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Muhith called it an indirect aggression

Faruque Ahmed

Finance Minister AMA Muhith has made it clear that Myanmar military is carrying out an indirect aggression on Bangladesh as its military is running a cleansing operation of Rohingya Muslims and pushing them to flee to Bangladesh for safety. It is a rare admission of the truth while the government leaders are busy highlighting the refugee crisis without talking about the security issues to the global community as it comes as a threat to the country’s sovereignty.

Full Story

Faruque Ahmed

Finance Minister AMA Muhith has made it clear that Myanmar military is carrying out an indirect aggression on Bangladesh as its military is running a cleansing operation of Rohingya Muslims and pushing them to flee to Bangladesh for safety. It is a rare admission of the truth while the government leaders are busy highlighting the refugee crisis without talking about the security issues to the global community as it comes as a threat to the country’s sovereignty.

Rohingyas are setting up a “satellite state” within the state and its implications will be far reaching if Myanmar does not take them back. As of now, the prospects of these people returning home is bleak, as Myanmar government does not recognize them as their nationals and stripped their citizenship by a law in 2012.
 
Destabilization feared in the region
Meanwhile national security experts Major General (Ret) AMN Moniruzzaman who also heads a strategic think tank depicted a very terrible scenario from security threats that may ultimately destabilize the region. He said Al-Qaida and Chechen fighters are planning to join the Rohingya fights. 
Fighters are also being trained in Indonesia and Malaysia while Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other Muslim countries are believed to be funding Rohingya resistance for survival of the Muslim community in their land. 
In that case tension may also engulf the entire region and Bangladesh may not keep safe from being implicated. In fact Ms Suu Kyi is already blaming Rohingya resistance being coming from Bangladesh side of the common border.  
 
UN calls for action
The government and international agencies are now busy to provide food and shelter to the newly arrived refugees as their number has risen to over 389,000 in the past two weeks. The number of fresh arrivals was reported at 19,000 during 24 hours ending last Tuesday as per UN agencies working at Ukhia and other places where the refugees are entering Bangladesh.
The UN Human Rights Council said the genocide that the Myanmar military is now carrying out looks like ‘a textbook case of ethnic cleansing’. Supreme leader of Buddhism Lord Dalai Lama said Buddha would have been ashamed of what Ms Su Kyi is doing for ethnic purity of the Buddhist nation.
China, Russia, and India – the three powers that have influence over Myanmar are supporting the ethnic cleansing operation.
Sources say, Rohingya youths are organizing to fight back as the Myanmar military and ultra-nationalist Buddhist groups are setting their villages on fire, raping their women, beheading children and carrying mass killing in Muslim localities. What appears strange is that Ms Suu Kyi, the supreme civilian leader of the country is blaming those young men as terrorists from Bangladesh although they are operating from within the Rakhine state identifying them as Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
Suu Kyi is not only misleading the world in passing the blame and describing the young people as terrorists while at the same time also trying to suggest that there is no local resistance growing against the Myanmar military oppression at a time when the UN Secretary General warned of growing violence that may destabilize the region if the cleansing operation continues. In a rare letter to the Security Council, The UN Secretary General has also called for strong action against Myanmar to stop the Rohingya genocide.
 
Opacity of India, China, Russia
It appears that Myanmar army is at its final push to expel all the Rohingyas from their land while China and Russia are apparently shielding the country from UN Security Council’s censures for such a criminal action. India is also siding with Myanmar although Bangladesh has provided it with all kinds of concessions including transit rights and the right to use ports and other infrastructure within the country.
But most significantly, Bangladesh and Indian Prime Ministers had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on joint defence system for both countries in December last year. While we are not sure of the latest position, but there is no doubt that the Myanmar action is a direct threat to the Bangladesh’s security and sovereignty.   Now, in this circumstance, the Indian Prime Minister’s statement supporting action taken by Myanmar military on the Rohinya minority came as a big surprise to the people here. PM Modi issued the statement while visiting Myanmar recently.
Besides, as some critics say, our government made unnecessary purchase of nuclear plant and military hardware from Russia perhaps to win its support at international level, but its continued support of Myanmar’s heinous crime has adding embarrassment to the government. It may be difficult to refute allegations that these countries have united to persecute the Muslim minorities.
China is a household name in Bangladesh and they are treated as good friends of the people here and yet why it has taken the stance which appears to be supporting Myanmar when the later is engaged in a genocidal action against the Rohingya Moslems. While this is clearly a grave humanitarian crisis that has unfolded in past weeks adversely affecting the Rohingyas, but it has also made Bangladesh so much vulnerable to an undeclared aggression by the Myanmar government.
 
