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Category: Politics Page 1 of 10

SAARC

Lesser importance of SAARC

The South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has come under serious scrutiny in the last few years. Even after more than three decades of its existence, SAARC’s performance has been less than satisfactory, and its role in strengthening regional cooperation is being questioned.

SAARC is a regional organization that gives its participants a platform to interact. It is a wholly indigenous project not introduced by an outside power and this makes the regional forum free of foreign interference. Unlike the European Union and the ASEAN which were formulated as US-aided, localized resistances to outside hegemons like Russia and China, SAARC came into being out of a genuine need for regional integration.

SAARC is one of the major regional organizations operating today. It occupies a land area greater than the EU and ASEAN, and in terms of GDP, it stands second to the EU. It also enjoys superiority in terms of the population over the two. Although it has a large source of human capital, it is marred by high levels of illiteracy, poverty, and unemployment. 

SAARC has eight member countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. While the organisation was intended to enhance regional cooperation in South Asia, from its very inception, member countries treated it with suspicion and mistrust.

SAARC was first envisioned in the late 1970s by Gen. Ziaur Rahman, the military dictator of Bangladesh. Initially, India was apprehensive about SAARC because it perceived the grouping to be an attempt by its smaller neighbours to unite against it. The Cold War politics of the time too contributed to India’s anxiety. India had a close relationship with the Soviet Union, and it considered Ziaur Rahman to be aligned with the West. It was, therefore, suspicious that SAARC could be an American mechanism to counter Soviet influence in the region. It feared that the association might lead to Asia’s own Cold War, creating a pro-Soviet and an anti-Soviet rift. This would have played against India’s interest since it had close strategic ties with the Soviet Union. However, eventually,   India agreed to join SAARC due to the interest expressed by the neighbouring countries.

Reasons for concerns about the relevance of SAARC :

SAARC is aimed at promoting the welfare of the people; accelerating economic growth, social progress and culture development; and strengthening collective self-reliance. While SAARC has established itself as a regional forum, it has failed to attain its objectives. Numerous agreements have been signed and institutional mechanisms established under SAARC, but they have not been adequately implemented. The South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) is often highlighted as a prominent outcome of SAARC, but that, too, is yet to be implemented. Despite SAFTA coming into effect as early as 2006, the intra-regional trade continues to be at a meagre 5%. 

In the many failures of SAARC, lack of trust among the member countries has been the most significant factor between India and Pakistan. In recent times, Pakistan’s non-cooperation has stalled some major initiatives under SAARC. For example, at the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu in 2014, initiatives such as the SAARC–Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA)—crucial for harnessing regional connectivity across South Asia—could be not signed due to Pakistan’s dithering. SAARC faced another setback after the 19th summit scheduled to be held in Pakistan in 2016 was suspended for an indefinite period after the September 18, 2016 attack on the military base in Uri.

It can be asserted that much of the SAARC’s failures are rooted in a variety of reasons which are listed below:

Enmity between its two Largest States

The biggest obstacle to a functional SAARC is perhaps the rivalry between India and Pakistan, often stunting its growth and development. The long lingering Kashmir dispute has become a great obstacle in its path to progress as complications arising from Indo-Pak tensions tend to harm the organization. 

Fear of Indian Domination 

The asymmetry between India and other member countries in terms of geography, economy, military strength and influence in the global arena make the smaller countries apprehensive. They perceive India as “Big Brother” and fear that it might use the SAARC to pursue hegemony in the region. The smaller neighbouring countries, therefore, have been reluctant to implement various agreements under SAARC.

Role of External Powers, especially China

Some developed nations are always interrupting the SAARC nations. Especially China and America are responsible for the relationship between India and Pakistan. The increasing presence of China in the region and reservations of India with China has created roadblocks.

Unresolved Border and Maritime Issues

SAARC does not have any arrangement for resolving disputes or mediating conflicts. Disputes among the member countries often hamper consensus building, thus slowing down the decision-making process. SAARC’s inability in this regard has been detrimental to its growth. For example – long pending issues between members like fishermen issue between India and Sri Lanka, Teesta water sharing between India and Bangladesh, lack of direct access to Afghanistan to other members except Pakistan have restricted in arriving at common ground for regional integration and also resulted in increased mistrust among the members.

Rising Bilateralism

Given SAARC’s failures, member countries have turned to bilateralism, which in turn has adversely affected the organisation. Bilateralism is an easier option since it calls for dealings between only two countries, whereas SAARC, at a regional level, requires one country to deal with seven countries. Thus, bilateralism decreases the countries’ dependence on SAARC to achieve their objectives, making them less interested in pursuing initiatives at a regional level.

