Modi warns of retaliation amid military buildup

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said ‘India knows how to maintain friendships, but it can also look someone in the eye and retaliate.’ (File/Reuters)
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Updated 29 June 2020

Modi warns of retaliation amid military buildup

  • New Delhi strengthens missile defense systems as tensions with China grow

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that India “knows how to retaliate” amid reports of a military buildup on its disputed border with China in the Himalayan region of Ladakh.

“India has given a befitting response to those who dared to eye her territory in Ladakh,” Modi said, referring to June 15 clashes that claimed the lives of 20 Indian soldiers at the Galwan Valley in Ladakh — the first such incident between Indian and Chinese troops in 45 years.

“India knows how to maintain friendships, but it can also look someone in the eye and retaliate and give an apt reply,” the prime minister said in his monthly radio address.

The comments come as reports suggest New Delhi has deployed the advanced quick-reaction surface-to-air missile defense system Akash to the border.

“As part of the ongoing buildup in the sector, the air defense systems of both Indian Army and the Indian Air Force have been deployed in the sector to prevent any misadventure by the Chinese fighter jets or the People’s Liberation Army choppers there,” a local news agency reported, quoting  government sources.

Manoj Kewalramani, of the Bangalore-based think tank Takshashila Institution, told Arab News it is clear that “there has been a change in the status quo from April, with the Chinese army establishing new positions in areas where it didn’t have them earlier.”

He added: “There has also clearly been a buildup on both sides despite talks continuing. It’s a tense situation, and it seems it will be protracted in nature,” he said.

According to political analyst Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli, of Jawahallal Nehru University, “the entire border from Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh to Ladakh is active now.” 

Tensions escalated in early May when Indian troops accused China’s military of hindering their patrols along the Ladakh and Sikkim border.

In return, Beijing blamed its southern neighbor for building road infrastructure in the Fingers region around the Pangong Tso Lake and Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh.

Violence broke out in the Galwan Valley on June 15 when both sides were supposedly negotiating de-escalation measures.

Three days later, Modi addressed the nation, saying “no one has intruded” into Indian territory.

He has since been accused of failing to tell the truth by the main opposition Congress Party and former army generals, who said that satellite images showed a Chinese buildup on the Indian side of the border. 

“The prime minister should address the nation and tell the truth that the Chinese have encroached on our land. Otherwise the Chinese will use his statement to their advantage,” Congress spokesperson Kapil Sibal said on Saturday.

However, according to Kondapalli, the government is unable to reveal strategic information.

“The previous Congress regime did not do that,” he said, adding that transgressions on the undefined border occur every day.

Border tensions have led to a campaign to boycott Chinese goods in India.

China has major investments in the Indian economy, accounting for $5.5 billion until last year. China’s exports to India amounted to $57.86 billion in 2019, compared with imports that stood at $16.32 billion. China’s smartphone companies also hold a 75 percent share of the Indian market. 

“The boycott campaign reflects public sentiment,” economist Amit Bhandari, of the Mumbai-based think tank Gateway House, told Arab News.

“Trade links with China have developed over the past 20 to 30 years, and what has been there for so many years cannot be undone in a few days or months. It would be massively disruptive,” he said.

“The purpose of the boycott is that you want to impose a disproportionate amount of financial damage to the other side. China is vulnerable in its investment in the technology sector.”

However, Manoj Kewalramani argues that instead of a “knee-jerk reaction,” what is needed is “a nuanced re-evaluation of the Sino-Indian economic relationship to reduce strategic vulnerabilities.” 

He added: “We are entering a new phase in the bilateral relationship that will require new rules of engagement.”


Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 01 October 2020

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”