... for openness and credibility....

Passport? Just a piece of paper

Passport? Just a piece of paper



P R Kumaraswamy

Just a piece of paper. That was how the renowned painter M F Husain described the Indian passport that he surrendered following his acceptance of Qatari citizenship. Devoid of emotions, it is just a paper which is useful only when one chooses to travel abroad, he reasoned. Unlike many other countries, both within and outside the Middle East, India does not have citizenship cards. By accepting the citizenship of the hydrocarbon-rich sheikhdom Husain has formally renounced his Indian citizenship. Now he has applied for the Overseas Citizenship of India, a privilege bestowed upon non-resident Indians. This should enable him travel to India, should he so choose. Interestingly, ever since he went to self-imposed exile in 2006, Husain has not visited India.

Renouncing and acquiring citizenship of a country is the right of the individual. Not long ago Sonia Gandhi renounced her Italian citizenship to embrace Indian citizenship. Now Husain went in the other direction. Husain’s move is attributed to prolonged campaign from the Hindutva forces against some of his controversial depictions of Hindu goddesses.

However, not many Indians would know that in most Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, citizenship is restricted only to Muslims. Qatar, however, is a notable exception. According latest Religious Freedom Report published by the US State Department, Qatar has “fewer than 500 Baha'i and Christian citizens.”  Furthermore, the Emir of Qatar is in the forefront of inter-faith dialogue wherein Doha hosts leaders of various religious communities, including Jewish religious figures from Israel. Hopefully, Husain’s new abode should be more tolerant than his erstwhile motherland.


 Return of the G word haunts Turkey

Genocide! This remains the most sensitive expression in modern Turkey.  Nearly a century after the development, the mass killing of the Armenians during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire remains the most controversial chapter in Turkish history. According to the Armenians, around 1.5 million of their nationals were killed between 1915 and 1917.  While not denying large-scale deaths of Armenians as well as Turks, calling it genocide remains a taboo in Turkey.  Both secularists and the growing band of Islamists are unanimous in their rejection of the charge. Indeed, renowned Turkish writer and later noble laureate Orhan Pamuk had to face criminal proceeding for using the G word.

During his campaign for the White House Barrack Obama was swayed by the Armenians; but once installed in the Oval Office he moderated his position. The US lawmakers, however, are a different kettle of fish. 

On 4 March the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution that declares the killing of the Armenians as genocide. Though the resolution was adopted by the narrowest margin and was non-binding, it rekindled the Turkish anger. If this was not enough, a few days later the Swedish parliament adopted, again by a narrow margin, a resolution that called into question the Turkish version of the story. Ankara was naturally swift in recalling its ambassadors from both the countries.

As with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Turkey’s problem is not with the outside world but with Armenia. And hence any lasting solution should be found in Yerevan and not in any western capitals. 


Internalizing peace? Not Netanyahu’s style

Increasing evidence of the Israeli involvement in the killing of the Hamas militant leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in early February conveys one unmistakable message: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is yet to internalize peace with the Arabs. 

During his first term in office in the 1990s, he authorized an unsuccessful assassination bid against Hamas leader Khalid Masha'al in Amman.  More alert guards not only throttled the bid but the incident also plunged the bilateral relations between Israel and Jordan into their worse crisis. It required considerable diplomatic skills of former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy to undo the damage and restore a modicum of relations between the two countries. For all practical purposes, the personal warmth between King Hussein and the Israeli leadership ended there.

Rather than seeing its diplomatic presence in Amman as a means of furthering its political interests in the wider Arab world, Netanyahu sought to settle scores with the Hamas in the streets of Arab capital. A decade later, the same pattern can be noticed in the killing of al-Mabhouh in Dubai. In recent years, the Emirate has hosted a number of Israeli nationals, including leaders and sports personal. This was despite the absence of formal ties between the two.

By choosing to use the Emirati hospitality to pursue a military agenda against Hamas, Netanyahu has conveyed one simple message: he has not internalized peace and remains insensitive to needs and interests of his Arab interlocutor.


Honorary Director of MEI 

As part of its editorial policy, the MEI@ND standardizes spelling and date formats to make the text uniformly accessible and stylistically consistent.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views/positions of the MEI@ND.

Editor, MEI@ND: P R Kumaraswamy