Chinese investment in India is good, but border dispute needs to be settled soon!

Sydney, Sunday, 14th September, 2014

Chinese President, Xi Jinping, is visiting India this week. He will be in India on 17th -18th September 2014. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and President Jinping have already met at a BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit recently.

(Pictures from Google and PTI)

PM Modi has had a very successful visit to Japan a couple of days ago. He shares great equations with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. Japan has decided to invest $35 billion in India over next few years. They have taken responsiblity for  Mumbai-Ahmedabad fast train too.

China wants to beat the investment from Japan, which is not difficult to understand due to geo-political competition between China and Japan at play presently. India is obviously the beneficiary, but that does not mean India should do away with its trusted friends. It is known that China is uncomfortable and concerned with India’s growing strategic proximity with USA and Japan. This mammoth investment is largely due to this factor.

Reports say that China wants to invest between $100-300 billion in India over next few years. How much is this investment exactly will be clear when it is announced officially.  It is known that China has $3.95 trillion cash reserve, of which it wishes to invest $500 billion in outbound investment. China has invested only $400 million in India so far. Chinese investment in Railways, manufacturing and infrastructure should help speed up the pace of Indian economy and growth.

image

Chinese investment in India should be welcome, and it indeed is a welcome news. It addresses to some extent the trade deficit of $35 billion against India out of a total $66.4 billion bilateral trade last year.

India however needs to impress upon Chinese leadership that their investment must be coupled with satisfactory settlement of border dispute at a faster speed and their open and active support for India’s permanent membership in the United Nation Security Council (UNSC). It does not make sense that India is not a permanent member of UNSC today.

China also needs to stop supporting anti-India nations in our neighbourhood to create additional, and necessary, goodwill in India. It makes all the sense if you analyse the spectrum of mutual benefits from an investment of this magnitude. No one can deny that there is some significant trust deficit between India and China, which gets reinforced due to actions of China or actions from its client states. India needs to keep the history in its minds. I am happy to note that the present Indian Govt, keeping history in mind, has decided to develop the frontier area with infrastructure in all forms and manners.

China and India are both great civilisations. They are also great powers in their own rights. They can co-exist, and there is enough space for them both, but they need to be mindful of their respective geo-political and security imperatives, while still operating within the established international norms and principles.

It is safe to say that a lot more will need to be done to tackle the “trust deficit”, and that money alone, although welcome, will not be sufficient to remove the existing “trust deficit” between China and India!

Dr Yadu Singh

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Congratulation, Dr Harry Harinath, New Chair, NSW Community Relations Commission (CRC)!

Sydney, Thursday, 11th September, 2014

Dr Harry HarinathDr Harry Harinath has been appointment by the NSW Government to be the new Chair of the Community Relations Commission (CRC) yesterday.

Congratulations, Dr Harry Harinath!

Dr Harinath is a prominent Australian of Indian heritage, and is a well-respected medical doctor.

He has been a respected member of Medical profession for 40 years. He was part of NSW Cricket for 30 years. He served NSW Cricket as its director for many years. He has been a commissioner of the CRC for the last 2 years. He is the current Chair of the Board for Parramasala festival – Australian Festival of South Asian arts & culture.

I, as a member of Indian Australian community, as well as a member of medical profession in NSW, welcome Dr Harinath’s appointment.

I have no doubt that he will take CRC to newer heights, with his consultative, non-confrontationist, helpful, encouraging and inclusive style of functioning.

With Harry as the Chair of CRC, multiculturalism in NSW is in safer and capable hands! 

We look forward to working with him for the interests of our community.

Finally, thanks and congrats are also due to NSW Government -Premier, Mike Baird and Minister for communities, Victor Dominello, for making an outstanding choice for the position of new CRC Chair!

Dr Yadu Singh

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13th amendment of Sri Lankan Constitution is the framework which can help heal the divide in Sri Lanka!

Sydney, 26th Aug, 2014

Sri Lanka FlagSri Lanka is a friendly country to India. India has many commonalities with Sri Lanka MapSri Lanka. Both major ethnic groups-Singhalese and Tamil- have their origins in India. Sri Lanka has a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India.

Until 2009, it had a ferocious and violent civil war, killing thousands from both sides. After a series of battles, Sri Lankan Army was able to defeat LTTE in 2009. There are allegations that upto 40,000 civilians were killed in the final weeks of this war. Sri Lankan Army and LTTE both have been blamed for killing innocent civilians. UNO has an ongoing enquiry on Human Rights violation in Sri Lanka.

