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Middle East situation like India before Independence

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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: thesimmonsreview.com)

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India Continues Engaging With USA Over H-1B Passport Issue

India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

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As Trump proposes changes in H1-B visa, India continues to engage with US

India is continuing to engage with the US over the H-1B visa, largely availed of by Indian IT companies, after the Trump administration proposed changes to the programme, a senior official said on Thursday.

“It is a very important topic for us and that is the reason why we have time and again at various levels, we have taken up this matter with the US side,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to queries by journalists here.

Kumar said that most recently, the issue was raised during the first ever India-US 2+2 Ministerial Meeting held here last month that was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

On Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019.

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It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages Flickr

The DHS said it was also proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation.

The move to end the rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visa holders, who have work permits.

The H-4 visas are issued by the USCIS to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the holders of H-1B visa.

The DHS said it will propose to revise the definition of speciality occupation to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B programme.

It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages, the DHS said.

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President Donald Trump speaks about immigration alongside family members affected by crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, June 22, 2018, in Washington, VOA

In his remarks on Thursday, Kumar said that India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

Stating that there are certain bills which have been introduced, he, however, said that “it is important to note that none of these bills have been passed so far”.

“When we have engaged with the US, we have emphasised that our partnership which we have in the digital sphere have been mutually beneficial,” the spokesperson said.

Also Read: USA And Other Countries Pledge To Eradicate Illegal Wildlife Trade

“We have highlighted the role which has been played by the highly skilled Indian professionals who have actually contributed to the growth and development of the US economy,” he stated.

“And also they have helped the US to maintain a competitive edge in the world towards innovation and science and technology.” (IANS)