Kashmir

Corona Virus: India enters the stretch when the wheels could come off

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

India stood as one behind its prime minister Narendra Modi’s call to “isolate” itself on Sunday but there is a fear that the deadly Corona Virus could be laughing in the background—or in the midst of 1.3 billion people.

Any world leader could have swooned at such a doting citizenry which stood indoors and came out with pots and pans; conch-shells and bells at an appointed hour to extol India’s medical warriors in the frontline against the pandemic virus. But Modi’s words in the aftermath are one of caution: “Stay indoors”.

For the moment, Modi’s message is directed at residents of 80 districts of 22 states which have officially been “shut down.” But for grocery and medical shops, nothing moves. This figure, if the example of rest of the world is anything to go by, is due to shoot skywards in coming days, if not hours.

Nations, mauled by this virus, have shown a spike after the first 250 cases are detected. Thus, Italy went from 322 to 41,000 cases in 24 days. Spain (261 to 17,000) and the United States (233 to 14,000) went into a tailspin in just two weeks. Germany (262 to 14,000) and France (285 to 11,000) nosedived in a mere 16 days. United Kingdom took a dozen days to find its 270 cases balloon to 3,200.

India crossed its 300-patient figure last Saturday.

India, on its part, is stretching itself thin to buck this trend. Trains have stopped running as India’s migrant poor, who work in cities and different states, are coming in hordes on platforms to return home. It’s Capital, Delhi, is now formally under curfew. Most states are shutting shops, entertainment malls, restaurants, metros etc. in cities to ensure people stay indoors. Only essential services like grocery and medicine shops are exempted.

All signs indicate that India is fearing the worst. Its health ministry held a press conference on Sunday to confess they are mostly using anti-viral drugs to combat the menace. “But then countries most developed, having the best of

scientific and medical infrastructure, haven’t been able to come to grips with it,” said the official rather sheepishly.

The preparation for the worst-case scenario is underwhelming. New labs are being taken into the fold but they add only 60 to the numbers which is battle-ready from the State’s side. Schools are being converted into quarantine-wards. Medical staff in the business of testing suspect cases is complaining of inadequate protection. India would lose the battle if its medical personnel take to heels. Then there would be no stopping the marauding virus.

A committed, aware citizenry is thus India’s best bet. And there could be no better man than Modi for the task as millions swear by him. His secretariat is holding meetings with honchos of other states to get real on the situation. States increasingly are offering money and free food to aid India’s poor, without a formal job and now shunned by the shops and householders who usually seek them out on a day-to-day basis.

Isolation seems to be the first and possibly best bet for the Indian state. Many of its citizens believe that the rising temperatures could stall its spread. Some hope Indians have the requisite immunity system within their frames, having grown up in less than perfect environment, to combat virus. Nobody knows for sure.

For the moment though the nation is on its Sunday-high. The recent heat generated on Kashmir or the recent Citizenship Act is doused. Families are rooting for neighbours they hadn’t noticed previously. Indian flags are being unfurled on balconies and roof-tops. There is celebration at the sight of empty streets—quite eerie, Orwellian, for this otherwise would signify the end of the world.

 

Trump backs Modi on damning headlines; Now it’s for latter to keep his end of bargain

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Donald Trump trusts Narendra Modi on issues which make damning headlines around the world. But he won’t be up on his feet till India delivers the trade balance he wants between the two countries.

Trump went away home after two days in India on Tuesday with a ringing approval of the country and “his friend” Modi. He is now looking for India to do its bit to satiate the obsession he is known for around the world—trade.

President George Bush had his neurosis on “war on terror”, Barack Obama on “climate change” but it’s trade for Trump who won’t be drawn, for instance, into Hong Kong as long as he could muscle out trade concessions from China. India shouldn’t expect anything different.

Trade though was on the backburner in the overall theme of Trump’s visit. It was all about a reception unlike “anyone had received anywhere in the world at any time of history,” as Trump mentioned more than once in his interaction with the press on Tuesday evening.

The press corps looked for that one quote which could put Modi in poor light. But it never came. Kashmir was an issue “which has been on for a long time.” Trump was willing to help his two friends—Pakistan’s president Imran Khan and India’s prime minister Modi—if they wished so but to suggest it was an offer of mediation or intervention would be a stretch of imagination.

India’s contentious new Citizenship Act, the reporters were informed, wasn’t even discussed between the two leaders who had met privately in the afternoon. Trump viewed the ongoing violence in the Capital as a matter India could handle.  Of course, religious reforms figured in the talk between them but Trump was mightily assured Modi’s India meant no harm to any religious group.  When a specific question on Muslims was raised, Trump mentioned Modi and his “powerful statement” that Indian Muslims have grown from 140 to 200 millions in a very short period of time.

All this must be music to Modi’s ears. But he would’ve to do his part on trade to keep Trump in similar humour.  The US president noted India had managed to bring down its trade surplus from $23 billion to $14 billion in a short period of time but he expected more. Trump hoped for a trade deal between the two nations by the end of year.

India’s trade advantage vis-à-vis US is miniscule, at least 20 times less than what China enjoys against the US at $345 billion.  Yet it’s an irritant in Trump’s eyes. In 2018, he imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium.  In April next year, India lost its spot in the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme of the United States. It affected India’s exports to the tune of $5.6 billion.

India responded with tariffs of its own on 28 imported items from the United States. It’s high tariff on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, retaliatory moves on farm and dairy products also didn’t go down well with Trump. India seeks to improve its bargaining position in the service industry, have more employment visas for its young and talented. For sure, this is not an exhaustive list of contentious trade issues but just a sample.

To be fair, Trump has been unambiguous about what he expects from the world on trade matters. His inaugural address as President in 2017 was littered with mentions of America’s “foolish” trade policies…which had redistributed its wealth across the entire world.”

