Connect with us

Blog

Middle East enters into new era with US Embassy in Jerusalem

Published

on

US Embassy

The high profile inauguration of US embassy in Jerusalem was performed while the blood of Palestinians was being shed,as Israeli forces killed 57 Palestinians and injured more than 2,700 during mass protests along the Gaza border.

The provocative move by US President Donald Trump has ended the scope for a peaceful resolution to the decades long Israeli Palestinian conflict.Both US President and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will help bring peace to the Middle East

It was Trump’s announcement in December that inspired the Palestinians to start protests on March 30 under the banner The ‘Great March of Return’ demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their own homes, villages and lands in present-day Israel.

Israeli Border Police initially used rubber bullets than live rounds at the protesters during the Great March of Return,the peaceful show of resistance by Gazans that culminated on Tuesday (15th May)on the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba Day and Israelis mark as the birth of the state of Israel.

Nakba, meaning “catastrophe”, refers to the moment in 1948 when more than 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their towns and villages that led to the creation of the Israeli state.

The move has infuriated the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has pledged to continue the peaceful struggle against Israeli oppression and invasion of internationally recognized territories of the State of Palestine, and said that the United States can no longer be a mediator in the negotiations between the two parties.

Tensions are high in Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank as US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner,the US envoy to the Middle East, attended the ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem.Jared Kushner said, “We will look back on this day” and remember that “the journey to peace started with a strong America recognizing the truth.”

The fulfillment of commitment by Trump of relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem would inflame the sentiments in the Middle East as it provides Israel to term it as a legitimate right to establish Jerusalem as its own capital.

The location of the US mission is sensitive as it cuts across the 1949 Armistice Line that separated West Jerusalem from No Man’s Land, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War.

All the countries have placed their embassies in Tel Aviv because of the United Nations decision to treat Jerusalem as a “corpus separatum,” a separate area that should be governed by the international community.

Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania, in coordination with Israel, On May 12,2018 has blocked a joint EU statement criticizing the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Trump had also threatened to cut off financial aid to countries opposing his Israel Foreign policy and that voted in favor of of a United Nations General Assembly resolution on December 2017 calling for the United States to drop its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. A total of 128 countries backed the resolution.

Some countries such as Ivory Coast, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Kenya; 11 were from Latin American countries – Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama, Uruguay and Venezuela have expressed their interest to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem has two parts ,comprising East and West . Israel claims East Jerusalem as old city sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews while Israel regards entire Jerusalem as its indivisible capital.

The status of Jerusalem remains one of the core issues in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The US president has insisted  that he has “taken Jerusalem off the table,” implying that Jerusalem is no longer serves a disputed issue between Israel and Palestine and both the parties can move forward to other issues, such as security, borders, and refugees.

Thus completely changing the 70 years of official US policy would spark violent protests across the Middle East.

Trump has emboldened Benjamin Netanyahu to accelerate his policies of annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories and to erase political and demographic presence of Palestinians.

“This is history,” Netanyahu declared. “President Trump made history. We are all excited. It reminds me of my childhood. I grew up here. I used to walk here in the fields.This is where the border was and it was already dangerous. This is the day that will be engraved in our collective national memory for generations to come.”

The Temple Mount is in our hands,” he said, repeating this quote from Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War.

For the permanent peace, Trump would have recognized   West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and installing  its embassy in  an independent Palestine in East Jerusalem.

The Middle East has entered into a new era  with US declaring Jerusalem as capital of Israel .Trump decision has complicated the entire situation as US has lost its credibility of being a honest and neutral mediator to the conflict  and  Arab League conference was  called the “Jerusalem summit,” and issued a strong statement condemning Washington’s planned embassy move.

Blog: By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

 

 

Blog

Atal Bihari Vajpayee: The Giant Colossus

Published

on

Atal Behari Vajpayee

In passing away away of Atal Behari Vajpayee, India lost its one of the tallest leader and a statesman. He was a democrat and nationalist to the core apart from being an orator par excellence and a poet. Vajpayee was for BJP what Pandit Nehru was for the Indian National Congress. Vajpayee’s only sin was that he moulded the early BJP as a secular and a socialist legatee of the Janata party which came into existence in 1977 to oppose Mrs Indira Gandhi.

