Pakistan

Troubled skies: United States’ Iraqi misadventure puts India on guard against rogue drones

(This is reprint from NewsBred).

India is scrambling to put its sky safe after the United States breached the sovereignty of its own “friend” Iraq in carrying out an illegal drone attack which killed, among others, Iran’s top military commander General Qassem Soleimani early this fortnight.

New Delhi already has a regulatory policy in place for the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and their remote pilots who require prior permission to be on Indian skies but it’s no safeguard if a foe (Pakistan) or a perceived friend (the United States) comes hissing from the above and starts raining mayhem.

India had begun to put its drone policy in place after Pakistan was caught out dropping a cache of arms in Punjab last September but it’s the United States, with its brazen disregard for international norms, as well as its murderous drone background, which has had a chilling effect in India’s strategic boardrooms.

General Soleimani’s was a cold-blooded assassination but the United States makes no distinction between its enemies and friends, or civilians, as its drone attacks in seven countries—Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen—bear the imprint of its rogue streak. It has a cooperative security relationship in place with Iraq yet it breached what was termed as “outrageous breach of Iraqi sovereignty” by the Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in the wake of General Soleimani killing.

US and its’ sordid drone history

In September last, a US drone strike in Afghanistan snuffed the life out of 30 civilian farm-workers and estimates of similar innocent deaths hover around 1000-2000 in numbers. The exact count is difficult to verify since the United States no longer releases the annual reports on the civilians its airstrikes kill. The allocation on drones in its annual budget though had spiralled to nearly $7 billion in 2018 and conveys the increasing importance of this unmanned weapon in the United States’ aggressive military designs.

Now, in the wake of General Soleimani’s kiiling, India’s army has asked the home ministry for the latest drone-disabling technology which could cut radio frequency and disable GPS. The future of warfare, if its’ already not upon us, would’ve drones mutating into swarms like one of bees or locusts and shooting them down would be near impossible. These swarms could swamp enemy sensors with their sheer numbers. Neutralizing them digitally makes better common sense.

India takes no prisoners

India is thus taking no prisoners as it has decided to expedite a “National Counter Rogue Drone Guidelines” which works out the measures to protect its leaders and vital installations from drone attacks. It had deployed drones to monitor the protests on its streets last month. Drone-strategy is part of Indian military’s ambitious plans to spend $250 billion until 2025 to keep itself battle-primed.

Much before the drone-induced heightened tensions of present times, Indian Air Force had shown no interest in buying drones from the United States. It had found the offer on 10 armed Predator or Avenger drones too prohibitive in costs last August. Besides, the low speed of these drones would’ve been of no use, say in the surgical strikes in Balakot which India carried out last year. It’s slow movement would’ve afforded enough time to the enemy to launch counter measures. Indian navy though is in line to buy a few 10 Sea Guardian drones from the United States for maritime surveillance in near future.

Pakistan, meanwhile, continues to be India’s palpable concern. Once winter gives way to summer and snow thaws in Kashmir, India is wary of Pakistan finding new ways to foment trouble in the Kashmir Valley.  There are intelligence inputs of terrorists readying themselves from across the border post-winter.  Pakistan-based terrorists have made air-space violations through drones in the past. There could be fresh attempts to air-drop funds, drugs and arms for their embedded sleeper-cells in the country. India, simply, can’t afford to take its eyes off either its friends or enemies.

(This story first appeared in rt.com).

 

 

 

“Bloodiest story of human history” and its long shadow on a resurgent India

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Never since the bloodbath of the Partition in 1947 which cost two million lives have Muslims and Hindus been so disenchanted with each other as of now and understanding its complexity could steer clear a resurgent India from becoming a prisoner of its past.

Rioters have taken to streets, cost lives and burnt public property worth millions since the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed by the Parliament in the closing days of 2019. Despite Indian prime minister Narendra Modi putting all doubts to rest with a rousing speech to a mammoth crowd in the Capital, there has been no letting up on the angst on either side.