The US president looked fresh and eager, up on his toes for the better part of an hour in the evening, fielding questions from the press corps. There was no sign he had as hectic a day as he had endured on Monday, hopping from city to city, and viewing India’s people, culture and monumental masterpieces from close quarters.

On Tuesday, he met India’s president and business tycoons, paid respect to India’s father of nation Mahatma Gandhi at his memorial and oversaw negotiations between the officials of the two countries. His better half and the First Lady Melania Trump at times accompanied him and at other times charted out her own engagement in a local school in the Capital. By late evening, the two had headed for home.

 

Decoding the anatomy of Indo-US ties: Friends yes, choir-boy no

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

India is refusing to be a choir-boy of the United States which is a dichotomy given the two nations have never been closer on economic and defence matters than now in their 73 years of diplomatic relations.

Most know that India won’t let United States or its sanctions come in between its ties with Russia or Iran with whom it shops its energy, strategic and security needs. Very few though are picking the blunt hints which India’s foreign minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar is dropping regularly on the doorsteps of United States and Europe, the geographical region we commonly denote as West.

Dr Jaishankar rounded up his presence in the 56th Munich Security Conference on Sunday by asking a US republican senator to keep off Kashmir and reminding the United Nations of its slipping credibility in the “Westlessness” of today’s world. He headed off to Brussels on Monday where he would agree to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s presence in the European Union (EU) Summit on March 13 only if the EU shelves its plan to entertain the anti-India resolution a few of its members have in mind on Kashmir. In between his team has thrown out an offer of mediation by the secretary-general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres on Kashmir.

A man who loves to shoot from the hip

This is perfectly in sync with Dr Jaishankar’s  no-nonsense diplomacy trajectory since he exchanged the life of a diplomat with one of a politician at the insistence of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi in May last. In next two months, India had rewired the state of Jammu and Kashmir and Dr Jaishankar has literally been shooting from the hip since.

In December last, Dr Jaishankar had rebuffed the US House of Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) who had wanted him to hold a unilateral meeting with lawmaker Pramila Jaypal by stating “I have no interest in meeting her.” Reason: Jaypal had tabled a resolution in the House of Representatives against India on Jammu and Kashmir. When the Capitol Hill wanted a Congressional hearing on Kashmir in October last, Dr Jaishankar used his channels to make sure that no less than 10 US Congressmen abstained from appearing in the hearing.

He had earlier held back no punches on the United Nations for keeping India out of the UN Security Council when in next 15 years it could be “the most populous country in the world…and the third largest economy…it affects the United Nations’ credibility.”

A world which is no longer bipolar

In Dr Jaishankar’s worldview, the post-1945 bipolar world and the post-1992 American world is no longer the norm. “Things change, nothing is engraved in stone. This world will be different, power will be more dispersed, there will be more actors,” he confided to a French daily last November. He also feels India and China have a common interest in re-balancing the world.

Dr Jaishankar is only taking cue from his boss Modi who once ticked off the US president Donald Trump in a joint media interaction session by stating India wouldn’t like third-party mediation on Kashmir.  Trump has alluded variations on “mediation/arbitration/interventions” on Kashmir at least seven times in as many months and India has never failed to ask the US to keep off Kashmir.

All this must not be music to American ears but then the US itself has a “America First” policy. The entire world is looking to protect its own interests as multilateralism is retreating. The United States has heard some plain-speaking, not just from Russia or Iran but also from its’ so-called close allies in Europe (France), Asia (the Philippines) and Middle East (Turkey, Saudi Arabia) in recent times.

Thus India and the US could have economic and defence ties which suit both; Narendra Modi and Donald Trump could serve each other a home audience by the ringside; cameras could keep whirring on the personal warmth between the two, but both go their own way when it comes to having equations with the rest of the world. At least India is letting the United States know to mind its’ own business even though the latter isn’t quite giving up its instincts of intrusion.

 

 

 

Modi’s churn of silence is taming the beast of protests

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi could well end up taming the beast which hogged the headlines and filled the streets for two months now in protest against a new Citizenship Act.

A seemingly innocuous Act which fast forwards the citizenship process for persecuted minorities of three neighbouring Islamic states of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh was dressed up as one against the Muslims by Modi’s detractors. The propaganda succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

It tapped on the raw anxiety of Indian Muslims who were fed the misinformation the Citizenship Act was the first step towards their disenfranchisement despite various official clarifications.

Political opponents upped the heat by passing resolutions in state assemblies run by them, such as Kerala and Punjab, even though constitutionally Citizenship is a matter which doesn’t fall under their jurisdiction and strictly is a preserve of the Centre.

The Siamese twins of mainstream Indian and Western media fished in the troubled waters with inflammatory headlines. The New York Times wondered if India is becoming a Hindu nation and BBC termed it an anti-Muslim law.

Various cities in the United States staged anti-Citizenship Act protests though there were hardly many Indians discernible in those rallies. A segment of European Union called for a stricture against the Modi government which was withdrawn at the last minute. From United Nations Human Rights office to US senate religious committee, all whipped up a storm.

An Indian Maidan in the making?

A tiny enclave in India’s Capital, Shaheen Bagh bore all the markings of a Maidan of Ukraine or a Tehrir Square of Egypt. It’s the shrine of protests, so to say, well into its eighth week, full of mural arts, revolutionary songs, media briefers, technological deftness to be passed off as spontaneous. It holds the torch to a revolution India never had. This was Modi’s gravest crisis in six years.

Modi has chosen to meet this mushroom of clouds overhead with a churn of silence. He kept his police in the barracks, used a light hand over provocations. People, including his supporters, wondered if he had lost control. Now it appears to be a part of a grand strategy. He always knew the contours of powers, both at home and abroad, at work against him. Now his followers, which are the majority in his country, have been made aware of the gravity. It could lead to consolidation and additions in millions among his supporters.

