Kashmir Issue – Bilateral or not?

According to the Shimla Agreement signed in 1972 between India and Pakistan, the Kashmir issue was to be solved bilaterally, without involving a third party. However, Pakistan seems to always forget that, and has time and again raised issues over Kashmir in the United Nations General Assembly and other international organizations. India every time has to remind Pakistan and the international organizations that Kashmir is a bilateral issue following the terms of the Shimla Agreement.

Every year at almost every international platform, Pakistan raked up the Kashmir issue since the signing of the 1972 Shimla Agreement. India has abided by the Accord and has never raised the issue on international platforms. On the contrary, India has always tried to reach an agreement with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue and has initiated dialogues and round table conferences to solve the issue. However, Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism led to a temporary halt in dialogues in 2019. Like Pakistan, India could have raised the known fact that a big chunk of Kashmir is illegally and forcibly occupied by Pakistan. According to the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir including Ladakh union territory and Pakistan occupied part is a part of India. Pakistan, right from independence has been the occupier and India has always maintained that Pakistani troops should vacate the occupied part of Jammu and Kashmir.

Many sovereign countries and international organizations have maintained that a referendum should decide the fate of Jammu and Kashmir, whether it would join India or Pakistan or remain independent. The third option is considered practically impossible as Kashmir is a mountainous country, with limited resources and is surrounded by three nuclear giants looking to occupy it. The referendum was a good option in the early stages of the conflict. However, to conduct a referendum, the prior event was that Pakistan had to withdraw its troops from Kashmir, which it never did. After 75 years, the referendum is hardly meaningful when Pakistan abolished the state subject rule in 1971 and made widespread demographic changes in the territory it occupies. Bilateral talk remains the one and only way to solve the dispute peacefully, which the rulers of Pakistan are never understanding.

Of late, India’s secretary at the United Nations General Assembly, Sneha Dubey, lashed out at Pakistan for harboring terrorists and inciting violence in the Kashmir region of India. She reminded the world that while championing its cause for Kashmir, Pakistan commits gross human rights violations and genocide against religious minorities and people of the part of Kashmir it occupies. She also urged Pakistan to respect the territorial integrity of India and vacate from the region it occupies.

Written by – Himadri Paul

75 Years of Freedom

The 75th Independence Day of India is going to be celebrated today, 15th August 2021. 75 years ago, India was one of the first countries in Asia to become independent. A lot has been talked about India’s freedom struggle against British rule. Now, let us focus on the history of independent India, which stood up from the burnt ashes of conflict and fostered a sense of peace and unity.

After World War II, two world’s superpowers, the USA and USSR, started dominating the politics of smaller countries under their influence. The former centred around the idea of democracy and capitalism, while the latter was keener to protect Communism and Communist influence across the globe. Indirect civil wars started in China, Korea, Vietnam, Germany, Afghanistan, and many more nations around the globe. However, India chose to side with neither of the two superpowers and promote ideas of peace and co-operation through Jawaharlal Nehru’s Non-Aligned Movement.

India emerged as the leader of the third world, a cluster of small, backward countries mostly across Asia and Africa. Non-Aligned Movement policy gained ground in Indonesia, Ghana, Yugoslavia, and Egypt. The NAM policy guaranteed the countries full independence and helped them develop and co-exist peacefully with other sovereign states. The NAM policy today has been ratified by 120 countries around the world after having its first summit at Belgrade, Yugoslavia on 1st September 1961.

However, the dreams of India coexisting peacefully was mired with disturbances from its neighbours. India and Pakistan bitterly fought 3 wars in 1947, 1965, and 1971, while China attacked India in 1962. Despite emerging victorious both as a military power and through diplomacy, these wars, together with problems of partition, slowed down the development of India as a superpower. The Indo-Pak wars centred more on the western border of India, with the main hostility around the fate of Jammu and Kashmir, an independent princely state joining India. The conflicts with China are mainly in the eastern and northern sectors, where unclear border demarcations between British India and China resulted in a strained relationship between India and China.