He had also opposed the Ram Mandir movement and it was Advani who was the RSS’s first choice for Prime Minister for the 1996 elections. But it was Advani who in November 1995 in Bombay announced Vajpayee as the prime ministerial candidate – to the astonishment of those present on the stage. It also took RSS by surprise but from then on, Vajpayee never turned back becoming Prime Minister in 1996, 1998, and in 1999 – while Advani withdrew to being his deputy.

The close friends and family members used to call him “Baap ji” and the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh once addressed him as the “Bhishm Pitamah” of Indian politics. Vajpayee was a gentle colossus among the contemporary politicians and there were few among Indian leaders who attained the respect which he did. Journalists and newsmen all over the world do without salutations in addressing a politician but Vajpayee Ji was an exception and “Ji” became an integral part of his name.

“This young man would one day become the Prime Minister of India” said Pandit Nehru about Vajpayee. Nehru’s prophecy did come true decades later in 1996 when Vajpayee occupied the coveted post. Vajpayee was elected 11 times for Loksabha and twice for the Rajya Sabha and remained a Member of Parliament for 47 years.

In 1977, he became the External Affairs Minister under Morarji Desai and when he entered the office of Ministry of External Affairs in the South Block, he found the usual portrait of Jawaharlal Nehru missing from its spot in the ministerial chamber, removed in an excess of zeal by functionaries to please the new rulers. Though a lifelong critic of Congress, he wanted it back on its original spot. That was the persona of Vajpayee – a great heartedness as he embraced even those with whom he disagreed.

Image result for morarji desai atal bihari vajpayee

Pro-India; anti-Indira: (From left) Jagjivan Ram, Morarji Desai, Ashok Mehta, Chandrasekhar and Atal Bihari Vajpayee | Pramod Pushkarna. “

According to a popular legend, once Henry Kissinger asked Chou-en-Lai in 1972 what he thought of the impact of French Revolution on Western civilization. Apparently, Chou thought about it for a minute and then turned to Kissinger and said: “It is too soon to tell.” Something like that could well be said about the legacy of Vajpayee, India’s first BJP Prime Minister and also the first non Congress leader to complete a full tenure.

He had the distinction of being the first head of nation to address the United Nations in Hindi. He ran a coalition Govt of 24 parties in one of the most chaotic times in the country and provided not just stable but very efficient governance. His coalition partners in ideology were as diverse as chalk and cheese but it was to his credit that he kept his flock together despite extreme provocations.

When Jayalalitha pulled the carpet under his feet, he refused to opt for the customary horse trading and lost the confidence motion by just 1 vote. He took integrity and probity to a level which was unheard of in the Indian politics. He was also the best performing parliamentarian for over 5 decades and was a true Bharat Ratna on all counts.

His stewardship of economic reform and his skilled management of unruly coalition made his 6 year tenure as a Prime Minister a memorable one. But more than these accomplishments, Vajpayee should be remembered for the way in which he achieved them. Judged on most parameters, Vajpayee was a great Prime Minister.

He continued the policies of economic liberalisation initiated by Narsimha Rao and as a result economy flourished during his reign. He took the historic trip to Lahore by Bus to break the ice with Pakistan but unfortunately it was followed by their usual betrayal in the form of Kargil war. His summit with President Musharraf at Agra also ended in a fiasco but Vajpayee improved India’s relations with US, Russia, China and most of other important nations.

He was a great consensus-builder and worked closely with the opposition, avoided political invectives and endeavoured to bring all Indians and not just Hindus to bring them together in harmony. After the Pokhran-II nuclear test of May 1998 and the victory in Kargil, India began to be taken seriously as an emerging Asian power. It was under Prime Minister Vajpayee that the old hyphenation of India-Pakistan ended and a new one like India-China emerged on the global scene.

Vajpayee’s legacy remains in doubt as people forget that for all his charisma, he began his career as a hard-core Sanghi and made his reputation in the great Hindi debates of the Sixties, demanding that all of India should embrace Hindi, his mother tongue.

Vajpayee only began to mellow in the Seventies when experience convinced him that there is no place for divisive politics in India. From then on, he lost interest in the agitation for Hindi language and more significantly also moved away from the hardliner Hindus-first politics of Jan Sangh. By doing this, he alienated most of his old colleagues and earned the ire of the RSS.

After the BJP was almost wiped out during Congress landslide victory of 1984, the RSS looked around for alternatives and it found one in Vajpayee’s old lieutenant LK Advani, who abandoned the liberal approach that he too had once espoused, and pushed the concept of RSS. Advani undertook a Rath yatra through most of North India in an effort to whip up the communal tensions and weaponise Hinduism.