National Unity needed
Myanmar is located in a part of the world which is of strategic value to countries with direct geopolitical interest in the region. At one stage, the US was also seen working overtime to be friendly with the country, especially after Aung Sung Suu Kyi became the virtual head of the government. However, currently, Washington has discarded its earlier policy and took a strong stand against the Myanmar military’s oppressive actions against Rohingya minorities.
Both China and India which has long common borders with Myanmar are also competing with each other to be on the right side of the government for their own strategic and commercial interests. Nobody has any quarrel with the two countries’ pursuing their strategic and commercial interests, but when the country concerned indulges in such grave criminal activities such as ethnic cleansing, such mundane interest could be side stepped.
Bangladesh government has intensified diplomatic campaign to master greater support of the global community to end the crisis and getting immense response. But the acute leadership crisis within the country and in the absence of the foresight of the ruling party leadership to call for national unity to deal with the situation much more strongly is lacking. This is likely to weaken the country’s stand.
However, response from international community to protect Rohingya people is growing and aid commitments are rising. But a final solution of the repatriation of the Rohingyas is far out of sight.
Many believe that the government must involve people from all segments of political life to raise voice against Myanmar military’s atrocities and prove that Bangladesh people are capable to defend their country.
The Myanmar government is now denying that Rohingyas are not their nationals. But in an agreement with Bangladesh signed in 1992, Myanmar government agreed to take back 236,599 Rohingyas from Bangladesh as their nationals. Now it can’t deny them as its national and their right to return to their home. Myanmar must be made to agree to a dialogue to negotiate. In this context, the role of China, India and Russia, among other countries, is crucial.

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 Rohingyas, Suu Kyi and Nobel prize

Dr Binoy Kampmark
 
Scratch the skin of a saint, claimed George Orwell, and you are bound to find a sinner with an extensive resume.  Such resumes are evaluated in these modern times by accolades, awards, and summits.  The Noble Peace Prize tends to be crowning affirmation that somewhere along the line, you sufficiently fouled up to merit it.
The calls, some even shrill, to have the Nobel Prize taken off Aung San Suu Kyi, are distressed lamentations of misplaced loyalties, even love.  The de facto leader of Myanmar is showing what others have in the past: partiality, a harsh streak, and a cold blooded instinct. The saint, in other words, has been scratched, and the unquestioning followers are startled.
Full Story
Dr Binoy Kampmark
 
Scratch the skin of a saint, claimed George Orwell, and you are bound to find a sinner with an extensive resume.  Such resumes are evaluated in these modern times by accolades, awards, and summits.  The Noble Peace Prize tends to be crowning affirmation that somewhere along the line, you sufficiently fouled up to merit it.
The calls, some even shrill, to have the Nobel Prize taken off Aung San Suu Kyi, are distressed lamentations of misplaced loyalties, even love.  The de facto leader of Myanmar is showing what others have in the past: partiality, a harsh streak, and a cold blooded instinct. The saint, in other words, has been scratched, and the unquestioning followers are startled.
When asked to respond to the arrival in Bangladesh of almost 150,000 stateless Muslim Rohingyas since August, the result of violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, the leader sternly rebuked suggestions that there was a problem.  After all, the initial violence had been perpetrated by assaults on an army base and police posts by Rohingya insurgents since October.
 
Suu Kyi’s ‘fake  news’
The problem she sought to address was that others were faking the record to advance the interests of terrorists, supplying the world with “a huge iceberg of misinformation”. (How delightful is Trumpland, with its tentacles so global and extensive they have found themselves in the speeches and opinions of a secularly ordained saint.)
Faking the fleeing of tens of thousands of persecuted souls would surely be a challenge.  The response from Suu Kyi is a salutary reminder that genocides, atrocities and historical cruelties can be often denied with untroubled ease. Her statement in response to the crisis was one of conscious omission: the Rohingyas barely warranted a mention, except as a security challenge.
The statement issued from her office on Facebook claimed that the government had “already started defending all the people in Rakhine in the best way possible.” The misinformation campaign, she insisted, was coming from such individuals as the Turkish deputy prime minister, who deleted images of killings on Twitter after discovering they were not, in fact, from Myanmar.
The approach to misinformation taken by the government has been one of silence and containment.  National security advisor Thaung Tun has made it clear that China and Russia will be wooed in efforts to frustrate any resolution that might make its way to the UN Security Council.  “China is our friend and we have a similar relationship with Russia, so it will not be possible for that issue to go forward.”
As for calls of terrorists sowing discord, Suu Kyi may well get her wish.  Protests organised in Muslim regional powers are already pressing for the cutting of ties with Myanmar.  Turkey is pressing for answers.  The Islamist tide, should it duly affect the Rohingyas, will itself become a retaliatory reality.
 
