Monday December 10, 2018
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Indo-Pak tamasha: A well timed patriotism harms no one

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India and Pakistan seem to have broken the ice in Bangkok after months of belligerence and a war of words between the top officials and politicians on both sides of the border. The ‘secret’ meeting between the National Security Advisers (NSAs) of the two countries accompanied by the foreign secretaries in Thailand’s capital on Sunday helped in the thawing the frozen Indo-Pak ties.

This comes days before External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s scheduled visit to Pakistan for ‘Heart of Asia’ regional conference on Afghanistan where she’s expected to call upon Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and meet his Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

One wonders what has changed between India and Pakistan in the past one month that prompted PM Modi to restart the dialogue with Islamabad. As I write this piece, reports pour in from Jammu & Kashmir where at least six CRPF jawans were injured when unidentified militants opened fired on their convoy on Srinagar-Jammu national highway in Anantnag district.

Terrorism continues unabated and Pakistan has not budged from its position to continue talking to Hurriyat leaders, a contentious issue over which the NSA-level talks in Delhi were cancelled.

Prime Minister Modi, however, seems a changed person after his party’s rout in Bihar elections when anti-Pakistan rhetoric was again touched upon. BJP president Amit Shah, during an election rally, even suggested that ‘crackers would burst in the Islamic Republic if his party lost in Bihar‘. They did lose Bihar, managing to secure only 55 seats out of total 243 in the state Assembly; a terrible performance indeed.

So this is what it’s all about, elections (duh).

Come polls, anti-Pakistan rhetoric reaches a crescendo, LoC heats up and war drums are beaten in a bid to arouse the ‘patriotic’ spirit of one and all. Patriotism, despite being the ‘last refuge of the scoundrel’, can be a useful tool to mobilize the masses, educated and illiterate alike, during elections. For a nation at war would usually be at the same page forgetting all the differences, brushing all others issues under the carpet.

The common man is taken for a ride when he is swayed by this rhetoric during polls, but light dawns upon him when the governments of two countries hold ‘secret’ meetings, like they just did in Bangkok, once the election dust settles in. He realizes that all that tough talk by ‘the man of 56-inch chest’ was but just that, an eyewash and subterfuge meant to achieve a political end.

Throughout the history, patriotism and religion have been used around the world to mobilize the masses against one particular enemy. When Hitler mobilized Germans against Jews he only paved the way for the World War II, but he was not the first person in the world to use nationalism as a political tool. Millions died defending their flags during the World Wars in the early and mid 20th century; however, we seem to have learnt almost no lessons from those historical mistakes. For petty political gains, we are sabotaging and playing with the future of the coming generations.

When I think of the Indo-Pak tamasha that has lasted for about 70 years, my mind dwells upon Russian philosopher Leo Tolstoy whose book ‘The Kingdom of God Is Within You’ that preached non-violence and humanity had a profound influence on Mahatma Gandhi. In the book, Tolstoy talks about Wilhelm II who ruled the pre-World War I Germany.

In 1892, Wilhelm addressed some soldiers:

“Conscripts, you have sworn fidelity to me before the altar and the minister of God! You are still too young to understand all the importance of what has been said here; let your care before all things be to obey the orders and instructions given to you. You have sworn fidelity to me; that means you are now my soldiers, that you have given yourselves to me body and soul. For you there is now but one enemy, my enemy. In these days of socialistic sedition, it may come to pass that I command you to fire on your own kindred, your brothers, even your own fathers and mothers, which God forbid, even then you are bound to obey my orders without hesitation.”

Wilhelm wanted the Germans, blinded by the blinkers of patriotism and loyalty to the former, to fire on his enemies even if they happened to be their own kindred.

Pray tell me, how are our rulers any different from Wilhelm?

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  • P G Kutty Nair

    The author’s colored vision becomes evident when he links the renewed effort to conduct Indo-Pak talks to the Bihar election results. He asserts that Modi has softened after the defeat. That’s a very poor understanding of Modi’s character. He could not be softened by his detractors among the political parties, the media and the intellectuals after more than a decade of spreading canards to vilify him! As for the Indo-Pak talk, in the present circumstances that appears to be the only sensible option and, besides, we are talking to them at our own terms.
    Incidentally, while the defeat in Bihar elections is a cause for concern for the BJP, the winning side doesn’t look covered in glory because the so-called grand alliance was motivated not by any high principle, but by an opportunistic mathematical calculation of numbers.

