February 21, 2009 — drsubrotoroy
“The BBC has unilaterally decided that Jammu & Kashmir has nothing to do with India. On its 1530 Indian Standard Time broadcast of purported “World News” today, it unilaterally lopped off all of J&K from the map of the Republic of India (shown attached to mention of a Delhi bomb-blast). Usually, the BBC at least makes pathetic reference to something it has invented called “Indian-Administered Kashmir”. There are senior BBC staff-members who are dual Pakistani/British nationals and who may be counted on to have been pushing such a line within the organisation, but lopping off all of J&K unilaterally may be a novelty. There are several “Indian-origin” staff-members too but perhaps they have renounced their Indian nationality, and apparently they have no ability to make any editorial protest. Does the Government of India have the sense, and the guts, to call in the local BBC and ask them for an explanation about their insult of history? For that matter, what is the BBC’s formal position on the J&K problem? The same as that of the UK Government? What is that of the UK Government for that matter? Has it remained constant since Clement Attlee in October 1947? BBC staff may like to refer to my articles “Solving Kashmir”, “Law, Justice and J&K”, “Pakistan’s Allies”, “History of Jammu & Kashmir”, etc for enlightenment.”
“Ill-informed Western observers, especially at purported “think tanks” and news-portals, frequently proclaim the Pakistan-India confrontation and Jammu & Kashmir conflict to represent some kind of savage irreconcilable division between Islamic and Hindu cultures. For example, the BBC, among its many prevarications on the matter (like lopping off J&K entirely from its recently broadcast maps of India, perhaps under influence of its Pakistani staffers), frequently speaks of “Hindu-majority India” and “Indian-administered Kashmir” being confronted by Muslim Pakistan….”
Well this morning, in its purported “World News from America” received in India in its 0530 IST broadcast (in a story about that dreadful British film Slumdog millionaire), the BBC has done it yet again, lopping off the whole of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh from its purported map of India. Clearly the powerful Pakistan lobby in Britain continues to affect British policy deeply, especially perhaps through the BBC’s dual-national Pakistani staffers.
I remain intrigued to know the official UK Government position on both J&K and the legality or otherwise of a UK public broadcaster distorting history and geography like this.
Specifically, I wonder if modern British foreign policy has, in a nutshell, taken a hardline, regardless of the facts of history, on the Israel-Arab dispute and a corresponding softline, regardless of the facts of history, with the Pakistani viewpoint on J&K. “Accept our position on Palestine and we will accept your views on Kashmir” might be the implicit trade that has been offered to the UK’s powerful Pakistani immigrant community.
Furthermore, in the event the UK Government and the European Union recognise Indian sovereignty de facto and de jure over J&K on the Indian side of the Line of Control with Pakistan and on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control with China, does the BBC, as a public British broadcaster, have any legal business to be setting that aside and instead inventing its own history and geography as it pleases?
The Government of India really needs to formally ask the UK Government what its opinion is.
The organisation that presently goes by the name BBC seems to be only very distantly related to the organisation by the same name whose radio news-broadcasts used to be definitive in my childhood.
December 4, 2008 — drsubrotoroy
India’s Muslim Voices
(Or, Let us be clear the Pakistan-India or Kashmir conflicts have not been Muslim-Hindu conflicts so much as intra-Muslim conflicts about Muslim identity and self-knowledge on the Indian subcontinent)
Ill-informed Western observers, especially at purported “think tanks” and news-portals, frequently proclaim the Pakistan-India confrontation and Jammu & Kashmir conflict to represent some kind of savage irreconcilable division between Islamic and Hindu cultures.
For example, the BBC, among its many prevarications on the matter (like lopping off J&K entirely from its recently broadcasted maps of India, perhaps under influence of its Pakistani staffers), frequently speaks of “Hindu-majority India” and “Indian-administered Kashmir” being confronted by Muslim Pakistan.
And two days ago from California’s Bay Area arose into the Internet Cloud the following profundity: “What we’re dealing with now, in the Pakistani-Indian rivalry, is a true war of civilizations, pitting Muslims against Hindus…. the unfathomable depths of the Muslim-Hindu divide….”.
Even President-elect Obama’s top Pakistan-specialists have fallen for the line of Washington’s extremely strong Pakistan lobby: “Pakistan… sees itself as the political home for the subcontinent’s Muslim population and believes India’s continued control over the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley and denial of a plebiscite for its inhabitants represent a lingering desire on India’s part to undo the legacy of partition, which divided the British Indian Empire into India and Pakistan.”