Principles violated
This sting of crisis and realpolitik was all too much for certain members of the Suu Kyi fan club. It certainly was for veteran Guardian columnist George Monbiot. He, along with others, had looked to her when jailed (house arrest or otherwise) as pristine, the model prisoner, the ideal pro-democracy figure.  When held captive, the purity was unquestioned.
Hopes were entrusted, and not counterfeit ones.  “To mention her was to invoke patience and resilience in the face of suffering, courage and determination in the unyielding struggle for freedom.  She was an inspiration to us all.”  (The Guardian, 5 Sept 2017)
Not so now. Crimes documented by the UN human rights report of February have been ignored.  The deliberate destruction of crops, avoided.  Humanitarian aid has been obstructed.  The military, praised.  When violence has been acknowledged, it has only been to blame insurgents who represent, in any case, an interloping people who are denied their ethnicity by the 1982 Citizenship Law.
“I believe,” writes Monbiot, “the Nobel Committee should retain responsibility for the prizes it awards, and withdraw them if its laureates later violate the principles for which they were recognised.”
How often has history shown that the prison is merely the prelude to a recurring nastiness, political calculation, and revenge?  Far from enlightening the mind and restoring faith, it destroys optimism and vests the inmate with those survival skills that, when resorted to, can result in carnage and misery.  Suu Kyi, in other words, is behaving politically, fearing the loss of her position, aware that behind her is a military that needs to be kept, at least partly, in clover.
 
Will ‘she wake up’
Other Nobel Laureates have also added their voices to the roll call of concern, less of condemnation than encouragement. One is Professor Muhammed Yunus.  “These are her own people.  She says ‘these are not my people, someone else’s people’, I would say she has completely departed from her original role which brought her the Nobel Prize.” (The Sydney Morning Herald, September 8, 2017.)
Yunus, however, is more optimistic that the selfish, distancing leader will return to her peaceful credentials.  From a dark sleep, she will rise. “I still think she is the same Aung San Suu Kyi that won the Nobel Peace Prize; she will wake up to that person.”
Another is Desmond Tutu, who took the route of an open letter:
“My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep… We pray for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of our people.  We pray for you to intervene.”
The Nobel Institute, obviously moved by a sufficient number of calls to comment on the status of the award for the 1991 recipient, deemed the decision immutable.  “Neither Alfred Nobel’s will nor the statutes of the Nobel Foundation,” confirmed its head Olav Njølstad, “provide the possibility that a Nobel Prize – whether for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature or peace – can be revoked.” (Washington Post, Sept 09, 2017)
As for the prize itself, it is long axiomatic that persons who tend to get it have blood on their hands.  The terrorist, reborn, is feted by the Nobel Prize Committee. Before ploughshares came swords.  Before peace, there was the shedding of blood.  But, in some cases, it may well be the reverse: from the ploughshares come the swords, and the Rohingyas are tasting that awful fact.
 
Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com
Countercurrents.org

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Is the Narendra Modi bubble about to burst?
Prem Shankar Jha
in New Delhi
The Wire
 
Why has Prime Minister Narendra Modi gone in for such a sweeping cabinet reshuffle now? The short answer is a growing anxiety within the Sangh parivar, voiced recently in the context of agriculture by the RSS, that the BJP’s honeymoon with the electorate, the longest that any government has ever enjoyed, may be coming to an end.
Full Story
Prem Shankar Jha
in New Delhi
The Wire
 
Why has Prime Minister Narendra Modi gone in for such a sweeping cabinet reshuffle now? The short answer is a growing anxiety within the Sangh parivar, voiced recently in the context of agriculture by the RSS, that the BJP’s honeymoon with the electorate, the longest that any government has ever enjoyed, may be coming to an end.
For three years, Modi’s political star has been ascending. India’s new middle class has been singing his praises, NRIs have put up altars dedicated to him in their homes abroad, even leaders in the opposition have begun to wonder whether their interests will not be better served if they join the bandwagon, rather than risk being run over by it.  Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, once the tallest among his opponents, has already chosen the safer course.
 