Vajpayee had no option but to distance himself altogether from his protege Advani’s movement. But when the BJP seemed like it had a chance of finally coming to power, the RSS also conceded that it was only Vajpayee who could attract the potential allies.

We think of Vajpayee as a strong Prime minister but that was only because he always remained calm and composed and seldom let the tensions show. RSS continued to push its own agenda and was not happy with Vajpayee’s politics and propped up Advani as a rival power centre. The allies in coalition Govt were difficult to handle but somehow, Vajpayee made it all seem easy.

From then on, the BJP should have continued as a centre-right party as even Advani suddenly turned into a liberal and visited Pakistan to sing paeans in support of MA Jinnah. But that was not to be and the BJP went back to her Hindu-centric ideology that Advani had once espoused much to the delight of RSS. Only, this time around, the shift to a muscular Hindutva was so extreme that even a hardliner like Advani began to seem like a lily-livered secularist in comparison.

Related image

Lal Krishan Advani lays a flower wreath at the mausoleum of Mohammed Ali Jinnah

From BJP’s point of view, Vajpayee’s greatest achievement was that he took a party that had once been a political pariah, brought it into the mainstream and acceptable to the electorates.

In many ways, it is as if the Vajpayee Prime minister ship with its consensus-building and taking everyone in confidence never happened. Sometimes it seems that the BJP moved directly from the destruction of the Babri Masjid to the dominance of the ideology that celebrated the demolition. So, it will be pertinent to say, Vajpayee was a great Prime Minister. But what will India remember as his legacy? As Chou-en-Lai might have said, “It’s too soon to tell”.

Continue Reading

Blog

‘Who’s going to listen to the voice of sanity?’

Published

on

Atal Behari Atal

It was the summer of 1996. The Congress government of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao had lost the general election and, for the first time, there was an opportunity for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), headed by the moderate and well-liked Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to take power.

He lacked parliamentary majority but nevertheless made the bid to form a government and become Prime Minister — an ambition that he had long nurtured but which seemed elusive despite being in public life as a popular leader for long.

The moment it became clear that Vajpayee would be the man to lead the next government in India, I made a beeline to his house at 5 Raisina Road which was almost a stone’s throw from the Press Club of India. Vajpayee was a people’s man and security was light around him those days. I and a colleague, Mayank Chhaya, opened the gates of his bungalow and walked in to his secretary’s office. I asked his aides if he was busy. One of them pointed outside the window.

Image result for atal bihari vajpayee

There, standing all by himself, in an inconspicuous corner of the bungalow, seemingly staring into space, was the man of the moment — in his trademark starched white dhoti and collarless kurta — who would be the Prime Minister of India in a few days.

We congratulated him. He smiled and ushered us in. Vajpayee had often wondered aloud whether he would forever remain prime minister-in-waiting as the BJP, with its hardline Hindu nationalist ideology, was not a popular favourite of the country then.

But Vajpayee, with his affable personality, riveting oratory, an image of moderation and with friends across parties was one name that was being talked about as an acceptable alternative for those who were getting increasingly disillusioned with the corruption-tainted Congress.

Vajpayee, then 71, and the BJP, did form the government, but it lasted only 13 days in his first stint at governance. He never had the numbers and made his resignation announcement almost offhandedly after two days of divisive debate on a confidence motion. The motion was never put to vote as its result was foregone.

Even the BJP’s opponents then paid tribute to the party for not attempting any horse-trading. The voluntary resignation improved the BJP’s, and Vajpayee’s, stock among the people and the party returned to power in 1998 for a longer term of 13 months, but with some non-BJP support, its first shot at forming a coalition government with parties whose ideologies were not necessarily aligned with the BJP’s.

“If you want to form a government leaving us out, I don’t see any signs of its stability,” Vajpayee told Parliament presciently. “The birth is difficult, and after the birth, survival is difficult. For everything, you have to run to the Congress.”

But in the short 13-month term of the second Vajpayee government, he made his mark by making India a declared nuclear weapon power, authorising a series of five nuclear tests in the Pokhran desert of Rajasthan, a shock event that was followed by tit-for-tat tests by Pakistan.

Vajpayee’s best years were no doubt his third government of 1999-2004, when he formed the first National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition, carrying parties with disparate ideologies along under the umbrella of a progressive, market-oriented, pro-US, politically moderate agenda that the party hardliners did not like but which made its mark internationally and raised India’s stock in the global order.

