(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
It’s the last time readers you would hear about it. So I want you to be serious. Ranjan Gogoi, former Chief Justice of India and now a member of the Rajya Sabha, has said that there is a “Lobby of Six” which controls our judiciary by maligning them. You could make it a fun exercise. Or if you are serious, reflect how our system is compromised.
Three names immediately spring to my mind as suspects: Prashant Bhushan, Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Singhvi. They opposed tooth and nail matters of national importance, such as Rafale, Ram Temple, Article 370, EVM, Loya judge case etc in varying degrees, individually or collectively. Remember the names who wanted an “impeachment” motion against then CJI Deepak Misra? A few judges too cross my mind for some strange verdicts. But I better not spell out my hunch.
( Or it could be that Gogoi might be hinting at a completely different set who work behind the scenes. So folks, send in your choice of “Lobby of Six” on my twitter or facebook handle. Let this issue hang in our public discourse. For your newspapers are unlikely to give it wind. They have already dug up trenches to bury Gogoi’s views. I would follow up this pieces with due credit to your credible hunches).
Gogoi says that this “Lobby of Six” took recourse to “maligning” to control judiciary. You only “malign” through propaganda. And propaganda is best managed by media. This is rather easy. I remember a piece I wrote when a “sexual harassment” case was popped up against Gogoi last year. Three websites with Leftist bent–The Wire, Scroll and Caravan—made a coordinated attack. They appeared hand-in-gloves with the forces who wanted to malign our judiciary. My piece then had tried to connect the dots. Read it and see if you agree with my deductions.
The Indian Express and The Hindu are two other national dailies which are more than suspects, in my humble opinion. The judges and advocates they have in their rosters as guest columnists/rent-a-byte individuals, all have a bent towards a particular ideology. Refer to the pages of these two newspapers when a “sexual impropriety” charge was made against Gogoi last April. Or the recent spate of articles they have had against Gogoi’s nomination in Rajya Sabha. That Gogoi has now chosen to speak to Times of India, and not Express and The Hindu, carries its own message. Or it could be that Express and the Hindu didn’t approach Gogoi in the first place. The latter is worse: for the gold-standard in journalism is to hear both sides of story. Don’t pronounce someone guilty unless you’ve heard him.
Be that as it may, do read Gogoi’s interview in Times of India. He makes some pertinent points which deserve to be a part of the collective memory of we the citizens who unfortunately are also readers of a few disgraceful newspapers. As per the supposed perks on being a Rajya Sabha member, Gogoi puts forth the same arguments I had questioned Left-Liberals on in recent days.
Gogoi says that Ayodhya was a unanimous verdict by a bench of five judges. So all other were compromised? Rafale too was a unanimous verdict. So the other sitting judges were also compromised? Isn’t it a slur on their integrity? Gogoi also took on his critics who said he practiced “sealed cover” jurisprudence. “Should I have made public details on Rafale”? Pakistan would’ve laughed its guts out. Why was this bunch silent when the judiciary asked for sealed cover report on “2G scam”. Or when now the Supreme Court has asked for “sealed cover” report on Shaheen Bagh?
Strong words. And a bit of humour from his ex-Lordship: “I never was, never am and never will be afraid of anyone’s opinion, except my wife.”
Hopefully, Gogoi’s interview would give teeth to “independent” voices within the judiciary. There is no reason to buckle down to this “Lobby of Six” or anyone else. You have nobody but your conscience to be answerable to.
(Post script: As to how our judiciary functions, listen to the voice of a fearless amongst us, legal hawk Vibhor Anand, who had penned for us a few pieces in the past).
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi could sense a long road ahead. He is under attack from all corners, both at home and abroad. From civil rights activists to media; from foreign parliaments to Congress; Presidents to Islamic leaders. All are baying for his blood. And have declared him enemy of Indian Muslims.
It of course is not true. There is nothing in Citizenship Act which is anti-Muslim. There is nothing in NPR which wasn’t there in its’ previous exercise in 2010. NRC, if it happens, is too far out. But what does Modi do? Should he allow the events to overtake him? Or should he follow the time-table his government has set for the exercise? Should he compromise or should he stay firm?
Let’s evaluate what Modi gains if he softens his stance. Let’s say he scraps Citizenship Act or puts it in abeyance. Would he gain the support of Indian Muslims? Would shameless Indian media applaud him on his statesmanship? Won’t we read headlines in Western press such as “Power of people foil a bigot dictator’s pogrom”? Would Iran and Turkey; Pakistan and Malaysia hail him? The answer is NO.
Let’s also evaluate the fallout at his own side of the fence. He could appear weak to his millions of his supporters and lose their support. He could hurt his “raj dharma” by which he professes all too often. He has often said powers would come and go but India remains. Should he be true to his oath to the “Constitution” to do what he believes is best for the Republic? For which he has been chosen by 1.30 billion people of this land?