Modi’s Achilles’ heel
Modi has achieved his larger-than-life stature by making a succession of promises to the people and a media blitz that has no precedent in Indian politics. Whenever you look and wherever you go, televisions screens flash his image every few minutes, announcing a new programme or welfare scheme, or admonishing Indians to take part in schemes already announced. The central government’s advertisement budget for “welfare schemes” this year is a mammoth Rs 1,153 crores, Rs 200 crore more than last year. And there is hardly a single advertisement that does not centre around Modi.
This TV blitz is supplemented by a saturation of cyberspace with praise and propaganda for Modi and the BJP, and denigration of all those who find fault with his policies. The combined onslaught has stupefied the ordinary Indian and discouraged the opposition to the point where every effort by it to build a common platform against the BJP has foundered on the unspoken belief that the effort is pointless because Modi is bound to win the 2019 elections.
But larger-than-life images also have larger-than-life Achilles’ heels. Three almost-simultaneous developments, each of which would normally have dented the government’s image in only minor ways, show how Modi’s image is beginning to lose its shine. The first is the unconditional Indian withdrawal from the Doklam plateau; the second is the news that 99% of the bank notes demonetised on November 8 have been exchanged for new notes; the third is the decline in GDP growth to a three-year low of 5.7% in the April-June quarter of 2017-18.
Coming on top of two train accidents in four days that have killed more than 20 and injured close to 200 passengers, and the death of 67 children in a single hospital in Gorakhpur, home of Adityanath, reportedly for want of something as basic as oxygen, these setbacks have stripped the Sangh parivar’s “New India” of much of its gloss.  The frenzy of denials and rebuttals that has followed each of the three events reveals the government’s awareness of the softening of the ground beneath its feet.
 
Lack of confidence revealed
Stripped to its essence, India’s vacation of the Doklam plateau is an unconditional acceptance of China’s precondition for the avoidance of conflict and the resumption of normal diplomatic relations. Modi’s propagandists could easily have portrayed this as a display of good sense and moderation by both sides. But they have described it as a ‘big win’ for India and a diplomatic setback for China.
Since our TV channels have lapped it up without a word of scepticism, Beijing has been forced to disclose that, contrary to the impression it is creating, China has made no real reciprocal concession to India.  Hua Chunying, the Chinese Foreign Office spokesperson made this crystal clear by stating: “Chinese border troops continue to be stationed (in) and patrol (the area)”. About the road she said that China “will take into consideration all factors, including weather, to make relevant construction plans according to situations on ground (emphasis added).”
Her reference to the weather is the only hint China will not restart the road building this year. And by ‘all factors’ she may have implied that the resumption of construction could depend upon the state of Sino-Indian relations eight months from now. The Indian public is not well versed in deciphering diplomatic language. But the perception that Doklam was at best a losing draw is bound to sink in over time.
In a similar vein, had the Modi government been less nervous, it could have claimed that the return of 99% of the demonetised currency notes is an indication of the success and not failure of demonetisation. For it shows that large numbers of tax evaders have preferred to deposit their money in banks and pay the penalty, rather than lose their money altogether. The true measure of success, it could have asserted, is not the currency that did not return but the sudden increase of money in peoples’ bank accounts that has taken place since then.
 
An economy in crisis
As finance minister Arun Jaitley pointed out last week, this has been substantial. But the problem with putting this forward now is that it would be not the first, but the eleventh justification for demonetisation that the government would be presenting. It would therefore strengthen the suspicion that when Modi announced demonetisation personally last November, he did not really know what he was doing and that his advisers have been cobbling justifications together ever since.
The news that the GDP only grew by 5.7% in the first quarter, against 7.9% in the same quarter of the previous year, could not therefore have come at a worse time. The government has ascribed this to the sharp drop in manufacturing growth from 10.7% last year to a measly 1.2% in the first quarter of this year. But the real explanation is that the growth last year, and in fact the whole of the economic revival that the government claims is now beginning, is a statistical illusion created by the measurement of manufacturing growth by value added and not physical output.
Value added is physical output minus the value of consumed inputs other than labour. So it can change without any change in actual production or employment. This is what boosted estimates of growth in manufacturing in 2016-17. As the RBI’s annual report this year has pointed out, in April-June 2016, there was a windfall gain in value added because of a sharp fall in input costs. This year, by contrast, there has been a slight rise in these costs. Since sale prices of manufactured products have remained fairly steady, the whole of this change has been reflected in the fall of value added in manufacturing, and therefore the GDP.
Proof of this can be had by comparing the estimate of changes in value added and physical output during this period. In April to June 2016, manufacturing output grew by only 6.7%, against the 10.7% rise in value added. In sharp contrast, this year physical production rose by 1.8% in the same quarter, but value added rose only by 1.2%. This was because there had been a marginal rise in input costs of 0.6%.
 
