24 December 2014

Opening up the Indian military market for the domestic private sector

(Part one of a four part series on India’s defence modernization initiatives)

Since assuming power in June 2014, Narendra Modi government has made India’s military expansion a priority. The policy envisages modernization of the military based on accelerated defense acquisition from abroad and stepped up domestic military production. While inaugurating the largest domestically-built warship, INS Kolkata, Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlined the policy as follows: “My government has taken important steps in improving indigenous defence technology. We dream about making India strong enough to export defence equipment to the world. … I am confident it will boost our military prowess and give confidence to our soldiers.” Within the broad framework of “Make in India” campaign, Modi government is making renewed efforts to secure public-private partnership with foreign financiers and arms makers for defense acquisition and domestic production by creating US-style military-industrial complexes in the private sector.  
For many decades, successive Indian governments have been implementing a military purchase program based both on a buyer-seller relationship as well as joint development and production relationship with foreign weapons sellers. In the last decade, India has emerged as the largest arms importer in the world, its arms import bill rising to $ 8.3 billion in 2013. According to Stockholm-based SIPRI, India outspent the 2nd and 3rd largest importing countries - China and Pakistan respectively - by a ratio of three to one. Arms related capital spending quadrupled from $3 billion in 2000 to $12.2 billion in 2010. Defence budgets have gone up by 9% annually between 2000 and 2006 and then by 17% annually between 2007 and2014, close to $38 billion today. India is expected to become the 4th largest military spender by 2020, only surpassed by USA, China, and Russia. It is estimated that India will spend over $600 billion in military expenditures in the next decade, with $275 billion earmarked for equipment and facility upgrades and purchases.

Currently, India imports 70% of its military hardware. Foreign military procurement is often rocked by major corruption-related scandals. India’s military establishment has shown little faith in domestic production capabilities, which has been mostly confined to public sector defense units. Indigenously assembled Russian fighter jets have been so prone to crash that they have earned themselves a nickname of “flying coffin”. Recent mishaps in domestically assembled ships, submarines and naval equipment, leading to the resignation of India’s naval chief Admiral DK Joshi have only heightened the distrust. Denting confidence further, the Air Force was recently forced to buy engines for the much-publicized Tejas aircrafts from General Electric, after spending billions on developing them indigenously, without success!
Indian private sector has been eyeing to grab a share of the defense pie rising out of the rising military spending. Soon after launching the liberalization and privatization program, Narasimha Rao government formed the National Defence Council in 1993 to chalk out a plan for the creation of a robust domestic defence industry. On the eve of nuclear tests in 1998, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Defence Ministry organized six joint task forces to promote partnership between military and the private sector, and help domestic industry set up joint ventures with international companies. The negative experience of 1999 Kargill war helped push the mandate further. In 2001, based on the recommendations from the task forces, Vajpayee government approved 100% domestic private equity and 26% FDI in military production, with 100% FDI allowed on a case-by-case basis. In 2004, the Vijay Kelkar committee was formed to further streamline the privatization process. Among its 40 odd recommendations, the committee envisioned the creation of Rakha Udyog Ratnas (RURs), a set of big private companies that would be given special privileges in the sphere of military production. 12 large private companies, including Larson and Turbo (L&T), Tata Power, Tata Motors, Bharat Forge, Mahindra & Mahindra, Godrej & Boyce, Wipro, HCL and others were selected for the program.

Infighting amongst industry rivals and internal clashes between different ministries stalled the RUR program, but the Indian big business still managed to secure a foothold in the military sector. Examples of high-profile contracts include those awarded to TATA Power for building Samyukta (India’s first major electronic warfare system) and for developing computers for fire-and-forget weapons and surveillance and tracking systems; to L&T for building the nuclear submarine and for the delivery of rocket and torpedo launchers; to Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) for building light combat and armored vehicles; to SKIL Group for developing the Pipavav Shipyard as a ship-building facility, to Bharat Forge to provide bullets for the Bofors Guns; and to L&T, Godrej & Boyce, and Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) for building drones for the military. However, domestic contracts have remained few and far between, while foreign imports have continued to grow. 

Indian big business and those in the government favoring private sector involvement in defence sector seem to have concluded  nearly a decade ago that teaming up with international private defence companies is the surest path to realize the super-profits by private Indian companies that military production generally brings while pursuing India’s “buy and produce” strategy.  In 2005, defence procurement policy was modified to kick-start international joint ventures. The Defence Offset Policy and “Buy and Make Indian” category were formulated under Manmohan Singh government - the Defence Offset Policy requiring foreign suppliers to have at least 30% of their contracted work to be done domestically – as a way of promoting local military production. Modi’s version of “Make in India” offers another opportunity to escalate the joint venture privatization strategy for militarization of India.

