(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
India would watch with concern a blood-pact in the making between China and Iran which could mean trouble both at home and abroad.
China put an agreement in place last month which would virtually turn Iran into a vessel state. Tehran is already in bed in wild anticipation, once its parliament approves the union.
The 18-page agreement, accessed by the New York Times, involves 100 projects worth a staggering $400 billion. China would get discounted oil for next 25 years and in exchange would pepper the Persia of old with subways, high-speed railways and airports. There would be free-trade zones in strategic locations, including two which would overlook the critical Persian Gulf (Abadan) and the Strait of Hormuz (Qeshm).
Iran plans to hand over Jask, a port just outside the Strait of Hormuz, to China which is the vantage point through which most of the world’s oil transits. India, which imports 84% of its oil, has reduced its dependence on Middle East in recent years but it still accounts for 65 per cent of its needs. Saudi Arabia and Iraq are two of its biggest oil suppliers from the Middle East.
China has a string of ports in Indian Ocean, such as Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Gwadar in Pakistan, and now soon in Jask, which puts New Delhi at unease on its energy and security needs, if China was to block the free seas and give these ports a military makeover.
It also messes up the Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman which India has helped build and now controls since 2018. India had soaring ambitions of turning this base into access to Central Asia and much of Eurasian landmass, through a mix of sea-land routes, not to say oil pipelines, bypassing the physical barrier of Pakistan on its north-western borders (see image).
Now India is hemmed in on its north and west flanks by two enemies and in between are the impassable Himalayas. It would be increasingly reliant on the military muscle of the United States for its freer access to seas upwards.
The United States would be no less alarmed by China’s move on Iran. It had sought-and controlled—the Middle East for decades since the World War II. Now its Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, could face China’s build-up. Its warships have regularly tangled with Iranian fleets in the busy sea lanes of the Persian Gulf.
The proposed deal also makes a nonsense of the United States sanctions against Iran under the Trump administration, which had brought Tehran on its knees with crippled oil supply and blocked access to world’s financial highways. China, it seems, has braced itself too for the US economic sanctions which are inevitable in the wake of this agreement and would intensify the trade or covert war between two of world’s biggest powers.
Iran needs to produce—and supply—at least 8.5 million barrels a day in order to be relevant in the energy sector. China seeks to import at least 10 million barrels a day for its energy needs. It imports 75 percent of its oil from foreign oilfields.
The agreement also outlines China’s plan to help Iran build its 5G telecommunications network, riding on its major player Huawei. The Trump administration has barred Huawei from the United States and India is set to do the same under prime minister Narendra Modi.
The Shia Factor
India’s ties with Iran have plummeted in recent months. The Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif had made inflammatory remarks on the CAA and on Delhi riots in February for which it was rebuked by the Modi government. India has the second highest number of Shias in the world after Iran. India’s Shias have been a moderating influence on a virulent Muslim section in India.
The document also outlines military cooperation, joint training, exercises and research besides intelligence sharing and manufacturing weapons. The military ties between China and Iran have only scaled up in recent years. The Chinese navy has participated in military exercises in Iranian waters at least three times since 2014.
Then there is the Russia factor. Moscow is India’s biggest defence importer but if asked to make a choice, it would look after China’s back than of India. It is India’s oldest and most reliable friend but the ties now are facing its litmus test. The clincher would be the supply of S400 missile system in 2021 which India is committed to buy and the United States is determined to prevent. It would be a make or break moment for India-Russia ties, at least in the immediate future.
The second Cold War is unfolding. In its first version, the United States and Soviet Union were ranged against each after World War II, in the battle-lines drawn by the NATO and the Warsaw Pact in the European theatre, their respective allies in the neighbourhood of Central-Latin America and Eastern Europe-Central Asia visible in plain view. The contours of the second Cold War is no less apparent. The United States and China are snarling at each other, with Indo-Pacific and the Middle East the two most likely flashpoints. The stand-alone moment for India is gone.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
I was seven when the United States sent its nuclear-powered Seventh Fleet to Bay of Bengal to scare India during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. Nearly half a century on, it’s making a similar growl, though financial in kind, to freeze India from buying the S-400 missile system from Russia. India, like in 1971, couldn’t care less.
The State Department has warned India of economic sanctions under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act ) if it went ahead with its buy which India’s military has eyed so longingly for so long. The US appears no wiser to the snub which New Delhi had delivered on secretary of state Mike Pompeo on the same matter six months ago.
The United States might think it’s indispensable enough to wag a finger at India but it’s no better than grand-standing by a fading superpower which thinks the world is still its oyster and its “friends” are no better than courtiers in attendance.
India doesn’t need to flip the history pages to know how the United States has stood down its friends over the centuries. From the day it was born in 1776 when it roped in and then dumped indigenous Delaware Indians in its war against the colonialist British, to the modern times when the likes of Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), Manual Noriega (Panama), Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Muammar Gadaffi etc come flashing to mind, used and then disposed of, the United States hasn’t been a long-abiding friend with anyone.
Sure, it has strategic Anglo-Saxon brotherhood with UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and Mexico is always secure but the United States, by temperament, prefers client-states or vassals. Further, there is no Soviet Union for them to over-extend themselves in pursuit of Global Liberal Order. It is now disengaging itself from the world theatre and be it NATO, Turkey, Japan, Israel or Saudi Arabia all feel abandoned by their big brother from time to time. Remember the drone attack on Aramco when Saudis looked for askance from the US and got nothing in return?