Image result for atal bihari vajpayee

I made several trips with Vajpayee, as part of his media delegation, from the Caribbean to China, from the US to Pakistan, and he always found time to meet leading editors in his cabin on board Air India One and get feedback on his trip and on his policies.

But the most unforgettable experience with Vajpayee would be, no doubt, in the winter of 1992, a few days after the apocalyptic Babri Masjid demolition by Hindu zealots in Ayodhya.

Sitting in an inner room of his Raisina Road residence, a visibly anguished Vajpayee, in one of his life’s most candid interviews, called the Ayodhya action as the “worst miscalculation” and a “misadventure” and conceded that voices of moderation were overruled by hardliners.

Vajpayee admitted — much against the claims of his own party — that the BJP had failed to honour “solemn assurances” to the Supreme Court, Parliament and Prime Minister Narasimha Rao that the mosque would not be touched during the December 6 “kar seva” by Hindu activists.

“Moderates have no place,” he lamented to IANS, adding with a resigned air, “Who’s going to listen to the voice of sanity?” However, he ruled out quitting the party, saying he had a lifelong association with it and “when the ship is facing a storm, you don’t desert”.

Asked how, despite having been projected as a prime ministerial candidate as far back then, he had chosen to compromise on his convictions, Vajpayee replied, “I have waited too long (to be Prime Minister).”

Many of his party people, and even journalists, had decried the headline-grabbing interview and had even slyly suggested that it may have been contrived. But Vajpayee kept a dignified silence on the issue and, when I confronted him at the party’s National Executive meet in Kolkata some weeks later about what people were saying, he cryptically shot back: “Have I said anything?”

That said it all.

Vajpayee was a man of values, who decried the divisive ideology of sections of his partymen; he had a vision for the country and sought its rightful place in the comity of nations; but he remained till the end — as his opponents often taunted — the right man in the wrong party for India.

(Tarun Basu can be contacted at [email protected])

Continue Reading

Blog

Vajpayee: A man of moderation who raised India’s global stature

Published

on

Atal Behari Vajpayee

New Delhi, Aug 16: He was a man of moderation in a fraternity of jingoistic nationalists; a peace visionary in a region riven by religious animosity; and a man who believed in India’s destiny and was ready to fight for it.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (93), who died on Thursday, will go down in history as a person who tried to end years of hostility with Pakistan and put development on the front burner of the country’s political agenda. He was also the first non-Congress Prime Minister to complete a full five-year term.

Even though he lived the last 13 years of his life in virtual isolation, dogged by debilitating illnesses and bedridden, he has left an enduring legacy for the nation and the region where he was much loved and respected across the political spectrum and national boundaries, including in Pakistan.

In the tumultuous period he presided over the destiny of the world’s largest democracy, Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state and then almost went to war with Pakistan before making peace with it in the most dramatic fashion. In the process, his popularity came to match that of Indira Gandhi, a woman he admired for her guts even as he hated her politics.

He also became the best-known national leader after Indira Gandhi and her father Jawaharlal Nehru.

After despairing for years that he would never become Prime Minister and was destined to remain an opposition leader all his life, he achieved his goal, but only for 13 days, from May 16-28, 1996, after his deputy, L.K. Advani, chose not to contest elections that year.

His second term came on March 19, 1998, and lasted 13 months, a period during which India stunned the world by undertaking a series of nuclear tests that invited global reproach and sanctions.

Although his tenure again proved short-lived, his and his government’s enhanced stature following the world-defying blasts enabled him to return as Prime Minister for the third time on October 13, 1999, a tenure that lasted a full five-year term.

When finally he stepped down in May 2004, after an election that he was given to believe he would win, it marked the end of a long and eventful political career spanning six decades.

Vajpayee had gone into these elections riding a personality cult that projected him as a man who had brought glory to the nation in unprecedented ways. The BJP’s election strategy rested on seeking a renewed mandate over three broad pillars of achievement that the government claimed — political stability in spite of the pulls and pressures of running a multi-party coalition; a “shining” economy that saw a dizzying 10.4 percent growth in the last quarter of the previous year; and peace with Pakistan that changed the way the two countries looked at each other for over 50 years.

The results of the elections could not have come as a greater shock to a man who was hailed for his achievements and who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 influential men of the decade.