Civilizations Clash

Professor Samuel Huntington has mentioned in his book “The Clash of Civilizations” that SAARC has been a failure because according to him the countries belonging to organizations like the EU belong to the same culture but SAARC countries are those whose cultures are different. India and Pakistan are enemies of each other, they fight on minor things, and then how can these two countries support each other in one organization. No country in the region is having any feeling of belongingness with the other state.

Apart from these SAARC also faces a shortage of resources, and countries have been reluctant to increase their contributions. Almost every member is facing numerous internal crisis like Tamils issue in Sri Lanka, Constitutional crisis in Nepal, religious fundamentalism in Pakistan and Bangladesh, Terrorism and instability in Afghanistan has made these nations inward-looking with not much enthusiasm to achieve collaboration in the subcontinent.

Way Forward for SAARC :

The failure of SAARC to nurture cooperation in South Asia has pushed regional players to search for an alternative. After SAARC, BBIN(Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal), BIMSTEC(the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), BCIM(Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar Economic Corridor) has also been initiated. Recently, BIMSTEC has gained more favour as an alternative to SAARC to deliver on connectivity, development, and counter-terrorism efforts because every nation is on board here. However, this does not make SAARC and BIMSTEC alternatives. SAARC is a purely regional organisation, whereas BIMSTEC is interregional and connects both South Asia and ASEAN. SAARC and BIMSTEC complement each other in terms of functions and goals. BIMSTEC provides SAARC countries with a unique opportunity to connect with ASEAN. Therefore, it is vital for the region that the organisation is strengthened. Whatever the flaws of the SAARC so far may be, it is the only platform where the local leaders meet and discuss issues of a region containing 1.7 billion people. It is up to the SAARC leaders to work together for a developed, peaceful and prosperous South Asia.

Media

Political influence of media in India

Media, in literal terms, means a medium through which any sort of information can be transferred. Popularly known as the voice of the people, communication media is a platform through which people can access every piece of information, ranging from national news, international news, lifestyle, job options, intellectual articles and whatnot. It is the key driver in structuring public opinion and the sole agency for increasing transparency in the political system. 

The question here is, are the media houses in the Indian scenario as transparent and unbiased as they should be or are they functioning under the influence of one or the other political party? If all political parties have control over showing its information, will there be any accountability in the system?

ahmed-patel

Remembering Ahmed Patel

One of the staunchest pillars of the Indian National Congress, trustworthy, humble and in the words of Sonia Gandhi, an irreplaceable comrade [1] , Ahmedbhai Mohammedbhai Patel, popularly known as ‘Ahmed Bhai’ or AP in political circles, served as the powerful political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and represented Gujarat for eight terms in the parliament of India. During the 10 year rule of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), ‘AP’ was often referred to as the quintessential backroom strategist and crises manager who firmly remained in the background. 

With almost an instinctive understanding of how to master the various sources and sites of power, AP’s sudden demise after a prolonged battle with complications arising out of the Covid’19 infection has been a great setback to India’s grand old party. The setback is even deeper as it comes at a time when the Congress, after losing two consecutive Lok Sabha elections and multiple state elections, is closely perceived as directionless in the midst of uncertainty over leadership. The party is left bereft of perhaps the one man who had the ability to bridge stakeholders within the power and between the party and its possible constituents of support outside. Let us delve deeper to know more why AP was regarded as the centre of Indian politics and how he left a mark on those around him. 

A man of virtue and actions that inspired masses!

Patel’s classmates, at the Gujarati medium section of Mission school in Piraman village, remember him as a shy student who grew to become a man for his village and was regarded as their man in Delhi. He would chat with villagers and solved their problems late into the night during his visits to Piraman. AP worked to ensure that his village had concrete roads, helipad on the outskirts, water distillation plants, open public spaces with gardens, concrete houses and CCTV cameras all around the village. He started a medical OPD center run by a trust named HMP Foundation- named after his mother, for medical emergencies. He brought about such development and opportunities to his village that many of the residents have now settled in UK, Canada, USA and South Africa. 

Chances are that even the politically aware wouldn’t be able to identify Ahmed Patel in a group photograph. That was the kind of man Ahmed Patel was. He shunned limelight, hated giving interviews and speeches and loved anonymity. A career politician from Gujarat, Patel first caught media’s eye when Rajiv Gandhi appointed him as one of the three Parliamentary Secretaries in 1985. Thereafter he faced the usual ups and downs until Sonia Gandhi took over the Congress party and needed people whom she could rely upon and has the core values of liberalism and secularism that the party associated itself with. 

