The editorial in Dawn on February 2 takes great umbrage at New Delhi’s “over-reaction” to the phone call between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. First, the editorial argues that “it is difficult to understand how Delhi considers the conversation between Mr Qureshi and the Mirwaiz as an ‘attempt to undermine India’s unity’. Moreover, the Indian foreign secretary’s language, alleging that this country ‘abets … individuals associated with terrorism’ is highly unacceptable and contrary to the facts, as the Mirwaiz is a moderate Kashmiri leader spearheading a peaceful political movement.”
According to the editorial, the fact that India has right-wing, Hindu nationalist government is part of the reason for this diplomatic immaturity: “Considering the BJP’s roots in the fanatical RSS — which has no love lost for Pakistan or Muslims — it is understandable that Mr Modi and his party would find excuses to avoid talking to Pakistan. And with national elections only a couple of months away, the BJP will not want to be seen as going ‘soft’ on Pakistan in order to please the saffron brigade and scoop up more votes.”
The editorial also contends that India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi “has made it clear that peace with Pakistan is not part of its priorities”.
This “narrow communal approach” though, will not help the cause of peace in the Subcontinent, according to the editorial. After the elections, it hopes, a government that can further peace will come to office in New Delhi.
While the diplomatic circles in both Bangladesh and New Delhi have been understandably circumspect with how the ongoing exercise with the National Register of Citizens will affect bilateral relations, the opinion pages have been more vocal. On February 2, Kalam Shahed, a researcher based in Canada writes in The Daily Star of the “severe repercussions” that the NRC exercise could have on both sides of the border.
The rhetoric by a certain section of India’s political and governing class has not gone unnoticed: “BJP President Amit Shah has, in an unabashed, derogatory manner, called the alleged Bengali migrants to India ‘termites’. This has not gone unnoticed by conscious Bengalis on both sides of the border. Migration into and within India is not a recent phenomenon. Historically, segments of population had moved around in droves, from one part of India to another due to natural disasters and compelling political economic reasons. By politicising migration, BJP may be playing a dangerous game.”
Shahed argues that “An attempt to push Bengalis into Bangladesh or West Bengal may bolster greater Bengali nationalism in the subcontinent and among the more conscious Bengali diaspora settled abroad. A disenfranchised Bengali population could, nevertheless, trigger adverse reaction in Bangladesh, West Bengal and Tripura. Bigotry and irresponsible steps have definite reverberations for regional geopolitics.”
The Nepal Supreme Court has asserted its authority over the prosecution and conviction of military personnel in the country, a decision that The Himalayan Times calls “landmark” in its February 1 editorial. According to Nepal’s 1990 constitution, the military was excluded from the jurisdiction of the country’s apex court. “However, the Interim Constitution, 2007 and the Constitution of Nepal, promulgated in 2015, has brought even the military court under the command and control of the Supreme Court. It also has now become clear that no military personnel can escape from being tried in a civilian court. In principle, an appeal on the verdict passed by the military court can also be made in the Supreme Court for a final review,” according to the editorial.
The verdict is significant because the military’s exceptionalism has been a bone of contention in Nepal for sometime: “The Nepali Army has often drawn flak for settling criminal offences committed by army personnel through the military court. So the Supreme Court verdict has legally put the dispute between the military court and the civilian court to rest. By bringing the military court under civilian command and control, the image of the country’s professional and apolitical army will also improve greatly in the eyes of the public. This verdict will also deter army personnel from committing criminal offences outside the barracks. As the Supreme Court, which is also the record keeper of all verdicts, has clearly stated that all criminal offences committed by army personnel will come under the civilian court, it will also help end the culture of impunity while helping to protect the human rights of ordinary citizens.”