LTTE was a ruthless secessionist group, which invented “Suicide bombings”. Former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, was assassinated by its cadre in Tamil Nadu in 1991. LTTE had had many chances to achieve reasonable autonomy for Tamils in Northern Sri Lanka, but it mismanaged the campaign, focusing on a maximalist position of Tamil Eelam.

The situation is totally different today. While Sri Lankan Army has defeated LTTE and removed LTTE from the scene, reasonable aspirations of Tamil Sri Lankans can not, and should not, be ignored. Their desire and aspiration to have a right for equality, dignity, justice and self respect can not be ignored or suppressed.

It is in the interest of Sri Lanka too that it deals with these aspirations from one segment of its own people pragmatically and fully. It is indeed in the long term interest of Sri Lanka to do things which will reassure its Tamil people.

Mahinda RajapaksaIt is in this context that 13th Amendment to Sri Lankan Constitution is worth revisiting. This amendment was enacted in 1987, following India-Sri Lanka Accord (Rajiv Gandhi- JR Jayewardene Accord). It created 9 Provincial Councils. Even though the amendmentRajiv Gandhi JR Jayewardene did not provide sufficient powers to elected legislators, ministers and Chief Ministers, it did give some powers to them. It was by no means a great amendment at all because it gave far too much powers to State Governors, appointed by the President. There is some demand from some ruling parties, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa (Defence Secretary) to repeal 13th Amendment . I believe this is a wrong step. If anything, the provisions of this Amendment for devolution of powers to Provincial Councils need to be strengthened, not diluted or repealed, which is what Sri Lanka seems to be heading to.

Because of what the Chief Minister of Northern & Eastern Provincial Council, Annamalai Varadraja Perumal did in March 1990 (he declared Independence of Tamil Eelam), Sri Lankan Govt will be concerned about any extra power to Provincial Councils. I do not believe this concern has any basis, after LTTE has been defeated and removed from the equation. Times and equations have completely changed. There is no chance of anything like what Mr Perumal did in 1990 happening in Sri Lanka anymore.

Sri Lankan Tamils constitute close to 11.2 % of Sri Lankan population. Indian Tamils, who were taken to Sri Lanka by The British Govt in 19th century constitute another 4.2%.  Their grievances need to be looked at rationally and pragmatically.

I believe that not only 13th Amendment should be used to implement devolution of powers to Provincial Councils, the amendment itself should be further modified and strengthened  to give more powers, including Land and Police powers to Provincial Councils.

There is nothing wrong with a federal structure of governance with defined powers to Central Govt and State Govts. Education, Health, Police and Land powers should be with States and obviously, the Defence, Foreign affairs, Communication and others should be in the domain of Federal Govt.

India is a classical example of a federal Governance, where States and Union Govt have delineation of powers and responsibilities in the State, Union and combined lists, set out in the Constitution.

USA is another example of Federal Governance with well defined powers and responsibilities between Union (Federal Govt) Govt and State Govts.

India, as a friendly nation to Sri Lanka, is encouraging Sri Lanka to do everything to devolve powers to State Councils. This was, after all, what is part of India-Sri Lanka Accord 1987.

This was, again, reiterated by Indian Foreign Affairs Minister, Smt Sushma Swaraj and Indian Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi a few days ago, when visiting Tamil National Alliance (TNA) delegation, led by TNA MP, R. Sampanthan met them in New Delhi.

I do believe, as do many others, that there is no case for the repeal of 13th Amendment, which, if executed, will cause nothing but further alienation of minorities, which will not help long term interests of Sri Lanka. In contrast, there are many advantages if Sri Lanka implements genuine devolution of powers & responsibilities to elected Provincial Councils on the lines of federal governance in India and USA.

Dr Yadu Singh

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India should not be used by anyone as a launch pad for sea voyage to Australia!

Sydney, 29th July, 2014

Boat people Boat people2 Indian Flag

I am perturbed with some commentary whereby some people including Senator Sarah Hanson-Young are casting indirect aspersion on how India treats refugees. (http://tinyurl.com/k239hsrPoints are being made that India is not a signatory county to UN Refugees Convention. Some of them have mentioned even terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and A-Sham) in the same paragraph. ISIS executes people in cold-blood, and is hurting and subjugating people from religions other than their Sunni sect of Islam. This, even indirect aspersion, is inappropriate and offensive. India is not ISIS and can not even be remotely equated with it.