Now let’s consider the eventuality in case Modi decides to stay firm on his decision. Let’s take the domestic and foreign fallout separately; though both in reality feed on each other. If Modi stays firm and presses ahead in the muddied waters, there could be: (a) More riots across the country; (b) Indian and Western Media would only intensify their anti-Modi coverage; (c) A few state governments could refuse to implement CAA; (d) Kashmir would burn now that winter is in retreat; (e) And even judiciary could buckle under and pass a stricture against him.
Again, what do you think Modi should do? Compromise or stay firm?
From above synopsis, it’s apparent that Compromise wouldn’t help him a wee bit. Or his government. Or India. Or Future governments. A weak Modi now would give a template to anti-India forces to pursue in years to come. Future leaders may also not have the energy, vision or selflessness of a Narendra Modi.
It would be a severe blow to Hindus who are in dire need to be in touch and in sync with their heritage of language (Sanskrit), culture and religion. A Hindu revival is what the world doesn’t want. A revival of Hindu ethos is what could save this world. A blow to it would only embolden the Islamist powers. Besides, history won’t judge Modi kindly if he succumbs to pressure. And what he would say as explanation???
Further, suppose the CAA and NPR throw up unaccounted for illegal migrants/infiltrators on our land. Could they be sleeper cells? Jihadists? Terrorists? Putting your and my life at risk? Would those who are championing “human rights” and “democracy” and “constitution” come to our help? In such an eventuality, who would we all end up blaming for?—Modi of course.
There is simply no going back, Mr Modi. People have given you mandate to run this country on their behalf for five years. Parliament has given you sanction. Supreme Court would judge you by the Constitution. Nothing else matters. States powers which put populism ahead of India, dismiss them. Jihadi Islamists, political leaders and their organizations who whip up Indian Muslims into arson and violence, book them. Media, which is unbridled and peddles fake news, suspend them. Western Media could take a walk. Don’t give a hoot to what a few foreign powers say. Ignore the garbage of a European Parliament or a United Nations Human Rights Council.
What would happen at the most? There might be a dozen more calibrated riots. A United States could slap you with sanctions (though it won’t as long as Trump is in power, hopefully till 2024). Military intervention is out of question against a serious nuclear power like us. Are you worrying about your reputation Mr Modi? Playing ball to anti-India forces wouldn’t spruce up your reputation. Indeed, it would break into splinters the hearts of millions of your followers.
You have four-plus years remaining in your second term. Use it with full conviction. Without fear of consequences. That’s what Bhagwad Gita says too. A weak Modi would lose all he has gained so far. It would hurt him, country and billion-plus Hindus. It won’t be the right homage to our suffering souls of a thousand years.
Ironically, a weak Modi at this stage won’t help the cause of Indian Muslims either. The anger of Hindus would bubble forth. The society at large could be prejudiced against Muslims. Muslims could be further ghettoized. They could also be expecting more entitlements. They could be further radicalized. It could be ripe for a ISIS or a Hizbul Mujahideen to make further inroads. Remove their fear by actions. Withdrawing CAA would only confirm their worst fears about you.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a disgrace and don’t take my words alone for it.
The United States withdrew from the body in 2018 stating it to be a “cesspool of political bias.” US secretary of state Mike Pompeo termed the council as a “protector of human rights abusers.” Nick Haley, the US envoy to the UN, termed it a “hypocritical body” that “makes a mockery of human rights.”
And this is not Donald Trump alone. The Bush Administration did likewise when the Council was created in 2006. The reasons cited were the same: The Council was ignoring same of world’s worst atrocities while showing its bias for a few on the religious lines.
Indeed, some of world’s worst terrorist-sponsoring nations and human rights violators have occupied the high seats of this Council. This Council would do nothing to pull up a Saudi Arabia or a Pakistan who treat women terribly. But talk of Israel and the Jewish nation has been censured no less than 68 times between 2006-2016. Sixty-eight times!!! And this is nearly half of all the resolutions the Council has adapted against countries in its existence till now.
The Counil, meanwhile, doesn’t bat an eyelid when the Palestinian Authority runs a “pay to slay” program which rewards those who indulge in bombing and terrorism; launch rockets and missiles at Israeli citizens from Gaza.
Do we need to remind the world how UNHRC ignores human violations in China or Cuba; Afghanistan or Congo? That there is death sentence for gays in Somalia and Sudan? That Mauritania allows slaves? That Qatar and Libya both enslave migrants? Or the tyranny which Maduro exerts in Venezuela? No prizes for guessing: All are members of the UNHRC.
Do you think this is an angst of a Hindu nationalist peeved at UNHRC’s resolution against India on Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)? Consider this:
Former United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, mentioned the Council so in his farewell speech in 2016: “Decades of political maneuverings have created a disproportionate volume of resolutions, reports and conferences criticizing Israel.”