The Act in essence eases up the citizenship process for the persecuted religious minority, including Hindus, in three Islamic republics of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan but its opponents want Muslims covered too even though they are not in minority in these countries and there are other avenues for them to gain Indian citizenship.

First students of a few Muslim educational institutions and then the rioters have made violent headlines and now supporters of the Citizenship Act are filling up the streets, albeit peacefully, but there is little mistaking that Muslims and Hindus are standing on the two sides of the great divide.

“Bloodiest story of human history”

Hindus historically resent almost a millennium-long persecution (8th to 18th century) at the hands of Muslim invaders who forged empires and inflicted what historian Will Durant described as the “bloodiest story of human history.” The wounds festered further when India was amputated of its western and eastern parts on the call of Muslim leaders on religious grounds by the departing British in 1947. The newly-formed Pakistan since then has forced India into four wars and supplied terrorists to turn Kashmir into a killing field. That scores of riots between the two since independence has claimed more than 10,000 lives has only bloodied the nation’s fabric.

Hindus further simmer that the Congress party, which ruled most in independent India, has “appeased” Muslims with funds and doles, created a minority affairs ministry with a separate budget and yet championed “secularism” from the rooftop. Muslims have control on their religious and educational institutions but the same is denied to Hindus. Hindus fear that such “appeasement” could cause another break-up of India like it did at the independence.

Muslims, on their part, largely detest the rise of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which Hindus view as essentially one of its own.  The party is in its second term with full majority under a hugely popular prime minister Narendra Modi who arguably has done more for Indian Muslims than Congress. Yet a series of events, such as overturning of triple talaqs (instant divorce), abrogation of special rights to Jammu and Kashmir and the favourable judicial verdict for a temple for Hindus’ deity Lord Rama in Ayodhya, has made sizeable number of Muslims long-faced.

A doctored Liberal narrative

The Liberal discourse, which controls the narrative, has largely tried to whitewash India’s violent experience with Islam and tried to present a composite Hindu-Muslim history though the truth is the great tradition of India’s ascetics and saints never caught the fancy of Muslim hearts. Nor India’s rich philosophy mattered to Muslim invaders but for a handful of notable exceptions.

Indian and Muslim literatures have largely run a parallel course. Pre-Muslim Indian history or Hindu heroes find no mention in Muslim annals. Muslim rulers have largely been indifferent to India’s magnificent traditions of sculpture. Some synthesis in language and music, or architecture, has been spruced up as proof of harmony. But it’s a stretch of imagination. Oppressors have never been seen indigenous by natives anywhere in the world. For example, Thanksgiving Day carries completely different connotations for White Americans than it does for Red Indians. While one celebrates it as the day when Pilgrim Fathers stepped on to the American soil, the Red Indians view it as a day of mourning.

The present disquiet has reopened the old wounds. While it is true that Indian Muslims by and large are peaceful, as perhaps are their majority in the world, yet it only takes a few to cause upheavals around the globe and bring Islam’s violent historical past on to the centrestage. Muslims need a credible, constructive leadership, at least in India, which speaks up against entitlement, support moves which free up their women from hardliners, and backs the long-pending Constitutional demand of a Uniform Civil Code which could help get rid of a few regressive Sharia (Islamic) laws. Till a voice emerges from within for one people, one nation, the historical suspicion of two-nation theory, which gave birth to Pakistan, would remain fresh in the mind of Hindus.

Liberals ensure that anything that makes Muslims uncomfortable must be branded as “hate” or “Islamophobia.” This puts the reformation on back-burner. Till it’s encouraged, societies around the world would be convulsed into turmoil, be it in Europe or in India.

 

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 stares at failing Afghan policy

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

US Congress has now been front-loaded with a report on Afghanistan by its think-tank, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which is a double whammy for Indian policymakers.

The report talks of “fear of encirclement” in Pakistan over India’s commercial and diplomatic ties with the Afghan government which has led the Islamic nation, in retaliation, to patronize Taliban insurgents for decades now.