Indian big business houses have made preparations for the joint-venture strategy through internal reorganization, investments, and search for international partners. The $110 billion Tata Group which projects a 40 per cent jump in defence sales in 2015 has created as many as 14 defence companies, including its strategic arm, Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL). It has teamed up with Lockheed Martin, Sirkosky Aircraft (of Black Hawk Fame), and Airbus for bidding in different military hardware. Automobile maker Ashok Leyland has teamed up with Sweden's SAAB to deliver short-range surface to air missile (SRSAM). L&T has invested $400 million into a yard to build naval carriers, and expects annual revenue to the tune of $1 billion within the next five years. It has tied up with Nexter of France to develop a new Caesar 155 MM mounted gun system. Bharat Forge Ltd has entered into a joint venture with Israel’s Elbit Systems to build advanced artillery guns. Ambani’s Reliance has set up two defence subsidiaries, and has teamed up with Raytheon and Boeing of the US, Siemens AG of Germany, and Dassault Aviation of France for medium-multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA). After the setback with UK’s BAE, India’s largest tractor maker, M&M has started several joint ventures, including Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems for naval weapon systems.

Indian big business houses concluded time ago that 26% FDI is not large enough to entice international defence companies to warm up to India and part with their technological secrets. In fact, India did not receive any FDI proposal in defence sector between 2009 and 2013. Many of the joint ventures that had started out before 2009 turned out to be non-starters. For instance, UK’s BAE walked out of a joint venture with M&M, citing insufficient control issues. Proposals for raising FDI limit – all the way to 100% – have been floated several times both from within the government and from business interests – only to be stalled because of internal disagreements inside India.
The recent upward revision of FDI limit to 49% following the swearing in of Modi government was a decision that had emerged out of acrimonious debates within CII and FICCI, the two leading bodies of India Inc. prior to the 2014 general election. TATA and L&T are on record for their concerns that even a majority ownership via FDI would not bring “know why” to India; Bharat Forge, SKIL, M&M, and Reliance have argued otherwise. SKIL had argued that even 51% equity was too little to entice international big players. After a hectic wrangling over the FDI cost-benefit calculus, top leaders of the Indian industry had settled on a 49% FDI number prior to the 2014 general election which the Modi government adopted immediately after coming to power.

In spite of the intense domestic and international enthusiasm over the emergence of a potentially $200 billion a year Indian military industry, it is too early to tell if a “win-win” solution can be found for the domestic and foreign private defence interests. The infighting between industry majors (often mirrored in fights between ministries) had stalled the privatization of the defence sector earlier. Since the heady days of nuclear high, the Indo-US strategic relations has remained lukewarm. The Americans simply have not wanted to allow India to emerge as another major independent power in Asia and have been far less interested in providing technical know-hows for the same, particularly to stop the rise of Indian military-industrial houses that would compete head to head with the US ones.  The US continues to envision to sell arms to India instead, scuttling attempts to strengthen Indian domestic military industry. For geo-political reasons of their own, Russia and Israel have been far more open towards joint ventures and technology transfers to India at this time, mostly to the public sector military enterprises. Modi government’s latest “Make in India” policy seem to have given the US a chance to reassess its approach.
Modi government is currently giving fresh life to many privatization initiatives of the past, enabling private capital to penetrate to military and nonmilitary sectors of Indian economy that had seen limited domestic and foreign private capital since independence. Military sector has received special attention, partly because weapons production is known to generate super profits and partly because it is in line with the desire to make India a major imperialist force in Asia and the world. The involvement of big business houses in armament production is crucial for the rise of a military-industrial establishment in India that will form the back-bone of India’s imperial ambitions. 21st century has not begun well for the peoples of Asia - it has brought war, anarchy and devastation to parts of Asia already and has made the geopolitics of Asia very volatile. The militarization policy of Modi government can only make the region vulnerable to further instability and turmoil. It would siphon off precious financial and human resources out of an economy that cannot meet even the basic needs of the vast majority of Indian people today. People can’t afford this policy to be implemented. 

full article...

