INTERNATIONAL YOGA DAY: CLAIMING THE LEGACY

It’s a new beginning for India – in its new pursuit of promoting a confident identity – using its age-old culture that has assimilated different incoming shades and has survived for centuries and is still going strong.

Yoga is a gift from India to the world. It is an art, a science, and a transcendental philosophy to realize our spiritual quotient. And in India, if we leave politics aside, its acceptability goes beyond religions.

And the annual International Day of Yoga (IDY), beginning this year today, on June 21, the Summer Solstice day that brings to us the longest day of the year (Summer Solstice day can fall on any day between June 20 to 22 but June 21 is common), should be seen in this context. There will be debates on why ‘Narendra Modi’ proposed June 21. Reasons range from scientific like the Summer Solstice to sociological like celebrations associated with the day to mythological like Lord Shiva taking note of the seven people in meditation for 84 years to seek him as their ‘Yoga Guru’ (as Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev writes) to political like June 21 being the birth anniversary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar but let’s not go into that.

Yes, Yoga is a healing and wellness gift to the world from India – from ancient times. And it has continued to be so, spreading throughout the world, through travelers coming to India, through Indian texts and religions in other civilizations, like Buddhism spreading in many parts of the world, through cultural exports like art, sculpture and tradition and through linguistic influences, like influence of Sanskrit can be found in languages and scriptures of countries which shared historical trade routes with India, like Swami Vivekananda found during his voyage to the United States of America in the last decade of the 19th Century. It was Swami Vivekananda who introduced Yoga to the Western world in an organized way. He gave shape to an un-thought process that had started with European colonization of India.

Yoga has been there since ages. And its spread throughout the world has taken place gradually, in every age, based on its merits, more so in 19th and 20th Centuries. And it is continued even today with India being the leading light for gurus and teachers of Yoga worldwide.

Sages and ascetics developed the art in India and so naturally, the spiritual elements of Yoga have religious texts of Hinduism of the day or whatever we want to call (the religion). It was natural when the ascetics meditated enchanting names of deities (we follow them; we find in our religious texts) and taught their followers to do so. Doing so was practical and not religious. If religion had anything to do with it, it was about the God, the common link between ascetics, sages and other people. God was the central and common point of concentration of all. And it has remained so.

And that pragmatism is applicable across religions – in India, and outside India.

Yoga is an art that scientifically improves the mind-body balance of a person and, if willing, takes him to the higher realms of spirituality. Practicing it is not a must but a lifestyle with Yoga as its inseparable element brings qualitative changes in practitioners. And a large-scale adoption has potential to create healthier societies. Obviously, thinking that Yoga alone can do it will be daydreaming and more so in a society like India where multiple problems like poverty, quality illiteracy and poor civic amenities still beset societies across the country. To address the issue here, we need a political willpower to work on all these issues holistically.

But it doesn’t belittle on the factual benefits of Yoga – physical, meditational and spiritual – something that has taken it to beyond India – in every part of the world.

What Narendra Modi did should have been done by the political dispensation of India much earlier. It had to claim to be the origin-place of a legacy that was already global in appeal and outreach. But every political dispensation in India had failed to do so, so far. We cannot say if they even thought about it.

And Narendra Modi did it. He realized the potential of projecting soft power globally by claiming this legacy.

We may debate the quality and outcome of the governance so far by the government of Narendra Modi but we need to give him the credit for IDY.

India is the world’s largest democracy. It is the fastest growing economy of the world. It is the third biggest economy of the world in terms ‘purchasing power parity (PPP)’. Harvard University study report says India’s middle class will be the largest one in the world by 2030. The country is among the top military powers of the world with many firsts to its space programme.

If politically handled well, the country is slated to go up in the world order on human parameters as well. That requires efficient governance not just on core issue but on other important issues as well – like projecting cultural strength of India and using soft power as a policy tool to further the nation’s interests.

An international day for Yoga established by the United Nations and endorsed by its member countries including the Muslim ones on a proposal moved by Narendra Modi is a positive step towards that. Narendra Modi proposed IDY in September 2014. The United National General Assembly declared it in December 2014. And we are celebrating the first IDY today – all in a span of nine months.

The US has been using ‘soft power’ projections for decades and is quite successful there. If America is seen the world over as the right place for democratic values in a free and just society, we need to give due credit to its soft power projections as well. We all see that theme in Hollywood films – an industry with global export scale – even to the countries where dictators run amok. Russia was a natural villain in many big productions during the Cold-War years. In recent times, North Korea and China (though to a lesser extent) have also taken that place.

And China is trying its hands on projecting its soft power too though it has not much to talk about as the country is one of most repressive societies where one is free as long as one toes the government line there. That leaves China to promote its culture as the selling point, sans any political element. Projections of Chinese martial art, Chinese culture in ancient, medieval and modern times and China’s resilience during its occupation by Japan have been the main elements of this soft power projection.