Rivals are now waking up to Modi’s grand game. They are urging protestors to withdraw and go back home. A leader who was so nuanced in handling Kashmir against international storm, couldn’t have been silent without a reason. They sense a turn in tide. Credible surveys reveal that Modi remains muscularly popular; far from being severely bruised as his opponents had bargained for in the present protests.

Modi’s measures can now be clearly deciphered. On the domestic front, his ministers are linking the protests to a machination by the arch-rivals Pakistan who, unable to whip up support for Kashmir in international arena, are now being linked to causing unrest within India, an insinuation which never fails to get the ire up of a billion-plus people.

Bilateral ties are all which matter

In the world beyond his borders, all that matters is bilateral ties. Modi is yet to hear a move from any of the major nations against the Citizenship Act. The European Union and US Senate and George Soros of the world could make as much noise as they want; the Western press could send its army of correspondents and cameraman to India’s Capital in droves, the  non-state players like NGOs could work its collective noise to a shrill but all of this would materially make no difference to Modi or India’s standing. As long as there are no sanctions; and the majority of his people are behind him, Modi can afford to sit back and let the forces against him play themselves out into a meaningless heap.

Important alignments in Modi’s favour are beginning to emerge. All parties in alliance with him are backing him to the hilt on the Citizenship Act. The Supreme Court is due to take a call on the petitions this month and it’s unlikely to go against the Act.  Shaheen Bagh protests are alienating the rest of the Capital as its causing traffic jams, affecting local business, and rendering schools and hospitals in the area virtually inoperable.

There are now also incriminating videos in public where the prime organizer of Shaheen Bagh was heard hatching plans for India’s northeastern states to secede from the mainland. It has raised the hackles of a nation which has already been severed of its eastern and western arms on the grounds of religion at the stroke of independence seven decades ago.

Politics is not a zero-sum game but Modi is set to harvest a bounty nobody had seen coming out of the present crisis.

 

 

Not just Pakistan, there is another country which makes India lose its cool

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

If there is one country besides Pakistan which draws hiss and roar from India, it is Turkey and a series of unprecedented measures by New Delhi in recent times lends credence to such a startling impression.

Not only India has put off a scheduled visit of its prime minister Narendra Modi, it has also shelved a mouth-watering Indian navy contract with a Turkish company. It has issued an advisory to Indian tourists to exercise “utmost caution” while touring Turkey and it mouthed fire when Istanbul put boots in northern Syria last month.

What’s wrong between the two countries which historically stood by each other in the past? It was Turkey which gave refuge to Indian clerics when colonialists Britain cracked down on India’s war of independence in 1857. A half century on, Mahatma Gandhi took up the Khilafat movement on behalf of the Ottoman Empire as it was being cut to pieces by the British in 1919. Turkey was one of the first nations to recognize India on its independence in 1947. Indeed, there are over 9,000 words which are common in the language of the two countries.

Fast forward to present times: Turkey was one of those rare nations who used the United Nations platform to internationalize the Kashmir issue this year. India hit back by snuggling up to leaders of Armenia, Cyprus and Greece which have long-standing border disputes with Turkey. The bilateral trade, which grew by one-third between 2016-2018, is reeling as the two bare teeth at each other. The chill befuddles the innocent for Turkey is a geographical marvel, straddling East and West and India is an economic candy which has the world lining up on its door. Both have ample reasons to find each other attractive.

The timeline of discord

The timeline of discord would show that it all began at the beginning of the Cold War when Turkey and Pakistan joined the Baghdad Pact, or CENTO (Central Treaty Organization), initiated by the United States and India assumed the leadership of newly-freed Colonial outposts, the Non-Aligned group, under the benign protection of Soviet Union. The wheels came off in due course with Turkey standing firmly behind Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir and thwarting India’s bid for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for a long time.

It would appear Turkey has given India a clutch of reasons to worry about, as a wounded deer would about encircling wolves. It all stems from president Recep Tayyip Erdogan endlessly gazing in the mirror and watching the heir of Ottomon Empire, the saviour of Muslim civilization, peer back at him. It makes him take up the causes from Palestine to Kashmir to Xinjiang, build mosques from Asia to Africa to Latin America and spend a fortune in restoring Ottoman heritage around the world.

India, hosting 200 million Muslims in its bosom – the third largest such concentration in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan – and is a natural target. Turkey thus takes up the Kashmir cause with gusto, openly siding with Jamaat-e-Islami, a Pakistan-based Islamic fundamentalist party, which has notorious Hizbul Mujahideen as its militant wing that causes unending cycle of violence and terror in Kashmir Valley.  No wonder Turkey is a cause célèbre among Kashmiri separatists such as Hurriyat and Erdogan’s victory in presidential elections last year led to huge celebrations in Kashmir.

Turkey plays host to extremist Indian Muslim preachers such as Zakir Naik who delivered a speech to an Islamist group, run by Erdogan’s son Bilal, in 2017. Naik had fled to Malaysia after his name cropped up after a ghastly terrorist attack in a Dhaka cafe in 2016 which left 29 dead. Modi has made a personal request to Malaysia for Naik’s extradition to India.