The truth on record is completely different and really rather simple: for more than a century and a half, Muslims qua Muslims on the Indian subcontinent have struggled with the question of their most appropriate cultural and political identity.
The starkest contrast may be found in their trying to come to terms with their partly Arabic and partly Hindu or Indian parentage (the words Hindu, Sindhu, Indus, Indian, Sindhi, Hindi etc all clearly have the same Hellenistic root).
For example, there was Wali Allah (1703-1762) declaring “We are an Arab people whose fathers have fallen in exile in the country of Hindustan, and Arabic genealogy and Arabic language are our pride”.
But here has been Mohammad Iqbal (1877-1938), in his 1930 Allahabad speech to the Muslim League, conceiving today’s Pakistan as a wish to become free of precisely that Arab influence: “I would like to see the Punjab, NWFP, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state… The life of Islam as a cultural force in this living country very largely depends on its centralisation in a specified territory… For India it means security and peace resulting from an internal balance of power, for Islam an opportunity to rid itself of the stamp that Arabian Imperialism was forced to give it, to mobilise its law, its education, its culture, and to bring them into closer contact with its own original spirit and the spirit of modern times.”
In an article “Saving Pakistan” published last year in The Statesman and available elsewhere here, it was suggested Iqbal’s “spirit of modern times” may be represented most prominently today by the physicist/political philosopher Pervez Hoodbhoy: in a December 2006 speech Hoodbhoy suggested a new alternative to MA Jinnah’s “Faith, Unity, Discipline” slogan: “First, I wish for minds that can deal with the complex nature of truth…. My second wish is for many more Pakistanis who accept diversity as a virtue… My third, and last, wish is that Pakistanis learn to value and nurture creativity.” He has spoken too of bringing “economic justice to Pakistan”, of the “fight to give Pakistan’s women the freedom which is their birthright”, and of people to “wake up” and engage politically. But Pakistan’s Iqbalian liberals like Hoodbhoy still have to square off with those of their compatriots who sent the youthful squad into Mumbai last week with assault rifles, grenades and heroic Arabic code-names, as well as orders to attack civilians with the ferocity of the original Muslims attacking caravans and settlements in ancient Arabia.
What the extremely strong Pakistan lobbies within the British and American political systems have suppressed in order to paint a picture of eternal Muslim-Hindu conflict is the voice of India’s nationalist Muslims, who historically have had no wish to have any truck with any idea of a “Pakistan” at all.
Most eminent among them was undoubtedly Jinnah’s fiercest critic: Maulana Abul Kalam Azad whose classic 1946 statement on Pakistan is available in his India Wins Freedom, the final version published only in 1988.
“I have considered from every possible point of view the scheme of Pakistan as formulated by the Muslim League. As an Indian, I have examined its implications for the future of India as a whole. As a Muslim, I have examined its likely effects upon the fortunes of Muslims of India. Considering the scheme in all its aspects, I have come to the conclusion that it is harmful not only for India as a whole but for Muslims in particular. And in fact it creates more problems than it solves. I must confess that the very term Pakistan goes against my grain. It suggests that some portions of the world are pure while others are impure. Such a division of territories into pure and impure is un-Islamic and is more in keeping with orthodox Brahmanism which divides men and countries into holy and unholy — a division which is a repudiation of the very spirit of Islam. Islam recognizes no such division and the prophet says “God made the whole world a mosque for me”.
Further, it seems that the scheme of Pakistan is a symbol of defeatism, and has been built on the analogy of the Jewish demand for a national home. It is a confession that Indian Muslims cannot hold their own in India as a whole, and would be content to withdraw to a corner specially reserved for them.
One can sympathise with the aspiration of the Jews for such a national home, as they are scattered all over the world and cannot in any region have any effective voice in the administration.. The conditions of Indian Muslims is quite otherwise. Over 90 million in number, they are in quantity and quality a sufficiently important element in Indian life to influence decisively all questions of administration and policy. Nature has further helped them by concentrating them in certain areas.
In such a context, the demand for Pakistan loses all force. As a Muslim, I for one am not prepared for a moment to give up my right to treat the whole of India as my domain and to shape in the shaping of its political and economic life. To me it seems a sure sign of cowardice to give up what is my patrimony and content myself with a mere fragment of it.