In reality, India is staring at a failed Afghan policy. It trusted United States to provide a strong democratic government in Afghanistan. Now United States is looking for a face-saving exit from the mountainous terrain and the Kabul government has never been weaker in years. The double blowback is the think-tank report which makes Pakistan, and not India, appear an aggrieved country which must be shored up with funds and arms.

All this is because Taliban is at its strongest in years. US had to woo it with a peace plan till recently even as Taliban ruled out ceasefire and the presence of Afghanistan government on the same table. Taliban peace-makers moved with ease in Beijing, Moscow and Tehran even though none of the three powers had a liking for Taliban.  This was pragmatic for Afghanistan today can’t be solved without Taliban.

A little background is in order: Taliban owes a great deal to Pakistan. Its muscle is in southern Afghanistan which shares a fluid border with Pakistan and thus a safe cover to insurgents. US counters Taliban with funds and arms to Afghan government. It does stop Taliban from gaining a decisive military victory in the absence of international forces which left Afghanistan in 2014. But it does little else for the stability of the Kabul government.

The trouble is India has burnt most of its bridges with Taliban.  In the 1990s, there was a brief window for diplomatic ties when Talibans were in power in Afghanistan. But then Talibans became “blood brothers” of Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment and India had to look for its succour in fledgling Afghanistan governments. Afghanistan is of critical importance to New Delhi as it opened door for Central Asia and Middle East, overcoming the physical barrier of Pakistan on its north-west frontiers.

Over the years, India’s stance on Taliban has only hardened. It’s wary of presence of Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) which moved to Afghanistan in 2015 and whose core belongs to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. (It’s another matter that Afghan government props up this organ of ISIS in the hope it would counter Taliban).  India fears that ISKP would always appeal to young Afghanis who have grown up on the killing fields of Afghanistan in the civil war of last two decades. One, there is not just Taliban but also Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbek insurgents in Afghanistan who need a rallying force. Two, Islamic State could use the base of Afghanistan for its revival and unleash terror in Kashmir.

Besides, India suffers from a fractured psyche in its long battle against terrorism. It knows Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) not only props up Taliban but also Haqqani Network which US has designated as a terrorist organization. Its deputy leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of its founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, was reportedly involved in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2008 which killed 58 people.

India was pleased when Trump called off peace talks with Taliban following two bomb attacks by the terrorist group that killed 10 civilians and an American soldier in September. Afghanistan government lost little time in announcing elections for September 28. Taliban struck back with two suicide bomb attacks within an hour of each other: the first one at an election rally of president Ashraf Ghani and the second near US Embassy for a combined death toll of 48 people. The turnout predictably was low: Only two million out of 10 million registered voters turned up at vote-casting booths.

Not that it helped clear the mist. The results weren’t declared on intended date of October 17 nor did it come about this week. The winner would now be known only on November 14. The election commission puts the delay due to a hacking attempt on its servers and tampering with its digital lock. Taliban, predictably, has made accusation of rigging and mismanagement.

Thus, as things stand, India finds itself trapped in Afghanistan. The Kabul government is tottering. It can’t survive without United States which in turn is waking up to a Vietnam-like situation, looking for a face-saving exit. On the other hand, walking towards Taliban is a minefield. India can’t make a “fight against terrorism” as bedrock of its foreign policy and yet extend a hand towards Taliban.  It’s Pakistan which seems to be holding all the aces for having backed the right horse in Taliban.  And yet, a US Congress think-tank is alerting the world of Pakistan fearing “encirclement” from India in Afghanistan. Indeed it’s India which has a lot to fear—and lose—in the unending saga of Afghanistan.

 

 

 

Hail India’s war against poverty but don’t overlook the dangers ahead

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Every coin has two sides but let’s first flip the one which is justifiably being feted across the globe: In mere 10 years, India has halved its poverty from 55 to 28 percent, i.e 369 out 640 million people are out of its vicious grip. The World Bank estimates that if India doesn’t lift its foot from the pedal, extreme poverty would belong to past in 2030.