08 July 2014


The new Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spelt out its priorities in the form of a speech delivered by the President of India to the joint session of the India’s Parliament. According to Mr. Modi, speaking in the Parliament, his government “will leave no stone unturned to fulfill the path mentioned by the President”.
The essence of the agenda is to transform every aspect of life in India to become a “for profit” enterprise, this is promoted as the way to bring growth but in reality this is for private profit to seek paths that maximize profit. The President’s speech highlights privatization in the following areas.
1)    Private investment in economy in general: “My government will work together to usher our economy into a high growth path, rein in inflation, reignite the investment cycle, accelerate job creation and restore the confidence of the domestic as well as international community in our economy. …We will embark on rationalisation and simplification of the tax regime to make it non-adversarial and conducive to investment, enterprise and growth. ” This means tax breaks to investors, augmented by indirect taxation on consumers through GST and other mechanisms. “We need to transform ourselves into a globally competitive manufacturing hub powered by Skill, Scale and Speed. To this end, the government will set up world class investment and industrial regions, particularly along the Dedicated Freight Corridors and Industrial Corridors spanning the country”.
2)    Private Investment in infrastructure: “The government will chalk out an ambitious infrastructure development programme to be implemented in the next 10 years. A fast-track, investment friendly and predictable PPP (Private Public Partnership) mechanism will be put in place. Modernization and revamping of Railways is on top of the infrastructure agenda. …Investment in railways will be increased using innovative financing methods.”  
3)    Private Investment in Energy Sector: “My government will come out with a comprehensive National Energy Policy and focus on development of energy related infrastructure, human resource and technology. ….. Reforms in the coal sector will be pursued with urgency for attracting private investment in a transparent manner. The international civil nuclear agreements will be operationalized and nuclear power projects for civilian purposes will be developed.”
4)    Private Investment in Agriculture: “My government.. will increase investment in agriculture, both public and private, especially in Agri-infrastructure. Steps will be taken to convert farming into a profitable venture through scientific practices and Agrotechnology…. My government will incentivize the setting up of food processing industries.”
5)    Private Investment in Defence Sector: The government “will encourage domestic industry, including the private sector, to have a larger share in design and production of defence equipment. We will introduce policies to strengthen technology transfer, including through liberalised FDI in defence production. With readily available skilled human resource, India can emerge as a global platform for defence manufacturing including software, which will strengthen our defence and spur industrial development as well as exports.” 
6)    Private Investment in Education and Health Care: The government will “formulate a National Education Policy aimed at meeting the challenges posed by lack of quality, research and innovation in our educational institutions…. The government will encourage and incentivise private sector investments, both domestic and foreign, in science and technology and in high-end research aimed at nurturing innovation….We must equip and nurture our youth with the right kind of education, skill-set and opportunity to reap this demographic dividend.”  PM Modi has since elaborated this in the Parliament, he said that “There is an urgent need for manpower in the world. Our neighbour China is getting older and we are getting younger. Our priority should be skill development in the youth"... "my government will formulate a New Health Policy and roll out a National Health Assurance Mission.”
7)    Pursuit of enlightened national interest (i.e. interests of private capital-Ed): “We will pursue our international engagement based on enlightened national interest, combining the strength of our values with pragmatism….. My government is committed to building a strong, self-reliant and self-confident India; regaining its rightful place in the comity of nations.” “…to work towards building a peaceful, stable and economically inter-linked neighbourhood…” “The government will revive Brand India riding on our strengths of 5T’s: Tradition, Talent, Tourism, Trade and Technology.”
 What is absent in this agenda is any inkling of increased spending on social programs that will benefit the broad masses of people; historically such spending spurs economic expansion due to increased consumption of goods and services. But the approach advocated as the engine for growth is the opposite: help for the private investors and ways to facilitate export of goods and services. The vision to promote “Brand India”(Tradition, Talent, Tourism, Trade and Technology) is a vision to develop service component of Indian economy with outsiders as consumers. Even the initiatives for education and training of the youth envision private capital running the training institutions to create a new commodity for export in the form of “skilled India”.
The people of India must debate and discuss the path Modi government is embarking upon as its consequences on the people can be hurtful. Modi government will use its majority status in Lok Sabha to stall such discussion amongst people and use legal means to make its privatization agenda the law.  Similar path has been followed before, both inside India by prior governments and outside India using the Reagan-Thatcher privatization doctrine and first-past-the post electoral system. In recent history this privatization road has been to sell off public assets, cut back social spending and transform social services to for-profit enterprises. In all cases where these policies have been implemented they have created increased wealth at one pole while poverty has increased on the other pole. More importantly, these policies have aggravated the economic-political-social crises that continues to ravage the world today. The Modi government has come to power by promising the Indian electorate that it will reverse this trend; however, using past worldwide experience as a guide, its agenda can only deepen this crisis. Prices will rise, taxation will go up, jobs and benefits will be cut and prosperity will remain elusive for the working people. Rather than waiting for the crises to deepen further, there is a need to implement an action plan (to be discussed separately in these pages) that can ensure that people are not left as bystanders after the polls.  If people can not participate in formulating the agenda in an ongoing manner and if the government pushes its privatization agenda using its control of the Parliament, people will have to innovate new means to be heard between elections. 


full article...