  • whodunit

    Tensions on the borders have nothing to do with elections in India. Some journalists think that everyone is just a rogue like they themselves are and does everything for roguish reasons. Tensions on borders began long before Bihar elections.

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  • P G Kutty Nair

    The author’s colored vision becomes evident when he links the renewed effort to conduct Indo-Pak talks to the Bihar election results. He asserts that Modi has softened after the defeat. That’s a very poor understanding of Modi’s character. He could not be softened by his detractors among the political parties, the media and the intellectuals after more than a decade of spreading canards to vilify him! As for the Indo-Pak talk, in the present circumstances that appears to be the only sensible option and, besides, we are talking to them at our own terms.
    Incidentally, while the defeat in Bihar elections is a cause for concern for the BJP, the winning side doesn’t look covered in glory because the so-called grand alliance was motivated not by any high principle, but by an opportunistic mathematical calculation of numbers.

  • whodunit

    Tensions on the borders have nothing to do with elections in India. Some journalists think that everyone is just a rogue like they themselves are and does everything for roguish reasons. Tensions on borders began long before Bihar elections.

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World’s Anti-Corruption Day

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges "to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide."

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Anti-Corruption
Bulgarian anti-corruption protesters march during a demonstration in downtown Sofia, VOA

Corruption costs the world economy $2.6 trillion each year, according to the United Nations, which is marking International Anti-Corruption Day on Sunday.

“Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune,” the United Nations said.

The cost of $2.6 trillion represents more than 5 percent of global GDP.

The world body said that $1 trillion of the money stolen annually through corruption is in the form of bribes.

Patricia Moreira, the managing director of Transparency International, told VOA that about a quarter of the world’s population has paid a bribe when trying to access a public service over the past year, according to data from the Global Corruption Barometer.

Moreira said it is important to have such a day as International Anti-Corruption Day because it provides “a really tremendous opportunity to focus attention precisely on the challenge that is posed by corruption around the world.”

Journalist, Anti-Corruption
An activist places candles and flowers on the Great Siege monument, after rebuilding a makeshift memorial to assassinated anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Valletta, Malta. VOA

Anti-corruption commitments

To mark the day, the United States called on all countries to implement their international anti-corruption commitments including through the U.N. Convention against Corruption.

In a statement Friday, the U.S. State Department said that corruption facilitates crime and terrorism, as well as undermines economic growth, the rule of law and democracy.

“Ultimately, it endangers our national security. That is why, as we look ahead to International Anticorruption Day on Dec. 9, we pledge to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide,” the statement said.

Moreira said that data about worldwide corruption can make the phenomena understandable but still not necessarily “close to our lives.” For that, we need to hear everyday stories about people impacted by corruption and understand that it “is about our daily lives,” she added.

She said those most impacted by corruption are “the most vulnerable people — so it’s usually women, it’s usually poor people, the most marginalized people in the world.”

Anti-Corruption
Anna Hazare raised his voice against corruption and went ahead with his hunger strike at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations Development Program notes that in developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

What can be done to fight corruption?

The United Nations designated Dec. 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day in 2003, coinciding with the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption by the U.N. General Assembly.

The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about corruption and put pressure on governments to take action against it.

Tackling the issue

Moreira said to fight corruption effectively it must be tackled from different angles. For example, she said that while it is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption, governments must also have mechanisms to enforce that legislation. She said those who engage in corruption must be held accountable.

“Fighting corruption is about providing people with a more sustainable world, with a world where social justice is something more of our reality than what it has been until today,” she said.

Anti-Corruption
It is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption

Moreira said change must come from a joint effort from governments, public institutions, the private sector and civil society.

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges “to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide.”

It noted that the United States, through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, helps partner nations “build transparent, accountable institutions and strengthen criminal justice systems that hold the corrupt accountable.”

Also Read: British Parliament Access Internal Facebook Data Scandal Papers: Report

Moreira said that it is important for the world to see that there are results to the fight against corruption.

“Then we are showing the world with specific examples that we can fight against corruption, [that] yes there are results. And if we work together, then it is something not just that we would wish for, but actually something that can be translated into specific results and changes to the world,” she said. (VOA)