India fares much better than China in having acceptable elements of soft power and the country should use such elements as a policy tools to enhance its global image like it has done with IDY. Yes, there will be controversies and criticisms and some loopholes in the execution of the developments associated with the projections, but sending the larger message will subside all that.

The world celebrated this global day today – from India to America – from many European countries to Latin American countries – from Asia to Africa – from predominantly Muslim countries to the democracies having predominantly Christian population.

And India led the show, led the way. The day was celebrated on a wide scale in India and abroad. Government wings including its forces and foreign missions were preparing for the day. Ministers and teachers were sent in many countries to organize events there. Spiritual and religious guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj led the event at the United Nations in Washington. And in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi culminated his ‘daily Yoga tutorial through videos’ with a grand event at Rajpath in Delhi where more that 35000 people participated. Guinness says two world records were made today – 35,985 people made the world’s largest Yoga class in Delhi – and they were of record 84 nationalities.

And the right images from India met with the right images from the world over. Many in the global media covered IDY naming India as the country behind the move.

June 21 is also the birth anniversary of Jean-Paul Sartre, the French philosopher Existentialism is synonymous with. Individual existence is central to Existentialism and social developments are seen from the perspectives of human subjects. Hope policymakers in India also work on the core issues related to the human subjects – alleviating poverty, improving education and healthcare, ensuring Constitutional rights and removing corruption – in addition to the successful public relations exercises like the International Yoga Day.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHO IS ZAW HTAY?

Well, who is Zaw Htay.

It is a Burmese name but there is no Wikipedia page available on it on first page of Google search with related thread. The first link that returns with the search is of some doctor of the same name.

Anyway, the Zaw Htay I was looking for, is a very important person in Myanmar. He is the director of the office of the President of Myanmar.

And he has become important for India as well after yesterday’s development.  Before that, he was virtually unknown in India except in concerned diplomatic circles.

Foreign media publications like The Wall Street Journal and Foreign Policy reported that India did enter in Myanmar’s territory to carry out surgical attacks on terrorists camps operating in India’s North-East from from Myanmar’s soil. The successful covert operation is being seen as a bold (with many firsts) retaliatory response to the June 4 Chandel attack by terrorists in Manipur that had left 18 soldiers dead.

The Wall Street Journal wrote: “Zaw Htay, director of the office of Myanmar President Thein Sein, confirmed Wednesday that Indian troops had entered his country. He said that there was “coordination and cooperation” between the Indian troops and Myanmar’s armed forces based in the area of the raids, but added that no Myanmar soldiers were directly involved. “We will never allow or support insurgents, whether [they are] against Myanmar or against our neighboring countries,” Mr. Zaw Htay added.”
(June 10, around 3 PM)

Foreign Policy wrote: “Director of the office of Myanmar President Thein Sein Zaw Htay, confirmed on Wednesday that Indian troops had entered his country’s border. He said that there was “coordination and cooperation” between authorities but no Myanmar soldiers were directly involved.”
(June 10, around 6:30 PM, as Google search reflected it)

But by the late evening, contradictory reports emerged, based on ‘his Facebook post’ that denied Indian Army’s entry in Myanmar’s territory. Similar reports said: “In a Facebook post Wednesday Zaw Htay, director of Myanmar’s presidential office, said: “According to the information sent by Tatmadaw (Myanmar army) battalions on the ground, we have learned that the military operation was performed on the Indian side at India-Myanmar border,” he said. “Myanmar will not accept any foreigner who attacks neighbouring countries in the back and creates problems by using our own territory,” he added.”

Most reports quoted (and are quoting) AFP story and The Strait Times published it at around 7 PM. Soon, others picked it up.

Now, even if the Indian Army has avoided mentioning ‘entering in Myanmarese territory’ in its official release, the political class is busy in taking credits (with the resultant blame game).

This contradiction will only intensify it. The situation has exacerbated ‘after contradictory reports on statements of Mr. Zaw Htay.

And only Mr. Htay or any representative of the Myanmar government can clarify it. Meanwhile, I tried but could not locate Mr. Htay ‘Facebook post’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

TALKING POINTS ON ONE YEAR OF MODI GOVERNMENT

Given the state of political affairs and style of politics in the country, it is to continue. The Modi government will says it has done everything right and is well on the day to make an India it promised and its opponents will deny every such claim – on every pointer – in every sector – on each promise. After all, we don’t talk of and expect ethics and substance in politics anymore.