Time running out
The BJP, however, cannot use this argument because, in stark contrast to the GDP data, the index of industrial production shows growth in manufacturing actually declining from 4.8% in 2012-13, the last full year of UPA rule, to 2.8% in 2015-16 and 3.8% in 2016-17. Doing so would therefore put a very large question mark over the government’s claim to have revived economic growth in the previous three years.
Precise comparisons over a longer period of time are not possible because the Central Statistical Office changed the base for calculating the index of industrial production in 2011-12 and did not link the new estimates with the old, but at the very least, manufacturing growth has fallen from an average of 8.6% a year between 2003-4 and 2011-12 to 3.5% between 2013-14 and 2016-17.
Coming on top of this, the drop in manufacturing growth to 1.8% in the first quarter of the current year is alarming, for it not only confirms what the government’s critics have been saying, that the hardships caused by demonetisation were not just temporary, as Modi kept reassuring the people, but likely to persist for a long time.
This has since been confirmed by a host of supplementary data, such as the onset of deflation in agriculture, which signals a sharp drop in buying power in the rural areas; the CMIE’s estimate that 1.5 million jobs were lost between December and April; the fact that for the first time in over 60 years commercial bank credit has actually contracted this year, when it rose by more than 20% a year in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee and UPA-I years; that 73% of the 300 plus respondents in FICCI’s latest survey of industry indicated that they had no intention of creating any jobs for at least the next three months, and McKinsey’s finding that more than 35% of the entire 466-million labour force of India in now underemployed, with no secure jobs and no social security.
The conclusion is inescapable: Modi has utterly failed to live up to his commitment to bring back the “ache din (good days)” and his bubble is about to burst. Only a dramatic change in policies can prevent this, and for that he may have run out of time.
 
Prem Shankar Jha is a senior journalist and the author of several books including Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger: Can China and India Dominate the West?

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Strange questions on 1947 partition

M. Serajul Islam
 
A new discussion is being floated in the country’s print media; that the Muslims of Bangladesh would have been better off today had the Muslim League and Mohammad Ali Jinnah not pushed for Pakistan as a separate homeland for the Muslims based upon the two-nation theory. In articles, certain individuals are selling this idea to coincide with the 70th year of the Partition of India.
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M. Serajul Islam
 
A new discussion is being floated in the country’s print media; that the Muslims of Bangladesh would have been better off today had the Muslim League and Mohammad Ali Jinnah not pushed for Pakistan as a separate homeland for the Muslims based upon the two-nation theory. In articles, certain individuals are selling this idea to coincide with the 70th year of the Partition of India.
The argument against Partition from the Muslim point of view is based upon numbers. These individuals argue that Muslims now in Bangladesh and Pakistan together with Muslims in India are 489 million at present against 956 million Hindus. Therefore, they further argue that if India was not partitioned in 1947, the Muslims would have been able to achieve their social, economic and political interests better in a united India vis-à-vis the Hindus than in Pakistan and now in Bangladesh. They have also suggested that the lower caste Hindus in India who are not finding favour in the Hindu fundamentalism that is now raging in India because it is being led and dominated by the upper caste Hindus would also have joined the Muslims to fight the elitist Hindu fundamentalism in India.
 
What it really means
Such a line of thinking is so absurd that even the elitist Hindu fundamentalists now ruling India could not have succeeded in conjuring a better line for propagating Hindutva and their dream of Akhand Bharat. These individuals in Bangladesh, in reality, are supporting the BJP’s Akhand Bharat in denial about what the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, front organizations of the ruling BJP are saying in India; that in their Akhand Bharat, Muslims would have a place only if they returned voluntarily to Hinduism from which their forefathers had converted to Islam following the advent of Muslim rule in India nearly 1200 years ago. The RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha have coined a buzzword for this great return of Indian Muslims to Hinduism: Ghar Wapsi.
The demographic arguments that these anti-Partition writers are using could be attractive to those ignorant of history. The 489 million Muslims in a hypothetical united India today would, of course, be able to fight elitist Hindu fundamentalism much better than the 150 million Muslims in India today. Nevertheless, there are so many absurdities in this argument that it would be beneath the intelligence of one conversant with history to even try to expose it. Nevertheless, as the attempts by these people are a serious move to mislead many who are unaware of history, it is imperative to expose the gaping holes in this anti-partition discussion.
There are many leads from where the start could be made. Nevertheless, a good point would be from the Hindu fundamentalism that is raging in India today that is so intrinsically evil that the Muslims, unless they are in a deep stupor, should wake up to find out what these supporters of united India and critics of Indian partition are suggesting. The vision of India that the BJP led government has given through its front organizations is very unambiguous and clear; that there is no place there for anyone who is not a Hindu where Hindutva would be the guiding ideology of the country. The option of the Muslims in such a visionary India or Hindustan would be to convert back to Hinduism from where most of their ancestors had converted to Islam.
 