Turkey further runs the South Asia Strategic Research Centre (GASAM) with an aim to export Erdogan’s Islamist ideology to his audience of millions of Muslims in Pakistan and India. Erdogan thinks he has a headstart over arch-enemy Saudi Arabia on Indian Muslims: One, both Indian and Turkish Muslims are not Arabs; Two, both follow the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam which is different from Wahhabism, the forte of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia and Muslim leadership

Turkey doesn’t need much to woo Pakistan. It already has Pakistan eating out of its hand as it saves the latter from international sanctions such as FATF (Financial Action Task Force), gives a global platform for its Kashmir pitch and firms up its economy. That Pakistan is also the only Islamist country which is a nuclear power helps. Pakistan further pays its dues by siding with Turkey as the latter looks to take over leadership mantle from Saudi Arabia in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Turkey and Saudi Arabia of course are sworn rivals. It’s a rivalry steeped in history. It were the Ottoman Turks who engineered the fall of first Wahhabi empire in the 19th century. Ottomon Empire itself was dismantled, 100 years later. The Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, on his part, referred to Turkey as a triangle of evil, along with Iran and Islamic extremists. That Saudi Arabia is now a trusted and productive ally of India hasn’t served to dilute Turkey’s antagonism.

Thus India and Turkey have a long bridge to mend but both are kept apart by the rapids of toxicity which runs between them. Both have reasons to erect fences but not one motive to share the couch over a hot cup of coffee.

 

India’s border woes: A legacy of Colonialism, geography and Pakistan

(A reprint from NewsBred).

India is shouting from the rooftop it has made no transgressions across its eastern borders in neighbouring Nepal but it has made no difference to latter whose prime minister KP Oli  has joined his citizens who hit the streets in protest last week.

Nepal’s bitter political rivals, Nepal Communist Party and Nepali Congress, are united in anger and so are the students on the streets who are convinced India has swallowed the long-disputed Kalapani area in its latest map which it released in the wake of reconfiguration of Jammu & Kashmir state early this month.

India, meanwhile, has stressed it’s the same map and same boundaries it has depicted all along for over half a century now, including the other disputed territory of Susta in Nepal’s south which for the time being doesn’t get Nepal’s hackles up.

Blame it on geography’s changing moods and the toxicity of colonialism that India finds itself enmeshed in border disputes with not just Nepal but many others in its neighbourhood, including China.

Kalapani, and Susta are territories around Kali and Gandak rivers. After the Anglo-Gurkha War (1814-1816), Nepal and East India Company signed a treaty in March 1816. The two rivers drew the arbitrary borders between these two long-disputed sites. Territories right of Gandak river, including Susta, belonged to Nepal; those on the left were with India. Since then Gandak river has changed course: Now Susta is on the left of Gandak river and hence with India. As for Kalapani, British kept changing the source of Kali river which has led to rival claims of today.

China: Talks after talks

India’s border disputes with China are one of the most protracted ones in the world. Since the first border talks began in 1981 to the latest, the 22nd round, which is due later this year, solutions have eluded the two Asian giants who fight the legacy of British colonialism and are afraid to upset the domestic audience in a give-and-take eventuality.

The two countries share a 3,488-km long unresolved border but two, the Western and Eastern ones, are particularly contentious. China controls 37,000-square km sized Aksai Chin in the West, a virtually uninhabited high-altitude desert; India 84,000 square km-wide populated Arunachal Pradesh in the East. The two fought for a month in 1962 but since a peace deal was struck in 1993, dialogues have been preferred over violence.

Yet, no solution is in sight. Along vast stretches of the borders between the two, there is no mutually agreed Line of Actual Control (LAC). India follows the Johnson Line in the Western sector, proposed by the British in the 1860s, which allocates Aksai Chin to them. China asserts it never agreed to the Johnson Line and thus Aksai Chin is its own. Aksai Chin is between volatile Kashmir and China’s Xinjiang province which are seen troublesome to the two nations. Then there is MacMahon Line in Eastern sector, initiated in 1913-14 between China, India and Tibet which is disputed.

Fortunately, pragmatism has brought about Border Defence Cooperation Agreement between the two Asian giants. Soldiers patrol their territory but back off when brought face-to-face with each other. Quite often military commanders at the border share a bonhomie, exchange views and sort out local issues.

Pakistan: An intractable issue

The border dispute between India and Pakistan concern Kashmir and are on since their independence in 1947. Pakistan launched a tribal militia in Kashmir on independence and the ruler of Kashmir, Maharja Hari Singh, sought India’s assistance which put a condition on Kashmir first acceding to India. Having duly secured the accession, India airlifted its troops to Srinagar and by the time cease-fire was secured after a year, India controlled two-thirds of the Kashmir while the remaining one-third was possessed by Pakistan. The status-quo has prevailed despite three wars and as many peace agreements (Tashkent, Simla, Lahore) between the two neighbours.

Bangladesh: All quiet at borders

India and East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) became free from the British empire in 1947 but the two retained thousands of citizens in hundreds of enclaves in each other’s territory. These enclave dwellers lived without any rights or papers, virtually stateless and lacking basics in education, health and security. All this changed for the good when the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi signed a historic pact with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina in 2015. It allowed these thousands of stateless people an opportunity to choose either of the two countries as their own. Land was also swapped between the two nations. The border dispute between the two is settled for good.

Similarly, India had a small dispute with Sri Lanka over an uninhabited 235-acre island, Katchatheevu, which was satisfactorily solved after India formally gifted it to Sri Lanka in the 70s. India has extremely minor border issues with Myanmar and practically none with Bhutan.

The curse of colonialism has left India with border issues which are non-existent, say in a majority of Europe or even between United States and Canada even though the demarcating line between the two countries is a straight one. With strong governments in place, India and China could settle the mutual issues to a great deal. The one with Pakistan though is another matter.

 

 

 

 

Mr Imran Khan, this is why you can’t do much on Kashmir

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Pakistan is unlikely to keep up with its hostile words or action on Kashmir if the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meet in Paris on October 13-18 goes as planned.

