The China-India Stand-off:
Following the August 29/30th clashes between Indian and Chinese forces at the Pangong Tso lake in eastern Ladakh, and Indian Army’s subsequent occupation of southern heights of Pangong Tso and even the contested northern heights of the lake (including the Finger 4 heights), there was little concrete breakthrough in resolving the situation. The Defence Ministers of the two countries met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Defence Ministers’ meeting held in Moscow in first week of September. While there was not much breakthrough in these talks, the subsequent talks on the sidelines of SCO held between Indian and Chinese Foreign Ministers created a significant space for resolution of the crisis.
The two countries, in these talks, agreed to a ‘five-point consensus’ that reaffirmed the framework of bilateral relations between the two countries. More significantly, the countries agreed that this five-point consensus would form the basis of further border talks towards de-escalation. This consensus is as follows:
- The two Ministers agreed that both sides should take guidance from the series of consensus of the leaders on developing India-China relations, including not allowing differences to become disputes.
- The two Foreign Ministers agreed that the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side. They agreed therefore that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions.
- The two Ministers agreed that both sides shall abide by all the existing agreements and protocol on China-India boundary affairs, maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas and avoid any action that could escalate matters.
- The two sides also agreed to continue to have dialogue and communication through the Special Representative mechanism on the India-China boundary question. They also agreed in this context that the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs (WMCC), should also continue its meetings.
- The Ministers agreed that as the situation eases, the two sides should expedite work to conclude new Confidence Building Measures to maintain and enhance peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
Subsequently, the 6th round of border talks were held between the two countries in late September. The talks, unlike previous rounds, had the presence of both military and diplomatic leadership of both the countries. India decided to send Ministry of External Affairs officials to the talks along with military leadership, so that China could not claim at a later stage that there was inconsistency in India’s military and diplomatic positions.
The talks were largely candid and ice breaking, and the two armies issued a joint statement. They were guided by the newly agreed five-point consensus. The two countries also agreed to certain important points viz. both countries would stop sending any further troops to the border, and, neither side will unilaterally attempt to change the prevailing status quo. They resolved to avoid misunderstandings and to hold a further round of military talks to resolve the crisis.
The fact that two sides emphasized on maintaining status quo is also an advantage for India. For, after the advances made by India during August 29/30 stand-off and during September, especially in the south bank of Pangong Tso, where India has occupied key peaks that it had not controlled earlier, India is placed in a more advantageous position than before. Therefore, a status quo is not a loss but a gain for India.
Intra-Afghan Dialogue in Doha:
The much awaited intra-Afghan dialogue finally started on September 12th in Doha. While much is being negotiated, what stood out was India’s participation in the dialogue. India not only sent representatives to Doha, but India’s Foreign Minister also addressed the inaugural session. He made it clear that India was there at the behest of the Afghan government, that supported an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process and that India would not directly engage with the Taliban.
India received an invitation from Qatar upon Afghanistan’s suggestion. Pakistan’s opposition to inviting India were turned down. Prior to these talks also, even though India refused to participate in earlier negotiations, yet both US and Afghanistan kept India continuously informed about the latest developments – again, much to Pakistan’s consternation.
For India, the interest in participating in the intra-Afghan dialogue is to ensure that the Afghan soil is not used for terror activities against India.
Attacks on Temples in Andhra Pradesh:
In recent times, Andhra Pradesh has seen a spate of attacks on Hindu temples, along with allegations of extensive mass conversions to Christianity through the use of money. In September, century old Laxmin Narsimha Swamy temple’s chariot was set on fire in Antarvedi – one of the most revered Vaishnavite places. This led to widespread protests against the government and outrage among Hindus. While Pawan Kalyan-led Jana Sena protested against the incident along with BJP workers, separately, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu demanded inquiry into the incident, condemned attack on Hindus and demanded a safety audit for all Hindu temples.
While some arrests were made, following such widespread protests, the Andhra Pradesh government decided to hand over the probe to CBI for investigation, suspended the temple executive officer and promised to build a new chariot. Jagan Reddy, the CM, also performed puja at a temple after some days.
However, temples attacks did not stop. Following this, there was an attack on the 12th century Kasi Visweswara Swamy temple, where the Nandi idol was damaged. While these attacks have intensified recently, there have been similar incidents a few months back also. In February, a 50 feet tall ancient chariot of Prasanna Venkateswara Swamy temple in Nellore district was set ablaze – passed off as accident. In January, a series of Hindu idols were desecrated through hammers in East Godavari district.
Temple attacks in recent times
|Nandi idol vandalized in Chittoor
Date: 27th September
|Attack on Kasi Visweswara Swamy temple in Krishna
Date: 16th September
|Hanuman idol in Yeleswaram vandalized
Date: 17th September
|Chariot burning of Laxmi Narasimha Swamy temple in Antarvedi
Date: 6th September
|Chariot burning of Sri Prasanna Venkateswara Swamy temple in Nellore
Date: 14th February
|Idols damaged in East Godavari district
Date: 21st January
In Opposition, Naidu has consistently kept up the attacks on Jagan. He has accused the CM of not condemning attacks on Hindu temples and of not visiting a single temple.
The Jagan government was also forced the shelve the outrageous plan of auctioning 50 immovable properties of the Tirupati temple located in different states, after a furore among the Hindus.
Religion in Iran:
In June 2020, the Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in IRAN (GAMAAN) co-conduced an online survey – internet penetration in Iran is high and comparable to Italy – about religious attitudes in Iran, and published a widely communicated report. The final sample consisted of 40,000 Iranians presently residing in Iran, which was weighted to the target population of literate Iranians aged above 19, using demographic variables and voting behaviour in the 2017 presidential elections (Tamimi & Maleki, 2020).
The results contradict the official Iran census, which claims that 99.5% of the population follows Islam. According to this survey, while 78% people believed in God, only 40% people identified themselves as Muslim. Only 32% identified themselves as Shia Muslims. 9% said they were atheists, while 7% prefer to follow ‘spirituality’. 22.2% people did not identify with anything.
For the Record:
Domicile Certificates Awarded in Jammu and Kashmir:
The Jammu and Kashmir government has, within three months (mid-June to mid-September), issued 18.52 lakh domicile certificates. A total of 21,99,513 people had applied for the certificates. Out of these, 20,87,815 applications were found complete and approved, while 1,11,698 were rejected. Out of the approved 20,87,815 applications, 18,52,355 have been issued certificates, while rest of the applications are being processes and will soon be given certificates.
Out of the 18.52 lakh domicile certificates issued, majority include people who already possessed Permanent Residency Certificates (PRCs). The total domicile certificates issued to Non State Subjects stood at 59,993, including, amongst others, 17,978 to West Pakistan Refugees, 1825 Balmiki community members and 755 Gorkhas.
Out of the 18.52 lakh certificates issues, 4,97,238 were issued in Kashmir, while 13,35,643 were issued in Jammu.
The number of West Pakistan Refugees applying for certificates is generally low, as many of them already possess a PRC and therefore qualify for domicile, as per a state official (Sharma, 2020).
Sharma, N. (2020, August 3). NDTV. Retrieved from https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/j-k-domicile-law-new-domicile-law-unease-in-kashmir-valley-jammu-for-different-reasons-2273555
Tamimi, P., & Maleki, A. (2020, September 14). The Print. Retrieved from https://theprint.in/world/iran-becoming-more-secular-less-religions-new-study-reveals/500224/