Extreme poverty isn’t about the money you have in your pockets which incidentally is less than US$1.90 per day in monetary terms. The global standards follow Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) which focuses on health, education and living standards and measures them through the 10 indicators of nutrition, child mortality, schooling years, school attendance, sanitation, cooking fuel, drinking water, electricity, housing and assets. Those who lack in one-third of these parameters are extremely poor.

 It’s no-brainer to most Indians to identify the areas in which India has managed giant leaps: 93% of India now has access to electricity; almost 100 percent houses now have household toilets; 94% have access to cooking gas and housing-for-all could be a reality by 2022. However nutrition (India’s in 100th out of 118 in Global Hunger Index); child mortality (at 1.2 million a year the highest in the world); education (one in six Indians is out of its bounds) and drinking water (100 million Indians have almost zero-access) are gaping holes and forces us to look at the other side of the coin.

Urban and rural divide for instance. An urban worker earns eight times an average of agriculture worker even though two-third of India’s 1.3 billion people live in its villages. This disparity partially explains why 34 farmers commit suicide per day in India. Indian farmers are smallest landholding class on the planet and can’t bargain in open market for their little produce. It tells us about the inequality in consumption and physical and social infrastructure. If forewarns us about the violence which is heaving below the urban-rural divide.

India’s political elites do paper it over with doles such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREG) programme which assures 100 days of guaranteed wages for unskilled manual labour. But what about the other 265 days? Why waste India’a incomparable human resources – every second Indian is less than 25 years—on digging wells and laying roads when they could be trained to use technology? Is there even a comparison between manual and skilled labour? What stops Indian farmers to adopt technology?

Gender and caste are two other areas which continue to hold India back. Jobs for women indeed have fallen off from a high of 36 percent in 2005 to 26 percent in 2018. Nearly 200 million women either don’t get paid or are in the unorganized sector. Poverty and restrictive social or family mores still keep them out of the basic education loop, forget about the digitized education which has overtaken the world.  

Muslims and Scheduled Tribes/Scheduled Castes continue to be India’s poorest living groups. Sure there is a huge reduction in their rates of poverty between 2006 and 2016, still every second person among Scheduled Tribe and every third among Muslims is poor. Admittedly, there is a reason for it since Muslims still prefer Madarasa (seminary) where religious initiation is the preferred mode to grounding in science and mathematics. Tribals face the issue of assimilation in mainstream India.

At a macro-level, 364 million Indians are still extremely poor, which is more than the population of United States. At a micro-scale, just four states—Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh—account for 196 million of these extremely poor. Some are as poor as Sierra Leone in Sub-Saharan Africa, like Alirajpur district in Madhya Pradesh, the poorest in India, where 77 per cent of people aren’t sure if they would live to see another day.

It’s not to deny India’s eye-catching gains in war against poverty. The average life-expectancy of an Indian has increased by 11 years since 1990. Still it remains one of the 10 poorest countries in the globe alongside Bangladesh, Peru, Vietnam, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Combodia, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Haiti. It’s a war which is not over till it’s over.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Importance of being Jaishankar: Only behind Modi-Shah duo

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Not Rajnath Singh. No Nitin Gadkari. India’s third most powerful minister in the present dispensation—besides the obvious duo of Modi-Shah—is Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, a career-diplomat turned foreign minister.

When the troublesome duo of China-Pakistan are breathing down India’s neck on its two flanks and Donald Trump is baring his fangs in United States, India is hot under its collar and Jaishankar has been put on the burning deck.

On the face of it, everything looks cool: India has had a serious of significant ticks in international arena, be it tacit approval on its Balakot strike or getting the world behind to outlaw dreaded terrorist Masood Azhar. Significant alliances have emerged in the Muslim world even as Israel is now a very strategic critical ally. Respect for Modi could only grow now that he has been re-elected with a stunning majority in 2019 General Elections.