Reality debunks demography theory
A second point based upon which the suggestion of these supporters could be trashed would be by looking at the social and economic realities of the Muslims in India today. In 2005, the Indian Government, itself aware of the pitiable plight of the Muslims, had constituted the Sachar Committee. That Committee’s Report would be too lengthy to discuss here. But a reference on West Bengal would perhaps be worthwhile to trash the theory of a united India. The Committee found that Muslims in WB with 25% of state’s population had less than 5% representation in the government jobs and mostly as peons and chaprasis. The plight of the Muslims elsewhere in the country is perhaps worse as underlined by the appointment of the Sachar Committee itself.
India, of course, has progressed tremendously since Partition but the benefit of the progress has gone disproportionately to the Hindus.  Strangely with the Sachar Committee Report before them, these Johnny come lately critics of the Partition are suggesting that by seeking and finding a separate homeland, they have forced themselves from benefitting from India’s march on the world stage! Strangely too, these individuals are also in denial that compared to the plight of the Indian Muslims that has largely been because of persecution of the majority Hindus, the Muslims in Bangladesh and Pakistan are so incredibly better. Notwithstanding its gap with India on the economic indicators of growth that is not as wide as these anti-Partition Bangladeshi writers suggest, its nuclear capability puts it at par on the world stage with India.
And the case of Bangladesh’s success as an independent and sovereign nation is so palpably evident from where the “Bangals” (a derogatory term coined by the Hindus of West Bengal for the impoverished Muslims of East Bengal) have come that one must seriously find out what is motivating these individuals to come at this stage and suggest that the people of Bangladesh would have been better off as Indians! These individuals are also in denial that two famous “Bangals” and how their vision has guided the “Bangals” to turn the tables on the West Bengal Hindus who audaciously called themselves the “Bhodrolokes”.
 
The two ‘Bangal’ visionaries
The first of these two visionaries were Sher-e-Bangla AKM Fazlul Huq who had joined the Muslim League in the late 1930s from his own party the Krisak Sramik Party. He then had moved the Pakistan Resolution in 1940 in Lahore aware that the fate of the Muslims would have been sealed for the worst in a united India led by the Congress. The other visionary for whom the Muslims of Bengal or the Bangals were able to reach the lofty heights they have reached today was the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who as a student leader in Kolkata in the 1940s was very much with Sher-e-Bangla during the movement for Pakistan. In the 1950s and the 1960s, his vision encouraged him to lead the “Bangals” one step further, to an independent Bangladesh where their ability to grow and prosper would not have the British, the Hindus or the neo-colonialist Pakistanis to cause obstacles and hindrances.
Bangladesh, of course, has a long way to go yet. But the two great leaders and visionaries of Bangladesh, Sher-e-Bangla and Bangabandhu had seen where the destiny of their people lay and we are going there.  It is on road to going there that we are finding the same obstacles in our path of realizing the potentials that two leaders had visualized; that the people of Bangladesh would be best off when they would be the master of their fate. The reason is again Hindu India that wanted the control of undivided India in 1947. At a time when these anti-partition writers are suggesting that Partition was bad for the Muslims, India has become a matter of grave concern for all its neighbours because of its well-expressed intent to dominate South Asia.
 
Lessons of 1911 annulment
India has a problem with all its neighbours today to add to the negative vibes from its blatant Hindu fundamentalism. It has barbed its borders with Bangladesh. And Bangladesh’s concessions to India on their critical security and land transit needs have not been reciprocated. The Teesta water sharing agreement that it was supposed to hand to Bangladesh in 2011 has now been forgotten. To go with those broken promises, India interfered in Bangladesh’s internal affairs during the 2014 elections negating the very reason why Bangladesh had fought the war for independence which was to live in a country where its people would be able to elect the government in a free and fair election. India ensured that less than 10% of the people would “vote” in that election so that it could bring the Awami League to power to continue to serve New Delhi’s interests.
There are of course other pertinent issues of Indian history under the British that should trash further even a prima facae consideration of the 1947 Partition not being good for Muslims as absurd and a bagful of tales being told with another bagful of malafide intents. These issues together with the infamous divide and rule of the deceitful British, the establishment of the Zamindari system through the Permanent Settlement in 1793 that allowed the Hindus to become the feudal lords in Bengal largely over the poor and impoverished Muslims and the Annulment of the 1905 Partition of Bengal through which the British had wanted to do some good for the Muslims of East Bengal perhaps as a result of a belated pang of conscience. Thanks to the Bhodrolokes, the Partition of Bengal was annulled in 2011 and with that any hope of the Muslims of Bengal ever living in a united Bengal forever.
 