09 June 2014


Following the general elections for the lower house of the Parliament in India, a new government with Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party as the Prime Minister has been sworn in. There is immense speculation and anxiety in the Indian press and abroad about the “change in direction” of Indian domestic and foreign policy this new administration will pursue, especially because the BJP has more than 50% of the seats in the lower house and together with its allies, has comfortable majority to pass new legislation through the lower house.

Indian business houses, collectively referred to as India Inc., have put forth their wish list and the government is putting in place a mechanism for its implementation. It has become clear that ‘the change in direction” by the new government is really no change in direction at all but more of the same.

The four main elements of the program are: (i) facilitating more liberalization and privatization of India’s economy and handing over many remaining state resources from the Nehruvian “socialistic pattern of society” to private hands, (ii) reforming labor laws to erode various social protection of the working people, (iii) beefing up and modernizing the armed forces and (iv) opening new doors for Indian businesses to enter foreign markets and vice versa. These have been the program of the previous UPA government and nearly all the the non-Congress – non-BJP state governments, including TDP, CPM, BJD, AIDMK, Trinamool Congress etc.

Mr. Modi’s government has decided to have a two-pronged strategy to implement its version of this program. Mr. Modi knows that NDA does not have the legal ability to push through many legislative goals as the upper house of the Parliament and the President’s office are not under its partisan control. At the same time, all the political parties are favorably disposed towards the four-legged agenda of India Inc. The program has faced political opposition when various parties have tried to implement many of them, especially those include cutbacks to social programs as resources are diverted towards private businesses or defense. The new government is taking much care to soften the resistance of the masses, especially outside the parliamentary formalities, in streets. The partisan tone of the parliamentary parties has been softened and a systematic message of inclusiveness and pro-poor image of the new government is being packaged under the broad theme of making India a major world power.

Indian opinion makers have already tried to first project a cult-like image of Mr. Modi, creating and backing down on Mr. Modi’s life story entering school text books, promoting Mr. Modi’s demonstrative “feet-touching” of BJP elders in the Parliament and “bowing” on the steps of the Indian Parliament building, seeking public blessings from his mother etc. and then asking MP’s not to touch Mr. Modi’s feet in public! What is ironic is that if Mr. Modi’s power and responsibilities as the new Prime Minister are rooted in the support of the people of India, none of these needs to be put on public display. These matters belong to the realm of Modi’s private, personal domain, his right to have his system of beliefs and behaviors. A deliberate display of private behavior to the masses can only be for divert attention away from a public discourse of public policies and political actions. Mr. Modi’s call to his MPs in the Parliament Hall to serve the poor of India is similarly a diversion because the government represents all the people and not just the poor. In fact, at his swearing in, just the reverse was on display - the wealth and pomp of the India Inc. was on there to celebrate. In attendance were the leaders of Indian big business houses and the MPs most of whom are themselves quite wealthy (assets over one crore rupees). The who’s who of the “non-poor” sections of India was savoring the occasion.

Side by side with drive to neutralize the opposition of the masses to any fresh initiative for implementing the privatization-liberalization agenda, definite measures are being taken for weakening the existing official mechanisms to oppose privatization program through legislative, bureaucratic and judicial means. Mr. Modi is fast dismantling the “collective” ministerial level approach of the prior three governments by abolishing the inter-ministerial and inter-departmental mechanisms and replacing them with an executive style decision-making by the prime minister’s office (PMO). A PMO press release has asked all Ministers who have difficulties in deciding issues relating to their own Ministry to refer them to the PMO and the Cabinet Secretariat for resolution. Mr. Modi has established a direct link between the PMO and the secretaries, by-passing the ministries even. In short, the current government is strengthening the mechanisms for the executive power to function above the legislative power to implement the agenda of the India Inc.

The recent election and government formation process has made it clear that people of India and of Indian origin living abroad have a deep yearning for India’s marginalization in the world and people’s marginalization inside India to end. The Eurocentric world order continues to marginalize India in world affairs on the one hand and the parliamentary system inside India, where the elected representative do not remain subordinate to the electorate after the elections are over, marginalizes people from power. Indians very much want this nightmare to end, they look forward to India becoming a responsible and respected global force by having peace, harmony and prosperity at home. Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao, Atal Behari Vajapayee and Manmohan Singh governments have all raised the hope that their governments will usher in such an India but they all have come short as no one could address to the disempowerment of people through the parliamentary system inside nor weakening of the Eurocentrist world order dominated by big powers. India Inc. and Mr. Modi are following the exact same path – raising the hope that they can make India stand tall in the world by building its military muscle on the one hand and strengthening India private business houses on the other, diverting the attention of the people away from the fact that this is a tested and failed policy. It has failed before under the last five governements after the end of cold war and there is nothing new that suggests that it will be otherwise this time.

