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UKRAINE CRISIS MAY OFFER HOPE FOR KASHMIR SETTLEMENT

Seema Sengupta

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As Ukraine burns, the UN Security Council, expectedly, failed to pass a resolution demanding cessation of hostilities and immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, late on Friday. Adopted under the benign Chapter 6 of UN charter, which does not obligate use of force to impose legally binding sanctions, this perfunctory attempt to bring peace was of little consequence to some countries, including India, refusing to use their voting rights for protecting human lives in far-away Europe. While Russia might have heaved a sigh of relief for successfully fending off any international retribution that could have seriously dented President Vladimir Putin’s carefully crafted image of an invincible statesman, will Moscow’s de jure recognition of self-proclaimed Donbass republics reignite old sparks over demands of self-determination, based on ethno-religious aspirations of the ethnic majority? After all, the world is full of simmering discontent, with fragmentary undertone, and Russia might well have stepped on a dormant landmine of secessionist sub-nationalism, capable of engulfing not only Europe but territories across the globe – in America, Asia or even Africa. Most importantly, and worryingly perhaps, the intense urge for a subnational identity has made economic status irrelevant, as the contagiousness of this thought process is affecting relatively well-off societies too. Whether it is Brexit or the closely contested Scottish independence referendum; turmoil in Catalonia over demand for freedom from Spain or Italy’s desire to break free from the bondage of the Union in Europe, these events manifest a resurgence of subnational pride, notwithstanding a prosperous existence. Across the Atlantic Ocean, in Quebec, a swath of people nurtures the dream of freedom – from Canadian rule.  

 There is no denying that post-Cold War global geopolitics has fuelled rigid sub-nationalism induced self-determination, which dovetailed neatly with neo-colonial strategies of tactical interference in country specific issues of geopolitical and strategic importance. And such desire for a unique existence stem from a shared belief in a distinct cultural identity, which justifies the right to obtain an exclusive homeland. That precisely is the reason why people are drawing parallels between Crimea, Donbass and disputed Kashmir, thus dragging Ukraine into the South Asian geopolitical vortex. Russia’s wholehearted support for secession in Crimea and regions of eastern Ukraine   seeking independence on grounds of genocide, and its subsequent recognition of breakaway territories as sovereign entities is bound to catalyse demand for similar action in distant Kashmir. It will be difficult for Moscow to bypass the Kashmir issue now, given the UN Human Rights Council’s detailed assessment of grave violation of human dignity and rights committed by the Indian State. The first-ever UN report on Kashmir released in 2018 dedicates 33 pages on India’s alleged human rights violations in the part controlled by her. By co-opting Pakistan into his Ukraine adventure and making former rebel and Head of Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov have an entente with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Putin waded into the Kashmir issue automatically. Khan incidentally shared photo frame with the Russian President in Kremlin shortly after Moscow ordered invasion of Ukrainian territory. In fact, Ramzan’s father Akhmad Kadyrov was a legendary Chechen guerrilla who led a secessionist movement against the mighty Soviet State in the early 1990s. The Chechen insurgents sympathized with the Kashmir cause and had liaised with top Europe based Kashmiri rebels.    

 Meanwhile, Russia will be organizing global exhibitions for apprising the international community about acts of genocides in Donbass region, as part of a counter offensive to expose human rights violations in eastern Ukraine’s two liberated republics Donetsk and Luhansk. A book capturing atrocity crimes on children and elderly will be used as evidence to influence humanity and human rights defenders. Will it be possible for Putin to ignore similar repression in Kashmir, including mass-blinding from disproportionate use of force, cold-blooded killing of innocent school students by trigger happy soldiers and use of hapless civilians as human shields in counter-insurgency operations? A leading Russian foreign policy expert was understandably evasive when I asked him if we can expect a subtle shift in Moscow’s stand on Kashmir, vis-à-vis assessing the will of the Kashmiri people, particularly in the backdrop of India withdrawing the provinces’ special constitutional status in 2019? Russia provided the broadest possible autonomy to Chechnya under its Constitution, recognizing it as a sovereign republic within the Federation, with Islamic identity, and vested with property rights over land and natural resources. Putin can surely leverage his unique relations with both the Indian and Pakistani leadership to push through an imaginative solution for putting an end to the longstanding territorial dispute over Kashmir, holding the key to peace in South Asia. As the thin line between struggle for national liberation and militancy is getting blurred in modern day terrorism infested globe, sharing sovereign power to make Kashmiri people de-facto sovereign seems to be the only practical solution achievable under the current circumstances. Can Russia therefore endorse a Kashmir solution, which hinges on co-existence under a de-facto shared sovereignty umbrella and nourished by genuine devolution of power and legal recognition of Kashmiri people as the omnipotent sovereign? Hopefully, the lessons from Ukraine will compel India to accept Kashmiri exceptionalism and protect Kashmir’s unique identity from fading into oblivion.  