Why question now?
Therefore, one has to wonder when India has so blatantly exposed its anti-Muslim face graphically and explicitly, why would Muslims in Bangladesh raise questions about the 1947 Partition as an event that harmed the Muslims when the benefits of that Partition followed by Bangladesh’s independence in 1971 are so graphically laid out before them compared to the pitiable plight of the Muslims in West Bengal in particular and India in general?  And poor Mohammad Ali Jinnah who was the most non-communal political leader who made attempts to save India from being divided as late as March 1946 by accepting the Cabinet Mission Plan is being blamed for the Partition with the Muslim League’s Two Nation Theory in a complete distortion of history.
In fact, these individuals are perhaps suggesting without perhaps realizing that if Muslims of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India were by some hypothetical means to be citizens in a united India, only then they would know what mistakes their forefathers had made in 1947! If they have such confidence in India, why would the Muslims need to come together?  If the Muslims have to unite in a hypothetical united India, they would be underlining boldly the Two-Nation Theory all over again.
Postscript: Renowned historian Ayesha Jalal whose research into 1947 has dramatically rewritten a lot of the old tale of the Partition told by Indian and British historians has said in a recent interview to a Dhaka newspaper that in both Bengal and Punjab, the Muslims were against the Partition of their respective provinces based on religion.  The Hindus wanted to be a part of Hindu India by partitioning both and the British accepted which caused millions of deaths, underlying that the Hindus played the communal card in 1947 and not the Muslims. And how many of the brilliant Bangladesh Test cricketers would find a place in the Indian Test team where there is only one Muslim now if the Muslims of Bangladesh were to be a part of India?
 
The writer is a retired career Ambassador

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How much does Trump matter?

Joseph S. Nye
in Cambridge
 
The United States has never had a president like Donald Trump. With a narcissistic personality and a short attention span, and lacking experience in world affairs, he tends to project slogans rather than strategy in foreign policy. Some presidents, like Richard Nixon, had similar personal insecurities and social biases, but Nixon had a strategic view of foreign policy. Others, such as Lyndon Johnson, were highly egotistical, but also had great political skill in working with Congress and other leaders.
Full Story
Joseph S. Nye
in Cambridge
 
The United States has never had a president like Donald Trump. With a narcissistic personality and a short attention span, and lacking experience in world affairs, he tends to project slogans rather than strategy in foreign policy. Some presidents, like Richard Nixon, had similar personal insecurities and social biases, but Nixon had a strategic view of foreign policy. Others, such as Lyndon Johnson, were highly egotistical, but also had great political skill in working with Congress and other leaders.
Will future historians look back at Trump’s presidency as a temporary aberration or a major turning point in America’s role in the world?  Journalists tend to focus too heavily on leaders’ personalities, because it makes good copy. In contrast, social scientists tend to offer broad structural theories about economic growth and geographic location that make history seem inevitable.
 
The presidential legacy
I once wrote a book that tried to test the importance of leaders by examining important turning points in the creation a century ago of the “American era” and speculating about what might have happened had the president’s most plausible contender been in his place instead.  Would structural forces have brought about the same era of US global leadership under different presidents?
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Theodore Roosevelt was an activist leader, but he affected mostly timing. Economic growth and geography were the powerful determinants. Woodrow Wilson broke with America’s hemispheric traditions by sending US forces to fight in Europe; but where Wilson made a bigger difference was in the moral tone of American exceptionalism in his justification of – and, counterproductively, his stubborn insistence on – all-or-nothing involvement in the League of Nations.
As for Franklin Roosevelt, it is at least debatable whether structural forces would have brought the US into World War II under a conservative isolationist. Clearly, FDR’s framing of the threat posed by Hitler, and his preparation for taking advantage of an event like Pearl Harbor, were crucial factors.
The post-1945 structural bipolarity of the US and the Soviet Union set the framework for the Cold War. But a Henry Wallace presidency (which would have occurred if FDR had not switched him for Harry Truman as vice president in 1944) might have changed the style of the US response. Similarly, a Robert Taft or Douglas MacArthur presidency might have disrupted the relatively smooth consolidation of the containment system over which Dwight Eisenhower presided.
At the end of the century, the structural forces of global economic change caused the erosion of the Soviet superpower, and Mikhail Gorbachev’s attempts at reform accelerated the Soviet Union’s collapse. However, Ronald Reagan’s defence buildup and negotiating savvy, along with George H.W. Bush’s skill in managing the end of the Cold War, were important to the final outcome.
 
