Time To Upgrade Quad Alliance To The Next Level

th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which met in 2017, was a coming out party of President Xi Jinping. China was ready to abandon Deng Xiopeng’s advice to keep its head down and work at developing the nation into a moderately prosperous nation ready to take its rightful place in the world stage. The need to spread Socialism with Chinese characteristics for other countries to follow was a message which was echoed by Xi in the Congress. So if Shinzo Abe was concerned about China’s rise in 2007, it has intensified manifold now. So a fresh attempt is now being made to revive the quadrilateral now being referred simply as the quad.  Shinzo Abe is well entrenched as the PM. He has taken up the unfinished project. Despite thriving trade ties with China, the two countries have been traditional enemies. India, Japan and the US are keen. The Conservative Party in Australia is too, but a Labour government would not be as enthusiastic. A first meeting of the quad officials was held in Manila in 2017 ahead of the ASEAN summit in the Philippines. So far it is confined to the official level with no formal meeting of the political leaders. But much ground has been covered in Track 2, the informal process. The Sasakawa Peace Foundation, invited the Vivekananda Foundation of India (which works closely with the government), National Security College of Australia of Australian National University and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation US, for a conferences in February 2017 and 2018, {countries with stakes in the Indian Ocean Region, with shared democratic values} to put their heads together and put together a plan for a free and open security structure for in the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Experts from four countries have brought out their recommendations which were released in Delhi last week. Has the time come for the quad to take off? Taking quad to the next level would be to upgrade it to the political sphere, where foreign ministers of the four countries and a Summit down the line. India will not be in a hurry to raise the level of representation just yet. This is especially so post Wuhan, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping tried to repair ties after the Doklam standoff. Delhi will wait and watch. India needs peace in the neighbourhood and focus on lifting millions out of poverty. So while supporting the quad, Delhi is likely to confine it to the official level so as not to spoil ties in China. Australian politics is in a flux. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has just been replaced by Scott Morisson. The ruling party has a majority of one in parliament. Australia’s trade with China is huge, and opinion is divided whether Australia can afford to be at logger heads with China. Much depends on which political party is in power. Japan is enthusiastic about the quad and would prefer it to raise it to the summit level. US President Donald Trump now engaged in a trade war with China and China bashing, will be in a mood to support upgrading the quad. The quad is certainly going to be an important player in future. The effort will however be to get more countries on boars for a loose alliance to protect the freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean.]]>

Kabootarbaazi: The immigration racket

Raj Kumar is a kabootarbaaz, literally a pigeon handler but now the slang word in northern India for those who organise illegal immigration. People like Kumar make money from kabootars — those desperate to get to promised lands where jobs and social security are available. Kumar, who operates out of a South Delhi colony,  doesn’t forge documents; he ensures a visa to a foreign country where the potential immigrant must then disappear and make his own way. Here’s what this business is all about, in 45-year-old Kumar’s own words:

 
You may call me a trafficker, illegal immigrant pusher or kabootarbaaz, but I take pride in my work. Most of us consider our profession as an instrument to level the playing field and bring an end to economic disparity. My clients are largely from rural Punjab or Gujarat, lured by the glamour of a western lifestyle. They approach us by word of mouth. We never make or help make forged documents. Our services are procuring a valid visa and ensuring that the client reaches the destination, often with the help of a ‘carrier’. After that, how the banda (colloquial for person, here client) dissolves into the foreign country is not our headache. For European countries, barring the UK, we charge around ₹5 lakh. For the UK, Canada and the US, the fee is double. The payment is made part in India and rest after the client reaches ‘home’. I specialize in Schengen countries. Most of our clients want to go to Germany as their family circle is there. We have mapped lenient or ‘pliable’ embassies. When we find German embassy ‘uncooperative’ in a case, we get the Schengen visa through countries like Malta (the most preferred one), Czech Republic, Spain, Slovenia, etc. From there, the banda travels by road or train to reach Germany. There are two tricky parts in this game. Not papers, but visa and the immigration. Documents like passport, IT return and PAN card must always be genuine. Normally, embassies suspect young people leaving India for Europe. So, we need a carrier, with respectable track record, to vouch for the client as an assistant or an employee of the traveller (carrier). The carrier, depending upon our client could be a failed sportsman, B-grade musician, retired Army officer or bureaucrat who has fallen on bad times. I have personally used all these categories of carriers. For a group, since the stakes are high, we first visit the destination country ourselves and go through their annual event calendar. We mark events like a trade fair, local cricket tournament or an Indian classic music programme. Now, depending upon the pack, we decide how to plan the ‘departure’. If our pack is an athletic looking young lot, we mark local sports events. Else, a business expo or a local music event. The next target is to search for the right carrier to lead the troupe or team. Here is how it works: I place an ad in newspapers looking for retired officers who are well travelled, and willing to work as partners in a new venture. I then screen the unscrupulous or desperate ones, luring them with a free return ticket to a foreign country, a brief stay and $500. We then disguise our clients as junior musicians, a sports team, or representatives of an exporters group looking for printing tech, and apply for the visa. The invites are mostly genuine and the carrier has his/her career record to back the ‘team’. Very few European embassies seek personal interviews. Besides, the language barrier works to our advantage. Only in a rare case is an application rejected.
WHO MAKES WHAT
Agent: ₹5-10 Lakh Carrier: $500-1000 plus return ticket and boarding expenses Immigration Officials: ₹25-50,000 Embassy Officials: Unspecified

The next barrier is the immigration desk. There are many agents who try to bypass this barrier to save loose change. This is foolish. Immigration officials, often drawn from security services, can easily tell a genuine traveler from a kabootar. Their fee, called cutsey (probably derived from courtesy), barely crosses ₹50,000. If you ever come across a case where illegal immigrants or fraudulent travelers were caught at airport, you can be sure that the agent hadn’t paid the immigration desk. Since immigration desk works under CCTV cameras, last-minute deals are impossible or very expensive. What happens when the banda reaches destination? I told you this is not our concern. But to your information, mostly they contact their community, hide their passports and find local jobs. These jobs could be night shifts at various 24X7 shops, or in remote areas. When the support is good, mostly in UK or US, the banda hires a lawyer and applies for asylum and, later, citizenship. Some stay there in jobs to later apply for social security number with the help of rights groups. In that case, Canada is the most benevolent. In other places, the banda can get away by either bribing the cops or by destroying their passports and preferring a jail term while simultaneously applying for social security benefits with the help of rights groups. The real Ram Rajya for an illegal immigrant is not in India, Sirji. It is in Europe. Try it.
 
With editorial assistance from LokMarg; name of travel changed to maintain anonymity]]>