As is well known, Mr. Jinnah’s Pakistan scheme is based on his two nation theory. His thesis is that India contains many nationalities based on religious differences, Of them the two major nations, the Hindus and Muslims, must as separate nations have separate States, When Dr Edward Thompson once pointed out to Mr. Jinnah that Hindus and Muslims live side by side in thousands of Indian towns, villages and hamlets, Mr. Jinnah replied that this is no way affected their separate nationality. Two nations, according to M Jinnah, confront one another in every hamlet, village and town, and he, therefore, desires that they should be separated into two States.
I am prepared to overlook all other aspects of the problem and judge it from the point of view of Muslim interest alone. I shall go still further and say that if it can be shown that the scheme of Pakistan can in any way benefit Muslims I would be prepared to accept it myself and also to work for its acceptance by others. But the truth is that even if I examine the scheme from the point of view of the communal interests of the Muslims themselves, I am forced to the conclusion that it can in no way benefit them or allay their legitimate fears.
Let us consider dispassionately the consequences which will follow if we give effect to the Pakistan scheme. India will be divided into two States, one with a majority of Muslims and the other of Hindus. In the Hindustan State there will remain 35 million Muslims scattered in small minorities all over the land. With 17 per cent in UP, 12 percent in Bihar and 9 percent in Madras, they will be weaker than they are today in the Hindu majority provinces. They have had their homelands in these regions for almost a thousand years and built up well known centres of Muslim culture and civilization there.
They will awaken overnight and discover that they have become alien and foreigners. Backward industrially, educationally and economically, they will be left to the mercies to what would become an unadulterated Hindu raj.
On the other hand, their position within the Pakistan State will be vulnerable and weak. Nowhere in Pakistan will their majority be comparable to the Hindu majority in the Hindustan States. ( NB Azad could hardly imagine even at this point the actual British Partition of Punjab and Bengal, let aside the later separation of Bangladesh from West Pakistan, SR. )
In fact, their majority will be so slight that will be offset by the economical, educational and political lead enjoyed by non-Muslims in these areas. Even if this were not so and Pakistan were overwhelmingly Muslim in population, it still could hardly solve the problem of Muslims in Hindustan. Two States confronting one another, offer no solution of the problem of one another’s minorities, but only lead to retribution and reprisals by introducing a system of mutual hostages. The scheme of Pakistan therefore solves no problems for the Muslims. It cannot safeguard their rights where they are in minority nor as citizens of Pakistan secure them a position in Indian or world affairs which they would enjoy as citizens of a major State like the Indian Union.
It may be argued that if Pakistan is so much against the interest if the Muslims themselves, then why should such a large section of Muslims be swept away by its lure? The answer is to be found in the attitude of certain communal extremists among the Hindus. When the Muslim League began to speak of Pakistan, they read into the scheme a sinister pan-Islamic conspiracy and began to oppose it out of fear that it foreshadowed a combination of Indian Muslim and trans-Indian Muslim States. The opposition acted as an incentive to the adherents of the League. With simple though untenable logic they argued that if Hindus were so opposed to Pakistan, surely it must be of benefit to Muslims. An atmosphere of emotional frenzy was created which made reasonable appraisement impossible and swept away especially the younger and more impressionable among the Muslims. I have, however, no doubt that when the present frenzy has died down and the question can be considered dispassionately, those who now support Pakistan will themselves repudiate it as harmful for Muslim interests.
The formula which I have succeeded in making the Congress accept secures whatever merits the Pakistan scheme contains while all its defects and drawbacks are avoided. The basis of Pakistan is the fear of interference by the Centre in Muslim majority areas as the Hindus will be in a majority in the Centre. The Congress meets this fear by granting full autonomy to the provincial units and vesting all residuary power in the provinces. It also has provided for two lists of Central subjects, one compulsory and one optional, so that if any provincial unit so wants, it can administer all subjects itself except a minimum delegated to the Centre. The Congress scheme threescore ensures that Muslim majority provinces are internally free to develop as they will, but can at the same time influence the Centre on all issues which affect India as a whole.
The situation in India is such that all attempts to establish a centralized and unitary government are bound to fail. Equally, doomed to failure is the attempt to divide India into two States. After considering all aspects of the question, I have come to the conclusion that the only solution can be on the lines embodied in the Congress formula which allows room for development both to the provinces and to India as a whole. The Congress formula meets the fear of the Muslim majority areas to allay which the scheme of Pakistan was formed. On the other hand, it avoids the defects of the Pakistan scheme which would bring the Muslims where they are in a minority under a purely Hindu government.