India was instrumental in helping Bangladesh gain independence in 1971 from Pakistan. India also fought the Siachen and Kargil war with Pakistan. India gave refuge to thousands of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama when Tibet was annexed by the expanding China. Bloody insurgencies in Punjab up to the 1980s, and in Kashmir since then did not help in India’s economic growth. The biggest fight of India throughout its history, and even after independence was poverty. A mass influx of refugees from Pakistan and emigration to Pakistan continued along the Indian border. Also, the pre-partition train and bus communications were severed between the two countries owing to decorating diplomatic ties.

However, India has stood strong with time. It has an active foreign policy, good diplomatic ties with most other countries, and it has also conceived to address its internal problems. Perhaps the biggest achievement of India was the introduction of democracy by Jawaharlal Nehru, which ensured multi-parties, other than the Indian National Congress, can participate to take India forward. India has undergone many ups and downs since its independence. But as long as India remains a democratic country, a secular country for all religions, and maintains close ties with countries around the world, India will rise as the world’s next leading superpower.

Exactly 75 years ago, the father of the nation, Jawaharlal Nehru said on the midnight of 14th August 1947

At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.

At 75, India is ready to take on challenges and be the developed country our nation’s founders dreamt to see. Come, let us take it forward to our future generations.

Written by – Himadri Paul

4 Days Work a Week

5 days a week work may seem boring for many employees. After long hours of duty daily, getting only 2 days a week as holiday is not enough for many workers, who are doing laborious work. Also, the working hours per week seem to have exceeded what is required in this modern, fast-paced and digital world. That is why some countries are looking forward to either reducing the working hours a week or giving Friday or Monday a holiday along with the usual weekend.

The Covid-19 pandemic lockdown and work from home conditions is said to be the inspiration for exploring the possibility of a reduction in working hours. Some countries and private companies have explored the possibility of either a 4 working day week pattern, or reduction in working hours per day, or even giving a flexible approach deciding the duty time. All possibilities were tested by several private firms during the pandemic period when most of the workers opted to work from home. Currently, Germany has the least working hours a week at less than 30 hours a week.

Though several small firms had started reduced working hours or 4-day a week trials, the first major success was found in that of Iceland. Though the trials started before the pandemic, it took one and a half years to conclude finally. In July 2021, Iceland released its report on the trials. Iceland concluded that reducing working hours would result in an overwhelming success for the employees and the working class. Though the production did not increase as anticipated, sufficient cost can be reduced in terms of electricity bill, manpower, maintenance for offices, and transportation cost for employees.

The trial was not entirely on 4-day work but also covered 5-day work with reduced working hours and flexible timings of duty. In the case of 4-day work, Friday or Monday was declared a holiday for employees on a rotational basis. In all cases, work hours were reduced from 40 hours a week to 35-36 hours a week, though it is alleged that some 5-day work requiring longer duty time got decreased by no more than 7 mins a day or 35 mins a week in private sectors and 13 mins a day or 65 mins a week in the public sector. The salary of employees were not decreased. Some researchers have stated that the report was greatly overstated, and the working limits were not strictly followed in many cases.

The most significant positive idea from the Icelandic trials is employee satisfaction. Every employee is more satisfied with the current working conditions, with same pay. While the managers and officers are satisfied that there is no decrease in output from each employee, the employees have most benefited from the new working conditions. In 4-day work, a 3-day weekend also means greater time for travelling and rejuvenating the mind. Apart from Saturday and Sunday, the extra holiday on Monday or Friday worked the best for employees. Flexible duty timings is a significant respite to employees living far away, who have to get up too early. Now employees can attend any evening party, or wake up late, which was previously not possible in rigid working-hour conditions. It also gives the workers to take break from work, indulge in exercise, and relax.