Indian businesses feel the need to deal with the glaring poverty, inequality and blatant corruption of political power inside India. As long as the extremes of these problems are not softened, rich and powerful Indians as well as patriotic and hard working masses feel their weight and can’t hold their head high in the contemporary world. Mr. Modi does not seem to recognize that his government has to solve this problem by empowering all Indians behind a new nation-building project where political rights, national right, tribal rights, economic rights including that of health care, education, housing and food can be dealt with. He seems to think that he can dispense some privileges through the parliamentary system to the poor on the one hand and pump wealth to the rich through the same parliamentary system on the other. His first words in the Parliament, "I want to assure you that in this temple of democracy, all efforts will be made to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of people," suggests this mindset. Rather than addressing to the shortcomings that disempower people in the Westminister style parliamentary system and first-past-the-post electoral process, he and India Inc. want to further centralize the existing power through an “executive premiership”. This would be accompanied by the discredited process of the yester-years where “garibi hatao” type homily speaks to the poor while state monopoly capitalism enriches the business houses and “defense of national unity and territorial integrity” of India provides cover for state repression at home and massive arms purchases from abroad.

Indian voters, who participated in the recent election in record numbers, have an opportunity to build on the post-election momentum of political discussion and organizing work. The crore-pati MPs, celebrity MPs and MPs with criminal records have not volunteered to be Parliamentarians to empower their constituents. They have not gone to the Parliament to work for the nation-building project that will uplift people’s living and working conditions. If past is any guide, they are driven by the desire to fill their pockets at the expense of the working majority. They will speak in the name of development and shining India but will do everything to benefit those that have bank rolled the election expenses and worked out the winning election messages. The people who create development by toiling in the fields and factories without adequate shelter and nutrition or safety and security of their families are not in control of the Parliament. They do not have any mechanisms available to them to enforce their will on their representatives under the current parliamentary system. India Inc. will pursue its agenda with a vengeance and likes of Modi will enforce that agenda by mixing populism and diversion with authority of law, courts, army and police. The treasury will be opened for increasing the private assets of Industrial and business houses, sometimes in the name of efficiency, sometimes for creating infrastructure for private capital and sometimes in the name of security.

A dispassionate assessment of the Indian situation suggests that the electorate needs to urgently organize to defeat any moves of the NDA government to hand out more public assets to the private business houses. In the short term, all forms of parliamentary mechanisms can be used to block the sale of public assets to private investors and open the sectors like defense to private enterpreneurs. The first-past-the-post electoral system has gotten the BJP to form government with only 31% of the votes. Considering that only 66% of the eligible voters cast their ballots, vast majority of the electorate can be considered to be not in the BJP bandwagon. The current political mechanisms can be used to block the NDA initiatives inside the parliament through extra-parliamentary pressure on the in the opposition parties to block sweeping handout of public money to the rich. Pressure must be mounted on the government to increase spending on social programs to improve people’s lives and security. The Rajya Sabha and the president can be made stop NDA agenda of servicing their wealthy patrons if the popular movement develops and the agenda of India Inc. is contested. This must occur in the short term.

In the long term, the focus has to be on the alternative movement for comprehensive nation-building. In the political arena, the executive power has to operate in subordination to the legislative power and the legislature has to be subordinate to the constituents through a new system of institutions of power. This will enable all economic developments to be directed towards solving the problems facing the people by involving the people in that solution. The thought of Parliament doing everything a la Modi is the exact opposite – people waiting with folded hands for MPs, prompted by business and foreign lobbyists to steer the resources to private hands.

Coming out of the electoral campaign, opportunities exist to rally the activists for creating building blocks of future political authority so that it can flow from below. The need of India is to make the people “the governing and the governed”. The content of “less government and more governance” slogan of the BJP is the exact opposite because it keeps the governance in the hands of the government which rules from above, executive above legislative power and people completely disempowered after they cast their ballot for a candidate who is funded by the wealthy and presented to them by their electoral machine.

People all over the world are shedding their illusion over the privatization wave of the post cold war era but the illusion of parliamentary system is still strong. Recent trend has been to make use of the parliamentary illusion to put openly retrogressive political forces in power in country after country. People of India can blaze a new movement for people’s empowerment if the short term goals and long term goals above are taken up through serious organizing work at the electorate level.

full article...