India is a vibrant and the biggest democracy of the world. It has rule of law with free judiciary and totally free media. It has refugees from Sri Lanka, Burma, Bangladesh, China and many other countries. It has a proud and long history of welcoming persecuted people from all corners of the world. Parsis (Zoroastrians) left Persia because they were persecuted. Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans exiles have lived in India for several decades without any persecution or troubles. India treats refugees humanly and with care. India may not be a signatory to UN Refugees convention, but its treatment of those who claim refuge is exemplary. UNHCR (United Nation’s High Commission for Refugees) itself has said this about  India many times. India lets UNHCR do the assessment about people’s refugee status, which is fair,  appropriate and prudent.

Raising concerns about India’s credentials as a caring society is objectionable.

Coming to the current issue of 157 boat people (all likely to be Sri Lankan Tamils) who were intercepted by Australian Navy just outside its Maritime zone about a month ago, it is clear that the Boat has come from Indian Shores. From all the information, it is clear that they are all Sri Lankan Tamils, who were in a refugee camp near Pondicherry, South India. India is affected in multiple ways and is a concerned party. Its shores were used as the launching pad for this boat to Australia. India needs to know who these people are and how did they use Indian shores for launching  the voyage to Australia.

It is a security issue for India. India has an ongoing issue with Pakistan, from where terrorists enter Indian territories to perpetrate terrorist attacks in India. I am not saying that the boat in question is carrying terrorists, but not being concerned and alarmed with this type of voyage will render India a hypocrite. India has a right to figure out who these people are and what is the exact composition of these people.

Australia and India are friendly countries, and have strategic relations. I am pleased that Australian Minister for Immigration & Border Control, Scott Morrison, visited India recently and had a discussion with Indian Foreign Affairs Minister, Smt Sushma Swaraj. He was able to get an undertaking from Indian Govt that it will take back these people if they are Indian citizens and residents. That is a huge achievement for Australia.

India will not, and should not, allow its territories to be used as the launch pad for things which are against any other nation. In this case, it is the stated policy of Australia that they do not want to entertain illegal maritime arrivals. Current Federal Govt took the policy of “Stop the boats” to people during 2013 election and received a mandate. Previous Govt led by Julia Gillard/Kevin Rudd too had this policy. Offshore processing of illegal maritime arrivals has been the policy of Govts of both political persuasions.

Australia can not afford to have the repetition of 5000 people arriving every month, claiming refugee status. We do not have the money to afford their accommodation, food, health and education. Our national Budget is in deficit and our economy is in stress. We have to look after our elderly, homeless and less fortunate people first. We have to look after our disadvantaged people first.

Australia should accept its fair share of refugees, but there is no way it can afford an unlimited number of people who want to come to our shores with refugee claim. Australia is a caring and generous society, but there is a limit to it.

I am concerned that some people decide to come to Australia from countries where they were not facing persecution. India is definitely one such country. There is no persecution programme for anyone in India. Indians generally, free Indian  media and independent judiciary will not let this happen either.

About the people in the Boat, who have now been brought to Curtin Detention Centre, I am not sure that they faced any persecution in India. Based on the prevalent governance and political system, it is unlikely they faced any persecution in India. They were living in the area ie Tamil Nadu, which is the homeland of Tamils in India.

This fact alone makes it likely that they are economic refugees, not genuine refugees.

If there is any Indian national in this group of people, then they should be sent back to India without any delay, because their claim for refugee status will be bogus, preposterous and baseless.

Australia has all the rights to refuse to accept economic refugees. Australia has all the sovereign rights to control flow of illegal maritime arrivals. Australia in fact has an undeniable responsibility to look after its disadvantaged people before allocating billions on people who are not Australia’s primary responsibility.

I see no problem in Australia working with India to figure out who these people are, where they have come from and why have they come to our shores in this manner.

Australia has full rights to send them to the country from where they have come from if they are not genuine refugees.

Australia has a well-stated and bipartisan policy of offshore processing and not settling illegal maritime arrivals in Australia. Australia does not encourage illegal maritime arrivals. It has been working with nations in the region to stop the illegal maritime arrivals. This is the first boat which has been allowed to land on our shores in over 7 months, presumably to allow sufficient time to Indian officials to process information and cross-check it.

Australia is within its rights to work with nations in our region to achieve the stated policy goals. I am in full support of these goals. I know many others, in fact a majority of Australians, are in support of these goals.

Finally, India should not allow anyone, under any circumstance, to use its shores or territories as a launch pad for voyage as “illegal maritime arrival” to Australia or any other country!

Dr Yadu Singh

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Outside loudspeakers from places of worship in India should be banned

Loudspeakers

I read a story in Indian Express newspaper today, which talks about communal tension in a village in Western Uttar Pradesh, India because of loudspeakers from a temple.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/politics/up-bjp-calls-mahapanchayat-against-removal-of-loudspeaker-from-temple/

I am aware of several such examples in India over the years. It is not just one off.

