks, were very troubled. Mr. Modi has ensured that a curtain has been drawn on those troubles, and a new beginning will be made in the new year. Not just that, by making the journey from Kabul to Lahore, he has transformed Afghanistan from a battlefield between India and Pakistan into a facilitator of good relations. The road ahead is certainly perilous. Relations with Pakistan have often seen setbacks far worse than the strides in ties. The Kargil war followed just such a bold initiative by Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the Lahore bus, and Manmohan Singh’s sustained talks on Kashmir with President Musharraf, who he invited for a cricket match to India to restart talks, went awry after a series of attacks. However, if Mr. Modi were to dwell only on those perils, there would be no way of moving forward, and he has been wise to take the high road to peace over the low road of discordant ties with Pakistan. The two foreign secretaries should build on this breakthrough at their meeting scheduled for mid-January.
If Mr. Modi’s move towards Pakistan represents a maturing and progression of his position, then the Congress party’s attack on the Lahore visit represents a churlish regression in its position. It is surprising that the main opposition party has chosen to criticise Mr. Modi for everything its own Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, risked so much for during his tenure. In 2007, many were aghast when Dr. Singh said he dreamed of a time he could have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul. With a few modifications, Mr. Modi, who is now the biggest beneficiary of the previous government’s sagacious Pakistan policy, has achieved that dream, in reverse.
(of an action, idea, or goal) deserving praise and commendation.
Relating to or involving transformation or transformations.
State or describe exactly the nature, scope, or meaning of
A person or thing holding a position or performing a function that corresponds to that of another person or thing in another place.
An outstandingly skillful and opportune act; a very clever move.
The piece of ground on which a battle is or was fought.
Someone who makes progress easier
Full of danger or risk.
A reversal or check in progress.
Walk with long, decisive steps in a specified direction.
Away from the appropriate, planned, or expected course; amiss.
Live in or at a specified place.
Serious and immediate danger.
Disagreeing or incongruous.
A sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development.
Rude in a mean-spirited and surly way.
A return to a former or less developed state.
Filled with horror or shock.
Having or showing keen mental discernment and good judgment; shrewd.
The Hindu: Do right by India’s real NRIs
Every detail of the latest story of abuse of Indian workers in West Asia is both horrifying and painfully emblematic of the condition of Indian migrants to these countries. Three men from Kerala paid an agent to get them employment in Yemen, but they were taken to Saudi Arabia instead. They were trained electricians but were made to work in a brick factory. They were beaten by their employer with a wooden plank for refusing to do the work, the torture captured on camera and sent home to their families. Theirs is far from the first such story of entrapment, deceit and abuse. In October, a woman worker from Tamil Nadu said that her Saudi employer had tried to chop off her hand when she tried to escape. In September, a video emerged online which seemed to show the abuse of an Indian construction worker by his Saudi supervisor. Journalists investigating the construction of the 2022 FIFA World Cup infrastructure in Qatar found Indian workers were among those living in cramped accommodation for low wages and long hours under often exploitative contracts. Earlier this month External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told Parliament that there were over 7,400 complaints of exploitation made by Indian workers in Gulf countries in 2015 alone.
There are over 6 million Indian workers in West Asia, forming a quarter of the region’s total expatriate workforce, including 2.8 million in the UAE, 1.8 million in Saudi Arabia, and over half a million each in Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. (Money repatriated to India from the Gulf countries was $32.7 billion in 2014, compared to $10 billion from the U.S.) The International Labour Organisation estimates that many of the 600,000 workers in the region who are victims of forced labour are Indian citizens. In fact, the chain of exploitation begins at the recruitment and migration stage in India, as was the case with the men from Kerala in Saudi Arabia — a police officer in fact put them in touch with the agent. The Ministry of External Affairs is aware of the problem; and Ms. Swaraj has been quick to respond to outrage over such incidents, offering help and support. However, there has not yet been a lasting fix to the problem; recruitment remains largely unregulated, India’s push for higher wages remains unfulfilled, and protections for Indian workers once they discover the nature of their employment are often difficult to come by. Many of these workers are leaving behind impoverished lives, and might not always be in a position to assert their rights in the hope of a better life for their families. These are India’s real NRIs — in numbers and in terms of remittances and investment in their home countries. India must do better by them.
Serving as a symbol of a particular quality or concept; symbolic.
The action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or to force them to do or say something, or for the pleasure of the person inflicting the pain.
A defense that claims the defendant would not have broken the law if not tricked into doing it by law enforcement officials
The action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.
Use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse.
Restrict or inhibit the development of.
A room, group of rooms, or building in which someone may live or stay.
A person who lives outside their native country.
Send (someone) back to their own country.
An extremely strong reaction of anger, shock, or indignation.
Make (a person or area) poor.
A sum of money sent, especially by mail, in payment for goods or services or as a gift.
The Business Standard Foundation trilogy
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's signals to the US that India was open to the possibility of signing three defence "foundational agreements", should be broadly welcomed. The US first raised the question of the three pacts - the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), the Communication and Information Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) - about a decade ago, when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power. These three agreements would ensure that inter-operability between the Indian and US militaries is smooth. The latter two would, in fact, enable the Indian military to make better use of equipment it has already bought from the US.