15 May 2014


Multiparty elections for the lower house of Indian Parliament has just concluded with record voter turnout. But will the election 2014 be able to sort out the contradictions in the ranks of the Indian business establishment and multinationals that had arisen under the UPA government? Record spending, presidential style campaigning and entry of ideological divisiveness into political campaign suggest otherwise.

Exit poll projections are indicating that a new coalition of political parties will replace the UPA government. Indian business houses (collectively known as India Inc.) are anxiously waiting for the new government to add fresh momentum to a stalled “privatization and liberalization” agenda. They still consider the pursuit of that anti-social agenda to be the best option for transforming India to a major imperial world power.

Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh introduced “privatization and liberalization”in 1991 when the bipolar division of the world was ending. These measures allowed India Inc. lay their hands on the social property inside the country to enrich themselves at the cost of Indian people on the one hand and compete globally on the other. Successive governments have deepened this agenda: social services have disappeared and the control of private capital over economic and political life of the country is the strongest it has ever been. Militarization has occurred at a faster pace: India became a nuclear power and emerged as one of the top buyers of foreign weapons in the last two decades. Despite all this, India is no closer to being recognized as a big world power. It still remains marginalized when the big powers are re-dividing the world to their spheres of influence.
It is China who has become the pre-eminent Asian power today, gunning for global supremacy. And India Inc. is left with an impatient search of decisive initiatives at home and of new alliances with other Asian-European-American powers abroad, desperately trying to stake its elusive place in the new global order as an imperial power.

In this election, personality-based electioneering was pursued with a vengeance. A stage has been set, as a result, for the next government to assert executive power with an unprecedented level of arbitrariness. It stands to reason that this executive arbitrariness will be used to benefit those business groups that have bank rolled the record election expenses. It also stands to reason that such arbitrary privilege dispensation will escalate the conflict between different business houses, as well as between the people and authorities. Thus, India Inc. will need new ways to disorient popular opposition and to suppress resistance to their retrogressive policies. Diversionary and polarizing politics, on one hand, and state repression on the other, will necessarily shadow the new privatization and militarization measures. This is what the post-election scenario promises to be.

People will do well to remain vigilant against divisiveness, especially on non-political issues. Putting forth unifying political tactics to defeat any new privatization measures and military initiatives is the order of the day. United opposition to state repression must be of high priority. After all, governments these days are rather too trigger-happy when it comes to dealing with political matters - especially when desperate!

full article...

06 May 2009

International Conference in Toronto Calls on South Asians to Unite to Oppose War in South Asia

A four-day long international gathering of academics, activists and concerned individuals from India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as from Canada, the UK and the US, concluded on April 26th at the University of Toronto after resolving to whole-heartedly work to eliminate the threat of war in South Asia. The movement to stop the war and military intervention in South Asia also echoed through the Second Annual Faiz Peace Festival and the First International Festival of Poetry of Resistance which were being held concurrently in Toronto during these days, attended by hundreds of participants.

The conference to “Build the Unity of the People to Secure South Asia for the Peoples of South Asia” was jointly organized by the South Asian Peoples’ Forum, the Ghadar Heritage Organization and the Association of Indian Progressive Study Groups to discuss and develop an action plan against the escalating war and foreign military intervention in South Asia, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. On behalf of the Organizing Committee, Sara Abraham opened the conference and presented the keynote paper on Aril 23rd evening in a festive social-political event, inviting the participants to openly voice their analysis of events and expound their views on solutions to the problems plaguing the peoples of South Asia. The opening session also included welcome remarks by representatives of the sponsoring organizations as well as remarks by Douglas Sanderson, Professor of Law at the University of Toronto, Prof. Sherene Razack of the Ontario Institute of Secondary Education, and Mr. Abid Hassan Minto, Senior Advocate of Pakistan’s Supreme Court and President of the National Workers’ Party, Pakistan.

The sessions of the conference were organized as panel discussions. A total of five panel discussions were organized to explore the themes of the military crisis in Sri Lanka, the sources of war in South Asia, violence and terrorism in South Asia, left politics and people’s unity in South Asia and the resistance struggles of the people against neoliberal economic reforms. K. Ahilan, Syed Azeem, Hamid Bashani, Shonali Bose, Horace Campbell, K. Chattopadhyay, Vivek Chibber, P. Dhakal, G. Hashmi, Hassan, Rohini Hensman, S. Kanavi, Soma Marik, Naeem Malik, B. Pain, Rajan Philips, Ahmad Salim, Gurdev Singh, Ijaz Syed, Amrit Wilson and Sima Zerehi served as panelists in these sessions. Amongst these panelists were professors, journalists, lawyers, communists, workers, students, film makers, activists and community organizers who came from far and near - from Calcutta, Mumbai, Islamabad, Delhi, Birmingham, London, Los Angeles, New York, Syracuse, San Francisco, Toronto and Ottawa. Different opinions and views were presented and debated for hours as the panelists and the participants labored to hear and be heard on the key problems of the peoples and the different visions for taking the struggles forward to victory. The feature film Amu was screened during the conference.

