360 DEGREE OVERVIEW: HONG KONG CRISIS

World Affairs

The last few days, social media has been abuzz with photos and videos of Hong Kong residents, taking to the streets.

The streets were filled with protesters demanding democracy and autonomy from China.

Their symbol of protest is an umbrella, a symbol of passive resistance, which protesters have used against police since 2014 when forces used pepper spray on them.

But what has caused similar protests, 5 years later in 2019?

The seeds to the current protests were sown earlier in February when the Government of Hong Kong, proposed a bill. The bill in question is the Fugitive Offenders & Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters aka the ‘extradition bill’.

Features of the bill

There are several contentious features of the bill. However what sparked public fury was the Chinese connect to the bill

  • Several online reports suggest the bill aims to expand the list of countries to which a suspected offender could be sent.
  • This list went beyond the countries Hong Kong had mutual extradition treaties with
  • Hong Kong could now extradite suspects to other countries on case by case basis
  • This bill could possibly allow extradition of suspect to China and Taiwan.

The Hong Kong government claims this bill was proposed because a Hong Kong resident accused of murdering a Taiwanese resident could not be extradited to Taiwan to face his crimes.

However critics claim this bill is a trap that legalises governmental ‘kidnapping’. They fear this will ensure political dissidents are extradited to China under false charges.

History of Hong Kong

Hong Kong was previously the territory of British following the first Opium War in 1841. It was also briefly ruled by the Japanese for 4 years from 1941 to 1945. But once World War two ended,Britain regained control over it. In 1997 however, the colony was handed over to China through Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Hong Kong became a special administration. It has different laws from that of China (called the Basic Laws), separate Head of Government called ‘Chief Executive’ , their Judicial system is also separate from that of China. However, interpretation of laws by Standing Committee of National People’s of Congress China is final.

Where the bill stands now

The Chief Executive of China Carrie Lam has suspended the bill. She even apologised to the residents of Hong Kong for ineffective communication and explanation served by the government.

But protesters are not convinced,while the bill has been suspended, it has not been withdrawn yet and protesters feel it could be drawn back into life once things slow down a bit.

Carrie reportedly forged a strong bond with China in 2014, when anti-mainland protests broke for the first time. In 2014, she was second in line, but was soon elevated to top post in 2017.

While government is allegedly using police to crush the protest, groups such as Civil Human Rights Front, who are leading the movement, are refusing to drop the momentum. Several protests across Kowloon have drawn millions of people.

China, in the meanwhile, is refusing to legitimise this protest, even calling it a ‘serious violation of law’.

While China has refused to comment on whether they will crack the whip on these protests through the use of their forces, this situation will certainly act as a litmus test for a country which just a few days back delivered sermons of democracy to India on behest of its ally Pakistan over Kashmir.

UNITED NATIONS: A GRAND SUCCESS OR A HISTORIC FAILURE?

World Affairs

At a time when Hong Kong is seeking Independence from China, when Gun violence is at its peak in America,when Inflation is soaring in France, when Britain’s future is uncertain due to Brexit, when Ukraine is protesting against Russia, the 5 ‘super powers’ chose to ignore their own problems & discussed the Kashmir crisis at the behest of Pakistan’s all weather friend China.

United Nations Security Council discussed the Kashmir Issue behind closed doors, and as expected, Pakistan & China failed miserably as the 4 other countries backed India. But the question is what gives the international body the legitimacy to interfere in India’s internal matter & secondly, why do they selectively choose matters? Why didn’t they discuss issues plaguing their own country?

Historic Spillover

The year was 1945 and the world had just witnessed the Second World War. The destruction caused by the war was massive. 85 million lives were lost and close to $1.6 trillion was gutted in the war.

The world had never witnessed a tragedy of this scale. The existing ‘League of Nations’ had failed to check the ambitions of Hitler and Mussolini. 50 countries lead by the USA then decided to form a body that could maintain peace and harmony in the world.

On June 26, 1945 these 50 countries ratified a new inter-govermental body which came into existence months later in October 1945. United Nations was created heralding a new era in the world history.

Today United Nations is considered as the most successful trans-national body but its critics think otherwise. Let’s take a look if the body has lived up to its motive of securing international security.

A Success Story or a massive failure?

The biggest impact UN has had is in the sector of healthcare. WHO successfully eradicated Small Pox and the UN health care agency also successfully removed the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. In the last 70 years health care indicators like Maternal Mortality Rate and Infant Mortality Rate has drastically reduced all thanks to the persistent efforts of WHO.

In the field of Culture, UNESCO World Heritage Sites have helped in the preservation and protection of unique culture and natural heritage of various countries.

Many however consider the United Nations a monumental failure. Apart from failing to tackle the Kashmir and the Palestine issue. The peace keeping force of the United Nations failed to prevent the Srebrenica Massacre and the 1994 Rwanda Massacre. Despite allegedly having prior information, UN was unable to stop the killings.