I am one of those who considers the present chapter of communal bitterness and differences as a transient phase in Indian life. I firmly hold that they will disappear when India assumes the responsibility of her own destiny. I am reminded of a saying of Mr. Gladstone that the best cure for a man’s fear of the water was to throw him into it. Similarly, India must assume responsibilities and administer her own affairs before fears and suspicious can be fully allayed.
When India attains her destiny, she will forget the chapter of communal suspicion and conflict and face the problems of modern life from a modern point of view. Differences will no doubt persist, but they will be economic, not communal. Opposition among political parties will continue, but it will based, not on religion, but on economic and political issues. Class and not community will be the basis oaf future alignments, and policies will be shaped accordingly. If it be argued that this is only a faith which events may not justify, I would say that in any case the 90 million Muslims constitute a factor which nobody can ignore and whatever the circumstances, they are strong enough to safeguard their own destiny.”
Next must be Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s classic February 1948 Speech to the UN Security Council, four months into the initial Pakistani attack on Kashmir:
“Aggression, not accession, is the issue: I have heard with patience, attention and respect the statements made by the representative of Pakistan and members of the Security Council, as well as the statements made on various occasions by the members of my own delegation. The Security Council will concede that I am probably the one man most concerned in the dispute because I happen to come from that land which has become the bone of contention between the two Dominions of India and Pakistan.
I have been quoted profusely on either side, and rightly so, because I have had the fortune-or, should I say, misfortune of leading my countrymen to freedom from 1931 onwards. In this task, I have suffered a great deal. I have been imprisoned not once or twice, but seven times, and the last imprisonment carried with it an aggregate sentence of nine years.
There are many troubles in Kashmir. I have heard patiently the debate in the Security Council, but I feel that I am rather confused. After all, what is the point in dispute? The point in dispute is not that the sovereignty of the Prince is in question, as the representative of Pakistan stated yesterday. After all, I have suffered the punishment of being sentenced to nine years imprisonment for saying what the representative of Pakistan said with regard to the Treaty of Amritsar of 1846. I am glad that he said in the Security Council, where he is immune from any punishment. Therefore, I am not disputing that point and that it is not the subject of the dispute before the Security Council.
The subject of the dispute before the Security Council is not the mal-administration of the Princely State of Kashmir. In order to set right that mal-administration, I think I have suffered the most, and today, when for the first time, I heard the representative of Pakistan supporting my case, it gave me great pleasure.
After all, what is the dispute between India and Pakistan? From what I have learned from the complaint brought before the Security Council by my own delegation, the dispute revolves around the fact that Kashmir acceded legally and constitutionally to the Dominion of India. There was some trouble about the demarcation of the Kashmir administration within the State, and the tribesmen from across the border have poured into my country. They have been helped and are being helped by the Pakistan Government, with the result that there is the possibility of a greater conflagration between India and Pakistan. India sought the help of Security Council so that Pakistan might be requested to desist from helping the tribesmen, and to desist from supporting the inside revolt, should I say, against the lawful authority.
I should have understood the position of the representative of Pakistan if he had come boldly before the Security Council and maintained: “Yes, we do support the tribesmen; we do support the rebels inside the State because we feel that Kashmir belongs to Pakistan and not to India, and because we feel that the accession of Kashmir to India was fraudulent.” Then we might have discussed the validity of the accession of the State of Kashmir to India. But that was not the position taken by the representative of Pakistan. He completely denied that any support was being given by the Government of Pakistan to either the tribesmen or those who are in revolt within the State against the constituted authority.
How am I to convince the Security Council that the denial is absolutely untrue? I am sitting before the Security Council at a distance of thousands of miles from my country. I have fought many battles, along with my own men, on the borders of Jammu and Kashmir. I have seen with my own eyes the support given by the Pakistan Government, not only in supplying buses but in providing arms, ammunition, direction and control of the tribesmen and I have even seen the Pakistan Army forces from across the border.
The denial has come so flatly that it becomes very difficult for me to disprove it here before the Security Council, unless the Security Council accedes to our request to send a commission to the spot and to find out first whether the allegations brought before the Security Council with regard to the aid given by the Government of Pakistan are correct or incorrect. If they are incorrect, the case falls; if they are correct, then the Security Council should take the necessary steps to advise the Government of Pakistan to desist from such support.