The conference concluded after adopting the following resolutions:

  1. The Conference condemns all foreign intervention in the region and demands the immediate withdrawal of US, NATO, ISAF and other foreign troops from the region;
  2. The Conference opposes militarization and war preparations by our individual governments, and stands against nuclearization;
  3. The Conference condemns all acts of state terror and repression against our peoples and against all social and political movements under any pretext such as the war on terror, democracy, development, secularism, national unity and territorial integrity and others;
  4. The Conference condemns political violence and acts of terror by non-state actors against civilians in the name of religion, ethnicity and nationalism;
  5. The Conference holds that neo-liberal offensives have weakened the security of all ordinary people of South Asia and other parts of the world, and supports all struggles in defence of livelihood, economic rights, well-being and social security; and
  6. The Conference resolves to disseminate the proceedings of the conference and to organize similar conferences in future.

full article...

28 April 2009

The Key to Ending War and War Preparations in South Asia is for the People of the Region to Unite and to Become Decision-Makers

Remarks by the AIPSG Representative, April 23, 2009 Toronto

It is my honour and privilege to welcome all the guests, speakers and participants in this historic international conference to build people’s unity to stop war and war preparations in South Asia.
The threat of war in South Asia is higher than ever today and the international balance of forces is such that any war in South Asia will inevitably acquire global dimensions.

South Asia is home to two nuclear armed states. The region is located where the spheres of influence of other nuclear powers collide. The old arrangements between China, the US, the former Soviet Union, the European powers and the countries of South Asia are ripe for realignment.

War occurs when other peaceful means to re-divide the zones of influence fails. AIPSG’s view is that the peoples of South Asia cannot look up to their governments to avert war because many of these governments themselves are factors for war. Unless the people of the region become the decision-makers to determine the destinies of their countries and nations, the powers-that-be will not hesitate to go to war to carve out their spheres of influence.

The AIPSG considers the issue of people becoming decision-makers in their own countries and nations as the most important ingredient for shaping the 21st century to a century of progress rather than a century of wars. Within the current economic-political conditions, people do not make decisions – big business houses make decisions through the governments in the name of the people, if at all.

The Westminster style or any other style multiparty election is the main mechanism that reduces people from being decision-makers to being a tool to legitimize the decision-making by the big business houses. For example, the government that will arise out of the general elections going on in India right now will not make the people decision-makers. The new government will pursue the aims of the Indian business houses to compete globally and make India a global power with its sphere of influence, even by going to war.

Nevertheless, it will claim legitimacy to those decisions in the name of the people. In the opinion of the AIPSG, a thorough overhaul of the multi-party political process can weaken the stranglehold of the monopolies and big business houses on political power and enable people to control decision-making so that their country will not participate in a war of aggression.

The AIPSG’s current fronts of work are on the renewal of the political process in India and the defence of rights. The work on political renewal involves broad study and exposure of the origins and foundations of the Indian state structure that was established by the colonial powers by force. AIPSG is currently elaborating on a new electoral process with candidate selection and election by the people to limit the scope of political parties to field partisan candidates and form partisan government on behalf of their big financial backers.

The AIPSG is carrying out activities in support of the struggles for rights - against state repression, torture and preventive detention, communal violence etc. in India and in defence of the rights of South Asian minorities abroad. AIPSG has argued that rights belong to one by virtue of one’s being. Everyone has right to conscience by virtue of being human and also has other rights by virtue of being part of collectives - as workers, as women, as minorities, as youth, as nations and tribes, as farmers and so on.

Everyone belongs to society and thus has the right to participate in decision-making. The affirmation of individual, collective and societal rights under modern conditions are necessary for social advance to occur in the 21st century. The AIPSG considers that building the unity of the people irrespective of their ideological differences is the tool to carry out the democratic renewal of the political process in each country so that people’s rights can be affirmed and harmonized.

The current rulers use ideological differences to divide the people politically, thus controlling political power and depriving people many of their rights. The AIPSG’s experience suggests that struggle for rights, opposition to state terrorism and repression, defense of minority rights, struggle against war, etc. unites people irrespective of their ideologies and outlook. We are confident this conference will prove once more how opposition to war unites the peoples of the countries of South Asia and all the peoples of the world.

