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Nothing to celebrate as Modi heads to South Africa

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Sumayya Omar | 04 July 2016

Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is set to visit South Africa this week. The SAWelcomesModi Committee has been planning a grand reception on the 8 July 2016 for the Prime Minister, where he is expected to address both expatriate and South African Indians.

It is the first time an Indian Prime Minister will address a public gathering of this magnitude in South Africa despite the longstanding ties between the two nations.

There is however a lot to consider before jumping on the wagon singing and joining the chorus singing the man’s praise. Most notably is the role Modi and other Indian leaders at the time played or did not play in the massacre of Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002. Much has been written about this and for a better understanding watch this video by Arundathi Roy, a leading Indian thinker critical of the Modi leadership.

Another aspect has to do with India’s continued violations in the Jammu and Kashmir and lastly India’s strengthening ties with Israel, under Modi’s watch.

Listen to Sumayya Omar in discussion with Ebrahim Gangat regarding Modi’s visit to SA here:

India: parallel to Israeli apartheid?

Since the election of Prime Minister Modi, his foreign policy has reasserted Indian interests towards ensuing buoyant diplomatic relations with Israel. The two country’s share interest in enhancing military capabilities to counter the threat of ‘terrorism’, as India is the largest recipient of Israeli weaponry and its third largest trading partner in Asia. In December 2014 a headline of a popular Indian newspaper, The Hindu, read: “India may end support to Palestine at UN”. This was after the landslide victory of Prime Minister Modi’s party. However the spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs responded to allegations made against India’s shift towards strong bilateral relations with Israel, stating that: “There is no change in our strong support for the Palestinian cause while maintaining good relations with Israel”.

On the other hand, Israel’s commitment towards Indian emergence in the international system is seen through countless efforts by Israel to support and purport the policies and intent of India. Three notable examples are:  in 1998, India conducted a series of nuclear test. Many states limited their technological exports from India. Israel continued to support and even pledged to increase its arms sales with India. Secondly during the 1999 India-Pakistani Kargril War, Israel provided satellite imagery of Pakistani whereabouts and lastly in 2002, India planned on conducting a military airstrike on Pakistan as part of “Operation Parakram”, Israel provided ‘hardware through special planes’.

In the past India’s iconic freedom leader, Ghandi, had argued that Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same manner that France belongs to the French or Britain to the English. India was deeply rooted in the struggle against colonialism and imperialism, gaining independence only in 1947. Today we see a principled movement away from denouncing colonialism and apartheid towards acknowledging the existence of systematic segregation and separation through its fevered relations with apartheid Israel.

Thus the promised relationships between prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Narendra Modi emphasises the acceptance of  policies advancing colonial, systematic oppression and occupation,  as both these states are recognized by the UN and other international institutions as illegally occupying territories which are not theirs. Over 60 years have passed and these states have not granted freedom to the indigenous people of the land.  Once again we need to ask ourselves how long should indigenous people suffer at the hands of great powers who’s interest lies in the fortifications of their state through policies of apartheid, oppression and violence?

India’s Occupation of Kashmir

Ghandi set a standard of sacrifice for the freedom, justice and equality for his people and world. He strongly advocated against colonialism and the subjugation of people without their will.  Over 50 years later, his legacy has been short lived. Despite being a significant regional player in Asia its political interest and military presence in the state of Jammu and Kashmir as well as its subliminal support of the state of Israel, challenges the moral and ethical grounds laid by Ghandi.

In 1947 the British mandate partitioned India into two domains, one domain being Hindu- India and the other being Muslim -Pakistan; the areas of Jammu and Kashmir became zones of contestations as both domains laid claim to it. On the other hand,  Jammu and Kashmir sought their own independence, territorial integrity and self-determination despite claims made by both domains. Shortly after the partition conflict broke out in which the United Nations implemented a ceasefire, terminating the conflict and implemented UN resolution 47, calling for the independence and self-determination of the state through a plebiscite. Efforts made by the United Nations did not end the cycle of violence.

In 1972 India passed a non-involvement agreement (Simla Agreement), limiting the involvement of third party mediators. In 1989 India deployed its army into Jammu and Kashmir in response to a Pakistani threat to the state of India. Today, the military deployment of 1989 still exists. Over 60 years of mass persecution and violation has been occurring without the awareness of the international community. The limitation imposed by India for international engagement, has denied access to Human Rights Watch and other human rights based organisations focused at intervening on the humanitarian catastrophe. A notable violation was on the 23 February 1991, the Indian army had committed a mass rape campaign in the village of Kunan Poshpora (Kupwara district), the army entered the homes of women and ganged raped them throughout the night.  India conveniently buried it.

Today Jammu and Kashmir is internationally recognised as a disputed area, being one of the most militarised zones (even more militarised than Palestine) in the world. The United Nations has recognised Indian military and political presence as a forceful occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and has rejected India’s claim over Kashmir as an “integral part of India”. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry Spokesperson stated that:” Indian position on Kashmir is one of utter disregard to the UN resolution (47), a consistent pattern of forceful occupation and denial of the inalienable rights of self- determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir”. Nevertheless, Indian occupation is not limited to their military presence, but they are also perpetrators of human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, inhumane torture of political prisoners and unaccounted disappearances of Kashmiri people.

In 2010, leaked diplomatic cables of a briefing between the International Community of the Red Cross and the United States revealed a range of human rights abuses in the detention facilities by the Indian Army. Subsequently a report released on the 9th of September 2015 , called the: Structures of Violence: The Indian State in Jammu and Kashmir, conducted by the International Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice and the Association of Parents of Displaced Persons, constituents of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir based Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, accounting for the humanitarian crimes and violations from1990-2014. The report documents only 333 cases of human rights violations of which the findings were: the existence of more than 6000 unknown, unmarked and mass graves,  972 Indian individuals are to blame for the gross human rights violations (of which 464 were army personnel, 161 parliamentarians, 158 Jammu and Kashmiri police personnel and 189 were government personnel), over 1080 ordered extrajudicial killing and about 172 enforced disappearance.

In July 2015, Amnesty International accused India for refusing to prosecute perpetrators of human rights abuses and claims that the promised lack of accountability by the state allows for further human rights atrocities.

Thus, a brief overview was given over India’s forceful occupation and human rights abuses in which international media have conveniently under-reported. A look at India’s relations to the apartheid state of Israel and position on Palestine needs to be undertaken to understand if India has maintained any of the historical legacy of the ideals of freedom, justice and equality fought for by Ghandi?

Modi’s visit to South Africa thus cannot be seen as one to simply embrace. His association with vile occupation policies and the oppression of others cannot be ignored.

More so, South African Muslim leaders who are supposed to be the hallmark of justice and equality cannot allow themselves to be fooled into serenading this man. His true nature should be exposed and not celebrated.

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