The idea of Mubarak’s thugs riding into the Cairo demonstrations on camels and brandishing whips against peaceful protesters should be one of the indelible images of 2011. The old world trying in vain to contain what is happening under their feet.
Hosni Mubarak shut down the internet about 10 years too late. When he finally tried to shut it down, too many channels between the man on the street in Egypt and the rest of the world had been opened and in operation for the momentum to be halted.
Whatever happens next, it’s done. He’s out. Even if he was successful in clearing the streets by force, it will only come back, and next time it may not be as peaceful.
He shouldn’t take it personally. Mubarak is just caught in a wave. And it’s a wave that isn’t going to abate any time soon.
It’s not a wave that started in Tunisia. It started on Facebook.
Globally, people have gone online and they have seen what they don’t have. They have experienced access, which is only going to mean that they are going to get harder and harder to control. Pretty hard to keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve had Facebook friends in 14 countries.
In finding the power to communicate, they seem to have also had one very big realization, one that we may not like to admit — that no one ever said that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were the rights of Americans. Even Mr. Jefferson said these were the rights of man, not the rights of US citizens. And just as those rights and inherent freedoms sound true to us, they sound true to Egyptians. And Tunisians. Jordanians. And a whole lot of other young people online right now.
Just try to put that genie back in the bottle. It’s going to take a lot more than horses and camels. It would take winding the clock backward.
Even the fight against extremism is moving onto a new playing field. It could be in our favor. Contrary to Mubarak’s spin, the Egyptians in the square in Cairo are a serious force for freedom. They don’t seem so apt to let themselves be put under Sharia law anytime soon.
Where does this leave the US? “We believe the Mubarak regime is stable” looked clueless a week after it was uttered by Secretary Clinton. But it’s forgivable. We were all a bit clueless when this thing started.
What’s rising before us now, in the halls of the White House, and I believe in our own homes, is even more important. It is the realization that people KNOW.
Someone said once that they knew the Soviet Union would fall when they found out people were watching “Dallas” in Russia. Well today they’re watching a lot more than Dallas, and it’s way beyond Russia. And they’re not just watching. They’re talking.
If we really want this momentum to work in favor of democracy, we had better wake up to the fact that, around the world, they know what we — the ones who are supposed to be the shining example of democracy — are doing in Egypt, minute to minute. The guy selling tea on the corner in Cairo knows. So does the woman in Jordan. And the teenager in Indonesia. The Cluetrain Manifesto has gone global.
They also know that we sold off their rights along the way by propping up oppressive regimes to protect our own corporate and geopolitical interests.
If we stand back and let Mubarak’s thugs injure these protesters and burn the country’s antiquities, without leveraging every possible ounce of pressure we can against Mubarak, starting with immediately withdrawing aid, they will know it. And they will never forget it.
We have a stroke of luck here with Egypt. We have a chance to get on the right side of history on this one, by finding a way to throw some weight behind Mohamed ElBaradei. The Nobel Peace Prize winner in the middle of the crowd. With the megaphone.
This is a sane man. He is not just an Egyptian and a Muslim, he has operated with and in the West, and successfully — he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as the head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. He is a moderate and a diplomat.
He understands the US, the good and the bad. He taught international law at New York University. He led the UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, who determined before the US invasion that there were no weapons of mass destruction. He told the UN Security Council that the documents showing that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium from Niger were fakes. In response, the Bush administration tapped his phone and tried unsuccessfully to push him out of the IAEA. He came away from the IAEA and back to Egypt with a broad, informed view, having been immersed in diplomacy for 12 years at IAEA.
At the time of our interview, he talked about what was brewing at home. “The Middle East,” he said, “is in a state of disconnect with the rest of the world right now. The people are living with mistrust and anger as they feel they are treated with double standards by the West, and at the same time marginalized or repressed by their own governments.”
Little did we know the strength of what he was looking at.
His solutions are broad, but in line with the growing momentum:
We have to decide, if we are going to have a security system based on Euro-Atlantic interests, or on global solidarity. A system based on the global interest of the human family is the only way to go. Unless you grant everyone the same rights and freedoms, you cannot talk peace. You can only talk who has the biggest club. And the biggest club is a nuclear weapon.
ElBaradei has the traits of the best of the Nobel Laureates. He believes in the common man. He believes that people are good. He’s an optimist. Empowered, he could change the conversation not just in Egypt, but in the entire Middle East.
We will be doing well if these events turn in his direction, if the protest survives long enough for him to be brought in to start structuring the new Egyptian government. No he is not someone who will be in our back pocket. But he is someone we could legitimately partner with and support to usher in a new day of democracy in the the country. He can communicate with the man on the street. Not just in Egypt, but across the Muslim world.