Already in the “grey list” of the FATF, Pakistan could lose up to $10 billion and be economically devastated if it is “blacklisted” by the influential global body which primarily deals with countries that promote money laundering, drugs and terrorism and are a threat to global system.

Pakistan surely would need to tone done its rhetoric or any misadventure it might have planned on Kashmir, the focal point of Pakistan’s policy for decades, let its treated as a leper in international monetary system.

Pakistan needs three members of the 37-member FATF to avoid being blacklisted and its Prime Minister Imran Khan last week sought out the heads of Malaysia and Turkey to canvass support. China, which heads FATF, in any case is an all-weather friend. These three countries were the reason Pakistan avoided being “blacklisted” in June this year. The trio are likely to come again to Pakistan’s rescue in Paris.  

Pakistan though is unlikely to slip out of the “grey list” as it would require the support of 15 of 37 members of FATF which is too uphill a task. The United Nations General Assembly session last month saw it being isolated on the world stage with no significant world power, but for China, coming to Pakistan’s support.

The pressure is mounting by the hour on Pakistan as Asia-Pacific Joint Group (APJG), a FATF sub-group, held a review meeting with Pakistani officials in Bangkok in August on the issues of anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes. It found Pakistan to be in violation of as many as 21 of the 27-point action plan and placed it in the Enhanced Follow Up list. Of the 40 technical compliance parameters, Pakistan was non-compliant on 30 parameters. And, of the 11 efectiveness parameters, Pakstan was adjudged as “low” on 10. These finding would surely have a huge bearing on Pakistan’s fate in the FATF meeting in Paris in less than a fortnight’s time.

India, meanwhile, is on an overdrive to ensure that Pakistan is unable to escape the “noose” of FATF. The trio of prime minister Narendra Modi, foreign minister S. Jaishankar and national security advisor Ajit Doval have spent last few weeks in canvassing support from as many as 24 of the 37 members of the FATF.

While Modi sought out Belgium, France, US, UK, Italy, New Zealand and South Africa among others in the UN, Jaishankar held parleys with his counterparts from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, Turkey and Japan in New York. He also looked for support from the two regional organizations of the FATF, the Gulf Governing Council (GCC) and the European Commission (EC). Doval meanwhile is in Saudi Arabia mustering support from the oil kingdom which has shunned Pakistan in favour of India in recent months.

If Pakistan is “blacklisted” it could virtually be an outcast in the international financial system. Its banking system would be crippled and be it imports or exports, remittances or access to international lending order, would all be overwhelmed. It would have trouble securing loans as foreign financial institutions would be wary of dealing with Pakistan lest they fall foul of international violations on the issues of money laundering, drugs and terrorism. Foreign investors won’t be enamoured either.

It’s not the first time Pakistan finds itself in the “grey list” of FATF. It was first put under watch in 2008 and later between 2012-2015. Apparently, the deterrence hasn’t s worked. As India has pointed out, Pakistan is home to 130 UN-designated terrorists and 25 terrorists listed by the UN.

Pakistan though is not the only country in the “grey list” of FATF. The other countries in the last are Ethiopia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen.

Presently only two countries are in the “blacklist” of FATF—Iran and North Korea. Pakistan is close to joining the unenvied group of international order. If Pakistan is able to avoid being blacklisted, it would be a damning reflection on its benefactors–China, Malaysia and Turkey—as they would be seen in support of terrorism.

Pakistan, truth to tell, is today seen a breeding ground for terrorists and has done little to curb them. There has been no demonstrable action or persecution of globally-designated terrorists or terror networks. Its law enforcement agencies are yet to even begin investigating terror groups like Da’ish, Al-Qaeda, Jamaat-ud Dawa, Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Haqqani Network or persons who are affiliated with Taliban.  Terrorists such as Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed operate with impunity and protection from the state of Pakistan.

 

Iran feels let down by India and rightly so

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Iran has shown its hurt on India which has unilaterally stopped the import of its oil, unwilling to stand in the corner of the adversaries of the United States.

Ali Chegeni, Iranian Ambassador to India, didn’t mince his words in a press briefing in New Delhi on Tuesday, chiding India for succumbing to the “sanctions” of the United States.

The Donald Trump administration is going berserk in his attempt to destroy Iran, first pulling out of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) despite Iran being faithful to the deal and piling on with economic sanctions without approval from its allies or world community in the form of United Nations.

India hasn’t imported oil from Iran for months now and couched its action as “reduced” and not “stopped” to suit its independent image. But now that Iran has gone public, India has been shown as having been arm-twisted by the United States.

Fans of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi and his muscular foreign policy could feel cheated as a multi-polar world—against the unipolar bullying of United States—is nearer to being a reality.

Russia and China, hit by sanctions and trade wars, are now joined at hips and Iran is a vital clog in their drive to keep Middle East, even Eurasia, out of bounds for the United States. European Union (EU) has created INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) to keep trading with Iran without resorting to direct transfers of money between the two entities. India is seen as one final piece of jigsaw of the emerging multi-polar world which would signal the further unravelling of US’ hegemony.

To be sure, the United States is one hell of an economic power and throws its weight to bring nations under its heel. It’s the nerve centre of global economy. Be it goods or money; data or transportation, the world doesn’t move much without the express will of the United States.

The United States is the kingpin of globalization. It anchors International Monetary Fund (IMF). It controls over 50 per cent of the venture capital, all but 10 per cent of currency trade use its dollars.  Tech and finance doesn’t move without its dollars; it could cripple phone-operating systems of the world; it controls the fund-management assets. As The Economist puts it: “Across the panel, it’s normal to use a Visa card, invoice exports in dollars, sleep beside a device with a Qualcomm chip, watch Netflix and work for a firm that BlackRock invests in.”

