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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

View From The Neighbourhood: The Palestine example

A weekly look at the public conversations shaping ideas beyond borders — in the Subcontinent.

Published: December 9, 2019 1:28:38 am
Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa.

While last month, the focus in the Pakistan press was the proposed extension of Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa’s tenure and its supreme court’s ruling on the matter along with other domestic issues such as corruption, the spotlight seems to have shifted back to Kashmir to some extent.

In its December 8 editorial — ‘Relentless Tyranny’ — Dawn marks four months since the communication blockade was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir. Much of the editorial is a repetition of the line espoused by the newspaper over the last four months: “…the people of the forsaken Valley suffocate under India’s stifling restrictions”; “thousands remain incarcerated under flimsy pretences”; “Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — all former chief ministers of the held region — remain in detention along with other lawmakers, demonstrating that the BJP clique in New Delhi doesn’t even trust those that never tired of siding with India”.

What is interesting is a direct analogy between the suffering inflicted by Israel on Palestinians over the years, which too shows no sign of relenting, and the situation in the Valley: “It would not be wrong to compare the situation in occupied Kashmir to the miserable plight of the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, where similar restrictions on fundamental rights are enforced by the Israeli military machine. Perhaps this is not coincidental, as an Indian diplomat in the US was recently quoted as saying that his country should follow the ‘Israeli model’ in Kashmir; it is evident that quite a few of Tel Aviv’s brutal tactics are being replicated by the Hindutva-infused government in New Delhi.”

The statement by India’s consul-general to the US, Sandeep Chakravorty, (“why don’t we follow the Israel model”) also provides fodder to the argument made by Moonis Ahmar in The Express Tribune on December 6. “For the first time a senior Indian diplomat has called for establishing Hindu enclaves,” writes Ahmar, “similar to the illegal Jewish settlements in the Israel-occupied West Bank”. Ahmar, an international and strategic affairs scholar, does provide something of a caveat: “Although his statement was heavily criticised in India and by the Pakistani Prime Minister, it reflects the prevailing mindset in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) about the demographic transformation in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley.”

Ahmar then describes the modalities and immoralities of Israel’s occupation and points out that many Kashmiri pandits too are against the “demographic change” that permitting all Indians to buy land in Kashmir would allow. He ends by pointing out that despite its efforts, Pakistan has been unable to change New Delhi’s position on Kashmir, or have the latter face any serious consequences in international fora: “Pakistan is unable to effectively challenge New Delhi because of its fragile economy, political polarisation and gaps in policy and action. Pakistan should have hit when the iron was hot. Does it mean Pakistan has lost Kashmir for good?”

Onion woes

The only country suffering as much, if not more, than India from the soaring prices of onions is Nepal. In its December 7 editorial, The Kathmandu Post flags the tremendous shortage of onions, and analyses its causes and effects.

First, the cause: “When India faced an erratic and late monsoon, much like Nepal did, farmers lost a bulk of their onion crop. As prices for shallots, onions and other varieties rose, the Indian government put a ban on the export of the vegetable on September 29 and has extended it to February 2020 at least. The current price hike and shortage Nepal feels is a direct effect of Delhi’s export ban.”

One reason for the onion becoming ubiquitous in Nepali cuisine — it was not always so — is changing food habits, new ways of cooking meat, etc. While in the short term, the country is trying to offset the shortage through imports from China, these varieties have few takers as Indian onions are largely preferred.

The editorial proposes a long-term solution to such crises as well: “The government must support the promotion of multiple import-export channels: the 2015 blockade, the sporadic Nepali ginger barriers and the current onion crisis show that New Delhi will not put its neighbour’s need before its own. What it also shows is how Nepal is a hostage to a single trade partner. In the long run, Nepal must promote a diverse agriculture basket at home to sustain its food needs. Moreover, the diversity of local cuisine and the variety of regional ingredients must be celebrated. Not everyone needs to have rice as a staple, and neither does every Nepali require onions in their chicken.”

A weekly look at the public conversations shaping ideas beyond borders — in the Subcontinent. Curated by Aakash Joshi

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