If you think about it, and use logic, you will start questioning the use of loudspeakers from such places. Why do we need loudspeakers from any place of worship? One of my friends , Ravi Bhatia, made a light-hearted, but brilliant, comment in my Facebook wall saying, “agreed. God is not deaf”. Another friend, Yogi Chouhan, made a very reflective comment that “God is usually found in silence”.

Outside use of loudspeakers is not needed because,

1. it can cause, and has caused, communal troubles in the past,

2. it also causes sound pollution,

3. it disturbs sleep and consequent harming of physical health of people,

4. it causes hearing damage,

4. it become a real nuisance to students during their exam times.

I remember vividly how I was disturbed by blaring sound of a Devi Jagran Jagrata (overnight singing of religious songs) and loud sound of Aazans from nearby mosques when I was in India.

Devotees of any religion do not need reminders from loudspeakers. If they are true followers of their religions, they will remember when to go to their temples or mosques. They will remember what they have to do as part of their religion. Religion is a private matter between us and our God, and it should remain this way!

Just in case you do not know, no Western country allows use of loudspeakers in the manner it is in India!

Why do people who are not from a particular religion need to be forced to hear the religious sounds and sermons from that religion?

Places of worship can use loudspeakers inside the premises (if needed), but not outside.

Indian Govt should ban them for outside use and enforce the ban effectively and without any exception,  favour, bias or discrimination.

Let this become a part of new India, which practises true secularism, not only in spirit but also in letters!

Let this become part of “Achchhe Din” (Good days) for India!

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/3rd July, 2014

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The time for Hindi as the true national (Link) language in India has come!

Hindi

India has many states and many languages. Some states were formed on the basis of the language. It has its positives and it also has its negatives. It is not uncommon to experience difficulties in communicating things when visiting interiors of various states. While English often acts like a link language, but this is mostly confined to cities and bigger towns. A person from typical North Indian interior will struggle to communicate inside the interior of South India and vice versa.

I believe India needs a language which can act as a true Link language or National language, which can facilitate communications among Indians throughout the country

English can not be this language, even though it is an important language. It is mostly confined in the cities and bigger towns of India, where many can use it. Approx. only 10% are able to do it.

Hindi, on the other hand is the language spoken by 45% and understood by many more. Bollywood movies have been a great help in making Hindi understood everywhere in India.

Today, it will be impossible for any other Indian language to match Hindi’s reach and popularity in India.  Saying this should not mean that we are recommending disrespect to other languages or undermining them. It is a practical matter, and should be taken as such.

I love all Indian languages as well as English, which, of course is the language of science, Medicine, international trade, business and diplomacy. English is a must for Indians. I have no doubt about it.

There has to be ONE language in India, which should be able to act as the true LINK language for communication among all and sundry in India. That language will be HINDI if we analyse this matter rationally and logically.

I have not read views of any other person on this matter. My thought process here is not influenced by any other.

In my view, India should adopt and implement “Three Language Formula”, which means;

1. everyone learns Hindi, English and their mother tongue/language of their state,

2. everyone in Hindi speaking North India learns Hindi, English and one language from South India.

I believe it will promote integration, understanding and communication. It may also promote intra-national trade and business.

It is not at all about imposing hegemony of Hindi language, but it is all about pragmatism and practical need of a language which can be an instrument to improve communication among Indians in the country.

This will also be a “Win Win” decision for India, Hindi and South Indian languages!

I hope the new HRD Minister, Ms Smriti Irani and Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi do something in this direction.

 

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/20th June, 2014

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Views of Tim Wilson, Australian Human Rights Commissioner, on section 18c of Racial Discrimination Act!

Sydney, 19th June, 2014

I met Tim Wilson, Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission, at an event to celebrate Israel’s 66th Independence Day recently. Our brief chat was focused on Section 18c of Racial Discrimination Act. He has some views in regards to this and its impact on Freedom of Speech. When informed that I have a Blog and have written a post (http://tinyurl.com/pqfv8ct) which has also been published by many newspapers (http://tinyurl.com/qcs2gvv, http://tinyurl.com/ldnwkar, http://tinyurl.com/qd6xjjv) with my views arguing why Section 18c should not be repealed, he expressed his interest to write his views on my Blog. I agreed to have his views as a “Guest Blogger”.

