India moving from occupation to annexation, says Pakistan

Pakistani Kashmiri shout anti-Indian slogans during a protest in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, on August 8, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 08 August 2019

India moving from occupation to annexation, says Pakistan

  • As tensions continued to rise, Pakistan on Thursday suspended its Friendship Express train service to India

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has accused India of moving from “occupation to annexation” over its revocation of Kashmir’s special status.

And with the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir still in lockdown following New Delhi’s move to scrap its autonomous standing, Islamabad demanded a plebiscite for Kashmiris on the issue.

As tensions continued to rise, Pakistan on Thursday suspended its Friendship Express train service to India, a day after it downgraded its diplomatic ties with New Delhi, expelled the Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria, and suspended trade with its eastern neighbor.

Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman, Dr. Mohammad Faisal, told Arab News that although Pakistan had never accepted the now scrapped Article 370 of India’s constitution, it acknowledged that it had theoretically provided special status to Indian-run Kashmir.

However, he described the article’s repeal by the Indian government as a step from “occupation to annexation” and an attempt to turn the globally recognized disputed territory into a province, in violation of international law and UN Security Council Resolution 47 (adopted in 1948, concerning the Kashmir conflict).

Bilateral dialogue between Pakistan and India has remained suspended since the first term in office of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Relations between the two countries have deteriorated over the years, but India’s latest move puts regional peace at stake.

Faisal said there was now uncertainty as to whether Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan would participate in the 74th session of the UN General Assembly next month.

“At this point nobody knows whether he will go because the situation may deteriorate to such a level where he may not be able to leave the country. The foreign minister had to come back from Hajj as well. At this point, we don’t know what will happen next week.”

The spokesman added: “India has stationed 900,000 troops; one soldier is deployed at every household (in Kashmir) – what is this? If India says it is doing this for the betterment of the people, then it should hold a plebiscite instead.”

Foreign policy expert, Dr. Zafar Jaspal, told Arab News that Pakistan had a number of options at its disposal. “We can extend our political and diplomatic support to our Kashmiri brothers and deepen our relationship with China, as it’s also a part of this conflict. Pakistan can also take its case to the UN.”

On the issue of Pakistan providing consular access to convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, Jaspal said it would not be favorable for Pakistan’s campaign against India to disrupt the process and that Islamabad “should continue to act as a responsible state.”

New Indian law could force thousands of NGOs to shut down, activists claim

Updated 24 September 2020

New Indian law could force thousands of NGOs to shut down, activists claim

  • Thousands of small NGOs that are dependent on legal funds obtained internationally may be forced to shut down
  • Many small NGOs questioned the timing of the new legislation, as they have been heavily involved in providing relief to millions of people during the COVID-19 pandemic

NEW DELHI: A new law passed by India’s parliament on Wednesday imposes restrictions that will force thousands of NGOs to shut down, dealing a major blow to the country’s civil society, activists say.

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) 2020, which regulates the use of foreign funds by individuals and organizations, is “for national and internal security” and to “ensure that foreign funds do not dominate the political and social discourse in India,” Nityanand Rai, junior home minister, told the upper house as it passed the regulation on Wednesday.

But Indian NGOs fear that the law will mean they are no longer able to operate.

“Thousands of small NGOs, which enable good work and are dependent on legal funds obtained internationally, will shut down — also endangering the livelihoods of those dependent on them for a vocation,” Poonam Muttreja, director of the Delhi-based Population Foundation of India, told Arab News.

As the new law does not allow NGOs to share funds with any partner, individual or organization, small groups — particularly those active at the grassroots level — may end up being unable to receive the donations on which they depend for survival, Muttreja warned.

“Donors can’t give small grants to local NGOs, so they give large grants to an intermediary organization with the desire to work with grassroot-level NGOs, (of which there are many) in India,” Muttrejia said.

On Thursday, Voluntary Action Network India (VANI) — an umbrella organization for Indian NGOs — held a press conference during which members questioned the timing of the new legislation, since many small NGOs have been heavily involved in providing relief to millions of people across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is the worst possible time to hamper civil society,” the director of Ashoka University’s Center for Social Impact and Philanthropy, Ingrid Srinath, said during the conference. “Just when this country needs its entire civil society to work together with the private sector and the government to address the multiple problems that confront us — not only the health ones but the larger issues of where the economy is going and the many polarizations taking place on the ground.”

Srinath also pointed out that no wider consultation with NGOs had taken place before the law was passed.

According to Delhi-based civil society activist Richa Singh, the law is an attempt by the government to silence dissent in the country.

“The larger purpose is to further silence those civil societies that are critical of (the government). It is a political message to fall in line,” she told Arab News. “While foreign money in the form of investment is being welcomed and labor laws are weakened for it, aid money is selectively targeted.”

Amitabh Behar, the chief executive of Oxfam India, called it a “devastating blow” and also criticized the government’s double standards over the acceptance of foreign funds.

“Red carpet welcome for foreign investments for businesses but stifling and squeezing the nonprofit sector by creating new hurdles for foreign aid which could help lift people out of poverty, ill health and illiteracy,” he said in a Twitter post on Sunday, when the FCRA bill was introduced to the lower house.