What did the Council do when millions were being displaced and killed in Kyrgyzstan in inter-ethnic violence in 2010? It expressed “support and encouragement to Kyrgyzstan government for its efforts.” The Council spoke about “human rights violations” in Iran for a mere 171 seconds in 2015. The Council succumbed to the pressure of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in 2008 and qualified their “freedom of expression” charter with the caveat that it didn’t cover religious discrimination. Can you beat it!
The present Council is a makeover of Human Rights Commission which was scrapped in 2005 by an overwhelming vote of the UN General Assembly. This happened after decades of complaints and well-encapsulated by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan with these words: “The commission had been undermined by declining credibility and professionalism”. Autocrat states came together to block any scrutiny of their records. Libya, despite its poor human rights record, chaired the commission once. No action was initiated against Sudan despite its terrible excesses in 2004.
The new Council though was no different to its previous avatar. Many see it as a stain on United Nations. Its members continue to vote in bloc rather than address each issue separately. African group tends to vote as a bloc and so does OIC, as per a report by the Democracy Coalition Project. Their stands mostly reflect security and economic ties and worrying about human right abuses is farthest from their minds.
So when such a body makes a political stand in the garb of “human rights”, take it with a pinch of salt. It has an overwhelming bias against Jews–and you could now safely add Hindus to this list. This disgrace on world community would be shown its rightful place by the Indian Supreme Court in due course. Meanwhile mark those Jaichands and Mir Jafars who are rejoicing at the censure of UNHRC against the Modi regime. These scums care little for your country or human rights. Reserve only contempt for such garbage.
(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.
I have personal reasons to be elated with the 11-year-sentencing of the UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed in Lahore, Pakistan on Wednesday – though like most self-gratifying moments, I could be guilty of undue haste.
I feel a sense of lightness at the sentencing of a monster terrorist who masterminded the 26/11 attack in Mumbai in 2008, in which 166 innocent people were gunned down, including a very dear fellow journalist with whom I shared the newsroom at the English daily Times of India in the 1990s.
Though the sentence is too little, too late – and could still mean nothing in the days to come – Hafiz Saeed is the face of evil to me. Saeed’s men pumped bullets into my colleague and friend, Sabina Saikia, pulling her from below the bed where the terrified girl had hidden at the staccato sounds of machine guns outside her room in the iconic Taj Hotel of India’s commercial capital.
A nightmare that continues
The fateful evening was November 26, 2008, and I had long since left the Times of India. Now, I was busy marshalling the news desk of a national TV channel as the dreaded attack unfolded. I had no idea Sabina was in Mumbai to attend a wedding for a day and that she had checked in to the very hotel which had been watched for months by terrorists from across the border in Pakistan.
It would be four days before we knew who and how many people were murdered, as the killers holed themselves up in the ocean-front hotel before India’s security forces managed to neutralize them following dozens of hours of gun battles, watched 24/7 on television by a stunned nation.
Sabina’s was no ordinary casualty. She was the Czarina of Food, whose reviews in India’s best-selling English daily made or marred a restaurant’s reputation. She had dabbled in various news ‘beats,’ including crime and investigation, but found her seat at the high table of journalism as a food critic. There she had stayed put until those bullets took her life.
Anniversary after anniversary passed. I kept a tab on mastermind Hafiz Saeed, who was the co-founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist group which had received its initial funding from none other than Osama bin Laden. This is the same Islamist group which was accused of an attack on India’s Parliament in 2001 – as well as the Pulwama suicide attack which killed more than 40 Indian soldiers in 2019, merely four months after Saeed was arrested for terror-financing.
All these years, Saeed was evil personified for many Indians. India knocked on the doors of global powers to have Saeed and his terror group sanctioned and watched in horror as the bearded, portly terrorist was arrested and released on more than one occasion by the Police-Judiciary interplay in Pakistan. India’s attempts to secure his extradition remained unanswered. The United States, since then, declared LeT responsible for the 26/11 Mumbai attack and announced a bounty of $10 million on Saeed’s head.
Breakthrough or strategic move?
At face value, Pakistan has cracked the whip on terrorism – the first condition for India to resume dialogue with its neighbor and arch rival. Logically, this should lower the tensions between the two nations, particularly strained after India revoked the autonomous status of the Jammu & Kashmir state last August. Saeed, in particular, was India’s nemesis in Kashmir Valley and has long-vowed to prise it out of India’s grasp.
But India is not too optimistic yet. It knows Pakistan has a critical meeting with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Paris this weekend, which could ‘blacklist’ it for insufficient action to keep a check on funding to terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba. In that light, the country’s sentencing of the 70-year-old Saeed could just be strategic.
If it is blacklisted, Pakistan could lose up to $10 billion and be economically devastated. It would be an outcast in the international financial system. Its banking system would be crippled, remittances or access to international lending would be denied and foreign investors would keep the nation at arm’s length.
The last on Saeed has not been heard yet. But his sentencing is a balm, nevertheless, for the wounded soul in me.
(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.
(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).
(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.
(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.
(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.