How to do it is a question to be answered in Washington, D.C. But if the twists and turns of events in Cairo favor it, there’s a window here, a chance.
He is the one to watch.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this writing are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of League of India, its Editorial Board or the business and socio-political interests that they might represent.
This article was first published here
Swaraj to Embark on China and Mongolia Visits
China had earlier said that the visit of the External Affairs Minister will further enhance political trust between the two countries.
NEW DELHI: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is leaving for China today on a 4-day visit. She will participate in a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
She will hold talks with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi tomorrow. This will be Swaraj’s first meeting with Wang after he was elevated last month to be the state councillor.
China had earlier said that the upcoming visit of the External Affairs Minister will further enhance political trust between the two countries.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying had said that the visit would also elevate the China-India strategic cooperation partnership.
Sushma Swaraj will be also on a two-day visit to Mongolia from 25th of this month. This will be the first visit of Swaraj to Mongolia. The last visit of Indian External Affairs Minister to Mongolia was 42 years ago.
During her visit, Swaraj will co-chair the 6th round of India-Mongolia Joint Consultative Committee meeting, IMJCC, with Foreign Minister Tsogtbaatar, covering a range of issues including, inter alia, political, strategic, economic, educational and cultural ties. The last meeting of IMJCC was held in New Delhi in 2016.
During her visit, the Minister will also deliver the keynote address at the Kushok Bakula Birth Centenary Celebrations in Ulaanbaatar commemorating the birth anniversary of Late Venerable Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, a highly revered Buddhist leader and monk from Ladakh, India and a former Ambassador of India to Mongolia.
Bakula Rinpoche as the longest-serving Indian Ambassador to Mongolia made a seminal contribution to the promotion of India-Mongolia ties.
Oli’s India visit: Resetting Bilateral Relations for Mutual Benefit
The principal purpose of the visit was to remove the mistrust that had emerged in the bilateral relations.
After a brief interlude of turbulent bilateral relations starting September 2015, a U-turn appears to have been effected in India-Nepal relations after the December 2017 elections in Nepal. Prime Minister Modi congratulated the top three political leaders of Nepal over the telephone on December 21 for holding the elections successfully.
Exactly a month later, he congratulated the UML chairman and then PM-in-waiting KP Sharma Oli over the UML-led left alliance attaining a majority in Parliament and offered India’s unconditional support for and commitment to work with the new government in Kathmandu.
As part of confidence-building measures, on February 1, Modi sent External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as special envoy to discuss bilateral relations with the left alliance leaders, and especially with Oli. Media reports indicated that the Swaraj visit took place upon a special request from Oli to Modi. During that visit, Swaraj conveyed Modi’s message and also invited Oli to undertake an official visit to New Delhi after assuming office.
The U-turn culminated in Prime Minister Oli’s three-day official visit to New Delhi starting April 6. The visit is widely rated as most successful and historical. In contrast to Oli’s previous visit in February 2016, as well as to the visits made by Prachanda and Deuba in September 2016 and August 2017, respectively, the current visit of Oli has been characterised as remarkably different.
First, Oli was received at the airport by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who is second in rank in the Modi cabinet.
Second, not only was Oli’s first foreign visit to India but even his first official meeting as PM took place with Indian business leaders on which occasion he invited Indian investors to Nepal.
Third, the two leaders held a one-on-one meeting for over one hour at Modi’s residence before the delegation level meeting. Such one-on-one meetings rarely happen during visits of high level delegations to India.
Fourth, other than the 12-point regular joint statement, three special statements on agriculture, rail linkages up to Kathmandu, and inland waterways were issued during the visit.
Fifth, for the first time in the last three years, the joint statement did not mention internal issues of Nepal such as amendments to the new constitution, the inclusion of minorities, Madhesi, etc.
Last, but not the least, both leaders found synchronization between their favourite development frameworks – ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Bikas’ and ‘Samriddha Nepal Sukhi Nepali’.
Purpose of the Visit:
The principal purpose of the visit was to remove the mistrust that had emerged in bilateral relations in the wake of Nepal’s adoption of the new constitution and India’s reservations about some of its provisions.
The relationship had reached a new low when Nepal unilaterally recalled its ambassador and cancelled its President’s India visit in May 2016.
A thaw emerged only after the completion of the Parliamentary elections in December 2017.
While addressing Nepal’s Parliament before his three-day India visit, Oli said that “the visit is aimed at deepening the relations that have subsisted between Nepal and India since ages.”
From the Nepali point of view, the other purposes of the visit could have been to seek India’s support for economic development, move forward on the implementation of past agreements and ensure a mutually cooperative relationship.