But trouble is at the door with Donald Trump’s United States determined to punish India over its buying of S400 missiles defence system from Russia. Already, India has lost the tariff benefits which US accords to less-developed countries under the Generalised  System of Preferences (GSP). The Trump administration had held off only because the 2019 General Polls were on in India. But now that it’s over, the $5.6 billion export that India enjoyed against the United States in 2017, would no longer be possible.

Trump is equally determined against India’s buying of S400 missile-defence system from Russia and a spokesman for the US administration has made no bones about it. India was warned on Friday that if it bought $5 billion worth of S400 missiles from Russia, it would have serious repercussions in terms of defence deals with United States.

United States has a policy for the world where countries, howsoever friendly, would be slapped with sanctions if they fostered ties with their adversaries, in this case Russia. The policy is called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Iran is another prickly issue. Trump had given a waiver to India from November to May to buy crude oil from Iran despite the sanctions it has in place against the orthodox Shia nation. But any further extension is completely ruled out.

As reports emerged that India was looking at ways to beat around the sanctions and continue its oil imports from Iran, US has made its position clear: “There will be no more oil waivers granted.” This would push up India’s oil import bills as  Iran used to supply 10 per cent of India’s needs. If US withdraws from Afghanistan, Pakistan would acquire further muscle in its intervention in Kashmir.

India’s troubled borders on its east and west make both China and Pakistan as perpetual adversary and frictions are never far off.

Modi didn’t invite Pakistan in his oath ceremony this week and the latter responded by firing a nuclear-capable Chinese-designed intermediate-range ballistic missile to serve a warning. India too flexed its muscle when just before the 2019 polls, it launched a missile to “destruct” one of its own satellites, becoming only the fourth power after United States, Russia and China to shoot down an object in space.

It’s clear that Jaishankar would’ve his hands full but if there is one person more competent with a better track record than the former foreign secretary, he or she is yet to be seen in India’s diplomatic circles. Over his long tenure, and significant stints in Russia, United States and China, among others, he has acquired a formidable network, his phonebook being the envy of most diplomats.

He was India’s foreign secretary till the last year and his understanding of India’s personnel or policy is unlikely to catch him unawares. He knows the system pretty well.

Jaishankar has worked around different governments but it’s under Modi that his stock has risen up. As India’s envoy to China, he first impressed the present Prime Minister when the latter was visiting China as Gujarat chief minister in 2011. He was there when Modi made his first “rockstar” visit to United States on his election to PM’s office in 2014. Modi promoted him as foreign secretary in 2015. His framework on foreign policy greatly helped his successor Vijay Gokhale as Doklam and Balakot occurred.

Jaishankar is known to be a very hard negotiator. Together with Modi and Amit Shah, he can cut through the government flab. The near future is tough for India but the nation can’t have better men than Modi-Shah-Jaishankar to steer its course. In Hindu pantheon of Gods the trinity of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (preserver) and Mahesh (destroyer) reign supreme. In Modi, Jaishankar and Amit Shah these are today’s political equivalent.

We can’t leave India to our politicians or professors

The smugness on Navjot Singh Sidhu’s face as if Messiah of peace between India and Pakistan, as he made way for Kartarpur across Wagah border, really got my goat up. Surely he knows Imran Khan is just a dummy; that terrorism both for Khalistan and Kashmir (or for Kabul) is our neighbour’s export, that for Vajpayee’s bus initiative we got Kargil. All this is not for India. This is to nurture his own constituency with an eye to be Punjab’s next chief minister. It would all suit Pakistan and Khalistan donors but not India.

But then why blame Sidhu? I read today Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that Mamata, Akhilesh, Mayawati and Left are ok but not Congress. Mamata, for whom Durga Puja is not a priority and who equates BJP with Taliban; Akhilesh who sees BJP as the biggest danger to democracy; Mayawati who terms Modi as anti-poor; Left’s Sitaram Yechury who calls Modi as the looter of India, are all okay now. All this might win Modi elections. But what about India? What about millions of Hindus who see a threat in these forces and view Modi as their saviour?