But then, this simple issue has been confused. On the one hand, the Pakistan Government says, “We are not a party to the trouble within the State. The trouble within the State exists because the people are fighting against the mal-administration of the Jammu and Kashmir Government.” Yes, we are fighting, we have been fighting against the mal-administration of that State since 1931. We have been demanding democratisation of the Government there. But how is it that today Pakistan has become the champion of our liberty? I know very well that in 1946, when I raised the cry “Quit Kashmir,” the leader of the Pakistan Government, who is the Governor-General now, Mr.Mohammed Ali Jinnah, opposed my Government, declaring that this movement was a movement of a few renegades and that Muslims as such had nothing to do with the movement.
The Muslim Conference, which has been talked about so much, opposed my movement and declared its loyalty to the Prince. The representative of Pakistan now says that Sheikh Abdullah, once the supporter of “Quit Kashmir”, has joined hands with the Maharaja of Kashmir, and that in one of my public speeches I declared that I wanted the Maharaja to be the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir-not the Maharaja of Jammu only, but the Maharaja of entire State.
I should like to correct the misreporting of my speech. I did deliver that speech in Jammu, which is the winter capital of our country, but it was in a different context. As the members of the Security Council have already heard from the head of my delegation, some massacres did occur in the Jammu Province. After the Kashmir Province was raided by the tribesmen, and after thousands of Hindus and Sikhs were uprooted from the villages and towns in the Kashmir Province and found their way into the Jammu Province, there was some very bad retaliation. I could not go to Jammu Province to control that situation because I was busy with the raiders in Kashmir Province. However, as soon as I had some time, I flew down to Jammu Province, addressed a gathering of 60,000 Hindus and Sikhs in Jammu city, and gave them some plain advice.
I told them clearly that this policy of retaliation would bring no good to them as Hindus and Sikhs and would bring no good to their leader, because while they could retaliate in one or two districts where they formed the majority, and could even wipe out the Muslim population in these one or two districts, the State happens to have a population which is 80 per cent Muslim, and it would be impossible for them to wipe out the entire Muslim population. The result would be that the Prince, whom they wanted to support, would remain the Prince of only two districts, and not of the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir. I told them that if they wanted him to be the Prince of Jammu and Kashmir, they would have to change their behaviour. That was the speech I delivered, and that was the context in which it was made.
However, I have already stated how this trouble started. It is probable that the representative of Pakistan would admit that when India was divided into two parts, my colleagues and I were all behind prison bars. The result of this division of India was to start massacre on either side. Where Muslims in the West Punjab formed the majority, the killing of Hindus and Sikhs started and this was retaliated in East Punjab. All along our border, massacres of Hindus and Sikhs, on the one hand, and Muslims on the other hand were a daily occurrence. But the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and its people, kept calm. The result was that thousands of refugees, both Muslims and Hindus, sought refuge in our State and we rendered every possible help to all of them.
Why was that so? It was because I and my organisation never believed in the formula that Muslims and Hindus form separate nations. We do not believe in the two-nation theory, nor in communal hatred or communalism itself. We believed that religion had no place in politics. Therefore, when we launched our movement of “Quit Kashmir”, it was not only Muslims who suffered, but our Hindu and Sikh comrades as well. That created a strong bond of unity between all the communities, and the result was that while Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were fighting each other all along the border, the people of Jammu and Kashmir State — Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs alike-remained calm.
The situation was worsening day by day and the minority in our State was feeling very nervous. As a result, tremendous pressure was brought to bear upon the State administration to release me and my colleagues. The situation outside demanded the release of workers of the National Conference, along with its leader, and we were accordingly set free.
Immediately we were liberated from prison we were faced with the important question of whether Kashmir should accede to Pakistan, accede to India, or remain independent, because under the partition scheme these three choices were open us as, indeed, they were open to every Indian State. The problem was a very difficult one, but I advised the people of my country that although the question was very important to us, it was a secondary consideration. The all important matter for us was our own liberation from the autocratic rule of the Prince for which we were fighting and had been fighting for the past seventeen years. We had not achieved that goal, and therefore I told my people that we must do so first. Then, as free men we should have to decide where our interest lay. Being a frontier State, Kashmir has borders with both Pakistan and India, and there are advantages and disadvantages for the people of Kashmir attached to each of the three alternatives to which I have referred.