If a firm is blacklisted, no bank would touch you with a barge pole and you are put outside the dollar payment system. There is a law in place which controls the foreign investment into Silicon Valley—if you fall foul, you could virtually say goodbye to transactions in semiconductors and software, a virtual ruination in today’s world.

Economy isn’t the imperative though which has guided India’s change of course vis-à-vis Iran. India needs to hedge its bets. That’s the demand of the geopolitics reality. It neither can annoy the chief actors of the drama nor it can afford to align itself with either of the two groups: United States vs the Russia-China combine.  If it snuggles up to the United States, it loses the strategic and military advantage of Russia. It provokes China to join hands with Pakistan and cause mayhem on its borders. If it slips into the arms of Russia-China, it must brace itself to the devastation which the United States could unleash, like the one they have in Hong Kong.

India thus follows the sensible policy of keeping its suitors interested. Both the United States and China need India. The United States in its existential mission to squeeze China and badly needs India. China wants to keep India dormant for the same reason. It can’t afford a naval configuration of United States-Japan-Australia-India to spike its waters.

India too needs to do a balancing act of its own. So it relents on South China Sea to ensure China doesn’t help Pakistan to the extent its borders are put under siege. It relents to United States’ demand on Iran to ensure its military purchases from Russia are unimpaired. It knows the mischief the United States is capable of.  India internally is in an ideological churn. And the United States is expert in fishing in troubled waters. Kashmir could so easily go horribly wrong.

I suspect Modi’s India, in its heart, is for a multi-polar world. United States doesn’t follow rules, it isn’t friends with anyone. All it wants is servility. Those who are independent—like Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, China, North Korea or Iran—face its wrath.  India is still some leagues away  before it could trust China completely and dump the United States for good. India is pivotal to Project Eurasia but can’t afford to annoy either of the two blocs. It’s a watchful tread by them.

It’s just not the United States: India has also made a choice in warming up to Saudi Arabia-Israel in the Middle East. They are Iran’s sworn enemies. By drawing close to the Gulf Muslim nations, India has left Pakistan sterile. Pakistan’s fervent appeal on religious lines to Muslim nations has drawn a very tepid response on Kashmir. Instead we have the situation where Modi is being accorded the highest civilian honour in UAE and Bahrain.  This comes in the backdrop of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Maldives conferring similar honours to him. It has isolated Pakistan on Kashmir.

Iran has shown it can’t wait for India interminably.  It doesn’t want to be a minor player in India’s international diplomatic games. It’s a perfectly legitimate response given how Iran and its’ proud people are waging a war for survival. Modi government though is in the thick of its own war with internal and external enemies.  One hopes, through the backdoor diplomatic channels,  India and Iran remain warm to each other. Till the time is ripe.

It’s good for the world.

 

Hold your horses, Kashmir still has unfinished business

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Kashmir was a game which the Centre played with political parties, Pakistan and the world. It was a bout without an end, round after round, with people never the coveted object.

Congress began it at India’s independence, decades passed, Nehru-Gandhis parleyed with Abdullahs and Muftis, pretty pictures all around, all like an exclusive club of democrats which kept people out of gate.

There were of course people within people, like Matryoshka dolls, some important some dispensable, like the Kashmiri Pandits, driven out of Valley without a story in our newspapers, without a word in our Parliament and state assemblies, worth not a glance by champions of “democracy” and “human rights.”

Such a set had dug their roots deep, seemingly controlling all levers of Indian state, a Pakistan and ISI away from Pakistan, often lauded by Hafiz Saeeds and Masood Azhars, ready to spill blood of tens of thousands of brave Indian soldiers, even as glasses were clinked in Pakistan embassy or global summits.

People in Kashmir were scared with the threat of the mainland; the one in mainland were made nervous by the implications of a nuclear war; newspapers, like the trumpet boys, blew “Aman ki Asha” score in the background; terror and goodwill two imposters who took turns on centrestage, every next appearance bigger and worse for the people on either side of the divide.

People in Kashmir Valley wallowed in squalor and dirt. There were no jobs to pick, only stones or AK-47; every round of bloodshed growing their hatred against the Indian army; every reality of no doctors, no dentist, no industry, no investment, no reservation, no provident fund, no private employer, no health, no power, no education, no sanitation was bludgeoned by the homilies of Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriat.  The only access to money came from bullets and bombs which were for free. Even throwing stones were worth two bucks of hundred rupees. The only language left was – you get us or we certainly would.

In two decades, by 2047, it would’ve been 100 years to the Kashmir problem. Imperial forces was too eager to fish in the troubled waters, brought its weight to bear on India’s West and East shoulders; all the while paralyzing us from taking any action.  They danced in symphony with India’s power-brokers who dressed up in different garbs of politicians and historians; media and academicians; think-tanks and activists. Self-promotion mattered; not people protection.

Kashmir won’t go out of headlines in a hurry. A few implications could only be guessed: Pakistan which has nurtured the terror monster for decades wouldn’t abandon it overnight. The state is run by its army which is the father of modern terrorism. It’s a bargaining chip they won’t surrender at a drop. If bombs can’t go off in the Valley, limbs could be strewn around in the rest of India. Our newspapers would work overtime to link every terrible incident with the fateful decision of August 5, 2019. (Don’t you know already with the lynching and Jai Shree Ram how narratives are spun).

You won’t read many positive stories on Kashmir.  Even as lives are bound to improve with the avowed promise of Amit Shah—“give us five years and see for yourself”—only blood and gore would accompany your morning tea with newspapers.  Kashmir would be made to appear a Palestine, East Timor or South Sudan. If anything, BJP would need a Kashmir wing in its information and broadcasting ministry to neutralize such bugs in the room.