The center of Indian politics 

Ahmed Bhai entered Parliament when for the first time in the history of Indian politics; Congress was in opposition-after the Emergency. Whilst Congress was being attacked by those in the government and facing a churn within itself, Patel made his choice early on to stay loyal to Indira Gandhi and the family.  It was during Rajiv Gandhi’s time that Patel understood power and the constraints within which the prime minister operated.  He appreciated the power of Parliament even when the opposition was at its weakest. He understood the importance of keeping the part together and witnessed how handling the contradictions emerging from religion and caste were central to managing politics. It was during this time, he began forming lifelong networks and his loyalty to the Gandhi family deepened. 

When Congress under Sonia Gandhi surprisingly came back to power in 2004, Patel began harnessing all the skills that he developed in past years. Ahmed Patel played the messenger at highest levels of power and became central in navigating the relationships and determining the messages that went from the party to the government. One can say with confidence that no political or policy decision happened without Patel’s consent or knowledge. He developed a legendary reputation of operating at night and soon became Sonia Gandhi’s gatekeeper in terms of whom they should meet and what they should prioritize.  Addressing grievances, determining candidates and tone of campaign for elections, cabinet reshuffles, managing allies, mobilizing resources or any other need, it was AP making recommendations, tapping his corporate network and working his phones. He even gave talking points to the party spokesperson and briefed journalists off the record. 

Over the years, Ahmed Patel came to be known as a problem solver and soon many people looked up to him in times of difficulty.  Perhaps the most recent instance where Patel managed the crises was curbing the rebellion of the G-23 earlier this year when several of his Rajya Sabha colleagues wrote a scathing letter demanding internal elections and introspection in the party. This letter was a clear attack on the Gandhi family and Rahul Gandhi for his refusal to take charge of the party. AP’s USP has always been his unflinching loyalty to the family. He reached out to individuals while alienating the dissenters. He personally talked to his colleagues and convinced the party’s chief ministers Ashok Gehlot and Bhupesh Baghel to give public statements in support of the Gandhi family. 

Within a day or two, some letter writers gave public statements saying all their concerns had been addressed.  Along with his colleagues he carefully orchestrated a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) two days after the dissent letter became public. This was regarded as a well choreographed move and leaders after leaders poured in their praises for Sonia Gandhi and requested her to stay president of congress till a new person was elected. 

Another remarkable contribution made by Patel with his wit and people skills was in 2008 during the Indo-US nuclear deal which Dr Manmohan Singh who was determined to go ahead with it even if his government was threatened. The threat posed by his left allies left UPA short of numbers and that’s when AP’s relationship with other parties came in handy. Patel reached out to the then leader of Samajwadi Party- Amar Singh who’s part has 39 MPs whose votes would make up for the vacuum created by the left. The two of them, together roped in several key leaders like former president APJ Abdul Kalam who convinced Mulayam Singh Yadav and others to vote with the Manmohan Singh government. Resultantly, UPA was able to secure a comfortable 275 votes. Patel closely worked with Pranab Mukherjee to deliver the trust win.

AP’s political and personal life was marked by his relationship with power, which he wore very lightly with a smile and often understating his own authority.  One might critique that should a man who largely operated invisibly have exercised such power without commensurate public accountability? Irrespective of one’s view on Patel, there is little doubt that he remained a true, loyal, indispensable pillar of the Congress—and, by extension, of Indian politics. 

 

regional party

Regional Political Parties in India

India as democracy has the multi-party system in place, which means that there are several political parties competing for power. Apart from the primary parties, each state has its own regional political parties that govern and compete in the region. The multi-party structure in India has many political implications. In the event of an election, the norm is that a party with a majority vote wins an election. In order to form a government, however, a party should have a certain number of votes. It doesn’t have to happen, leading to problems. Accordingly, the majority party had to join hands with the regional party in order to form the government. That is where the value of smaller regional parties comes into play.

The condition relates not only to the centre but also to the politics of the state. If a party cannot gain the requisite number of seats, a coalition is the only option. This may mean two regional parties joining hands to form a government (an unlikely event) or majority parties joining hands with regional parties that support them. 

India has a multi-party structure in operation. Currently, there are only six national political parties and 30 regional parties participating in both central and state policy. Earlier, the regional parties were unable to play a major role in the Center due to the supremacy of a single party, i.e. the Congress Party.

The advent of regional parties has of late presented the most strong threat to the One Party Dominated Structure of India. Regional parties have been emerging since 1967 with a greater electoral appeal to dominate most state politics. They emerged as a dominant force and played a critical role in the Centre’s formation of governments. Some parties, however, such as the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, were also established before the country gained independence in 1947. But most of the other parties came into existence after the country had achieved freedom.

