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India embraces 'might is right' in Kashmir move



The Morrison government is keen to stress how India and Australia share 'common values' — the subtext being that the same can't be said about Australia and China. But common values have vanished in India, as highlighted by its blunt use of military force to crush the semi-autonomous state of Jamma and Kashmir.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the United Nations headquarters in September 2015. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)In a speech in New Delhi on 9 January, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said one of the common values is that both countries are 'firm believers that "might is not right"'. Clearly, India believes 'might' entitled it to suppress the Islamic majority in Jamma and Kashmir, expel foreigners, cut outside communications, imprison political leaders, change the law to let Hindus from elsewhere buy property and businesses and repeal the constitutional provisions previously guaranteeing the state's substantial degree of autonomy after the division of India and Pakistan in 1947.

All mainstream Australian media outlets, except The Conversation, have refused to give sustained coverage of what is happening in Kashmir, preferring to focus on the student demonstrations in Hong Kong. That topic deserves considered attention. At the time of writing, however, the Beijing government has refrained from using military force.

In her speech in Delhi, Mayne not only praised Australia and India's supposed belief that 'might is not right', she insisted the two countries are 'champions of international law'. That will be news to people in the Middle East who still suffer the consequences of Australia's breach of international law in joining the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Mayne's claim may also puzzle the citizens of Timor-Leste who remember that Australia pulled out all international dispute settlement procedures to prevent legal challenges to the raw deal it imposed on the tiny impoverished nation during the negotiations over petroleum resource boundaries. Australia also illegally bugged the cabinet officers in Dili to provide information to Woodside Energy about Timor-Leste's negotiating position.

Another shared value, according to Payne, was support for 'free, open and independent democracies'. This can't be reconciled with what is happening in India.

Writing in The Conversation on 9 August one scholar, Ayeshar Ray, described the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's takeover of Kashmir as a 'stunningly dangerous, undemocratic and secretive move'. Another scholar,Reeta Tremblay, writing in the same publication on 11 August, said Modi had ushered in 'an era of ethnic majoritarianism that raises differences, dissent and the rights of minorities. Uniformity has become the defining feature of the Indian state, replacing the era of carefully constructed federal and multicultural democracy.'


"India increasingly shares the authoritarian character of the Chinese government."


Under the headline, 'India plans big detention camps for migrants. Muslims are afraid', The New York Times reported on 17 August that more than four million people in India, mostly Muslims, risk being declared as foreign migrants as the government pushes a hard line Hindu nationalist agenda that 'emphasises the religion's supremacy'. The report by Jeffrey Gettleman and Hari Kuma said many of those whose citizenship is now been questioned in the state of Assam were born in India and have enjoyed all the rights of citizens, such as voting in elections.

Payne has not publicly commented on what happened in Kashmir, but a Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson says, 'We urge Pakistan and India to manage their differences over Kashmir calmly and with restraint.' That's fine, as far as it goes. But the momentous changes India is making in Kashmir go well beyond a border dispute with Pakistan. When taken in conjunction with the Modi government's policy of removing large numbers of Muslims from their homes in India, the implementation of its philosophy of Hindu supremacy is drastically changing the character of India.

It is simply not true to describe India as sharing core values with Australia. India increasingly shares the authoritarian character of the Chinese government. It is going even further with its insistence that the superiority of a particular religion (Hinduism) is a key part of the nation's identity, despite having 200 million Muslims as part of its population.

Australian policymakers strongly support the security grouping called the 'Quad' — India, the US, Australia and Japan — as crucial to containing China. Of the four, only Japan has any basis for claiming that it rejects the doctrine of 'might is right'.



Brian TooheyBrian Toohey is the author of SECRET: The making of Australia's security state, due to be released on 3 September 2019.

Main image: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the United Nations headquarters in September 2015. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Brian Toohey, India, Kashmir, Timor-Leste



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Existing comments

Before making a comment I decided to undertake a study of Indian history. These facts seem pertinent: "In ancient India poetry was considered of higher value than history. Indians are constantly trying to reclaim their history from the various accounts left to them by foreigners. The result is continuing controversy and turmoil. There is no more widely held myth than that the British ruled the whole of India, but in 1947 more than a third of the Indian subcontinent was actually ruled by native Indian princes who were not part of British India. The British went out of their way to reinforce the indigenous ancient customs." This leads me to believe that India has special qualities as well as some contradictions. And perhaps India and Australia can be friends.

Pam | 22 August 2019  

Modi's government is certainly greatly different from that of the Congress Party, which had, uptill relatively recently, been considered the natural party of governance and was far more pluralist and secular. There are some who would contest that Modi's BJP does not represent the traditional tolerant, pluralist Hindu view and is an aberration. Be that as it may, the way Myanmar went could be the template for India's future under the BJP. I shudder at the prospect. The immediate post-Independence breakup of India, the actions of the last independent Maharajah of Kashmir and Pakistani opportunism sewed the seeds of the current unholy mess. It will take years to sort out.

Edward Fido | 22 August 2019  

Thank you, Brian Toohey, for shining a badly needed spotlight on the Indian government's disgraceful suspension of Kashmir's constitutional rights, including habeus corpus. Arundhati Roy has written the following electrifying article for The NY Times and there are democratic libertarians around the world who are well-attuned to Modi's Trump-style Hindu populism, which goes down well among the duped Hindu masses. The magnificent Mahatma Gandhi, who protected Muslim rights at the ultimate cost to his own (Hindu) life, must be turning in his grave. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/15/opinion/sunday/kashmir-siege-modi.html

Michael Furtado | 23 August 2019  

Only three comments so far. I don't believe it. This is one of the most perceptive articles on contempory India that I've read in recent years. I visited India two years ago after an absence of forty years. The material progress was obvious but in conversations with professional people I was surprised how deeply they were attuned to Realpolitik. India needed a strong assertive leader. The ideals of The Mahatma were passe. India could find a middle way between American capitalism & Chinese communism. But India must be united in its culture (read Hinduism). I know my visit was brief but Brian Toohey's article confirms my uncomfortable impression of how India is developing.

Uncle Pat | 24 August 2019  

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