It’s also not too early to say the duo of Modi-Shah would be most admired children of India’s political history.  As if Sardar Patel again took the human form in this duo to fulfill his unfinished work towards One India. Mahrana Pratap and Chattrapati Shivaji were valiant but these two are victorious. For all his virtues, Mahatma Gandhi ironically laid the basis of Partition with his morals which only served to appease. Pt Nehru’s spirit would also be at peace in grave now that it’s historical blunder is straightened out. It’s an India with eye on future and a baton in hand for inimical forces within and without.

 

 

 

A HISTORY OF INDIA AS IT HAPPENED: Not as it has been written

Most now know that the Indian history we read is fabricated. It’s been a handiwork of Nehruvian academicians and Marxist scholars who fear the revival of Hinduism in a largely Hindu country. A nation without identity is easier to manipulate and confuse than the one conscious of its identity. Hinduism is older to Islam and Christianity by thousands of years but it’s in the interest of both monotheist religions to obliterate the only Pagan religion still going strong. Thus money pours in from foreign shores in the form of NGOs and aids to Masjids. Within India, not as much judiciary as media, do the damage. The goal is to keep India apart from its soul.

The revisionism of India’s history books has gained ground in recent decades. Among many such soldiers of truth is Francois Gautier, a foreign French journalist who loved India so much that he stayed put in this country since 1971.  Among his many books is “A History Of India As It Happened: Not as it has been written” which is in circulation for a few years now but is worth every second of yours.

The compass of the book is huge even though in terms of pages it doesn’t count more than 236 pages. It picks up threads from the very beginning to right up to the Narendra Modi era which suggests a rather fleeting, and not reflective, approach by the author though perfectly justified if the attempt is aimed at initiating the innocents to truth, and not lose them by a dense exposition.

Though the insight into our times is no less interesting—for instance Mother Teresa’s mission was to convert India to Christianity (Did she ever say a good thing about Hinduism?) – this review would restrict itself to four epochs of India’s history which has been mutilated by Nehruvian-Marxist forces.

INDIA IN PRE-ISLAMIC ERA

Surely this was the most glorious spell of India’s history much of which has been distorted, buried or mocked at as unscientific—we all are witness to the derision our newspapers reserve for Science Congress where our glorious past is elucidated. So let’s dive straightaway into it.

American mathematician A. Seindenberg has conclusively shown that the ancient Vedic mathematics, Sulbasturas, have inspired all the mathematic sciences of the antique world—from Babylonia to Egypt to Greece. Western world traces all its culture, heritage, philosophy etc to Greek world whose religion was definitely pagan and deeply inspired by Hindu practices.

Interestingly, till the 19th century, Europe acknowledged the supremacy of Hinduism as the fountain of all wisdom which shaped humanity. But once colonization gained roots and Christian missionaries spread far and wide, they couldn’t have accepted India as the land of eternal wisdom for their propagated mission was to civilize the barbarians. How could they admit that their very culture was derived from these savages? How could missionaries accept that their own religion was influenced by these very heathens?

The author presents various evidences that the study of India’s culture, history and philosophy was the flavour of Europe’s schools and universities till the 19th century.

Anquetil-Duperron had translated the Upanishads in 1801; Eugene Burnouf published in 1844 an “introduction to Indian Buddhism”; in Paris was created the first chair of Sanskrit. Famous writers and philosophers such as Edgar Quinet, Ernest Renan, Hippolyte Taine or Charles Renouvier were teaching Indian philosophy in academic institutions. The remarkable historian Michelet wrote: “From India comes a torrent of light, a river of Right and Reason.”

Famous Indianist Jean Herbert reminds us that “many centuries before us, India had devised most of the philosophical systems which Europe experienced with later…Egypt and Greece owe India their wisdom.”

German philosopher Frederich Shlegel said that “ India is not only at the origin of everything, she is superior in everything, intellectually, religiously or politically—and even the Greek heritage seems to pale in comparison.”

Friedrich Nietzsche said: “Budhism and Brahminism are a hundred times deeper and more objective than Christianity.”

But late in the 19thth century, Europe became “Helleno-Centric” (Greece-centred). As per French philosopher and journalist Roger-Pol Droit, it was philosopher Friedrich Hegel who sowed its seeds: “Hegel didn’t discover the Greeks; he created them and made up for them a destiny and thoughts which they didn’t always have.”

India suffered greatly at the resultant manipulation of history. Aryan Invasion Theory was one such fall-out. It was depicted that migrants/invaders from Central Asia pushed the local populace of north-west India to south and gave India its’ language and culture, including Vedas. That they moved in around 1500 BC which is a blatant lie: If Vedas were as recent then how come Saraswati river, which disappeared in 2200 BC, is mentioned 50 times in Rig Veda?

Since Harappan Civilization is said to be flourishing in 3100-1900 BC, Rig Veda must be in existence by 4000 BC. The author doesn’t hold himself back: “Aryan Invasion Theory was imposed upon the subcontinent by its colonizers and is today kept alive by Nehruvian historians.”

For example in the “Dictionary of Philosophers” there is no mention of Buddhist philosopher Asanga whose work is as important as those of Aristotle. None of Asanga’s books are in Europe’s libraries even as Nietzsche’s letters to his mother when he was only six are treated as intellectual marvels!

A few historical facts which we are not told are worth mentioning. For instance, Chandragupta, who founded the Maurya dynasty came from a low caste (so much for India’s “reprehensible” caste system). His administrative set-up was so efficient that it was later retained by Muslims and even English. In true Indian traditions, Chandragupta renounced the world during his last years and lived as an anchorite at the feet of the Jain saint Bhadrabhau in Shravanabelagola, near Mysore.

Most wouldn’t know that the Bhakti movement was developed in South India during the Pallavas; India’s influence extended to Mecca where Shiva’s black lingam was worshipped by the Arabians.

