Human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented a range of serious rights violations in the region by Indian authorities.
By Qamar Bashir
The inauguration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on January 22, 2024 is a highly abhorrent and agonizing event, particularly for the Muslim community in India and globally. The event was a symbol of the neglect of secular principles in the Indian Constitution and a disregard for the religious and communal sentiments of Muslims.
The demolition of the famous Babri Masjid in 1992 and the subsequent legal and political developments leading up to the temple’s inauguration are a painful and humiliating chapter in the Muslim history. The Ram Temple, for many, will remain a symbol of ongoing agony and a deep sense of injustice, reflecting broader tensions and challenges in the multicultural and multi-religious fabric of Indian society.
Belligerent and hegemonic India does not enjoy good relations with any country of the region. It has border disputes with China, which resulted in increased tensions and military buildups from both sides. India-Nepal dispute, reignited by India’s road construction in a region has become politically charged, fueling nationalist sentiments in Nepal.
Pakistan has raised concerns in international forums such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the United Nations about the agonizing crime of building the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, describing the event as a symbol of growing majoritarianism in India. It highlighted the event as an affront to the Muslim community and expressed apprehensions about the safety of mosques, churches and worship places of other religious minorities in India. It called upon international organizations to ensure the protection of Islamic heritage sites and uphold the rights of minorities in India.
Indian hegemonic designs were confined to the region, but now emboldened by its economic upsurge and becoming darling of the USA as a counterbalancing force to China, it has enlarged its criminal ambit globally.
But the list of India’s state-sponsored crimes is unmeasurable within India, in the region and globally. It has reduced Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIO J&K) into a large prison. It persecutes religious, linguistic and ethnic minorities with impunity. It intimidates neighboring countries, foments border disputes with almost all neighbors. It is suppressing genuine and bona fide separatist movements by use of brute force and has resorted to a global killing spree with total impunity.
In its handling of these regions, China has shown restraint and a willingness to let time progress, allowing for the possibility of reconciliation and mutual understanding.
India’s actions in IIOJ&K particularly following the revocation of the region’s special status, have drawn international scrutiny and criticism. Human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have documented a range of serious rights violations in the region. These include arbitrary detentions, a communications blackout, and severe restrictions on freedom of movement and peaceful assembly, alongside the suspension of internet and telecommunication services.
The reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also highlight a crackdown on media and civil society, with cases of relentless interrogation of journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders, as well as arbitrary travel bans and detentions. The rampant and arbitrary use of laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), Public Safety Act (PSA), and Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) has led to pre-trial detentions and arrests without judicial review, coupled with unlawful killings lacking accountability. These developments have damaged India’s reputation as a state committed to ethical practices and human rights, drawing parallels to historical instances of oppression and leading to significant international outcry.
The list of India’s state-sponsored crimes is unmeasurable within India, in the region and globally.
The story does not end here, HRW and other international human rights organizations have recorded mistreatment of religious minorities under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s government. They have documented horrendous incidents of communal violence, such as the outbreak in Nuh district in Haryana, where state retaliation against Muslim residents, including illegal property demolitions and detentions, lynching, raping and mob killing. In Manipur, inter-community violence led to deaths, displacement, and destruction of property.
There are countless incidents of violence and discrimination against religious minorities, including Muslims and Christians, with some states implementing “anti-conversion” laws and others engaging in actions like property demolitions without legal authorization. The Universal Periodic Review process by the United Nations Human Rights Council has raised serious concerns over regression in human rights under the Modi government, with increased attacks and discrimination against religious minorities and marginalized communities like Dalits and Adivasis.
The state sponsored majoritarianism in India has created wide spread discontentment amongst the populace belonging to minority groups which has given rise to over twenty five separatists and insurgency movements including the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF), Mizo National Front (MNF), Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Hizbul Mujahideen, Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), Kamtapur Liberation Organization (KLO), Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) and Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF).
Belligerent and hegemonic India does not enjoy good relations with any country of the region. It has border disputes with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which resulted in increased tensions and military buildups from both sides. The India-Nepal dispute, reignited by India’s road construction in a region has become politically charged, fueling nationalist sentiments in Nepal.
During Doklam Standoff (2017) Bhutan and India armies came face to face when India started building hydro-electric projects to divert water which was a lifeline for Bhutan. India was ward off only when China sided Bhutan. Maldives has been wary of India involvement in its internal affairs specially India’s effort to change the Islamic character of Maldives has resulted in downgrading the relations.