But the objection to these agreements, however useful the military might find them, has always been political. During the UPA regime, its Communist parliamentary supporters contended that the agreements would mean India would be obliged to back Washington's agenda. The defence ministry, too, believed the pacts would compromise India's position of military neutrality. Certainly the LSA, which essentially provides access to each other's military bases, provides much ammunition for such political arguments. In the past, permission for US fighter jets to refuel at Mumbai's Sahar airport during the 1991 Gulf War was withdrawn following strong objections from the Opposition. That apart, Russia, India's oldest ally in defence technology transfer, has periodically raised concerns about India's pivot towards the US, especially with the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), a body Washington and New Delhi have established to remove obstacles to the release of technology to India.
Should apprehensions about independence in geopolitical strategy once India signs on to these pacts remain an issue? The principal point of contention for both countries is relations with China. Not only is the People's Republic of China playing a more collaborative role with Pakistan in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US troops, it is also strengthening ties with Russia and, by extension, resource-rich central Asia. It would not, for instance, be helpful if India's interests in, say, Afghanistan, where it wields considerable soft power via a prominent humanitarian role, were stressed due to the US' historically close ties to Pakistan. So Indian negotiators are wary of how these agreements play out in practice.
India could, perhaps, draw profitably on the experience of Sri Lanka, the other South Asian country to sign a similar agreement. That move has not impacted Colombo's gainful relations with Beijing, which continues to be a major investor in the island-nation's infrastructure. Similar agreements between the US and NATO partners like France and Germany did not compel either country to contribute troops to the US-led alliance that invaded Iraq in 2003. And the fact that the US has agreed to rework the language of the drafts of the three agreements suggests a willingness to accommodate India's concerns. On India's part, the US' manifest keenness to close these agreements provides a good opportunity to push for more robust assurances of reciprocity.
Struggle to surmount (a difficulty or danger)
Make (someone) legally or morally bound to an action or course of action.
A supply or quantity of bullets and shells.
The central point, pin, or shaft on which a mechanism turns or oscillates.
Anxiety or fear that something bad or unpleasant will happen.
Produced or conducted by two or more parties working together.
A group of soldiers, especially a cavalry unit commanded by a captain, or an airborne unit.
Concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare.
Pressed firmly together, in particular.
(of an armed force or its commander) enter (a country or region) so as to subjugate or occupy it.
The quality or state of being prepared to do something; readiness.
Clear or obvious to the eye or mind.
Strong and healthy; vigorous
A positive declaration intended to give confidence; a promise.
The practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by one country or organization to another.
Indian EXPRESS: BJP cracks down
Under Narendra Modi, the BJP has shown a flair for audaciously changing the headline and disarming the opponent, sometimes on national issues, but more often on the international stage, as the prime minister’s seemingly impromptu happy-birthday touchdown in Lahore has again reaffirmed. By all accounts, though, this out-of-the-box thinking stops at the doostep of the party. The BJP’s inner party affairs, it would seem, are to be conducted in ways that, relatively, lack in imagination, and large-heartedness or even tact. A party that took no action at all against those who blatantly sought to spread ill will between communities, like Ministers Mahesh Sharma and Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, and MP Yogi Adityanath, has now speedily suspended cricketer-turned-MP Kirti Azad.
Three days after he held a press conference in which he held forth on an issue he has been raising for nine years now, about corruption in the Delhi and District Cricket Association under the 13-year stewardship of present Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Azad has been charged with anti-party activities, of “colluding” with the Congress and AAP to bring the BJP into “disrepute”.
Azad has protested that he was not given any specific reasons for the summary action taken against him and the BJP must answer the charge that due process was not followed in his ouster. But the party must confront a yet more damaging perception: That it has lost its capacity to deal with dissent. In two high-profile instances of the opposition within — Azad now and L.K. Advani earlier — the BJP reaction can be described as mean-spirited, if not intolerant. It relegated and marginalised Advani and it has suspended Azad. If the party were to pause and reflect, it might recognise that its treatment of both men — and their arguments — belies its own promise of being the “party with the difference”. When it first asserted its presence as a national alternative to the then dominant Congress, the BJP’s difference lay not just in its critique of the secular commonsense and its articulation of “cultural nationalism” but also in its insistence and claim of being the more democratic and lively party, with no high command or ruling family. That claim seems much depleted now in a party that is quick to crack the whip against the dissenter.
Its large mandate in 2014 has given the BJP much room for boldness and experiments without and also for expansiveness and generosity within. It would be doing itself a disservice if it did not take advantage of both opportunities.
A special or instinctive aptitude or ability for doing something well.
In an audacious manner; "an idea so daring and yet so audaciously tempting that a shiver of excitement quivered through him"
So as to give the impression of having a certain quality; apparently.
Done without being planned, organized, or rehearsed.
The moment at which an aircraft's wheels or part of a spacecraft make contact with the ground during landing.
State again as a fact; assert again strongly.
(hearted) Having, or shaped like, a specified form of heart
Adroitness and sensitivity in dealing with others or with difficult issues.
In an unsubtle and unashamed manner.
A person who looks after the passengers on a ship, aircraft, or train and brings them meals.
Come to a secret understanding for a harmful purpose; conspire.
The state of being held in low esteem by the public.
Dismissal or expulsion from a position.
Meet (someone) face to face with hostile or argumentative intent.
Hold or express opinions that are at variance with those previously, commonly, or officially expressed.
Consign or dismiss to an inferior rank or position.
State a fact or belief confidently and forcefully.
A detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary, philosophical, or political theory
The fact or quality of insisting that something is the case or should be done.