Narendra Modi then and now, when he took over on May 26, 2014 and what the indices say now, when Modi is completing his maiden year in the office. The usual flavour of the season will be made of the following elements:

— Major schemes of the Modi government – well, by any count, they are around 20, and could be even more – the most important part of the pro-people and anti-people debate

— Land acquisition in the first year – an important aspect of the pro-farmer and anti-farmer debate – high on agenda after the land bill ordinance by the government

— WPI and CPI trends – the monthly trends and the yearly performance – in May 2014 and now – will include debates on inflation, price rise and the state of economy

— Riots in one year – yearly data of riots – accordingly, religious controversies during Modi’s first year in prime-ministerial office

— Avoidable statements in one year – many by the BJP and the NDA leaders in last one year – surely a point where the government needs to work – the critics are expected to exploit the mileage

— Black money measures – it was a big election promise and campaigning point for Narendra Modi and though the government has not been able to bring the stash back home so far, it does have cleared a law to regulate the menace

— Cabinet size trend – maximum governance minimum government – size of Manmohan’s cabinet – Modi’s promise – and his cabinet now

— Foreign policy – with a prime minister circling the world with 18 foreign tours in his first year – a way to look ahead based on the record so far – India’s image does have improved – and so are the attacks of Modi’s political opponents

— How he dealt with Pakistan – he first invited SAARC leaders including Nawaj Sharif for his inauguration – then he cancelled India-Pakistan talks – it’s an year of no ups and more downs in India-Pakistan ties

— GDP in 2013-14 and GDP in 2014-15 – with contribution of each sector

— Sensex and Nifty then and now – the wealth created – the confidence in Indian economy

— IIP trends – IIP of May 2014 Vs IIP now – recovery Vs status quo Vs fall

— Rupee then and now – maintaining a downward trend these days – though is not attracting the intense debate

— FDI-FII in the first year – what were the figures when Modi took over there level now

— Foreign Reserve then and now – how much has it grown in an year since May 2014

— Reforms in one year – reforms stuck in the last one year – Indian economy and therefore Indian society cannot advance unless its policymaking is reformed – an important facet is about the bills passed and stuck in the Parliament

— Disinvestment then and now – part of the reform process – but not much on the front in spite of claims

— What Varanasi got in Modi’s maiden year – it is not just people in Modi’s parliamentary constituency but even analysts and political opponents are keenly watching the concerned developments

So, in Modi’s first year in the PMO, that he is completing tomorrow, as expected, there is much to talk about. And all of it has begun. And we are expected to hear more of them in coming days.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

AFTER ALL, FIRST NON-CONGRESS GOVERNMENT WITH MAJORITY IS COMPLETING ITS FIRST YEAR..

Tomorrow, the Narendra Modi government, the first non-Congress government with majority, is completing one year in office.

Given the momentous nature of the event, the Modi government, the Bhartiya Janata Party and other parties of the National Democratic Alliance are celebrating the feet with élan.

Narendra Modi is addressing rallies. Arun Jaitley is issuing statements. MPs are visiting and are to visit constituencies and cities to spread the word about achievements of the government. Rallies, exhibitions and pressers are being organized and several events are to be held. The official version of rallies are to be from May 26 to 31.

And as expected, the political opposition is going all out to oppose the government, showing it in a negative light of failures, empty promises and plain rhetoric.

Given the state of political affairs and style of politics in the country, it is to continue.

The Modi government will says it has done everything right and is well on the day to make an India it has promised and its opponents will deny every such claim.

After all, we don’t talk of and expect ethics and substance in the politics of the day anymore.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MEA’S UPDATED FILE SAYS JIANG ZEMIN DIDN’T VISIT INDIA

As of now, while writing this – on September 18, 2014

Owing to the checkered history of India-China bilateral ties, there have been very few state-level visits. Now with initiatives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, there is a sense of optimism that the process to set the relation back of track can begin now. While searching for information in the context of Xi’s visit to India from the concerned government platform, the Ministry of External Affairs, I came across this interesting anomaly.

The link http://www.mea.gov.in/foreign-relations.htm has sub-links to ‘the Briefs on India’s Bilateral Relations’. Clicking on each country’s name opens a PDF file with a primer on information pertaining to the bilateral relations between India and that particular country. The format usually categorizes information in sections like Political Relations, Visits of Heads of States/Heads of Governments, Other High Level Visits, Major Dialogue Mechanisms, Commercial and Economic Relations, Defence Relations, Cultural Relations and Education Relations.

The information packets hosted here, being on the official gateway of India’s foreign relations, are expected to reflect every major milestone in the bilateral relations, and need to be updated scrupulously.

With this thought in mind, I clicked the sub-link to the file on China. And the sub-link http://www.mea.gov.in/Portal/ForeignRelation/China_September_2014.pdf indeed had a good file with neatly packed information to serve as a useful primer. And the link told me it was updated this month only (China_September_2014). But while going through it, I came across a serious flaw.

I thought it would be rectified soon as the Chinese President was come calling on Wednesday and China-related information on official platforms would be looked into and updated. But it wasn’t. I visited the link and the file on September 15, on September 16, on September 17, and today, on September 18. But the missing information has not been updated in this basic file and Mr. Xi Jinping is leaving tomorrow.

Here are the screen shots of the file that I captured yesterday (and which don’t show the expected changes yet).

MEA-CHINA-1

MEA-CHINA-2

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