Here are Tim Wilson’s views, which have been reproduced without any changes.Tim Wilson Australian Human Rights Commissioner

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It is not in anyone’s interests, especially minorities, to undermine Australia’s liberal democratic values, impose censorship or encourage inequality before the law.

Australia is a great country. Like all countries it is on a long journey to become a more perfect society.

People come to Australia from across the world because it offers a liberal democracy and respects the human rights of individuals to stand up, speak out and seek out opportunities. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you came from.

Everyone in Australia is expected to treat others equally and with respect, and that includes treating everyone equally under the law.

Equality before the law is a basic human right. It is also an important principle for minorities. Inequality before the law rarely favours minorities.

If there is anything that is likely to lead to resentment between different sections of multicultural Australia, it is that laws treat some more favourably than others.

Yet, that is precisely what the current wording of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act does.

Coupled with the importance of free speech, that is why so many people support changes to the law. Supporters range from academics, to politicians, newspaper columnists, to representatives of minority communities and civil rights activists.

The current Racial Discrimination Act has always been controversial.

It was preceded by three significant national inquiries that dealt with tackling racism. None of the three recommended that Section 18C should exist in its current form. The then Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission expressly recommended against laws of this kind.

Under Section 18C it is unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” a person on the basis of their race.

The current laws go much further than hate speech laws in India which focus on the promotion of disharmony between groups in the community.

Australia’s laws have a chilling effect on free speech and can lead to censorship.

The debate is not about if we should change the law, it is about how the law should be changed.

The Attorney-General, George Brandis QC, has put forward an exposure draft of a possible reform.

The proposal is not final. Feedback from members of the general community is being considered for inclusion to improve its current wording and identify shortcomings.

The principle objective of the Attorney-General’s proposal is to shift the focus from stopping speech that people simply do not like, toward outlawing vilification and abuse.

Australia’s law sets an incredibly low bar on restricting free speech. The bar is set so low the standard in the law is based on the emotional response that people have to speech they don’t like.

Free speech is a basic human right. It is afforded to everyone. From a human rights perspective, the basis of limiting free speech is when it comes into conflict with other core human rights. No one likes hearing things they find offensive. But there is no right to not hear offensive speech.

By comparison, we know that censorship is dangerous. Censorship is rarely used as a tool against the majority, its axe normally falls on minorities.

But the problem with the law isn’t just about the type of speech that is censored, it is also how it is censored.

The test to see whether speech offends, insults, humiliates or intimidates is highly subjective. It is not based on the standard of a reasonable Australian based on all of the circumstances.

The test is based on the attitudes of a person within the group mentioned. That means the test shifts depending on what is said. That is not fair.

That is why the Australian Human Rights Commission accepted the proposal of the Attorney-General in his exposure draft to amend the Racial Discrimination Act that the test should be based on the attitudes of an average Australian.

So long as the test takes regard of all of the circumstances, the Attorney-General’s revised test is much fairer than the current law. It would also make the Racial Discrimination Act more consistent with other anti-discrimination laws.

The Racial Discrimination Act does not operate like any other anti-discrimination laws. For example, the Sex Discrimination Act does not have a test like 18C. The Sex Discrimination Act does not restrict public speech on the basis of gender or sexuality that is offensive or insulting.

The Sex Discrimination Act targets harassment in the workplace where one person clearly has  a power relationship over another. The definition of harassment under he Sex Discrimination Act can just as easily apply to men as it can to women.

Ironically, the Racial Discrimination Act doesn’t have a specific measure targeting workplace harassment.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is also highly ineffective in targeting the sort of behaviour that we all want to wipe out.

Racism can have real and harmful impact on people. That is not in dispute.

The question is not if we end racism, it is how?

We cannot legislate racism out of existence. If we could we would have done so already.

Racism can only be ended through cultural change. Cultural change is not aided by having the law treat people unequally. It is aided by having a culture that expects people to stand up against racism.

As Sydney Football Star and Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, said recently “what we want people to do is self-regulate. That’s what we want all of us to do in the community, is self-regulate when we see something we don’t agree with”.

He continued “we all have core values, and when we see people go outside those core values, we should feel the right to say something and call that person out”.

The law is an incredibly ineffective way to stop racism. It provides for a long and drawn out process. Creating a culture where people are held to account for their conduct by their peers is more effective.

A cultural response is quick, immediate and others know what other Australians think of their conduct.

Importantly it doesn’t require inequality before the law, censorship or undermine the liberal democratic values that are central to why so many people came to Australia in the first place.

Tim Wilson is Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner. tim.wilson@humanrights.gov.au

Tim Wilson
Human Rights Commissioner
Australian Human Rights Commission

Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001