On August 5, 2019, when India abolished the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir by eliminating Article 370 from the Indian Constitution, a complete clampdown on communication and movement was imposed in the region. People were discouraged from traveling to and from Kashmir.
In spite of the restrictive measures to discourage journalists from reporting, news poured out about Jammu and the valley becoming a jail for inhabitants through continuous curfew. Many human rights organization and international institutions protested against India’s decision of annexing Kashmir through coercion and stark violations of human rights.
It was expected that India will be forced in an equally coercive manner by the world powers to lift the curfew, and return some semblance of normalcy to Kashmir.
Instead, mild condemnations were made at best. Indian Prime Minister Narendera Modi, the architect of India’s new phase of Hindutva project, was decorated by none other than the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Red carpets were rolled out for him by every country he visited after August 5, 2019. The G-7 countries’ huddle, to which India does not even belong, hosted Modi as a guest where he had a special meeting with the US President Donald Trump. He was treated as a hero rather than a usurper of human rights.
Two events helped solve the puzzling behavior of the international actors. One was Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s press conference, which he conducted along with the President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Masood Khan. Qureshi’s statements that India has burgeoning trade relations with the Arab countries and that no one in the United Nation’s Security Council (UNSC) was waiting with a garland to hear Pakistan out on Kashmir threw considerable light on the dynamics of politics and emerging geo-economics. Second was the UAE emir’s statement in which he defended their $100 billion trade relations with India.
In effect, business as usual, while the Kashmiris suffered in isolation.
The world that had once triumphed to come of age after defeating communism seems to have vanished. Such was the trust in democracy that in the words of Francis Fukuyama, an acclaimed political philosopher, it was the end of history. Two and a half decades later democracy stopped being an ideology seeking all citizens to be treated equally under the law. It has become a tool to replace one elected government with the other. The new norm of foreign policy is geo-economics that tolerates the trampling of human rights as long as the economic interests of the giants are served unhindered.
The term geo-economics was coined in the post-cold war era by Edward Luttwalk, a security consultant. He argued that post-cold war the strength of any country will be determined not by its military but by its economic position. The construct of geo-economics was based on “building an international partnership that advances harmonization, efficiency, economic convergence, and growth against the supposed threat of political radicalism, anachronism, and anarchy.”
It sounds good on paper, but the issue is that this international partnership for economic convergence has created a cartelization of nations, which have no qualms in tolerating anarchic or radical behavior, as long as their economic interests are not threatened.
Modi’s criminal record as the Chief Minister Gujrat in 2002, under whom 790 Muslims were killed in communal riots, led to the US and some European countries to impose a travel ban on him. In 2012 the ban was lifted because Modi was able to attract private sector investment in Gujrat from the UK. British journalists described the UK’s decision to break ranks as “a major boost to the pro-business leader’s quest for mainstream acceptance.”
India is being seen a strategic country to counter China’s influence especially in the politics of the Indian Ocean, which in time would become a major source for the transportation of oil and gas to the energy-starved countries in Asia by the Middle Eastern oil-producing nations: UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.
Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Saudi Aramco have jointly invested $44 billion in a refinery in India. Similarly, through its Link West policy, India is also engaged with the UAE in the fields of defense and strategy.
According to the US Department of States website, the volume of bilateral trade between India and the US was $142 billion in 2018 a 12.6 per cent increase from 2017. The US energy exports are the major area where both countries have had major trading. In 2018, India purchased 48.2 million barrels of US crude oil. It was a significant increase from 9.6 million barrels in 2017.
This reorientation of the governance structure of the international order from geopolitics to geo-economics has exhausted the normative side of democracy where people mattered. The new order is laced with slogans such as America first, India first, Poland first, Israel first, which could also mean a license to kill, maim or transport people using despicable immigration policies.
The return of the liberal democracy to illiberalism would not be without the opportunity cost of gross human suffering. The Rohangiyans, the Kashmiris, and the Palestinians and the lesser gods of the African countries may bleed to death, it seems to hardly matter. So long as it does not disturb the equilibrium of the influential countries and their designs for wealth creation.
This article first appeared in Matrix Mag and is being reproduced under a special arrangement. Click here to go to the original.