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are making overt gestures to be seen as essentially Hindus. They support the agitation against Supreme Court verdict on Sabrimala; have desisted in backing Sidhu on Kartarpur; Sonia sports a tilak (how ludicrous can it really get) in election rallies; and Rahul Gandhi shows his janau to everyone when none of his previous four generations ever wore it.  All this is for political dividends and certainly not India.

Shiv Sena are now agitated on Ram Mandir. Uddhav Thackeray and his army reached all the way to Ayodhya. Till recently, millions of workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, most of whom are Hindus, were anathema to them. Now they can go thousands of miles to support a long-cherished dream of Hindus. The idea is to cut the plank which could help BJP in 2019 elections. Did you really think it was for Hindus or India?

Once in a while we are suffused with hope. Arvind Kejriwal was once such in 2014. He evoked Gandhi; wore muffler and slippers and took on the high and mighty of this land. Now he cartwheels around Mamata and Mayawati. He has made sure if another Kejriwal emerges he would have no chance of gaining people’s affection.  

But then who thinks for India? The ones who bring their garbage in the name of newspapers to our verandahs; the police or judiciary who give a damn to our urgency; the bureaucracy who are nothing better than glorified clerks afraid to put signature to anything meaningful; the NGOs most of whom are forward soldiers of foreign funders or the academia who trade pen for cheques?

Do you think you and I care about India? We would crib about thousands of issues in our air-conditioned rooms but never take that one step towards an agency. What did you last do about the filth in your neighourhood? Or the menace of wild dogs who could mount a concerted attack if you step out in pitched darkness? What do we personally do to reduce pollution or energy-usage? The horror that our schools are for our children? Taught by teachers who equate education with their salary slips? When did we last visit a village where 80 per cent of India still lives?

Politicians, media, judiciary, policy, bureaucracy, civil society and we as individuals are all too many words and too little action. It can’t work; it won’t work. India is stretching itself thin. Almost 18 per cent of world’s humanity is sitting on a volcano of lies and manipulation. The righteous impotence of me right vs.you wrong; your religion vs. my religion; those charlatans who take past quotes out of context and plaster the edit pages; the newspapers who pass on socialites and film actresses as our new Plato and Socrates. Writers have a role if they are impartial and neutral and appeal to reason or logic. Not when it is sold to someone else’s good. As readers we must take the pen out of their hands and give them shovels to dig their own graves.

Indians now need to be real stakeholders if India is to survive. We need to look at issues both personal and impersonal though the line is often blurred.  Personal would involve making our politicians, judiciary, police, media, bureaucracy accountable. Impersonal would mean larger issues such as those of farmers, joblessness etc.. We need citizens’ charters who audit our institutions like accounting firms do to their clients. We need to force our way into decisions our politicians take or the decisions our judiciary delays—for all other reasons except to the benefit of a common man.  We need to show them our anger is no longer limited to our drawing rooms. Trust me, we the faceless would have the attention of thousands of eyes and cameras if we stop them at their gates and demand an answer. Our inertia is our weakness and the only strength they have.

India can go wrong any moment. It could be an ecological disaster or a hostile nuclear-armed neighbourhood. It could be the lava of a largely young nation which frustrated at lack of jobs or coma of our judiciary could bury us all under a thick carpet of violence and breakdown. We surely can’t leave it to our politicians and professors.

Yogendra Yadav hits a new low with his lies

Yogendra Yadav has the cultivated voice of an actor who is dressed up in a kurta-pyjama, made distinctive by his non-use of politicians’ whites. He was part of the troika with Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal before the once-mufflerman got rid of them. He has since formed Swaraj India, so anonymous it could challenge an IAS-aspirant in its quiz test.  News networks such as NDTV and India Today are the ones who keep him going. But for some elections, somewhere in India, at any time of the year, Yadav would go unnoticed on a busy street.

I do find him sometimes on The Wire and the Firstpost, slightly amused when he sings paeans in praise of Jignesh Mewani; and definitely irked when he distorts history to run down Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as he did in his edit-piece in the Hindu on Wednesday.