Success didn’t come easily to the charismatic politician, who was born on Christmas Day in 1924 in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, into a family of moderate means. His father was a school teacher and Vajpayee would later recall his early brush with poverty.

He did his Masters in Political Science, studying at the Victoria College in Gwalior and at the DAV College in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, where he first contested, and lost, elections. He began his professional career as a journalist, working with Rashtradharma, a Hindi monthly, Panchjanya, a Hindi weekly, and two Hindi dailies, Swadesh and Veer Arjun. By then he had firmly embraced the ideals of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).

But even as he struggled to win electoral battles, his command over Hindi, the lingua franca of the North Indian masses, his conciliatory politics and his riveting oratory brought him into public limelight.

His first entry into Parliament was in 1962 through the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. It was only in 1971 that he won a Lok Sabha election. He was elected to the lower house seven times and to the Rajya Sabha twice.

Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975 and put her political opponents in jail. When the Janata Party took office in 1977, dethroning the Congress for the first time, he became the foreign minister.

The lowest point in his career came when he lost the 1984 Lok Sabha polls, that too from his birthplace Gwalior, after Rajiv Gandhi won an overwhelming majority following his mother Indira Gandhi’s assassination. And the BJP he led ended up with just two seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha, in what looked like the end of the road for the right-wing party. In no time, Vajpayee was replaced and “eclipsed” by his long-time friend L.K. Advani.

Although they were the best of friends publicly, Vajpayee never fully agreed with Advani’s and the assorted Hindu nationalist groups’ strident advocacy of Hindutva, an ideology ranged against the idea of secular India. Often described as the right man in the wrong party, there were also those who belittled him as a moderate “mask” to a hardline Hindu nationalist ideology. Often he found his convictions and value systems at odds with the party, but the bachelor-politician never went against it.

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee — one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it — that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum. It was this trait that made him the Prime Minister when the BJP’s allies concluded they needed a moderate to steer a hardliner, pro-Hindu party.

He brought into governance measures that created for India a distinct international status on the diplomatic and economic fronts. In his third prime ministerial stint, Vajpayee launched a widely acclaimed diplomatic initiative by starting a bus service between New Delhi and Pakistan’s Lahore city.

Its inaugural run in February 1999 carried Vajpayee and was welcomed on the border by his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif. It was suspended only after the 2001 terror attack on the Indian Parliament that nearly led to a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The freeze between the two countries, including an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation on the border for nearly a year, was finally cracked in the spring of 2003 when Vajpayee, while in Kashmir, extended a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan. That led to the historic summit in January 2004 with then President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad — a remarkable U-turn after the failed summit in Agra of 2001. Despite the two men being so far apart in every way, Musharraf developed a strong liking for the Indian leader.

His unfinished task, one that he would probably rue, would be the peace process with Pakistan that he had vowed to pursue to its logical conclusion and a resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

He was not known as “Atal-Ji”, a name that translates into firmness, for nothing. He could go against the grain of his party if he saw it deviate from its path. When Hindu hardliners celebrated the destruction of the 16th century Babri Mosque at Ayodhya, he was full of personal remorse for the apocalyptic action and called it — in a landmark interview to IANS — the “worst miscalculation” and a “misadventure”. He even despaired that “moderates have no place — who is going to listen to the voice of sanity?”

In his full five-year term, he successively carried forward India’s economic reforms programme with initiatives to improve infrastructure, including flagging off a massive national highway project that has become associated with his vision, went for massive privatisation of unviable state undertakings despite opposition from even within his own party.

While his personal image remained unsullied despite his long innings in the murky politics of this country, his judgment was found wanting when his government was rocked by an arms bribery scandal that sought to expose alleged payoffs to some senior members of his cabinet. His failure to speak up when members of his party and its sister organisations, who are accused of killing more than 1,000 Muslims in Gujarat, was questioned by the liberal fraternity who wondered aloud about his secular proclamations. He wanted then Chief Minister — now Prime Minister, Narendra Modi — to take responsibility for the riots and quit but was prevailed upon by others not to press his decision.

A day before his party lost power, Vajpayee was quoted as saying in a television interview that if and when he stepped down he would like to devote his time to writing and poetry. But fate ruled otherwise. The man who once rued that “I have waited too long to be Prime Minister” found his last days in a world far removed from the adulation and attention — though across the nation people prayed for his well-being — surrounded only by care-givers and close family whom he even failed to recognise.

IANS

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Most Popular