Indian hegemonic designs were confined to the region, but now emboldened by its economic upsurge and becoming darling of the USA as a counterbalancing force to China, it has enlarged its criminal ambit globally. Several countries are raising allegations about its involvement in extraterritorial activities. Canada has accused India of being involved in the killing of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
This was followed by the United States implicating India in the assassination of another Sikh leader, a development significant enough to influence President Joe Biden’s decision to cancel a planned visit to India as the chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations. In the aftermath, India invited French President Emmanuel Macron to fill this role, a decision that was soon overshadowed by controversy when India revoked the visa of a long-serving French journalist.
Adding to these diplomatic challenges, Pakistan has recently accused India of being behind the killing of Pakistani citizens on the basis of tangible evidence of India’s involvement. These incidents point to a growing concern about India’s foreign policy and its actions on the international stage, reflecting a shift from regional to broader global implications.
China, as a global power, presents a contrasting approach in its regional and international relations compared to India. With its status as a nuclear power, the world’s second-largest economy, significant military capabilities, achievements in space exploration, and industrial prowess, China has adopted a strategy of collaboration and support with its neighbors.
The country is heavily investing in infrastructure projects across the region, including the construction of roads, highways, ports, bridges, and airports followed by deeper cooperation in space exploration, research and development, education and health, mining and agriculture and industrialization. This investment is part of a broader strategy to enhance regional connectivity and economic development.
Further, China has shown a willingness to provide financial support to neighboring countries in times of need, often extending generous loans and financial aid. These efforts have fostered strong relationships with most of its neighbors. China’s approach reflects its ambition to position itself as a benevolent and cooperative regional leader, contrasting with perceptions of India’s criminal, unethical, hegemonic and belligerent state sponsored policies.
China’s global investment strategy, particularly under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), encompasses a vast and diverse range of development projects across various regions. In Pakistan, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) represents a significant commitment with an investment of $65 billion. The strategic partnership with Iran, valued at approximately $400 billion over 25 years, spans numerous sectors, reflecting China’s deep economic involvement in the Middle East.
In Afghanistan, China focuses on infrastructure and mining with an initial investment of $7 billion. The relationship with the Maldives has been strengthened in 2024 with an investment portfolio of $ 1,57 Billion. China’s investment in Sri Lanka, including the Hambantota Port development, amounts to $4.5 billion. In Africa, Chinese investments range from $126 billion to $273 billion, emphasizing its substantial economic presence on the continent.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region sees China’s involvement reach $6.7 billion in investments with a significant trade volume. In Central Asia, Chinese investments lie between $35 billion and $60 billion, highlighting strategic interests in this region. Europe experienced a massive range of investments from $1 trillion to $3 trillion, covering various economic activities, while Latin America saw investments between $150 billion and $250 billion, indicating China’s expanding global influence and diverse economic partnerships.
These extensive investments reflect China’s ambition to enhance global connectivity, create win-win situations, increase the capacity, capability and resource base of its partner and bring about prosperity across the board without bringing regime changes and meddling into the internal affairs of its partners, without having any desired to use its investment to force the partners to take decisions which serve its vested interests.
China’s approach to its territorial and internal issues, particularly with Taiwan, Macau, Tibet, and Hong Kong, reflects a strategy contrasting sharply with more aggressive methods of India and even USA and the West. Emphasizing diplomacy and engagement, China has consistently advocated for peaceful resolution and dialogue.
In its handling of these regions, China has shown restraint and a willingness to let time progress, allowing for the possibility of reconciliation and mutual understanding. This approach is guided by the belief that over time, differing perspectives might converge towards the goal of unity and shared prosperity.
Further, China’s policy towards its minority regions involves a focus on development and integration. Efforts are directed toward channeling resources, skills, industry, education, and technology into these areas aimed at addressing grievances by fostering socio-economic growth and assimilation into the broader Chinese society. This strategy is seen as a way to mitigate discontent and create a more harmonious and unified national fabric.
For India to emerge as a progressive and peaceful nation, it must focus on embracing and integrating its diverse ethnic, religious, communal, racial, and linguistic minorities into the national mainstream. Addressing the concerns and aspirations of separatist groups through democratic means and respecting human rights is essential.
India could benefit from emulating China’s strategy of fostering partnerships for progress, especially in addressing conflicts in IIOJ&K and separatist movements. Prioritizing the rights of religious, ethnic, and linguistic minorities, and resolving conflicts through democratic means aligned with the United Nations charter, would not only avoid inhumane force but also reinforce India’s image as a harmonious and inclusive society. This approach is pivotal for long-term peace and development.
The writer is the former Press Secretary to the President of Pakistan, former Press Minister at Embassy of Pakistan to France and former MD-SRBC.