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President casts ballot in parliamentary election

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President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu has cast his vote in the parliamentary elections.

President Muizzu cast his vote at a polling station based in Thaajuddeen School. Following his vote, he urged the public to exercise their right by voting promptly.

The Election Commission of the Maldives (ECM) revealed that the voting will take place between 0800hrs to 1730hrs, highlighting that voting commenced promptly at nearly all polling stations on time.

In the current parliamentary elections, the ruling party People’s National Congress (PNC) led by President Muizzu has nominated candidates to contest in 90 constituencies.

Source(s): PsmNews

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ECM urges to vote independently and promptly

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President of the Election Commission of the Maldives (ECM) Fuwad Thowfeeq has urged the populace to promptly cast their ballot.

In a message to media commemorating voting day, Fuwad Thowfeeq urged the voting population to cast votes independently and promptly. Voting for the 20th parliamentary election began at 0800hrs on April 21.

Additionally, ballot boxes are placed in all residential islands, 34 resorts, correctional facilities, industrial islands and as well as 3 countries abroad. ECM confirmed a total of 602 ballot boxes are placed.

Moreover, Fuwad reiterated that the electoral body is fully equipped for the preparation of the polling stations, highlighting that all administrative work necessary has been initiated. The ECM has initiated a reduction in the number of voters per polling station. Therefore, 500 individuals can now voter per box.

Furthermore, efforts are currently being made by the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to guarantee a smooth and seamless elections. Subsequently, MPS raised its alert level by launching a special operation named “Operation Blue Tide”. Simultaneously, it resolved to use ‘body worn cameras’ to ensure the utmost security throughout the election process.

Commander of Maldives Police Service Abdulla Shareef underscored that police personnel have been stationed at various polling stations, ensuring its safety. It further urged the public to cooperate with the temporary amendments made to the traffic guidelines. Meanwhile, transportation of heavy vehicles will be prohibited following the parliamentary elections.

Additionally, individuals with special needs, pregnant women, the elderly, and those working in uniformed services will be awarded priority access at polling stations, exempting them from queues. Concurrently, it stressed the importance of carrying official documents when voting.

The counting of votes begins 30 minutes after the polling place closes.

Source(s): PsmNews

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Voting begins for the parliamentary election 2024

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Voting has begun for the 2024 parliamentary election.

Polling stations opened in Male’ and the atolls at 0800hrs and will close at 1730hrs, as per the decision of the Election Commission of the Maldives (ECM). Voters began queuing up at the polling stations at around 0730hrs and the security envelopes were opened in the presence of the first two voters at the polling stations.

A total of 602 ballot boxes have been set up in the Maldives and three other countries for the parliamentary election. Polling stations are also open in 34 resorts, prisons and other industrial islands. The countries in which ballot boxes are placed for voting are Trivandrum in India (0830hrs to 1800hrs), Colombo in Sri Lanka (0830hrs to 1800hrs) and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia (1100hrs to 2030hrs).

ECM has made several arrangements to ensure maximum convenience to all during the election process. As such, each ballot box is open for 500 individuals. Additionally, ECM affirmed that the allocated time for voting will not be extended under any circumstances, hence urging residents to cast their votes promptly.

With a total of 93 various constituencies, the eligible voting population for the election is 284،663, including 145،302 male and 139،361 female voters. While the current 19th parliament consists of members representing 87 districts, decisions have been made such that the forthcoming 20th parliament will encompass an additional six districts. The additional six constituencies are as follows: two chairs for Male’ City, one chair for Addu City, one chair for Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi (Baa Atoll), one chair for Male’ Atoll and one chair for Huvadhu Atholhu Uthuruburi (Gaafu Alif Atoll).

The current parliamentary term will conclude on May 30, 2025.

Source(s): PsmNews

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