Amid global Coronavirus pandemic, much of international media seems to have missed a short news of monumental consequences. India’s intention of deploying its troops in four South Asian countries.
Quoting Press Trust of India, news media widely reported Indian preparation of separate teams for deployment in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan. Pretext: to help those countries boost capabilities to deal with rising cases of coronavirus, official sources said on April 21 (2020).
The report dismayed policymakers in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. They claimed that they were totally uninformed about such deployment as their Indian counterparts didn’t consult with them before leaking the news to the media.
Afghanistan turned down the report terming it false. Quoting the Afghan officials, ‘Arab News’ reported under caption ‘Afghanistan shoots down Indian troops support claims’ quoted, National Security Council spokesman, Javid Faisal as saying that Afghanistan had not called on the Indian army to help in the country’s response to the pandemic.
“There has never been such a request from Kabul, nor has there been such a suggestion from Delhi. These are false reports, even false perceptions,” he told ‘Arab News’.
In Bangladesh, Foreign minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen talking to ‘The New Age’ on April 22 said that Bangladesh did not require services of the Indian Army team for containing COVID-19 pandemic. “We do not need such assistance, rather we are sending teams to different countries,’ the foreign minister told New Age over phone, about an Indian media report on preparations of the Indian Army for deploying troops to several countries including Bangladesh for containing the disease.
Bangladesh armed forces have sent medical teams to Kuwait, he said. Dhaka also extended support to Maldives, Bhutan and China, the foreign minister added.
The following day, on April 23, Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Major General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne told a press conference in Colombo that his country did not seek assistance from the military of other countries to combat the spread of coronavirus on the island.
Responding to the Indian media reports, General Gunaratne said the Sri Lankan forces and the Police had already proved their capabilities in containing the spread of coronavirus. “Our military has already shown their expertise and professionalism in handling the emergency situation created under coronavirus threat”. He added no such dialogue had taken place between the two nations.
It has become a normal practice of the Indian policymakers to deny the same tomorrow what they say today. Critics call it the duplicity of the Indian policymakers, which once exposed was put under the carpet. Facing rejection from the four countries, Indian policymakers somersaulted and on April 23, foreign ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivats issued a statement saying: “We have seen some media reports regarding the deployment of Indian Army to countries to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. These are factually inaccurate and misleading. We have responded promptly to requests from Maldives and Kuwait for deployment of Rapid Response Teams comprising doctors, nurses and paramedics to deal with the Covid 19 pandemic. These Rapid Response Teams are ready for deployment to other friendly countries at short notice if requested by them.”
India Looking for Satellite States?
Those who know India’s multifaceted face opine that the negation of the South Asian nations was a bolt from the blue for the Indian policymakers as they consider these countries as their satellites. They allege, Indians to conceal their defaced prestige simply somersaulted and denied their own plan seeing the negativity of its neighboring countries. Policymakers in India also forget the fact that Indian doctors, nurses, health workers don’t have sufficient equipments and materials to treat and even test the affected Indians. Also majority of Indians don’t have a mask to cover their face.
The news of death of many migrant workers is still fresh after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lockdown announcement lead to the exodus of millions of migrant workers from mega-cities. They neither had sanitizers and mask, nor had maintained social distance. There was none to oversee them. Serious humanitarian crisis prevails throughout India. People faces scarcity of food, madicine, even dirnkable water and soapwater to wash their hands. People wait for hours for ration cards.
India’s Issues at Home
Meanwhile, Indian daily, ‘The Hindu’ conducted a survey of 11,159 migrant workers stranded in various states found that between April 8 and April 13, more than 90% did not receive rations from the government. Close to 90% of those surveyed did not get paid by their employers. From March 27 to April 13, 70% of the surveyed workers had only less than ₹200 left with them.
According to the survey, 96% of migrant workers across India didn’t get rations from the government. It found in Uttar Pradesh, 100% of the migrant workers did not receive rations, while their percentage in Maharashtra and Karnataka were 99 and 93 respectively. India did not deploy its army to aid their own endangered people either by providing food or ferrying them to reach their homes. Why India’s sense of humanity did not arise while its own people desperately needed help.
Amid all these contradictions, the million dollar question remains unanswered. Why India promoted such a unilateral plan of troops deployment in South Asian countries while it itself is sinking in the same identical problem? If India really stands for humanity it could have displayed this gesture far earlier in the case of Italy or Spain where there was no sufficient manpower even to remove the corpses of coronavirus victims.
A Wake up Call
The reality is that the dream of some policy geniuses in Delhi of projecting India as the custodian of South Asia by coming up with the controversial plan of sending the military to its neighboring countries at a time when it has failed to tackle the Coronavirus at home and when the whole world is engaged in taming the deadly virus was a self-defeating idea. Hawks in New Delhi suffer from such a belief that their smaller neighbors would neither react nor reject their plan and rather silently welcome it. But it didn’t happen, dampening their hopes. Reasons are obvious. Neither the South Asian nations, nor the international players, will entertain such self-defeating intrigues. The only and the best course available for New Delhi is to show more sincerity as friend towards its neighbors rather than using its notorious military to project its soft power. It should rather restrain its military from committing grave human rights violations in Kashmir and beyond because actions speak louder than words.
Mohammad Zainal Abedin is a New York-based Bangladeshi journalist and researcher.
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