Syed Atiq ul Hassan
In Pakistan, a turbulent state of affairs persists as the power struggle between the establishment, minority government, and major political party plunges the nation into chaos. Clashes between supporters of the ruling party and law enforcement agencies have reached unprecedented levels. Consequently, the sanctity of the constitution, law, and judiciary has been undermined, while Pakistan finds itself grappling with severe economic bankruptcy. Additionally, two major provinces in Pakistan are being governed unlawfully; exacerbating the economic crisis and widespread insecurity among the population.
Meanwhile, India, Pakistan’s neighbouring traditional rival, is flexing its muscles on the global stage. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leader of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), an extremist Hindu party, has been undertaking visits to key countries in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. The BJP wields significant control over Indian politics and democracy, and it has garnered substantial support from the majority of the population, leading to the transformation of India from a secular country to a Hindu state. Alarming reports indicate that minorities, particularly Christians and Muslims, are facing persecution with governmental backing, evident in the demolition of mosques and churches.
Remarkably, influential countries such as the US, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and various Asian and European nations seem content on forging bilateral agreements with India, disregarding the aforementioned human rights concerns. Narendra Modi’s foreign policy has achieved notable success, as India strengthens its defence alliances with the US, Britain, Australia, and Japan, while simultaneously securing advantageous trade deals, including affordable oil and other commodities from Russia and Iran. India’s approach to resolving territorial disputes with China involves engaging in negotiations and adopting a policy of mutual concessions.
In the recent past, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar met with his Russian and Chinese counterparts during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Goa, India. The meeting demonstrated India’s commitment to bolstering bilateral relations and resolving conflicts through dialogue.
Moreover, in March 2023, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s visit to India was widely hailed in both countries. The visit resulted in significant agreements being signed between Australia and India in the fields of education, health, minerals, and manpower. The Australian Prime Minister extended an invitation to his Indian counterpart, which Narendra Modi graciously accepted. As I write this, Narendra Modi has embarked on his two-day official visit to Australia, as a guest of the Australian government.
Modi’s visit to Australia aims to solidify defence and free trade agreements between the two nations. Notably, India had been pursuing a free trade agreement with Australia for some time, with China playing a disruptive role. China, reluctant to see Australia become a free trade partner with India, has now been replaced by India in this endeavour. The Australian government has previously engaged in several significant multilateral agreements with China.
During the visit, the Indian Prime Minister will also work towards securing recognition for Indian medicines and treatment methods in Australia, enabling the import of Indian pharmaceuticals. This milestone agreement holds tremendous potential for the Indian health and pharmaceutical sector.
Furthermore, India has already signed agreements with Australia in the fields of education and healthcare, facilitating the establishment of Australian university campuses in India and easing visa processes for Indian students, nurses, and doctors seeking opportunities in Australia.
On Monday, May 22, thousands of Indians rejoiced as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plane touched down in Sydney, marking the beginning of his visit to Australia. The vibrant streets of Sydney’s Harris Park were adorned with BJP flags, banners, and larger-than-life portraits of Modi. Indian songs reverberated through the air, resonating from Indian restaurants and grocery stores, creating a festive atmosphere. The apex of the visit will be a grand event at the renowned concert hall of the Sydney Olympic Park on Tuesday and Wednesday, where Narendra Modi himself will address the Indian community. Notably, the Australian Prime Minister may also be in attendance. The event organizers anticipate the participation of around twenty thousand Indians, making it a monumental reception.
Prior to arriving in Australia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the Hiroshima G7 conference in Japan, where he engaged in discussions concerning regional stability and India’s role in achieving it. Additionally, Modi actively participated in the meeting of Trade Ministers G7 and Guests to bolster bilateral trade ties with Japan. On the sideline of the G7 conference, the Indian Prime Minister held discussions with leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), focusing on implementing defence dialogues and fostering practical engagement in defence matters among the four countries.
Following his Japan visit, Narendra Modi is set to travel to Australia and subsequently to Papua New Guinea. During this comprehensive three-country tour, the Indian Prime Minister is scheduled to attend approximately forty crucial meetings and engage in face-to-face discussions with leaders from over two dozen nations. This ambitious itinerary is a testament to Modi’s dedicated efforts in projecting India as a powerful nation on the global stage.
While the Prime Minister’s foreign visits and simultaneous defence alliances with the US, Japan, Britain, and Australia, as well as forging business and political ties with Russia, Iran, and China, aim to strengthen India’s bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council, it is important to acknowledge the concerns surrounding his government’s treatment of minorities.
Parallel to Narendra Modi’s diplomatic campaigns, international media outlets continue to report incidents of discrimination against minorities in India, including violent attacks on Muslims and Christians and the desecration of their religious places. International human rights organizations have been vocal in highlighting these abuses. Notably, the BBC produced a documentary on the Gujarat riots, shedding light on the atrocities committed against Muslims. Instances of cruelty and violence against activists involved in movements such as the Khalistan movement have also garnered global attention.
In Australia, supporters of the Khalistan Movement plan to stage a protest during Modi’s visit, expressing their demand for Khalistan’s freedom and voicing their opposition to Modi. Law enforcement agencies in Sydney are working diligently to maintain order and ensure that the protesters are kept at a distance from the venue where Modi will be received.
Furthermore, a group of Australian Parliament members, known for their advocacy of human rights and freedom, have scheduled a screening of a BBC documentary within Parliament during Modi’s visit. This documentary sheds light on the inhumane treatment of minorities in India, particularly the large-scale killings of Muslims in Gujarat and the destruction of their property. These parliamentarians argue that the current Australian government, led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, tends to present a positive image of India to the Australian people while neglecting to address the cruel and inhumane treatment endured by Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and individuals from lower castes in India. This lack of discourse is a disheartening development.
In conclusion, Narendra Modi’s visit to Australia evokes both celebration and controversy. Nevertheless, warm reception from the Indian community stands as a testament to his popularity among the majority of Indians.