Though we should never rely on one report, the report certainly shows promising results that can be carried forward in other countries. Japan and New Zealand have also started trials of 4-day week work, reduction in working hours, or flexible shifts on a large scale basis. India has also expressed its willingness for a 4-day work week, albeit at the expense of increasing working hours a day. As the world changed from 6 days a week work to 5 days at the turn of the millennium, the time has come that many companies and public sectors look forward to switching to 4 days a week work in the near future.

To know more about the details of findings on the report, click here.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Assam – Mizoram Border Disputes

It is a well-known fact that India has several border disputes with Pakistan, China and even Nepal. Many countries in the world have border disputes with their neighbouring countries. India is made up of several states, which too have inter-state border disputes. Such conflicts have never escalated to a situation that one state issues travel advisory to its rival state despite being in the same country.

Such has happened with Assam and Mizoram locking themselves in a border disputes battle. As with many places worldwide, border disputes come from agreeing to two different border-demarcation lines signed off in two different years. Mizoram officially recognizes the border, which was signed in 1875, while Assam follows the 1933 agreement. While it seems that the latest border should always be followed, Mizoram claims the 1933 border was set without consulting the local tribal chief. In fact, Assam has border disputes with most of its neighbouring states.

Mizoram have allegedly started constructing a road through the disputed border, through the middle of Lailapur Reserved Forest, an ecologically sensitive zone. This irked Assam, and they deployed police in the region to stop the construction work. The situation tensed when police from both sides opened fire at each other. The skirmish resulted in 7 deaths, including that of 6 police officers and 1 civilian, as well as over 70 injuries. Assam police have accused Mizoram police of opening the fire first, after which Assam advised a complete travel blockade of Mizoram.

However, there were several channels open for bilateral talks. Assam and Mizoram both used the communication channels available, and peace talks have resumed between the state ministers. As per the latest decision, both sides have resumed between the state ministers. As per the latest decision, both sides have agreed to keep their neutral forces keeping utmost restraint, Mizoram condemning the killings and Assam withdrawing the Travel Advisory. We hope that peace remains between the two north-eastern states of India and settle their border disputes peacefully through bilateral talks.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Twitter Shows the Wrong Map of India

There has been a lot of debate on whether Twitter should be banned as it had failed to fully comply with the Central Government rules. To date, it has not been banned and it has been asked to make certain changes to comply with the current IT rules. However, Twitter’s uploading of wrong maps of India is triggering a massive backlash not only from the Government but also from the users.

This is not the first time that Twitter has shown the wrong map of India. In October 2020, Twitter had uploaded a map showing Leh as part of China, which is quite ridiculous. Leh has always been a part of India even before the British rule. It is also argued that despite similarities in religion and customs with Tibet, Ladakh was neither a part of Tibet nor have Chinese claimed Leh, though it claims parts of Arunachal Pradesh. Ajay Sawhney, Ministry of Electronics and IT secretary, said,

“Any attempt by Twitter to disrespect the sovereignty and integrity of India, which is also reflected by the maps, is totally unacceptable. The same is also unlawful.”

After a stern letter was given to the CEO of Twitter, Twitter removed the wrong map from their site.

Twitter has erupted once again due to the uploading of another inappropriate map of India as late as June 2021. This time it showed Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as separate countries, not a part of India. This is very disturbing since almost the entire world, except Pakistan, considers Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as a part of India. It is true that there are parts of Jammu and Kashmir, occupied by Pakistan, and parts of Ladakh, occupied by China. However, those parts are shown to be part of the respective countries, Pok part of Pakistan and Aksai Chin part of China. The rest of the state, which is no doubt a part of India, has been demarcated as a separate country. This has irked the Indian politicians and locals living in those areas, many of whom have raised their voices.

Under public pressure, Twitter was again forced to remove the wrong map and upload a correct map showing Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as part of India. However, this has drawn ire from netizens not only from India but also outside. Many users have lost trust in Twitter and have stopped using it. Twitter will lose a major chunk of users if it continues to post inappropriate maps like this. It is high time, Twitter should respect India’s sovereignty, and verify the contents it is circulating among the users.

Written by – Himadri Paul