Leadership matters
Is there a plausible story in which, owing to different presidential leadership, America would not have achieved global primacy by the end of the twentieth century?
Perhaps if FDR had not been president and Germany had consolidated its power, the international system in the 1940s could have realized George Orwell’s vision of a conflict-prone multipolar world. Perhaps if Truman had not been president and Stalin had made major gains in Europe and the Middle East, the Soviet empire would have been stronger, and bipolarity might have persisted longer. Perhaps if Eisenhower or Bush had not been president and a different leader had been less successful in avoiding war, the American ascendency would have been driven off track (as it was for a time by US intervention in Vietnam).
Given its economic size and favorable geography, structural forces would likely have produced some form of American primacy in the twentieth century. Nonetheless, leaders’ decisions strongly affected the timing and type of primacy. In that sense, even when structure explains a lot, leadership within the structure can make a difference.  If history is a river whose course and flow are shaped by the large structural forces of climate and topography, human agents can be portrayed as ants clinging to a log swept along by the current, or as white-water rafters steering and avoiding rocks, occasionally overturning and sometimes succeeding.
So leadership matters, but how much? There will never be a definitive answer. Scholars who have tried to measure the effects of leadership in corporations or laboratory experiments have sometimes come up with numbers in the range of 10% or 15%, depending on the context. But these are highly structured situations where change is often linear.  In unstructured situations, such as post-apartheid South Africa, the transformational leadership of Nelson Mandela made a huge difference.
 
A curious blip
American foreign policy is structured by institutions and a constitution, but external crises can create a context much more susceptible to leaders’ choices, for better or worse. If Al Gore had been declared president in 2000, the US probably would have gone to war in Afghanistan, but not in Iraq. Because foreign-policy events are what social scientists call “path dependent,” relatively small choices by leaders, even in the range of 10-15% early on a path, can lead to major divergences in outcomes over time. As Robert Frost once put it, when two roads diverge in a wood, taking the one less traveled can sometimes make all the difference.
Finally, the risks created by the personality of a leader may not be symmetrical; they may make more of a difference for a mature power than for a rising power. Striking a rock or causing a war can sink the ship. If Trump avoids a major war, and if he is not re-elected, future scholars may look back at his presidency as a curious blip on the curve of American history. But those are big “ifs.”
 
Joseph S. Nye, Jr., a former US assistant secretary of defense and chairman of the US National Intelligence Council, is University Professor at Harvard University. He is the author of Is the American Century Over? [Project Syndicate]

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Syrian troops liberate 85% of the country

Holiday Desk
 
SYRIA’s military have liberated around 85 per cent of the country’s territory from the control of insurgent terrorists, according to the latest statement issued by the Russian Ministry of Defence, reported Russia’s English-language news channel RT earlier this week.
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Holiday Desk
 
SYRIA’s military have liberated around 85 per cent of the country’s territory from the control of insurgent terrorists, according to the latest statement issued by the Russian Ministry of Defence, reported Russia’s English-language news channel RT earlier this week.
Lieutenant General Aleksandr Lapin, Russian chief of staff in Syria, told reporters at Khmeimim air base that the Syrian forces will now have to liberate the remaining 15 per cent, around 27,000 square kilometers.
Lt. Gen. Lapin also said that Syrian troops are continuing the operation to free Deir ez-Zor from Islamic State (IS).
“Currently the operation to free the city is ongoing. The Syrian military will soon finish off the IS forces that used to occupy the city’s neighbourhoods,” Lt. Gen. Lapin said in a briefing.
The blockade of Deir ez-Zor was broken on September 5 by Syrian forces, after three years of IS control of the city.
“The command posts and communication networks of the terrorists were destroyed by Kalibr cruise missiles, launched from the Black Sea escort vessel ‘Admiral Essen’. This disrupted control of IS units in the area.”
“Over 450 terrorists, 5 tanks and 42 pickups with heavy machine guns were liquidated during the operation,” Lt. Gen. Lapin added.
Russia has been providing assistance for the Syrian forces fighting IS since 2015, and with the Russian military’s help, the Syrian army has freed Hama, Homs, Latakia, Palmyra and Aleppo.
In March 2016, Russian President Putin ordered a partial withdrawal of Russian forces because they had reached all of the goals that had been set for them in the country.
Nevertheless, a small group of Russian military planes remains stationed in Khmeimim and continues to strike terrorist positions.  Russia has also deployed special forces and anti-aircraft systems in the area to protect the base from attack.

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