Nepal also wanted to re-frame its bilateral relationship with India in the context of recent domestic and regional developments.
Mutual Feeling to Mend Relations:
For its part, India too undertook unilateral steps towards course-correction. This, despite all those internal issues in Nepal that had created the rift in bilateral relations remaining unaddressed.
There could be many reasons for India’s course correction.
First, since India values democracy, Modi personally felt that the public mandate in favour of the UML-led left alliance needs to be respected and that India should support institution building in Nepal under a popular government.
Second, this realization in New Delhi may have also been occasioned by changes at the bureaucratic level — those officials who dealt with Nepal affairs ever since the constitutional promulgation process had left their desks in the foreign office and agencies from March 2017 onwards. It is possible that new officials posted in key positions and tasked with following Nepal perhaps started looking at the bilateral relationship from a different perspective.
Third, domestically, Modi came under tremendous pressure to improve relations with neighbouring countries and especially with Nepal with which India shares a multi-layered relationship. The Indian media was particularly critical of Modi’s Nepal policy in the post-constitution period.
Fourth, the more than 70% voter turnout and the active participation of Madhesis and Janajatis in Nepal’s three-level elections – local, provincial and federal – under the new constitution forced India to revisit its earlier position, shed reservations on the constitution and modify policy towards Nepal.
Even as India reached out to the new government in Kathmandu, the Oli government had its own reasons to respond positively to the Indian overtures.
First, it needed massive developmental assistance to fulfil its poll promises like roads, rural electrification, drinking water, irrigation, jobs, hospitals, industrial zones, railways and airports.
Despite China’s increasing economic cooperation with Nepal, India continues to remain Nepal’s largest trading and business partner.
Further, India is the only transit country for Nepal’s third country trade despite having signed a transit agreement with China in March 2016.
Second, the Oli government also realized the requirement for massive funds to implement federalism through the creation of the necessary administrative infrastructure in the provincial capitals.
Since China opposed federalism in Nepal, the Oli government was not sure about receiving Chinese financial support for that purpose.
Therefore, it decided to explore the prospects for India’s support in this regard. And third, politically, Oli might have felt that rapprochement with India could prevent the formation of a non-UML government in Kathmandu given the slow progress in the unification of the two left parties and intra-party factionalism in the UML. If such a situation were to unfold, Oli could seek the support of the Terai-based parties to remain in power.
Therefore, despite winning the elections on a nationalist plank by projecting India as an interfering neighbour, Oli chose New Delhi as his first port of call. He was well aware of India’s obsession about every new Nepali PM undertaking the first official visit to India. He could undertake the visit with confidence without being apprehensive of its fall-out on Nepal’s relationship with China because the latter, in a statement issued in March 2018, appreciated Nepal’s effort towards adopting an independent foreign policy and “developing friendly and positive relations with its neighbours.”
Earlier, China had also advised Nepal to maintain good relations with India. Chinese analysts argue that such a rapprochement between New Delhi and Kathmandu could create the ground for trilateral cooperation and successful implementation of BRI projects in the Himalayas.
No doubt, the purposes of the visit have been achieved and a new phase of relationship has begun with India acknowledging Nepal as an ‘equal partner’. While the visit has set a new tone in the relationship, it has also brought fresh challenges to the fore in terms of each country addressing the other’s concerns.
Certainly, the challenges are more for India than they are for Nepal. There is a trust deficit in Nepal because of the Indian reputation for delaying implementation of various projects. This has sent a wrong message to Nepal that the delays are deliberate.
After Oli’s latest visit, which has created new expectations in Nepal, India needs to seriously address this problem of delivery-lag.
Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.
Commonwealth to Take Action on Cybersecurity by 2020
The declaration is the world’s largest and most geographically diverse inter-governmental commitment on cybersecurity cooperation.
LONDON (England): The Commonwealth countries have unanimously agreed to take action on cybersecurity by 2020.
In a landmark declaration at the end of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, the leaders of 53 countries agreed to work closely to evaluate and strengthen their cybersecurity frameworks and response mechanisms.
A release issued, termed the declaration as the world’s largest and most geographically diverse inter-governmental commitment on cybersecurity cooperation.
It followed an announcement by the UK government pledging up to 15 million pounds to help the Commonwealth nations strengthen their cybersecurity capabilities. It also aims to tackle criminal groups and hostile state actors who pose a global threat to security.
The leaders also expressed their strong support for the multilateral trading system and adopted a six-point connectivity agenda to boost trade and investment links across the Commonwealth.
They also agreed on a bold, coordinated push to protect oceans from the effects of climate change, pollution and over-fishing.
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