Yadav must be reading from the dubious books of Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib to suggest that since its inception in 1925, RSS has never been part of a national movement. Which national movement sir, the one where we didn’t seek complete independence from British but only sought dominion status? (truth to tell, India was still a dominion to British empire on August 15, 1947).

If Yadav remembers the year of RSS formation, he also ought to have told his readers that it came in the backdrop of Khilafat movement (1921-24) where Muslim leadership was appeased to the extent that Moplah rebellion occurred which butchered thousands of Hindus.

The slaughters were so macabre that this is what Madras High Court noted after the event: “…(these) murderous attack indicate something more than mere fanaticism…the only survivors were those who either got away or were left as dead.”

Yadav then does the cheap act of lampooning Veer Savarkar for seeking mercy from the British in the Cellular Jail of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and thereafter meekly follow the conditions imposed on him. Doesn’t Yadav know that only the most dangerous prisoners were kept in that “kaala paani” jail? That Savarkar, unlike Nehru who was given a bungalow with his choicest curtains and a garden in his jail-term, was a prisoner marked D (dangerous) and went through most unspeakable cruelties: flogged, manacled, made to eat gruel which was riddled with worms?

As for his mercy petitions, it is known to everyone but the fake history peddlers that Savarkar’s clemency pleas were a tactical ploy like Shivaji’s letter to Aurangzeb during his arrest in Agra as he didn’t want his life’s mission to end behind bars.

Yadav would like us to believe that Savarkar went quiet and obeyed British after he was released. In fact Savarkar spent 27 years in jail and under prison-restricts terms between 1910-1937. He helped found the Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha and worked ceaselessly against caste discrimination and untouchability in the years which Yadav terms as “quiet.”

Yadav has a problem with Savarkar and his Hidutva philosophy but wouldn’t tell readers that one of India’s tallest freedom fighter was a self-avowed atheist! He would not mention how Savarkar was wrongly implicated in Mahatma Gandhi’s murder.

Yadav then tars Shyama Prasad Mookerjee for “collaborating” with Britsh during 1942 Quit India stir which he terms as the “biggest anti-colonial uprising.” A view has lately gained ground that “Quit India” was as phoney as “non-cooperation” and “civil disobedience” movement, meant only to vent out the frustration of Indians. Quit India stir was a desperate attempt of Congress which had committed the grave error of resigning from its’ provincial governments in 1939.  Without a say in national politics, and with Muhammad Ali Jinnah and British in alliance, Congress whipped up Quit India just to stay relevant. As soon as it was launched, all of its leaders were put behind bars. Jinnah got a free field to pursue—and finally accomplish—his dream of a Pakistan.

As for RSS playing no role in 1942 Quit India movement, let Aruna Asaf Ali’s words debunk Yadav’s claim. Aruna Asaf Ali had revealed that RSS Delhi sangachalak Lala Hansraj Gupta had given her shelter in his own house during the 1942 Quit India. Prominent Congressmen like Achutrao Patwardhan, despite being a strong critic of RSS, and others were kept safe in swayamsewaks’ homes.  Be it food, safety or in illness, RSS stood like a wall in safeguarding Congress leaders.

Yadav has no qualms in besmirching the reputation of Mookerjee who saved Hindus by championing the cause of Bengal partition after the Muslim League government of Bengal butchered and raped thousands of Hindus in the Great Calcutta Killings of 1946. Mookerjee was the man who set up 5000 relief kitchens during the 1943 Great Bengal Famine of 1943.

Yadav then trains his guns on Nathuram Godse-RSS connection. He would never tell the readers that Godse left RSS because it considered the latter to be a “coward.” As per the Justice Jeevanlal Kapur-headed 1969 Government-appointed Commission report, not only RSS was not involved in Gandhi’s murder but “in Delhi also there is no evidence that RSS as such was indulging in violent activities as against Mahatma Gandhi or top Congress leaders.”

And this man has the gall to call RSS an anti-national. What do you think we should call you Mr Yadav?