The birth of regionalism in politics began with the DMK in Tamil Nadu in 1967. The Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu occupied the entire region. Many regional parties, such as the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Janata Dal, the Telugu Desam Party, etc., were born after seeing the success in Tamil Nadu. 

Now, one question which we should consider while talking about regional parties in India is whether or not regional parties ensure a better functioning government, which is rather an important one. Regional parties ensure that the needs of the people are not sacrificed on the altar of a greater good. The Teesta River Water Sharing will be an example to highlight this argument. The TMC declined to compromise and minimise the share of Bengal’s water for greater Indo-Bangladesh relations. There is also greater diversity within the Parliament, with one topic creating a multitude of points of view and thereby informing the public in the process. In 2 party states, if 2 parties agree on anything, little research and argumentation are further undertaken, and the voter receives fewer details on the consequences of the proposal (though this is not really an issue, because our 2 national parties still take the opposite view). The growth of the regional parties also leads to ‘rainbow’ coalitions, so-called since, like the rainbow, they are ephemeral and lasts only for a short time. Between ’96 and ’99, there were three general elections, which cost a lot of money. Policy paralysis and delay in decision-making and bills are all the product of coalitions. In response to Pakistani aggression in ’99, India took one week to launch Operation Vijay, which removed Pakistani troops from Indian territory. In times of emergency, coalition coordination can lead to unacceptable delays. At the same time, during times of coalitions, regional parties may serve as a moderating force upon exclusionary national parties. Having regional parties like JD(U) and NC in the NDA in ‘99 is amongst the important reasons the party compromised on its all India cow slaughter ban and the autonomy status of J&K.

The presence of a variety of national, cultural, linguistic, religious and caste groups within Indian society is largely responsible for the origin and growth of regional parties. While regional parties operate within limited areas and seek only limited goals, they have played a significant role both in the state and in national politics. These parties have formed a government in their respective states and have sought to enforce their policies and programmes. Some of the regional parties are also partners in the Center coalition government.

Lastly, there are some drawbacks with having too many regional parties too. Often the species is the spice of life. But if we’re spoiled for options, it’s only going to confuse us. The ideal government should operate in the interests of the people, not build parties to satisfy personal grudges or aspirations. If the elector has too many political parties on the ballot, he or she may end up clicking the button randomly. What is the best way to find out that a candidate or a group is going to work for the good of the people? It is also more daunting to vote for a fairly new party, which has not had the opportunity to demonstrate its intentions.

Referred Article

 

Social Media

How Social Media shapes Politics?

Remember the 2008 US presidential campaigns that witnessed the debut propaganda via social media? The very first of its kind, in political landscape, of course. Barack Obama’s stroke at this was a revolution in political campaigning that was sought to alter political organizational structures. With a bid to mobilize stable digital grassroots of what originally looked like a social movement, the campaign was the perfect and most optimal exploitation of network building, collaborations and community organization viable within the scope of social media. With targeted messaging backed by analytics, the campaign generated personalized appeals to voters. This led to creation and manifold amplification of messages regarding the candidates, minus the trouble of moving through formal campaign organizations. One of the most attractive social avenue appeared as viral videos “Obama Girl” and “Yes, We Can” that enjoyed more than a million viewership.

US election

The Count: US Election 2020

With record voting turnout since the 1990 election, the 2020 United States presidential election was the 59th quadrennial presidential election held on November 3, 2020. The Democratic candidate and also the former vice president Joe Biden and U.S. senator from California, Kamala Harris defeated the Republican candidate president Donald Trump and vice president Mike Pence. 

Donald Trump did enrich the headlines during his period at the White House but even before leaving it, he didn’t fail to make one. This election was also the first since 1992 in which an incumbent president failed to win re-election to a second term with Biden receiving record-breaking 76 million votes+ ever cast for a candidate in a U.S. presidential election. 

politician

What makes people around the whole world think Politics is immoral?

What comes to your mind when someone says the word ‘Politician’? For me, and most of you what comes to mind is a person who is primarily interested in political office for his selfish reasons or other narrow, and short-sighted motives. They lie, obfuscate, make hollow promises, and avoid answering important questions, and they rarely take responsibility for the errors they make. I am sure some ethical politicians want to work for society, however, for the whole world in general, ‘politician’ has become a dirty word, we think of them as corrupt, self-serving, and, at best, amoral. 

Political trends

Global Political Trends of 2030

The only constant in this world is Change, isn’t it?

The world has progressed so far only because of humongous changes that occurred over the million years. The field of Politics is no exception to this truth. From leading the family to leading a small tribal group, from ruling a kingdom to actually governing a country, Politics has globally evolved and is still evolving. 

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