The Oil for Food program was meant to help the cash strapped Iraq, but soon UN officials were accused of bribery and till date the United Nations has refused to make the internal audits public

The failure to check the growth of terrorism in countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan is also considered as UN’s biggest failure.

United Nations Security Council has been accused of creating a new world power. China, US, UK, France and Russia being the permanent members have been accused of meddling in the functioning of other countries. They have blocked the entry of new permanent members, plus Arab and African countries have been poorly represented in the council.

CAN PEACE EVER PREVAIL IN THE KASHMIR VALLEY?

National News

When Mughal emperor Jahangir visited the famed Shalimar Bagh located in Kashmir, it is said that he recited this famous Persian couplet written by Amir Khusrau.

“Agar firdaus bar rōy-e zamin ast, hamin ast-o hamin ast-o, hamin ast.”

Meaning

“If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.”

But had Jahangir witnessed the state of affairs in Kashmir today, he most certainly would have taken his words back.

Kashmir, today is a pale shadow of her glorious past. The valley is amidst a major turmoil, both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir as it’s own and several Kashmiri’s are demanding an “Azad Kashmir” or Independent Kashmir.

But what led to this situation, what really plagues Kashmir today and most importantly does the Kashmir problem have any solution?

Birth pangs

To understand the present, one needs to understand the past and to understand Kashmir’s problem, we will have to go back in time.

In 1947, British crown wound up its rule in India. British India would would soon become India and Pakistan.

British India was at that point in time divided into Princely Provinces and British States. Princely provinces had the option of either joining India or Pakistan or the ruler could choose to remain independent.

As the map of both the countries were being formed, Muslim majority provinces and states chose sides with Pakistan, Hindu majority with India, but a very unique problem arose in Kashmir.

Kashmir, a princely province was ruled by a Hindu ruler Maharaja Hari Singh, but the majority of his subjects were Muslims.
Maharaja neither chose Pakistan nor India.

Both Sardar Vallahbhai Patel and Mohammed Ali Jinnah tried to woo Hari Singh to change his stand but he didn’t. Hari Singh indecisiveness and his failure to interpret the implications of his decision continues to haunt many Kashmiri’s.

On October 24, 1947 insurgents from Pakistan terrorised the Valley and the panic stricken King signed an ‘Instrument of Accession’ with Government of India. The war ended in 1948 after a cease-fire was laid out by United Nations. During the war Pakistan gained unauthorized control over 34% of Kashmir’s territory and has been controlling this region ever since.

The Hate Politics

For Kashmir however, the biggest problem is the politics it’s leaders played to remain in limelight. Be it the Abdullah family or the Mufti’s, politicians always ensured the flame of hatred remained alive among the public. No leader till date has anything concrete to solve the power, water and unemployment crisis in the state and in turn blame Indian government for the problems existent in the state.

Plus Pakistan which is unable to maintain its own state of affairs has always meddled in Kashmir’s politics. Pakistan has always encouraged the opinion of separatists and suppressed the real opinion of the residents of Kashmir.

Insurgency and the Exodus

The result of Pakistan’s support to the separatists voices was the rise in insurgency in 1989 -1990. Kashmiri Hindus( also known as Kashmiri Pandits) were targeted by the militants. Pandit women were raped, young children tortured and men killed in the most brutal manner all in the guise of ‘azadi’. Nearly 1,00,000 KP families left the valley and were made refugees in their own motherland. Families were forced to leave behind everything and start life from scratch in places distant from their homeland.

Does the Kashmir problem have any solution? Of course, yes!

However the answer is not so simple.

On the international arena, India must amp up support against Pakistan. Every cease-fire violation , every attempt to undermine peace in the valley must be taken up seriously. Be it the United Nations or any international forum, India must make it clear that any dialogue with Pakistan is not possible without peace.

As Pakistan controls a vast territory of Kashmir it would not be wise to disband talks with it, but clever use of pressure tactics by senior diplomat holds the key for Kashmir’s future.

On the national front, Kashmir can no longer remain aloof. Now hat Article 370 has been abolished, The government must take initiative and build better infrastructure in the union territory. Industry must be established to ensure job opportunities arise. Skills of the youth must be developed to prevent them from going astray and joining militancy.

Thirdly the government needs to incorporate the real voice of Kashmir. Several politicians and separatist ‘leaders’ have hijacked the Kashmir issue. India is still unaware of aspirations of Kashmiris and the real voice is still suppressed. All the communities from the valley be it Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or Christians must be treated as equal stakeholder. Their opinion and their demands must be taken into account before any decision is taken.

It’s been over 70 years since India’s independence and it’s about time normalcy and peace returns to Kashmir and the Paradise has witnessed enough and it’s residents have suffered enough!

EXPLAINING INDIA-US TARIFF WARS

NEWS

Days after displaying bonhomie with Prime Minister Narendra Modi , US President Donald Trump did a somersault. He attacked India for placing higher tariff on American goods and called the situation as ‘unacceptable’.