A few things Hindu critics need to bear in mind: Brahmins may have been the biggest in the caste system but they were poor and didn’t seize political power; “democracy” was long in vogue –even the great Ashoka was defeated in his power tussle with his Council and had to practically abdicate; Indian sculpture was unique for its complete sense of ego-very few of India’s sculptural masterpieces are signed for instance; Hindus always worshipped at non-Hindu places, such as Melngani, the Christian place of pilgrimage of South India; or some Sufi shrine in Kashmir or Rajasthan.

ISLAM AND THE MUSLIM INVASION

The massacres of local populace by Muslims in India are unparalleled in history, bigger than the holocaust.

Babur killed hundreds of thousands of Hindus and razed thousands of temples. His ultimate goal was the destruction and the enslaving of the  Hindus; Aurangzeb had the “satnamis of Alwar” massacred to the last one, leaving one entire region empty of human beings: Conquest of Afghanistan in 1000AD was followed by the wiping out of the entire Hindu population—or Hindu Kush (Slaughter of Hindus); Bahmani sultans in Central India made it a rule to kill 100,000 Hindus a year; In 1399, Teimur killed 100,000 Hindus in a single day (and an Indian Bollywood star still considers the name worthy of bestowing it on his son); the last Jihad against the Hindus was waged by the much glorified Tipu Sultan at the end of the 18th century.

As per renowned professor K.S. Lal, Hindu population declined by 80 million between 1000-1525AD.

And how Nehruvian and Marxists adherents view this barbarity?

This is Pt Jawaharlal Nehru: “Mahmud of Ghazni was in the first place a soldier and a brilliant soldier”. Amazing on a man who was proud of desecrating hundreds of temples and made it a duty to terrorize and humiliate pagans.

Historians Romila Thapar, Harbhans Mukhia and Bipin Chandra, once professors at the JNU, are also cited. Sample this from Thapar: “Aurganzeb’s supposed intolerance is little more than a hostile legend based on isolated acts…” Come on Thapar- How can one be so dishonest or so blind?

The author views the flight of Hindus from Kashmir; or of 26/11 in Mumbai as a reminder that the Mughal cry for the House of Islam in India is not over yet.

BRITISH COLONIZATION

Along with misinformation—for example, that India had a wretched education system when in Madras alone there were 125,000 medical institutes before the Whites came—England’s colonization inflicted a terrible toll on lives, industry and culture in India.

Industrially, the British strangled the local industries. They finished products, such as textiles, which had made India famous and a power in the world. Instead, they turned them towards jute, cotton, tea, oil seeds, which Britain needed as raw materials for their home industries.

Britain employed cheap labour for their enterprises and didn’t care for the perishing traditional artisans. And let’s also not forget how English exported Indian labour all over the world in their colonies—whether to Sri Lanka, Fiji, South Africa or to the West Indies.

The author also points out the conversion aims of Christian missionaries. For example, International School of Kodaikanal, under the guise of religious studies, still tries to convert its students, most of whom are Indians.

Accordig to British records one million Indians died of famine between 1800-25; 4 million between 1825-50: 5 million in 1850-1875; and 15 million by 1875-1900.

PRE-INDEPENDENCE ERA

The book hurtles along swiftly on the pre-independence era and make you chuckle under the breath. Till the 19th century, the Congress regarded British rule in India as “divine dispensation”; Quit India was not for India’s independence but because Gandhi refused to cooperate in the Second World War; For all his fight in South Africa, Gandhi achieved “second class citizenship” for the Indians; Islam’s political institutions were semi-barbaric; Sufism is a lift of Gnostics who lived in Persia and influenced by Vedanta; Nehru went for socialism when there was no class conflict in India.

The books asks some serious questions on Kashmir, and on a bigger scale on Islam.

Kashmir once was entirely made up of Hindus and Buddhists before they were converted by the invading Muslims six centuries ago. Even as recently as the advent of the 20th century, there were 25 per cent Hindus in the Kashmir valley. Today the last 350,000 Kashmiri Pandits are refugees in their own land. Author views it as a “much bigger ethnic cleansing than the one of Bosnian Muslims or the Albanians in Yugoslavia.”

There is reflection on so-called human rights violations in the Valley. “If India decides to keep Kashmir, it has to do so according to the rules set by the militants: violence, death and treachery are the order of the day. As for the possibility of referendum, the author foresees a situation where the likes of Farooq Abdullah and Ghulam Nabi Azad could come to power and then be “eliminated” by Jihads who would then hand over Kashmir to Pakistan. Not just Kashmir, but Punjab, Assam, Gorkhaland, Jharkhand and Tamil land all could go in the name of democracy and human rights.

As for Islam, why it’s mentioned as a Muslim-Hindu question when it’s plainly a Muslim obsession, their hatred of the Hindu pagans? The RSS and VHP have never killed anybody, never massacred anybody in the name of their God. It’s an irony that those Hindus whose ancestors were raped, slaved and killed are giving a cry on Islam’s behalf today after being converted to the religion. (Jinnah himself was a descendent of a Hindu, named Jinnahbhai).

There are some related questions too. Did Amnesty International, which question Indian state’s role in Kashmir, bother at all about the support given by the CIA to mujahiddins in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Do Pakistani or Bangladeshi bombers in Hyderabad or Mumbai could function with the help of India’s muslims?

Media is heavily censored. Hindus are killed in pogroms in Pakistan and Bangladesh (read Taslima Nasreen’s Lajja) but their deaths is not worth a tear; while Hindus are colonized, converted and killed, it’s they who are blamed and not those who did the heinous acts.

The final word must go Sri Aurobindo on Islam: “The Islamic culture hardly gave anything to the world which may be said to fundamental importance and typically its own Islamic culture was mainly borrowed from the others.”