Indo-Pacific and the Great Game
Thus India not only has the historical precedent to judge how convenient the United States is as an ally but it also has the chutzpah to know of its own relevance in Indo-Pacific and the abiding interest it holds for the United States. Since 2016, Council on Foreign Relations which reflects the US foreign policy, rates India as one of the most important piece in its’ global jigsaw.
It’s not to say India doesn’t need the United States for its multiple needs, not the least for its secure borders. Its’ overall trade with the United States was worth $84 billion in 2018. It also has a defence logistics sharing pact –the Agreement on Reciprocal Logistics Support (ARLS)– with the United States.
But Russia and S-400 is another thing. India signed a $5 billion deal with Russia in 2018 to buy five systems of this missile whose capability has the NATO in thrall. India signed this deal last year even as the US sanctions against Russia were in place. The S-400 system can shoot four different missile types, forming a near impassable interlocking grid of missiles. These missiles can’t be electronically jammed and its’ range could take care of almost 40,000-feet-high threats in the air. It’s an invaluable buy.
Besides, India has for decades been buying its arsenal from Russia and the fresh buys thus don’t usually have the compatibility issues. Not only the US arms are more expensive, but it’s also not so willing to sell its advanced weapons to India as Russia is. Russia also is an important natural gas provider to India’s monstrous energy needs.
US and its Catch-22 dilemma
When the first system of S-400 is delivered to India this year—all are slated to be provided by 2024—it could be that the United States might enforce a few economic sanctions. After all, it did end India’s special trade privileges last year in a bid to force New Delhi’s hands in importing more goods. But it would be no better than a slap on the wrist. A hard measure could actually come back to bite the United States for it could halt its own major arms supplies to India, including prime weapons such as F-35 which it has been hard-selling to India for some time now.
Instead of threatening India from an assumed position of an indispensable ally, it would help the United States to work out the tariff dispute—a miffed US president Donald Trump calls India “tariff king”–and keep its Indian friends in good humour. India is too important to be sacrificed in haste, certainly not with the empty rhetoric of a ban in case the S-400 missile is acquired by India. The United States has no option but to keep the pretence of being an “ally” going with India.
(This first appeared as an OpEd in rt.com)
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) with 120-member countries is second only to the United Nations (UN) in size yet its’ two-day 18th Summit in Baku, Azerbaijan on Friday would be lucky to find front-page mention in your newspaper.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi would give it a miss again, like he did in Venezuela in 2016, and so would heads of a whole lot of other nations even though Hassan Rouhani (Iran), Sheikh Hasina (Bangladesh) and KP Sharma Oli (Nepal) as notable exceptions are making rounds in press releases.
It’s unlikely, anyway, that Baku would see more heads of states than eight viewed in Venezuela, down incidentally from 35 witnessed in a still previous edition in Iran in 2012. The NAM doesn’t have a formal constitution or a permanent secretariat, only a coordinating office adjacent to the UN in New York, and a formal media communiqué is all they have to declare to an indifferent world.
It wasn’t so when the world was freeing itself from colonialism in the aftermath of World War II in 1945, and few charismatic world leaders– Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru (India), Sukarno (Indonesia), Gemel Abdel Nasser (Egypt) and Josep Broz Tito (Yugoslavia)—rallied the new nations under the banner of the NAM to keep an equidistance from the two superpowers, United States and the Soviet Union. It was a Third World-grouping which didn’t lean either way in the dangerous nuclear-race of Cold War era.
The grouping ensured the vestiges of colonialism didn’t linger on long in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean through their activism in UN General Assembly which declared de-colonization as its main objective in 1960. They brought their weight to bear on the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty and later helped the superpowers to formulate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But the Cold War ended in 1989, the Soviet Union was no more soon, the Warsaw Pact was dissolved and apartheid in South Africa was dismantled. The NAM still defined its role through the prism of Third World nationalism. Western hegemony was still the elephant in the room.
All of it has changed with the rise of China: What was an ideological war has today become one for economics and geography. Many of the NAM members are economic basket cases of the West. As many as 40 of Africa’s 55 states, along with the African Union, have signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with Beijing in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build their ports and airports, highways and railways. Over 50 NAM countries figure prominently in the index of failed states.
You thus have a situation where support for Iran’s nuclear programme is voiced in the NAM’s summit but the same nations back economic-sanctions resolutions in the UN Security Council against Tehran. A host of Arab countries bristle with anger against Israel in the NAM conferences but lap up profitable military and economic ties with the Jewish country once outside the boardroom. From conservative Colombia to Leftist Venezuela; from pro-West Malaysia to socialist Cuba, all have hosted NAM conferences.
India which skillfully used Soviet Union to secure their veto in the UN Security Council on Goa and Jammu & Kashmir in the 50s and 60s and used the Western economic assistance to bail themselves out of a food crisis don’t see much value in NAM these days. S. Jaishankar, present foreign minister, had no qualm in declaring in Venezuela Summit that blocs and alliances are less relevant in international order, and the world is moving towards a “loosely arranged order.”
Still, India has embedded itself in nimble regional networks such as SAARC and BIMSTEC, multilaterial ties with ASEAN; is a respected dialogue partner of the European Union and a special invitee to the G-8 summits. It has a trilateral grouping with Russia and China; holds a quadrilateral security dialogue (QUAD) with the United States, Japan and Australia. There is then BRICS and SCO. It is thus easy to see why India is losing steam on the NAM.
In an ideal world, NAM could be an immense balancing bloc to lower the heat in the South China Sea. Lesser states in Asia-Pacific would pay a heavy price if US and China up the ante of their animosity. The NAM could restrain US and Russia; help China and India lower their suspicion of each other. There are still dime-a-dozen limited wars being fought around the world and the NAM, if it wants, could still be heard in the UN.
Unfortunately, the leaders of the NAM in its pomp, India, Egypt, Indonesia and Yugoslavia, bear little resemblance to the era of 50s. For good or worse, they have moved on. Without a credible helmsman, the NAM is nothing but a talking shop.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
(1945 was a tumultuous year in world history. Adolf Hitler committed suicide. Germany surrendered on May 8. Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9). USSR entered the Pacific War on August 10. The same day, Japan offered to surrender and finally capitulated on August 14. On August 16, Subhas Chandra Bose, head of the Indian National Army (INA) flew from Rangoon to Bangkok then to Saigon (Vietnam) for his final, fateful journey.
Amidst all the rumours, conspiracy theories and three Commissions looked to inquire into his death for over half a century, there is little doubt Bose died on August 18, 1945. On his 73rd death anniversary, we take the readers through Subhas Bose’ final hours in the words of Leonard A. Gordon, from his seminal work: “Brothers against the Raj.” The words in italics are compressed account, without taking the essence of narrative of Subhas’ Bose final journey. The sources of reference are at the end of the piece.)
Bose wanted to reach Manchuria and seek help from the advancing Soviet army. He went saying, “they are the only ones who will resist the British. My fate is with them. Japanese, who were now at war with Soviet Union, nevertheless agreed to help Bose meet their enemies. In Saigon, Bose learnt there was no special plane for him or his party. He was offered only two seats in the plane: he selected INA colonel Habibur Rehman to accompany him.
There was a problem about the luggage because the plane, a twin-engine heavy bomber of the 97-2 (Sally) type, was overloaded. They could not take all of Bose’ luggage. He discarded a good deal. Then two heavy suitcases, possibly filled with gold and jewellery, were brought on the plane, and, after Bose’s insistence, they were loaded on.
On board, besides Bose, and Shidei (a Japanese expert on the Soviets), were also several Japanese military and air staff officers, among them Lt. Col. Tadeo Sakai, a staff officer of the Burma Army; Lt. Col. Shito Nonogaki, an air staff officer; and Major Taro Kono, an air staff officer who was sitting behind the pilot and assisting him; and Major Ihaho Takahashi, a staff officer. The crew was in the front of the aircraft and the passengers were wedged in behind, some like Bose, with cushions, because there were no proper seats on this aircraft. The plane finally took off between 5.00 and 5.30 pm on August 17, 1945. Since they were so late in starting, the pilot decided to land for the night at Tourane, Vietnam, then start early the next morning.
Bose and the others spent the night at a hotel serving as an army hostel in Tourane. While they were resting, the pilot and Major Kono, who had noticed the difficulty in taking off at Saigon due to overloading, did their best to lighten the cargo. Major Kono later said they took off about 600 kilos of machine guns, ammunition and excess baggage (1).
The take-off from Tourane at about 5 am on August 18, 1945 was normal and they flew at about 12,000 feet. It was quite cold in the plane but the weather was favourable and they flew to Taipei (Taiwan). Major Kono has testified that they received information during the flight that the Russians had occupied Port Arthur, so it was essential for them to hurry on and reach Dairen (modern day Dalian in China) which was still under the Japanese before the Russians reached there too. The flight took six to seven hours and the landing was smooth. They stopped for lunch and Rahman changed into warmer clothes during the break. Bose, he said, laughed off the need for more appropriate clothing, but he handed him a sweater anyway.
At Taipei, Major Kono, the pilot, and ground personnel checked the engines and noticed some problem with the left one. There was some unusual vibration, but they did not know the source or what to do about it. The engine was adjusted and they hoped the problem was solved. Major Kono was also unhappy because even 600 kilos lighter than in Saigon, he still thought they were overloaded. Col. Nonogaki noticed the engine check and observed that Major Kono had discovered some problems. The former also heard Bose ask if they would again be flying as high as earlier. When the answer was positive, he put on the woolen sweater that Rahman had handed him. There was a tent set up near the air-strip and they ate lunch there. They had been told they would leave by 2 p.m.
The crew and passengers took their places as before and they were ready to go at about 2.30 p.m. As on previous take-offs, the heavy aircraft needed the full 1500 metres of the airstrip to negotiate the climb. Just as they left the ground—barely thirty meters up and near the edge of the airfield—there was a loud noise. Part of all of the left engine including the propeller had fallen off. The pilot could not control the aircraft. As the ground peered up at him faster and faster, he tried to switch off the engine. Major Kono seated behind him also tried; but failed. With an enormous crash, they hit the ground and thei airplane broke into two large parts. Within seconds there was a fire raging. Major Kono released a lock on the canopy, opened it, and slid out. As he was getting out, some gasoline splashed on him and he caught fire. Once on the ground, he rolled around and Col. Nonagaki helped him.
When the crash took place, Rahman, seated near Bose was momentarily knocked unconscious. This is what he told S.A. Ayer, a few weeks later, about what happened next:
“When I recovered consciousness..I realized that all the luggage had crashed on top of me and a fire had started in front of me. So exit by the rear was blocked by the packages and exit by the front was possible only through the fire. Netaji was injured in the head but he had struggled on his feet and was about to move in my direction to get away from the fire and to get out of the plane through the rear. But this was out of question…Then he tried to make his way through the nose of the plane which was already smashed and burning. With both his hands he fought his way through the fire…When the plane crashed, Netaji got a splash of petrol all over his cotton khaki and it caught fire when he struggled through the nose of the plane. So he stood with his clothes burning and himself making desperate efforts to unbuckle the belts of his bushcoat and round his waist. I dashed up to him and tried to help him remove the belts. My hands were burnt in the process. As I was fumbling with his belts I looked up and my heart nearly stopped when I saw his face, battered by iron and burnt by fire. A few minutes later he collapsed and lay on the ground of the Taihoku aerodrome (2).”
Major Kono, who was lying on the ground a short distance from the plane, and saw Bose on fire, described him as a “living Fudomyoo” a Japanese Buddhist temple guardian who is usually represented with “fierce visage…hair aflame, face contorted and weapons in hand (3).” According to the accounts of all the survivors, Bose was very badly burnt. The pilot and Gen. Shidei were killed on impact.
Dr. Yoshimi was told that he was “Chandra Bose” of whom he had heard, and that Rahman was the only other Indian. Upon arrival the doctor noticed that Bose was naked except for the blanket wrapped around him. He had third degree burns all over his body, but they were worst on his chest. His body “…had taken on a grayish colour like ash. Even his heart had burns. His face was swollen…his eyes were also swollen. He could see, but had difficulty in opening them. He was in his senses when was brought in…he was in high fever..the condition of his heart was also weak (4).” Dr. Yoshimi doubted that he would live.
Bose and Rahman were quickly taken to the treatment room and the doctor started to work on Bose who was much more critically injured. Dr. Yoshimi was assisted by Dr. Tsuruta. A disinfectant, Rivamol, was put over his body and then a white ointment was applied and bandages were applied. Dr. Yoshimi gave Bose four injections of Vita-camphor and two of Digitamine for his weakened heart. These were administered approximately every 30 minutes. Since his body had lost fluids quickly upon being burnt, he was also given Ringer solution intravenously. A third doctor, Dr. Ishii, gave him a blood transfusion. An orderly, Kazuto Mitsui, an army private, was in the room and several nurses were also assisting. Bose still had a clear head which Dr. Yoshimi found remarkable for one with such severe injuries. He was thirsty and asked for “meju”, which the Japanese interpreted as their word for water. The orderly brought him water. Might he have been asking for his mej-da (his elder and closest father-like brother, Sarat Bose).
What, if anything, did he say in these last hours? Private Mitsui says that Bose did talk briefly to Nakamura in English, but he himself only heard Bose ask for water. Rahman told Ayer that Bose told him shortly before he sank into unconsciousness: “Habib, my end is coming very soon. I have fought all my life for my country’s freedom, I am dying for my country’s freedom. Go and tell my countrymen to continue the fight for India’s freedom. India will be free, and before long (5). Mitsui also believes that Bose said something about India’s independence before he died.
Bose’ conditions worsened as the evening darkened. His heart grew weaker. Finally, between 9 and 10 pm, August 18,1945, Bose succumbed to his terrible burns.
Dr. Yoshimi filled out a death certificate and put the cause of death of “Chandra Bose” as “burns of third degree.” He says that the certificate was filled out in Japanese, was filed with the Municipal office. This certificate has not been located and most Japanese records for that period of Taiwanese history seem to have been destroyed. No photographs were taken of Bose at the end or just after his death. Some Japanese said this was not their custom. Then too, Bose had been completely bandaged except for eye slits.
Private Mitsui remembers that Dr. Yoshimi told the staff to try to preserve the body and “homoline” was injected. Cotton batting was used to close the body openings and the body was wrapped in a white kimono. The next day an army officer came for the body. Rahman had hoped to have the body removed to Singapore or Tokyo, but practical difficulties intervened. The coffin could not be shipped, even to Japan, at this moment when Japan was still carrying out the surrender terms and the American occupation had not yet officially begun. So the body was taken to the main Taipei crematorium and cremated. Rahman told Ayer that the cremation took place on August 20 and that the ashes were kept in an urn in the shrine attached to the hospital (6).
Subhas Bose was dead: his wife, his daughter, many of his relations, almost all the INA officers, and all the personnel with whom he worked have accepted his death, some later than others. His ashes—Gordon has given a detailed account—are now at a Buddhist temple, the Renkoji temple, in the Suginamiku quartet of Tokyo, in which Ramamurti, president of the Indian Independence League, lived. There a Buddhist priest conducted a ceremony around 18 September. About a hundred persons, mostly Indian but also including Col. Takakura, representing Imperial General Headquarters, attended. The ashes, in a small shrine area of the temple, have remained there till today.
(For Subhas Chandra Bose aficionado, there is a museum in his memory in Red Fort in the Capital which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi this year. The digitized museum is housed on the first floor of the Red Fort Barrack, the same place where Britishers tried INA soldiers).
- The details here are from interviews with Colonel Sakai, Major Kono, Col. Nonagaki by the author; and from Rahman’s account to Ayer in latter’s book : Witness, 111-14. Also Netaji Inquiry, 17, which also interviewed Rahman in addition to the surviving Japanese officers.
- Quoted in Ayer Witness, 112-13.
- Showa, vol.10,30
- The details are from interviews with Dr. Yashimi, Takajo Machi, Kyushu Island, Japan, August 1, 1979. Also see Netaji Inquiry, 27-30; TR Sareen, ed, Select Document on Indian National Army, Page 241-44 which reprinted Dr. Yoshimi interview.
- Ayer, Witness, Page 114.
- Ayer, Witness, 114; Harin Shah, Verdict, 106-113.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
On a day when every mainstream national daily has lauded the message of “peace and brotherhood” in the Shoba Yatra at Hauz Qazi to douse communal animosity, Indian Express has chosen to flare it up.
Times of India clapped the “peaceful procession”; Hindustan Times extolled Muslims in reinstalling temple idols and even The Hindu put “communal harmony on show” in its headline. But you read Indian Express and it seems they were at a different event than the one being covered.
Beginning with its headline – “On day 3 BJP MPs visit, VHP leader says: Can turn Hauz Qazi, Ballimaran into Ayodhya” – to its content, Indian Express has insinuated “saffron terror” in the form of massive Hindu turnout and speeches by a couple of insignificant entities. Still undone, they inserted a completely unrelated mention with these words: “The issue also figured on the latest cover of the RSS mouthpiece Organiser, with the headline #Temple Vandalism Perils of Minoritarianism.”
Every reader who has read Indian Express today (July 10, 2019) would carry the impression of Saffron intimidation. A reader would fear impending communal riots in an area where Hindus and Muslims have lived cheek-by-jowl for generations. A reader would interpret the presence of 3 BJP MPs as a tacit acquiescence by the party leadership.
And what could be the consequences? Hindus and Muslims gulping this poison within them, and not just in Hauz Qazi. A temple vandalized here; a mosque desecrated there, riots erupting; lives lost, police and security overcome by mobs, government in limbo and the unrest in India bringing in sharks from Western shores at the smell of blood in the pool.
Is this what Indian Express wants? Don’t they know that its 10 days to the horrible event and Hindus haven’t even picked up a stone? Aren’t they mindful that sensible Muslims of Hauz Qazi are coming out in droves to ensure no communal rupture erupts in the vicinity? Can’t they lend an ear to the temple priest who says “Today’s event (Shobha Yatra) was organized to stand up against such people (who desecrate a religious place.) We want to cohabit with all other communities.”
To be sure, newspapers seek different angle to make themselves distinct. Someone might choose to highlight Rahul Gandhi and his biggest win in 2019 polls from Wayanad, Kerala while others might find his ousting from family bastion Amethi, UP bigger news. Someone might droll over BJP’s remarkable Lok Sabha show in Karnataka; others might dwell on how Tamil Nadu and Kerala have shut the door on them in South.
But today’s Indian Express is not an interpretation. It’s insinuation. An insinuation, which could trigger something far more sinister. Which could affect our generation, our next generation, the unity of this country, the future of India. Another Partition; another horror; another vivisection.
This issue of vandalized temple is high on the mind of millions of Indians. What next? How would it play out? Am I in a safe neighbourhood? What do I do about my daughter who returns from college to our deserted lane late in the evening? Or my son who is back only when the dusk falls on the fields in Moradabad?
Those who want an “akhand bharat” (United India) want Hindus and Muslims to live in peace and amity. Those who want a “dismembered India” want Hindus and Muslims to tear themselves apart. Today, I see Indian Express standing with the latter. It would be difficult for them to convince me that their report wasn’t projecting the fear of fundamentalist Hindus—when the rest of mainstream media has lauded the restraint of Hindus.
Am I overreacting to a “small incident” in a “small lane” at the backdrop of a “minor incident”? Didn’t World War I begin only because a prince (Archduke Franz Ferdinand) was assassinated on the streets of Sarajevo; that a stray protest in Tunisia could herald “Arab Spring”; that Soviet Union would come apart only because Ronald Reagan, a continent apart, had made arms race too prohibitive; that a “Euromaidan movement” could bring down a Ukrainian government; that American revolution could begin because the elites had refused to pay taxes?
Its time Indian Express opens itself to scrutiny. The governments and the press bodies would have their own reasons to shrink from hauling them up. But they owe an answer to Indians and their country. Come out and debate this issue with me in an open forum. When the country’s future depends on Hindu-Muslim relations, Indian Express can’t seek warmth in the glow of, god forbid, torched homes and burning pyres.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
A tweet video is trending in which a Muslim is caught having just broken an idol of Hanuman and uttering that he did it in the name of the Allah.
We do not where and when it happened. We don’t know the name of the offender. We don’t know what happened to him thereafter.
Five years ago, when Modi had just ensconced himself in Centre, there was a recorded event of a Hanuman idol being attacked in Andheri (W) in Mumbai. As the news spread and devotees began to mass around the temple agitated, the possibility of an ugly turn to events was real. However police was able to persuade the seething crowd to cool off.
Last year a temple in Howrah in West Bengal was ransacked with portraits of Hindu gods and goddesses thrown in mud. If you click on this link, you would find various attacks on Hindu idols in temples in Pakistan, Bangladesh and even United States.
I am not writing this to contrast the outrage which Lutyens Media had shown three weeks ago when a skullcap of a Muslim was thrown on the ground and police had later contested that the victim might have actually kept the skullcap in his pocket. I am also not trying to whip up an outrage among Hindu majority. And I am certainly not trying to paint millions of Indian Muslims in a corner who I believe are largely peaceful.
My point is larger and the instance I quote is of Lebanon to show how stray incidents, if not checked, snowball into something monstrous.
On April 13, 1975, a few gunmen of a PLO (Palestine Liberation Organiztion) faction barged into the Church of Notre Dame de la Deliverance in East Beirut and opened fire on the VIPs present, killing four people.
It was a religious transgression and it began the civil war in Lebanon which lasted for 15 years (1975-1990). Around 120,000 people were killed. By 2012, approximately 76,000 people had been displaced within the country. There was also an exodus of over one million people.
It was a flashpoint and sure the genesis of it was building up over the years. At the turn of the century, Lebanon was a Christian-majority country. It was a model nation of liberal values. By 1950s, Lebanon had entered into its golden age. Politically stable, economy booking, excellent tourism, exemplary banks, envied even in Western world and termed as the Swiss of the Middle East. After Israel, it was the most prosperous country in the Middle East and this too without oil as its backbone.
It began to change when Lebanon opened its border to accept hundreds and thousands of Palestinians during 1948-1967 period, a stretch when Israel became a nation and fought wars with Arab nations. The Muslims’ demography in Lebanon was already booming: Having 10 children in family was a norm. With the influx from across the border, the demographic equation changed, religious battles for turfs became common and Civil War loomed. A flash point was all it needed to wreak havoc.
I am not getting into the debate about the role of demography, about Islam’s ideology of propagation of faith or its resort to violence to achieve its goal. My point is still larger and its’ something which liberal world could either choose to dismiss it as Islamophobia or gird up its lions to deal with it.
We all know that the adherents of Islam are 1.20 billion in the world. That majority of them are peaceful. That only 10-15 percent, or a few millions it is, who cause horror. But this number is enough to bring the liberal world to a staggering halt.
Weren’t Germans by and large peaceful before Adolf Hitler and his ethnic cleansing program dragged them into World War II and caused millions to die? Wasn’t Joseph Stalin a role model of a “reformed” Communism who caused tens of millions to die of starvation and hunger in Soviet Union? Do we need to tell what Mao Zedong did to millions of his men? Do we need a reminder what 19 wood-cutters did to our world by bringing down the towers of World Trade Center?
Would peaceful majority of muslims deny that there are hundreds of Sharia courts in England which were unthinkable a few decades ago and which run parallel to the laws of the land? Would they disagree that there are dozens of areas in France which have been declared “no-go zones” even by the police?
Closer home, weren’t Indian muslims largely peaceful yet the Partition occurred in 1947? In view of historical and present facts, would they revisit their empathy for Rohingya Muslims? Or, to rethink if the so-called state aggression on “innocent” Muslims in Jammu & Kashmir could have a contrary viewpoint? How now do they view the “tukde-tukde” gang? How do they view the growing presence of Islamic State (IS) in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Bengal? Do they have an opinion on Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute?
The crux is peaceful Indian Muslims need to stand up and be counted. At least those who are well-off and not struggling to meet their ends meet. They need to be angry on lynchings and be equally outraged on loses in the Hindu quarters. They need to find a leadership within which speaks for say, Kashmiri Pandits and condemn terrorism. The narrative of violent Islam needs a course correction and it must come from within the community. Or they would hand over the future of their own coming generations in the hands of a dreaded few.
As for Hindus, they need be aware of the danger of demography, the limits of secularism and the pitfalls of bookish “liberal” values. Not for nothing it’s said: Those who refuse to learn from history, are condemned to repeat it.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
It would be a hectic two days for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (June 13-14). The flight detour through Oman and Iran too wouldn’t have helped. Then there is this little matter of bilateral talks with at least five heads of states: Xi Jinping (China), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Hassan Rouhani (Iran), Ashraf Ghani (Afghanistan) and Sooronbay Jeenbekov (Kyrgyzstan) besides the actual SCO Summit.
Modi’s diplomacy in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) isn’t just about his time. It’s also about the long shadow of United States which would follow his every move and not just with China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran—all in US crosshair for one reason or the other. Modi has the image of a tough leader, engaging the world but never aligned to any particular bloc. Much of it would be tested by Friday.
Modi, of course, can’t overlook the probing audience of a billion and a half people in India and Pakistan. There would be photo-ops with Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan. Every nuance of arched eyebrows, warm or cold smile, firm or limp handshake, would be dissected in reams of papers. A hug though is as good as ruled out.
In many ways SCO would be about optics. Its’ stated goal is to fight against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism. But Pakistan would be spared this embarrassment. Our troublesome neighbour is making its debut in SCO since its formal induction in 2017—as is the case with India. This powerful Group of the East has had always China behind the wheels. Modi can enjoy the ride but can’t change the course. China is friends with Pakistan for nothing.
Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have chosen to embarrass each other on the eve of the 19th SCO Summit. India first sought a free airspace for Modi’s passage to Bishkek. However once it was granted, wisdom prevailed and Modi opted to decline the offer. Pakistan, or its propped-up separatists in Jammu & Kashmir, then killed 5 CRPF jawans in Anantnag on Wednesday. Be ready for some tough pictures from Bishkek.
It isn’t to say that SCO is without merit for India. US needs India for its Asia strategy and by appearing shoulder-to-shoulder with Putin and Xi, Modi would keep Donald Trump sober when the two meet in a fortnight’s time in Osaka for G20 Summit (June 28-29). Modi’s bilateral with Rouhani in Bishkek would further force Trump’s hands. That the host in Osaka would be Japan’s Shinzo Abe, who is outreaching to Iran later this week, is no little matter.
India also needs to have the right thermostat to keep matters with China from running too hot or too cold. Modi’s recent visit to Maldives must have prodded the wounds of China. Bishkek would be a good place to straighten out the ruffled feathers since the two leaders, Modi and XI, are slated for a summit in October, a la Wuhan style.
There is no gain denying India sees a friend in Russia. It was Russia which facilitated the entry of India into SCO which, to begin with, was primarily a Central Asia lobby that needed an axis after Soviet Union exploded in 1991. Modi and Putin aren’t taking any steps back on S400 missiles or their growing defence cooperation and Bishkek would afford the two leaders a moment to align themselves against the evil eye of US.
SCO is as good a moment as any to keep Afghanistan in India’s good books. The mountainous country could be fuming for having been not invited for Modi’s oath ceremony last month. Kabul is insecure for more than one reason—Taliban, fostered by Pakistan, is gaining international currency; and US is vowing a retreat of its armed forces. India has always been an all-weather friend and Bishkek couldn’t have come at a better time.
India also needs access to information and intelligence from the Tashkent-based RATS (Regional Anti Terror Structure). China’s push for Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) also can’t be allowed a free goal. India also can’t afford to be hemmed in by Pakistan and China on its two flanks. A global economy can’t be known as only a South Asian behemoth. India needs physical access over and above its northern borders into Eurasia and SCO affords an excellent opportunity. A rising India is critical to all big powers and it must keep all its suitors on tenterhooks. A stronger and more empowered Modi by his people would only help.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
For someone like United States which created terrorism in the 1990s that has destroyed the world– think about it: the wreckage of Yugoslavia, paid mercenaries to drive Soviet Union out of Afghanistan in the late 80s, the 9/11, the disastrous Iraq War, the nurturing of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS), the transportation of terrorism to our own Kashmir, the wreckage of Middle East where leaders like Muammar Gaddaffi and Saddam Hussein were thrown off only because they chose to be independent, the muscle which allowed Saudi Arabia to wreck Yemen, Egypt (Arab Spring), Ukraine, you name it—is being egged on by extensions of this “deep state”—your international news agencies and closer home their lackeys in Lutyens’ Media—to stay on in Afghanistan and Syria. Why? Because US presence–in their worldview of brainwashing citizenry of the world– is necessary to curb terrorism!!!
United States as a nation has lost thousands of its soldiers in this “pursuit” to end terrorism, which truth must be told is nothing but to benefit its Military-Industrial Complex—read it as “deep state”—that profits monstrously whenever chaos, anarchy, civil strifes and wars are lit by its own machinations around the world. The reconstruction of Iraq after Saddam Hussein is the costliest and biggest scam to have ever happened in human history. Their generation-long overstay in Afghanistan has institutionalized the smuggling of drugs around the world which passes the Gulf and in connivance with these desert kingdoms and Pakistan’s ISI, reaches long-forgotten Africa and destroys millions of youth either sides of Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Illegal drugs today is the third biggest trade in the world after oil and gas. You must doff off your hats to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for that. Don’t be deluded that the big cat called CIA is funded by the meagre funds of US Congress. It’s this illegal drugs trade which allows them the muscle to buy and destroy the world.
But trust our newspapers and news agencies to spin a completely different take on the issue. Ask them if you must that why they published with glee the pictures of Islamic State swords striking their handcuffed, face-covered victims on their front pages but reduced the news of disappearance of Islamic State, a few years down the line, as a snippet inside their news pages. Shouldn’t it have been a cause of celebration? The middle-pages spread? The distinguished edit-page writers? All those South-Pacific-Human Rights-blah-blah Foundations which plant expert pieces in our newspapers? And why we must not treat them as nothing better than extension of this “deep state”, funded and controlled by them.
The barbarity of Islamic State was perpetuated and highlighted to drive fear in the hearts of world citizenry and legitimatize the US-European NATO operations in the name of saving “liberty, freedom, democracy” of the free world. And who do you think were supplying Islamic State funds and arms by stealth? Who do you think were buying the oil that Islamic State sold from captured oil wells of Syria and Iraq? Every kid, each living soul in Middle East knows that Islamic State was put on run only after Putin’s Russia entered the fray and risked it’s all.
So when Donald Trump wants to put “United States First”—trying to haul out its thousands of military youth rotting in deserts, inhospitable conditions, facing disease trauma and death, conceding that these wars and occupations were never meant to liberate those people and lands but to feed the deep, insatiable pockets of its own military-industrial complex, and its allies, causing a financial ruin to the United States, all hell has broken lose. Newspapers are aghast: how could US abdicate its responsibility of policing the world and nailing terrorism? They wouldn’t tell you the answer if you asked them whether US involvement has increased or decreased terrorism in all these decades.
It is this delusion and sense of matrix which makes them deny the Brexit and emergence of Trump. Away from their propaganda, the faceless and powerless billions of this world are acutely aware they live in a world controlled by powerful monsters who rule even their own governments. These monsters wouldn’t mind if the world goes up in smoke – as long as the money keeps rolling in. It’s this faceless and powerless citizenry which has brought Trump to US Presidentship. It’s these faceless and powerless who punctured David Cameron and won the referendum on Brexit. Forces are at work to wreck both Trump and Brexit—like they are out to damage Modi, Putin and Xi – for they are shaping a world beyond this matrix of “deep state.” The saccharine calls for “Freedom, Liberty, Democracy” fools nobody in today’s connected world of social media.
Look at India’s English mainstream media of today. All are shedding copious tears and stoking fear that with US’ announcement of withdrawal from Syria and downsizing by half its forces in Afghanistan, India would be at peril from the horrors of terrorism. They won’t stop and question why US’ presence didn’t douse terrorism in the first instance over a generation. India would be just fine, as would be the world, if US doesn’t bestow itself with the role of interfering in the world in the name of “freedom and democracy.” And that too, without the sanctions of United Nations.
And now the twist. Do you really think the cat has caught too many mice and is willing to take a rest now? A long shot. Even as US has announced withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan, it’s quietly ramping up its military presence in Kuwait. A secretive massive military drill is underway in conjunction with its Siamese twin, Israel. It’s again on boil on Russia and North Korea. The more things change, they more they remain the same. But if knowledge is power, let it be your only defence against these ruinous powers.
Does Europe have a future?
The very question signifies a collective entity and in that sense, the answer is an emphatic NO.
The presumption that it also includes Russia and its borderlands—strictly Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan—was already a NO before the question was asked.
Physically, Russia and its borderlands are part of Europe but never considered such by Western Europe or for that matter United States. The subservient mass media ensured it remained the “other” Europe.
Know your Europe, folks.
But this official Europe—defined as a unit by European Union (EU) and Euro—is finished. You could have a chance to offer a formal digital condolence in years to come though within your heart you know its dead.
This seed of destruction was sown in the hubris following the demise of Soviet Union in the 1990s. Both US and Europe wanted to run the world. Their democracy, institutions, trade rules, all stood vindicated. This model needed replicating. They thus sowed the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.
This urge for prototypes led to the creation of European Union. Originally six countries had come together to produce and market steel and coal. But the Maastricht Treaty (1992) led to an overreach which now has 28 members in its fold. The creation of a single currency Euro followed before the 90s were out. The idea was to create a supranational entity with the vision of a political union somewhere in future.
This was the original mistake. European Union had been formed to ride over nationalism. But its new Eastern members had just been out of the Soviet Union umbrella. They wanted more of nationalism. Any decision could become victim of a single veto. Any progress was thus stalled from its very inception.
The EU bosses also hadn’t factored in the mood of citizens who could hold their governments in a bind. More than two-thirds of EU citizens were found by PEW Research Centre to distrust EU. Nearly 70 percent Europeans believed their voices didn’t count in EU.
Tigers and sheeps have an existential issue inside a wall. They never live in harmony, but for in Disney. Germany’s GDP is hundreds of times bigger than that of a Malta. Sweden and Latvia are no match. The hierarchy—and thus the distrust—became obvious. The notion of equality was shown the first door.
The creation of Euro was an original sin. It’s basis was the vision of a future political union–It wasn’t an economic decision by far. All the bosses wanted was a solid integration of history’s “bad boy” Germany into the fold. They also wanted to match dollar. But without political cohesion, it was a no-go from the start.
Ironically, the clever-by-half bosses felt a crisis could actually help forge the political union. They actually welcomed such a situation. Common banking and fiscal policies were thought to usher in a supra-central bank. They just believed a crisis would throw up a solution but had no idea what it could be.
Then came the 2008 financial meltdown. It’s been over seven years now. The deck is still on fire and attempt to douse it by papering over the Euro hasn’t worked. While they worked on saving the boat, a storm raged in not too far-away horizon of Middle East by way of wars and terrorism. Arab Springs, China, Russia, Syria all chipped away at the base. European capitals became unsafe, refugees came flooding in, paranoid and xenophobia bared its fangs.
The paralysis further eroded the confidence in Europe’s future. Germany first welcomed and then withdrew from the refugee problem. Hungary only wanted Christians. Fellow EU members (Croatia vs Hungary for instance) chirped away at each other.
This official Europe had further shot itself in foot on Ukraine. They offered moon to Ukraine but didn’t want to make allowance for Russia’s insecurity at its border. Ukraine almost has now turned into a failed state. As Henry Kissinger famously said: “both(East and West) want to make it an outpost for themselves—whereas it should’ve been a bridge”—or words similar to that effect.
Citizens again were in a disconnect on Ukraine. While Russia was drummed up as a threat, the polls showed that only 4 out of 10 Germans conformed to the viewpoint. And here’s the interesting bit: More than half in Germany, France and Italy believe NATO shouldn’t use weapons against Russia to defend other nations. As Stephen P Malt famously said: “It’s not a message you want to hear if you are an Estonian.”
Simply put, EU wants a European first and a French later. The public view is diametrically opposite. Schengen Visa, an admirable move, is in tatters. The demographic implosion is at hand. Europe’s population is declining at an alarming rate. So is the staggering 25 percent unemployment on average in Eastern and Southern Europe.
If another round of Greek crisis erupts in future—which it would given the austerity regime imposed on it—then all hell would break loose. If Greece quits, EU and Euro could unravel rather quickly. Europe, as it is, is rather uneasy at United States’ “Pivot to Asia.” Not to forget their preoccupation with Syria and Middle East. Their big daddy United State is unhappy on its own part given how eager France and Germany are to sell military hardware to Beijing. The track record of NATO—with its debris in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya—hasn’t boosted the morale either.
The biggest challenge above all is Europeans’ complete distrust of their current rulers. There are no bright leaders like Europe had in Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle when Europe was trying to stand on its feet after World War II. The rise of far right parties like National Front of Marine le Pen in France could reach a critical mass.
Yes, Europe has an outstanding ability to reconstruct itself. But to do so, it self-destructs itself regularly.