I want to welcome all of you to this conference. We encourage all the speakers and participants to elaborate the issue under discussion from their unique perspective. The organizing committee is here to help you to make your contribution to this movement and wish success in your work. Thank you.

URL: www.geocities.com/aipsg

full article...

14 April 2009

Conference programme



Bennet Lecture Hall, Flavelle House, University of Toronto Law School

78 Queens Park, (Museum Subway Stop)

Jointly organized by the South Asian People’s Forum, the Ghadar Heritage Organization

and the Association of Indian Progressive Study Groups

www.sapf.ca, www.geocities.com/aipsg, Tel: 416-856-7212

Thursday April 23rd

Friday April 24th

Saturday April 25th

Sunday April 26th

9:30AM – 12Noon



Trinity St.Paul Church

427 Bloor Street West

(Spadina subway stop)

9:30AM – 12Noon


10AM – 2PM


2PM – 4:30PM




Trinity St-Paul Church

427 Bloor Street West

(Spadina subway stop)

2:30PM – 5PM


2:30 PM – 4:30 PM


3PM – 6 PM



70 Mineola Rd. East MISSISSAUGA

(East of Huron-Ontario between QEW and Lakeshore)

6:30 PM




· FEATURED SPEAKER Abid Hasan Minto Advocate, Supreme Court of Pakistan


7PM- 9:30PM


7:30 PM – 10 PM






7PM - 10PM



70 Mineola Rd. East MISSISSAUGA

Registration: $15.00; One day: $10.00

Faiz Peace Festival Ticket: $15.00

Co-sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Canada

and the South Asia Programs at York University and the University of Toronto

full article...

29 March 2009



April 23-26, 2009
University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

The current geopolitics of South Asia threatens a regional and global war that can devastate the countries and peoples of the region. This conference is being organized jointly by the South Asian Peoples Forum, the Ghadar Heritage Foundation and the Association of Indian Progressive Study Groups (AIPSG) to build the unity of the peoples across borders who alone can stop such wars. Speakers and activists from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal as well as from Canada, the US and the UK will discuss people’s common struggles in defense of their rights in all the countries and the ways to unite them for stopping the war and war preparations in the region.

The conference will discuss issues such as geopolitics of South Asia, divisions and violence in South Asia as well as the resistance struggles in all the countries. The movements of women in different countries and Canada-South Asia Labor solidarity will be addressed in separate panels. Special Discussions on Sri Lanka and Kashmir will take place during the conference.
Abid Hasan Minto, Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of Pakistan has been invited to be the featured speaker for the Opening.

The conference will conclude on April 26th with the SEcond Annual Faiz Peace Festival held in conjuction with the First International Festival of Poetry of Resistance in Toronto
The conference is being co-sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Canada, and the South Asia Programs at York University and the University of Toronto.

For more information please visit www.sapf.ca, www.geocities.com/aipsg, or call 416-856-7212.

full article...

Second International Faiz Peace Festival

Second International Faiz Peace Festival

25 February, 2009

TORONTO (ON) The second International Faiz Ahmed Faiz Peace Festival will take place in Toronto on April 26, 2009.Writers, poets and activists from the Greater Toronto Area and from around the world will gather to oppose the culture of war and violence and to promote in their stead, peace, democracy, and social justice. The gathering will include participants attending the concurrent First International Festival of Poetry of Resistance, Toronto, and the South Asian Peoples Unity Conference, Toronto. The Festival is being sponsored by the South Asian Peoples Forum.

The Festival programme includes poetry and paper readings, presentations, dance, and music. International and local personages expected to attend include Muneeza Hashmi, daughter of Faiz Ahmed Faiz from Pakistan, Nancy Morejon, Poet Laureate of Cuba, Allison Hedge Coke, the Reynolds Chair at the University of Nebraska, USA, Gary Geddes, Lieutenant-Governor Award winner in B.C., Canada, Marilyn Lerch, President of the New Brunswick Writers’ Federation, Canada, Jorge Etcheverry, Ambassador in Canada of Poetas del Mundo. Published poets from France, Brazil, and other countries will also attend. The South Asian writers and activists expected to attend include Hamid Akhtar, Muno Bhai, and Abid Hussain Minto from Pakistan and Soma Marik from India. Rekha Suria from India will be the lead singer along with local Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian artistes. Community and youth groups will participate through audio visual presentations and cultural performances.

The Festival will take place at the Port Credit Secondary School Auditorium, in Mississauga, from 6 pm. Around 600 people are expected to attend.

full article...