Monday March 18, 2019
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India President emphasizes on value of coexistence



New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday at the Third India-Africa Forum Summit said “we value coexistence, dialogue, mutual understanding and peace”.

India and Africa understand each other and for both “diversity is our lifeblood” as it “enriches us and makes us even stronger. It ensures that we value coexistence, dialogue, mutual understanding and peace”, President Mukherjee said.

“These are perspectives on the human development that India and Africa share, these are perspectives that we can together contribute to the rest of the world for handling conflicts and crises”, he added.

The remarks came against the backdrop of some recent incidents like Dadri lynching in Uttar Pradesh, beef controversy and burning of a Dalit family in Haryana.

Mukherjee said the difficult decades of colonial rule and cruel oppression, economic deprivation and racial discrimination may be behind us but the challenges are far from gone. They have changed.

“We have still to overcome poverty and disease, terrorism and drug trafficking, lack of education and training,” he said.

He said both India and Africa have stood together in days of struggle and “we will stand together in this challenging dawn of development. India is ready to share its democratic experience, its agricultural expertise, its capacity building potential, its healthcare institutions, its peacekeepers with our partners from Africa”.

“Once again we are determined that our struggle will be based on principles – the principles of equality and partnership, of mutual benefit, of human dignity. For India and Africa, guided by the vision of Mahatma Gandhi who belonged to both, that is the only path,” he said.

Referring to terrorism, Mukherjee said India and Africa should fight it together as it “knows no boundaries or borders and has no ideology except that of wanton destruction”.

He also spoke about extending cooperation in the field of agriculture between India and African countries.

The president said India is committing to assist Africa in starting its own course through infrastructure development, institution building and technical and vocational skill development.

“India’s development partnership with Africa complements the various priorities set out in the Agenda 2063 vision document adopted by the African Union,” he added.

Complimenting Prime Minister Modi for the summit, the president said it is the prime minister’s drive which has “brought us together for this event”.

Going down the memory lane, Mukherjee recalled the days before India had its “green revolution”.

“We were not self-sufficient in food. In those days, we literally lived from ‘ship to mouth’. Though India today is self-sufficient in food production, the land available for agriculture is continuously decreasing due to rising population,” he said.

Noting that Africa is blessed with large areas of fertile, cultivable land, Mukherjee recalled the words of first president of Ghana, Kwameh Nkrumah. Who had pointed out that “the Congo Basin alone can produce enough food crops to satisfy the requirements of nearly half the population of the whole world,”

Agricultural growth is not only important in addressing Africa’s quest of food security but it also remains a key component of Africa’s overall development.

Mukherjee told the African delegates that he hopes they “would have discussed collaboration in the areas of increasing productivity; smart agriculture; environment-friendly farm mechanization; promotion of gene pool and better seeds, and other modern agricultural concepts”.


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Middle East situation like India before Independence

Middle East

New Delhi: Middle east region expert Vali Nasr compared the existing situation in the region to the situation of Indian sub continent before independence. He said this situation is because of sectarianism and legacies of colonialism.

“Colonialism not only decided maps of the modern Middle East, but also fostered sectarianism in the internal structures it set up the Alawites in Syria, the Christians in Lebanon under the French, and so on.

“Colonialism and sectarianism conflicted with secular nationalism… sectarianism in the Middle East was like communalism in India during its freedom struggle and can be understood the same way… the issue of majority and minority rights,” Nasr, the dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at US’ Johns Hopkins University, said in an interview during his India visit for the Jaipur Literature Festival.

“The violence in Iraq is similar to the violence seen during the Partition of India,” he said.

Nasr, a Foreign Policy advisor to the Barack Obama regime (2009-11) and a scholar on politics and Islamic activism in the Arab world, as well as Iran and Pakistan, and sectarian identity in Middle East politics, notes sectarianism, between Sunnis and Shias, was not on points of theology but on distribution of power.

This was especially relevant in countries like Iraq and Bahrain which had Shia majorities but without any power, he noted, adding the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and then the Arab Spring further opened the door to sectarianism.

“The Arab Spring began a demand for democracy but what after that? That is the key issue,” said Nasr, citing another parallel with the Indian subcontinent’s example where the struggle against British rule also saw a bitter contest between the Congress and the Muslim League on the shape and nature of the political dispensation to follow.

The author of “The Shia Revival How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future” (2006) when the community seemed to be on an upswing with huge political gains in Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, Nasr contends rise of groups like the Islamic State is among attempts by Sunni hardliners to reverse Shia Iran’s gains in Iraq. But this comes at a time when Iran, long seen by the western world as the source of instability in the Middle East, is now being needed to manage the same instability, he said.

This image of Iran stemmed from the historic Shia-Sunni conflict, which however took shape of a proxy war after the 1979 Iranian Revolution raised a Shia threat for Sunni powers, especially Saudi Arabia which has had a relationship with the US, predating the US-Israel alliance.

“This proxy war between Shias and Sunnis, or between Iran and Saudi Arabia, even extended to south Asia and is still going on in Pakistan,” said Nasr, who also spent some time in the sub-continent in the late 1970s and experienced the sectarian hostility as far away in Lucknow, considered a bastion of Shia culture and faith.

Nasr, who also wrote “Mawdudi and the Making of Islamic Revivalism” (1996), noted the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami and a proponent of propagating “true” Islam was not violent himself, but his “children have become more intolerant”.

On Iraq, he noted Shias and Sunnis look on its post-2003 politics differently the former see it as the first modern Shia Arab state, but the latter were disturbed at the loss of a country that contained the Shia “threat” and through the US, seen as their reliable ally against Khomeini’s Iran.

Matters were further complicated by the Arab Spring “which did to several Arab states what the US Army had done to Iraq broke down the state”, he said, noting the implosion in several authoritarian Sunni states, taken to its logical conclusion of democracy and elections would have disturbing consequences for Sunnis, especially in places like Bahrain given Iraq’s example.

“That is why the IS, which is trying to roll back Iranian gains in Iraq, and wrest Syria for the Sunnis, has struck a political resonance with its goal of a Sunni caliphate,” said Nasr.(IANS)(image: