United States

A letter to Prime Minister Modi: 21-day lockdown is not enough

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Mr Prime Minister,

The Indian state would be making a fatal mistake if it chooses to sit on its haunches just because a 21-day lockdown is in force from Wednesday.

Your  second address to the nation on Tuesday was an incessant appeal to stay at home. You described this measure as “one flicker of light in this enveloping darkness”. You left no one in doubt that India won’t be able to overcome this deadly killer virus on paramedical staff, ICU (intensive care unit) beds and ventilators alone.

Unofficial figures suggest India has probably 150,000 ICU beds and 75,000 ventilators. Probably a few lakh paramedical staff. It has ramped up random testing since last week. But India needs a proactive strategy to catch the “virus” in hibernation within four walls of homes.

In simpler terms, go for door-to-door testings across India.

You quoted South Korea more than once in your address to emphasis how the Asian nation appears to have come to grips with Corona Virus. You identified “social distancing” as the prime reason for such a spectacular success. But South Korea hasn’t resorted to a lockdown. Of course, such a comparison is unfair given the unequal medical muscle of the two countries.

South Korea has also relied on doing tests on its citizens at every high-spot of people’s presence: medical stores, grocery shops, petrol pumps and of course homes. It so far has conducted over 400,000 tests on its 51-million citizens. United States, in contrast, has done random tests on only 50,000 of its 300-mllion plus citizens.  India, a nation of 1.3 billion people, only has a sample of around 5,000 random tests thus far.

India, before it banned international flights from landing this Sunday, had largely restricted its testing to arriving passengers. It then has lately woken up to random testing. But still random tests are within 1,000 a day. South Korea in contrast is testing close to 15,000 citizens everyday.

Lately, stirrings are being felt across the country. Jaipur is isolating every 3-km radius area where a positive test has emerged. It’s being followed with home-to-home tests. The paramedical staff is being supported by volunteers and nursing students. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is now conducting door-to-door visits in Mumbai. But these visits primarily are to check with housing societies if there is anyone who suspects himself/herself to be infected with the deadly virus. They are also checking on those with a recent travel history in these societies. Ludhiana is being remarkably alert as health officials are visiting every household in the district to obtain a declaration if anyone in the family has travelled abroad recently or is showing symptoms of virus.

On paper, it shouldn’t be difficult for the Indian state to resort to home-to-home tests. After all, it’s a practice which is followed during vaccination drives, if not entirely during General Elections. India would find volunteers in thousands. All it needs to do is to provide these bravehearts with adequate protective gears, equipments and a few hours of training on how to conduct tests.

One hopes your government isn’t being too wary lest home-to-home tests are construed a “dry run” for National Public Register (NPR) exercise. Rumour-mongers of course are busy overtime. But frankly, the government has no option but to bite the bullet. It must take recourse to judiciary, Constitution and the long arm of law. And to hell with naysers.

Yours’ truly

Ashish Shukla

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

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

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

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

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

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

India crossed its 300-patient figure last Saturday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

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

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

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

A man who loves to shoot from the hip

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

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

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

A world which is no longer bipolar

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Who’s US to tell India what weapons it must buy for its’ own defence?

(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)

Swarajyamag, OpIndia: Who are their counterparts in world?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

First, the bitter truth.

You are fed lies by the mainstream media.

They told you Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

They lied you about reasons to invade Libya.

That the revolution in Ukraine was people’s movement as it is in Hong Kong and Venezuela.

That Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is despotic but Saudi Arabia is benign enough to be heading the UN Human Rights Commission!( This when Saudi Arabia in 2015 beheaded more people than ISIS)

That North Korea is a terror to the world even though it hasn’t attacked a single country all these years.

Iran is an eyesore even though it was faithful to the pact it had with the West and now millions of its citizen face starvation because of the US-inflicted sanctions which are  ot UN-mandated.

You never come to read the macabre truth of Africa where regimes are overturned and humanity is butchered every day as imperialists eye their land, labour and resources.

Russia is certified aggressor even though it’s NATO which is encircling the beleaguered land.

The truth on terrorism which US claims to be in fight against would make you lose faith in humanity.

xxx

Closer home, a miniature version is Lutyens Media, wholly deceitful and corrupt.

They would never question why PoK was never an agenda in the Congress hegemony; they would never report on the gruesome murders and brutal rapes on Kashmiri Pandits; millions of infiltrators in our East don’t prick their journalism of courage; tens of thousands of soldiers killed by naxals and terrorists are not martyrs in their eyes but only a brutal face of a repressive regime; their umbrella of protection is big enough to shelter Congress, TMC, SP, BSP, RJD, Left and what have you. Lynchings are for Muslims; religious persecution is for minorities only. Why bother that an Ankit or Gudiya have also paid with their lives and that a temple was vandalized in the very heart of the Indian Capital not long ago.

Don’t for a second think that Western and Lutyens Media are unrelated. They are part of a network: sharing scoops (e,g Panama Papers), editorial pages and a clutch of celebrities and personalities who are agents of Liberal Order, implying in the garb of protecting freedom, human rights and democracy, they cause defiant societies to implode from within. They work on the faultlines: Like in India, the Lutyens Media loses no opportunity to blow up any terrible incident against a Muslim or a Dalit; work on the gender and North-South divide; scare minority against the majority; preach their own brand of secularism – all of which of course takes flight in States where Hindus are in minority and repressed; gender-divide which doesn’t include Muslim women and secularism which doesn’t extend for example to Kashmiri Pandits. They subvert India’s history and heritage; culture and legacy; where mausoleums are celebrated and sublime temples are ignored. Ghar-Wapsi is a calamity but thousands of conversions in the countryside are a matter of celebration.

This network feeds each other into a size of a behemoth. Lutyens Media din a BBC, New York Times, CNN or Time into your ears and vice versa; the news agencies such as AFP, AP and Reuters are the feeding pipes as are social media giants Google, Facebook and Twitter who dump searches, bury voices or slap bans against all those which run contrary to Liberal Order.

How do you arrive at truth? The “base camp” of course is the voices which never reach you. In India, you could look at following websites and reason out yourself which could be closer to truth:

www.swarajyamag.com

www.opindia.com

www.newsbred.com

www.dharmadespatch.in

www.indiafacts.org

www.pgurus.com

www.hindujagriti.org

www.pragyata.com

www.thetruepicture.org

www.vijayvani.com

www.postcard.news

Abroad, I can suggest a handful which are puncturing the mainstream narrative with facts, logic and reason:

www.moonofalabama.org

www.counterpunch.org

www.scmp.org

www.tomdispatch.org

www.todayvenezuela.com

www.priceofoil.org

www.thenewhumanitarian.org

http://thesaker.is

http://theduran.com

www.21stcenturywire.com

www.orientalreview.org

www.intrepidreport.com

www.zerohedge.com

www.thelibertybeacon.com

www.ahtribune.com

www.greanvillepost.com

www.nationofchange.org (climate)

www.globalresearch.ca

www.off-guardian.org

www.mintpressnews.com

www.moderndiplomacy.eu

www.levantreport.com

http://journal-neo.org

www.tass.com

www.covertbookreport.com

www.asiatimes.com

www.southfront.org

www.yenisafak.com

www.geopoliticsalert.com

www.lobelog.com

www.intellinews.com

www.landdestroyer.blogspot.com

www.priceofoil.org

www.telesurenglish.net

www.misionverdad.com

https://venezuelanalysis.com/

https://caitlinjohnstone.com/

www.newsnet.fr

Clearly the above voices are in the wilderness. They don’t reach you till you look for them. The biggest disadvantage is they are not mainstream.

What’s mainstream? Mainstream is the narrative which seamlessly weaves into your daily life. You accept the news beamed in your drawing rooms or the ones dropped in the morning in your frontyard is credible. They are credible because they speak of freedom, equality, liberty which appeals to human senses. (George Orwell had predicted long ago that good words would covey exactly the opposite meaning by ruling classes).  They are credible because everyone else finds them credible. You don’t want to be the odd man out. Lies constantly drummed become truth in due course.

How a sample of alternative media I have mentioned above could become mainstream? First admit the tall order because you are talking of dismantling the very narrative which you have been fed since you started walking. From your kindergarten schools to higher education to job, mainstream narrative becomes you. To unlearn what you’ve learnt all your life is difficult.

But truth like light has a way of shining through the pall of darkness. As 99% of the world become more dispossessed than they were in the 60s, they intuitively feel that Democrats or Republicans (US), Congress (India), Conservative or Labour (United Kingdom),  use the tool of Liberal Order to bond and feed on each other. Their goal is hegemony of the world, of our minds. Alternative views are systematically put out of sight.

It’s unlikely the alternative media could become mainstream. For that to happen, you first need to have a system (government, universities, academia, media) in place. That is mostly unlikely to happen. Liberal Order has monopolized lexicons of Liberty, Equality, Freedom and Democracy. You exposure on lies would be seen as conspiracy theorists; your flashing of mirror in face would be dubbed whataboutery; you assertion of your culture and legacy would be labeled as one of a fundamentalist.

Narratives, however, do change when anti-mainstream opinions come to power, as it has in India (Narendra Modi), United States (Donald Trump) and Russia (Vladimir Putin) for example. They have been hoisted to power by millions of dispossessed and faceless citizens. Mainstream narrative willfully ignores them and they end up consolidating the alternative forces. It gives rise to foot soldiers–the websites I have mentioned above—to yank open the door further. There is a need to support these websites with funds and footfalls; provide a structure to what till now is an organic growth; organize seminars, institute awards, hold public dialogue vigorously. Have your own Nobel or Magsaysay Awards which are manipulated; Pulitzer or Booker prize which never gives space to alternative views.

Social Media is a good start but not a conclusive one as the Big Brother sooner than later would come back to bite you. So hold hands, spare time and money, and let the good word spread.

 

When would Mufti and Abdullah be set free?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

India and Pakistan have started whipping up support in their corners as the Ring that is Jammu and Kashmir gets ready for a trade of punches.

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan wants his people on the streets in solidarity against the rearranged status of Jammu and Kashmir while Narendra Modi is reserving the month of September for his ministers’ outreach to people in 35 state capitals and 370 cities.

The momentum is with India where Modi has secured a cheque of gratitude from a billion people and possibly from history too on the once intractable issue of Kashmir.  He has second guessed almost everyone including the global powers, jihadi nuts in the Valley and secessionists forces within India. It’s nearly a month and India hasn’t fired a single bullet in anger.

Imran Khan is relying on propaganda and the good offices of China without realizing that slaves could only stare at the feet, and not go at the throat of the masters. It has a good ranch of guerillas, terrorists and Talibans but to take on world’s second largest army, bigger than United States, you need stallion and not jackass. Mooting closure of airspace could only evoke yawn. His dream of becoming prime minister is now a raging nightmare.

India’s enemies are investing much in the hope that Muftis and Abdullahs would be free soon and hold court; Valley would be put to flame and Lutyens Media would manufacture sob stories. For the moment, they have nothing but the sham cry of violations of human rights and India’s federal-structure-in-danger to keep stoking the dying embers.

When would Muftis and Abdullahs be set free? My guess is not in next four weeks. Modi government prefers embarrassment to harm. Half measures would come back to bite. You don’t do PR exercise with enemies. If the world can turn one eye away on Xinjiang in China; it could as well the other on Kashmir.

There is incremental easing up in Kashmir Valley. Landlines have been restored. Independence Day and Eid were celebrated.  Journalists, despite the brouhaha, are getting passes to move around at will. Schools and Colleges have been reopened. It’s not to say Valley would be quiet.  Muftis and Abdullahs could pay a heavy cost if flutes and music alone is the noise in their backyards.

There are a few things which the Modi government must follow as gospel. One, learn to ignore the barking dogs. Valley and Lutyens Media would be shooting from both sides of mouth. They must not be allowed to set the agenda. Give them a damn. Two, this outreach to people in September can’t be one-off thing. People need constant repeats on facts. Lose no opportunity, be it face-to-face, social media, spokespersons or editorials in newspapers. This is the only war your adversary would be engaging you in; so treat it as one. Three, name and shame the enemies within who run contrary to India’s interests. Three generations of this lobby has fattened itself on Kashmir. The cat is too fat now; it must be made to shed some weight.

I suspect Centre has hit upon an ace in raking up some high profile cases. So mournful is media on P. Chidambaram’s custody that Kashmir has been put on the backburner.  The cases against Sharad Pawar and Ahmed Patel’s son too would shrink space on Kashmir. Heat has been turned on against Trinamool Congress (TMC). Three state elections in three months would further pull the rug under Kashmir’s feet. Why, when was the last you heard on “Jai Shri Ram” crimes and “lynchings”?

But this is just the first phase of preparedness. Kashmir is serious. Heads could roll in Pakistan’s establishment. Imran Khan could invite a fate similar to Nawaz Sharif.  General Qamar Javed Bajwa has to justify his extension. United States could change tack in case it can’t summon India against China, Iran and Russia. So don’t take your eyes off. India has to handle Kashmir in real time. It could take months, years and even generations. But a start, a good one at that, has been made. And the nation can’t be thankful enough.

 

 

Remind US they once wanted Iran to become a nuclear power

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

United States keeps harping “on the gravest threat to world peace” if Iran is to become a nuclear state. The truth is different, as enunciated by one and only Noam Chomsky in a piece.

  • According to the leading western polling agencies (WIN/Gallup International), the prize for “greatest threat” is won by the United States. In second place, far below, is Pakistan. Iran is ranked below those two along with China, Israel, North Korea and Afghanistan
  • Iran’s military aggression isn’t borne by facts. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, military spending in the Middle East reached almost $200 billion in 2014. It’s a 57% jump since 2005. Largest share is of US allies, Iraq and Saudi Arabia ($90 billion in US weapons deal between 2010-2014).
  • US Congress knows that Iran has very low military expenditures. The US intelligence community has reported that there is no evidence of Iran pursuing an actual nuclear weapons programme.
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) finds a “conclusive case that the Arab Gulf states have…an overwhelming advantage on Iran…”
  • Iran’s military spending is only a fraction of Saudi Arabia and far below even the spending of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Altogether, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE—outspend Iran on arms by a factor of eighth, an imbalance that goes back by decades. CSIS implies that Iran’s weapons are virtually obsolete.  Israel in contrast has the most advanced US weaponry and of course a huge stock of nuclear weapons
  • Another protestation against Iran is the grave human rights violations. Indeed the gravest human rights violations happened under the Shah who US and Britain had hoisted to power, overthrowing overthrown Iran’s parliamentary government in 1953.
  • Other concerns about the Iranian threat include its role as “the world’s leading supporter of terrorism,” which implies its support for Hezbollah and Hamas. Both of these movements emerged in resistance to US-backed Israeli violence and aggression. Hezbollah is guilty of compelling Israel to withdraw from its occupation of southern Lebanon which took place in violation of UN Security Council orders dating back decades. Hezbollah and Hamas have the popular vote in the only free elections in the Arab world. Iran hardly ranks high in support of terror worldwide.
  • Iran is accused of fuelling instability in the region. Indeed, Iran was the only one to come to the aid of Kurds defending themselves against the Islamic State (IS). If anything, the US invasion of 2003 killed hundreds of thousands and generated millions of refugees. Iraqis have compared the destruction to the Mongol invasion of the 13th century, leaving Iraq the unhappiest country in the world, according to WIN/Gallup polls. Sectarian conflicts have been ignited, laying the basis for creation of the IS. And all this is called “stabilization.”
  • The five-year Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended in failure when the US, joined by Canada and Great Britain blocked efforts on a WMD-free Middle East. Former President Barack Obama blocked it in 2010 and 2015 at Israel’s behest. A nuclear-free Middle East you would think is the easiest way to get rid of the Iranian threat.

Iranians recall that not a day has passed since 1953 in which the US was not harming Iranians.  When the Shah was overthrown in 1979, Washington threw its lot behind Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein who would in 1980 launch a war against Iran.  After the war, President George H.W. Bush even invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the US for advanced training in weapons production, an extremely serious threat to Iran. Sanctions against Iran were intensified, actions were initiated to bar it from the international financial system In recent years, the hostility has extended to sabotage, the murder of nuclear scientists, and cyber-war.

Indeed, under the Shah, top US officials—Dick Cheney, Ronald Rumsfeld and Henry Kissinger—were urging him to proceed with his nuclear programmes. Asked later, why he supported such programmes under the Shah but opposed them more recently, Kissinger responded honestly that Iran was an ally then!

Why then such blatant disregard for truth? Under the Clinton Doctrine, the US was entitled to resort to the “unilateral use of military power,” even to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources,” let alone alleged “security” or “humanitarian” concerns.

(This is a piece from our archives).

 

 

Pehlu Khan, a cow-smuggler: Indian Express, enough is enough

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Indian Express can’t expect its readers—and I am one—to be polite any longer. The newspaper is telling lies, promoting communal divide and Hinduphobia for years now. And it’s happening because they are unaccountable to readers, appeased by Press bodies and handled with kid gloves by the executive and judiciary of this country.

Indian Express has published a front page screamer today in which they inform the readers that the “dairy farmer” Pehlu Khan who was “lynched” by “gau rakshaks” in Alwar two years ago has been charge-sheeted by the Police as “cow-smuggler.”

First thing first.  Pehlu Khan was a “cow-smuggler” first and a “dairy farmer” later. Dairy farmers don’t buy non-milch cows and move in pitched darkness through a forest. You don’t expect readers to believe you and not the Police that he was a cow-smuggler. It was convenient for you to paint Rajasthan Police as compromised since the BJP was in power in the state in 2017. Now Congress rules the state. The bias factor is flushed down the drain.

Your harping on “gau-rakshaks” too need a firm rebuttal. Alwar is the den of cow-smugglers who number in excess of 500. Cattles are picked from the streets and homes, stuffed into vehicles and mostly slaughtered in Mewat (Haryana) which comprises mostly Meo Muslims. “Gau-Rakshaks” are activists who, police acknowledges, tip them off against cow-smugglers. Indeed, police asks “gau-rakshaks” to accompany them in raids against the cow-smugglers.

Last year, police caught three women packing 60 kilos of beef in packets in Gobindgarh, Alwar. It allegedly was of a cow slaughtered in the jungle by the owner of the house, Sakeel. Police raided two more godowns in the same area: They were stocked with 221 cowhides, not more than a month old.

In the inside pages, Indian Express has another story which details the Pehlu Khan trial in progress. It mentions the accused who have been given “clean-chit” by the police and which has “resulted in widespread criticism for the then BJP government in Rajasthan.” It mentions the case has been transferred from “Behror” to “Alwar” since the witnesses alleged they had been “fired at.”

One of the witnesses was Pehlu Khan’s son Irshad. The police later found out that the “firing” episode was fake. “No firing on the witnesses took place and the complaint was fake. There was no circumstantial evidence of firing and no such vehicle, as described by the complainant is seen in CCTV footage,” said the police.

Yet the Indian Express is on its own trip. It quotes “fake” Irshad at length in its front page story, as outraged perhaps as Pehlu’s son is. “We lost our fathers in the attack by cow-vigilantes and now we have been charged as cow-smugglers. We had hoped that the new Congress government in Rajasthan will review and withdraw the case against us.” Could you believe it! A fake narrator is being given a platform, never put to searching questions by the “Journalism of Courage.” A crime is viewed from political lenses.

Indian Express has headlined its Front Page story: “Pehlu Khan was lynched; now charge-sheeted by Congress government.” It’s inside story also has “lynching” in the headlines. Clearly, the newspaper is loathe to let go on the word “lynching.”

So let’s look at this lynching bit. For over a decade now, Alwar residents are keeping vigil on their livestock in the night given the region being a beehive of cow-smugglers. Yet there are instances of farmers who had 10 cows once are now left with none, all stolen. Says son of one such robbed farmer: “We lost our cattle and learnt a new word—mob lynching. So if you resist a thief, they will say mob lynching happened.”

Cow-owners are terrorized, fired at, killed by cow-smugglers in Alwar. Yet, a Pehlu Khan is “awarded with a flat in Greater Noida and lakh of rupees.” Another (Rakbar) was given a grant of Rs 8 lakhs. What do those who lose their cattles and lives get in return, the activists ask? The tag of  cow vigilantes/”gau-rakshaks and lynchers.

There is little doubt in my mind that Indian Express has written more on Pehlu Khan than the entire media put together in the last two years. It has beefed up the story on false, motivated reporting. There is also little doubt Pehlu Khan wouldn’t have merited such a sustained coverage if he was not a Muslim. This is treating crime along the religious lines: Gau-rakshaks killing Muslim dairy farmers. “Saffron terror” against helpless minority.  Hindutva brigade brutalizing peaceful Muslims.  A criminal’s son, who himself has been shown to be fake by the police, is being quoted at length. Nobody condones Pehlu’s killing but he was a cow-smuggler, not an innocent.

And just imagine the incalculable harm this biased, condemnable reporting does.  An Asaduddin Owaisi builds on the narrative to whip up fears of millions of Muslims. Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti chime in rhyme. Shabana Azmi descends on streets with placards. A Naseeruddin Shah buys the lie without a question. Javed Akhar, Kamal Haasan, Aamir Khan, Swara Bhaskar, Prakash Raj all rustic to nuances of agenda, if not Hinduphobic, add their bit.  It shapes the “Report of Religious Persecution” in India by the United States.  New York Times, Time and other beacons of Western press have pieces on intolerance in Modi’s India. And yet, merrily chugs the Hinduphobic train on the steam of an agenda.

 

India has moved away from United States orbit for good

(This is a reprint from NewsBred ).

Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, finishes his three-day visit to India today and a beaming him has made it to the front pages of all the dailies. Don’t be fooled by it.  India has moved away from the United States big time.

It’s not  a zero-sum game and hands would still be shaken and pictures clicked but the United States wants to swoop on India’s strategic autonomy while Prime Minister Narendra Modi is determined to protect his own turf.

India won’t let go on five squadrons of S-400 missiles from Russia nor would it back down on Iran beyond a point as Modi looks to pivot India for 2050 when the United States would be just one of the great powers and confronted with the possible axis of Russia, India and China.

The United States sees Russia and China as rogue nations who are going broke to dominate Eurasia but neither sanctions against Russia nor tariff wars and threats against China are yielding much. Indeed, Russia and China are now joined at hips and enjoy a bonhomie not seen since the heady Communist days of 1950.

That India has firmly moved into the Russia-China orbit was tellingly visible in the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan where Narendra Modi chose silence rather than condemnation of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Modi’s India has been an unequivocal critic of BRI but he didn’t say a word in protest against the Bishkek Declaration which praised BRI and bore the endorsement of assembled heads of states.

Modi didn’t praise BRI but he didn’t criticize it either in his own speech. Indeed, he evoked “Wuhan Spirit” to charm the Chinese. Tellingly, it didn’t elicit any sharp barb either from Xi Jinping or Vladimir Putin.

India, critically, has accepted Russia’s invitation to assist China in creating a “Polar Silk Road” in the Arctic Sea, a commercial shipping venture through Russia’s Northern Sea Route as part of the BRI. The project is worth trillions of dollars and would connect the two continents of Europe and Asia with sea. It would bring liquefied natural gas from central-northern Siberia to be delivered across Europe, Japan, South Korea and China of course.

Modi held bilateral meetings on the sidelines with Xi and Putin in Bishkek which is only one of many scheduled between the two leaders in the remaining months of 2019.  Modi and Xi would meet thrice, besides an informal summit in India, probably in Varanasi. With Putin, it’s twice as many times in rest of 2019.

That Modi has decided to thumb his nose at the United States is visible on the revival of RIC (Russia, India, China) dialogue which the three nations have decided to hold at the very summit where G20 nations are meeting from Friday—Osaka, Japan. It sure would raise heckles from the US president Donald Trump who would also be present in Osaka.

Modi has been given a mandate by millions of Indians to lead the country on the path of growth and security. It’s only feasible when India pursues its interest with autonomy and not as a stooge of the United States, more so with a whimsical president like Donald Trump at the helm.

Alice Wells of the US State Department has recently outlined the Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States. Said Wells: “The US, alongside India, Japan, Australia and other trusted allies and partners will support the political and economic autonomy of the Indo-Pacific countries…We cannot allow China or any other country to subvert our partners through unsustainable push economies into unsustainable debt…” Yet, as far as India is concerned—as Modi outlined in Shangri-La Dialogue, “Indo-Pacific” is not a strategy.

The US is also offering the bait of including India in the US’ International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) which would give India a status equal to one of NATO allies. Along with the status would come the export of high-level military technologies including ballistic missiles, drones, nuclear weapons simulation tools and energy weapons. It’s unlikely India would fall for it given how easily US dumps such pacts—sample TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), climate deal of Paris and the nuclear deal with Iran.

The United States knows what the alliance between Russia, China and India would mean. Even a casual look at the geographical map is enough to convey the control these three nations would exercise over the landscape of Eurasia. In wooing India, US is banking too much on the bond of democracy and a commitment to liberal international order which came into being after World War II and had rules and institutions dominated by the United States.

Kiron Skinner of the US State Department has already stated that the US perceives its strategy against China   as a “fight with a really different civilization.” India has no such issues. It understands that the global power balance and West’s control of it is on its last leg. China and India are coming on to their own as they have for most of human history. India would push for its strategic autonomy and it lies in opening up access to Iran, deepening military ties with an all-weather friend like Russia, bringing neighbours’ into its orbit and be China’s friend, now that the latter really needs it.

India also knows that it could no longer be ambivalent. The United States and China are polarizing the world and there is no middle ground left for anyone. It has to make a choice and one gets the feeling it already has. If the US wants to pass sanctions against those who go against its wishes, then so be it.

 

Modi-Imran in SCO: Be ready for some tough pictures

(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.