Naturally, as I have indicated, we could not decide this all important issue before achieving our own liberation, and our slogan became “Freedom before accession”. Some friends from Pakistan met mein Srinagar. I had a heart- to- heart discussion with them and explained my point of view. I told them in plain words that, whatever had been the attitude of Pakistan towards our freedom movement in the past, it would not influence us in our judgement. Neither the friendship of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and of Congress, nor their support of our freedom movement, would have any influence upon our decision if we felt that the interests of four million Kashmiris lay in our accession to Pakistan.
I requested them not to precipitate this decision upon us but to allow us time, supporting our movement for the while. I added that once we were free they should allow us an interval to consider this all important issue. I pointed out that India had accepted this point of view and was not forcing us to decide. We had, in fact, entered into a standstill agreement with both Pakistan and India, but the leader of the Indian delegation has already explained to the Security Council what Pakistan did to us.
While I was engaged in these conversations and negotiations with friends from Pakistan, I sent one of my colleagues to Lahore, where he met the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan, and other high dignitaries of the West Punjab Government. He placed the same point of view before them and requested that they should allow us time to consider this vital question, first helping us to achieve our liberation instead of forcing us to declare our decision one way or the other. Then, one fine morning while these negotiations were proceeding, I received news that a full-fledged attack had been carried out by the raiders on Muzaffarabad, frontier town in the Kashmir Province.
The representative of Pakistan has stated that immediately upon my release I went down to Delhi to negotiate the accession of Kashmir to India. That is not a fact. He probably does not know that while in jail I was elected President of the All India States People’s Conference, and that immediately upon my release I had to take up my duties. Accordingly, I had called a meeting of the executive of that Conference in Delhi, a fact which I had conveyed to the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Indeed, I had told the Prime Minister of Pakistan that immediately upon my return from Delhi I should take the opportunity of meeting him personally to discuss my point of view with him. I did not go to Delhi to conclude any agreement on behalf of Kashmir because, although released, I was still considered a rebel.
I might inform the representative of Pakistan that although I am beyond doubt the head of the Administration of Kashmir State, I am not the Prime Minister. I am head of the Emergency Administration, and that not because the Maharaja of Kashmir wished it. In fact, I do not know whether the Maharaja wishes it even now. I hold the position because the people of my country wish me to be at the helm of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir State.
When the raiders came to our land, massacred thousands of people—mostly Hindus and Sikhs, but Muslims, too—abducted thousands of girls, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims alike, looted our property and almost reached the gates of our summer capital, Srinagar, the result was that the civil, military and police administrations failed. The Maharaja, in the dead of night, left the capital along with his courtiers, and the result was absolute panic. There was no one to take over control. In that hour of crisis, the National Conference came forward with its 10,000 volunteers and took over the administration of the country. They started guarding the banks, the offices and houses of every person in the capital. This is the manner in which the administration changed hands. We were de facto in charge of the administration. The Maharaja, later on, gave it a legal form.
It is said that Sheikh Abdullah is a friend of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. Yes, I admit that. I feel honoured that such a great man claims me as his friend. And he happens to belong to my own country;he is also a Kashmiri, and blood is thicker than water. If JawaharLal Nehru gives me that honour, I cannot help it. He is my friend. But that does not mean that, because of his friendship, I am going to betray the millions of my people who have suffered along with me for the last seventeen years and sacrifice the interests of my country. I am not a man of that calibre.
I was explaining how the dispute arose—how Pakistan wanted to force this position of slavery upon us. Pakistan had no interest in our liberation or it would not also have opposed our freedom movement. Pakistan would have supported us when thousands of my countrymen were behind bars and hundreds were shot to death. The Pakistani leaders and Pakistani papers were heaping abuse upon the people of Kashmir who were suffering these tortures.
Then suddenly, Pakistan comes before the bar of the world as the champion of the liberty of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The world may believe this, but it is very difficult for me to believe. When we refused the coercive tactics of Pakistan, it started full fledged aggression and encouraged the tribesmen in this activity. It is absolutely impossible for the tribesmen to enter our territory without encouragement from Pakistan, because it is necessary to pass through Pakistan territory to reach Jammu and Kashmir. Hundreds of trucks, thousands of gallons of petrol, thousands of rifles, ammunition, and all forms of help that an army requires, were supplied to them. We know this. After all, we belong to that country. What Pakistan could not achieve by the use of economic blockade it wanted to achieve by full-fledged aggression.
What do we request? We request nothing more than that the Security Council should send some members to this area to see for themselves what is happening there. If Pakistan comes forward and says, “We question the legality of accession”, I am prepared to discuss whether or not the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India was legal. However, now they say, “We want a plebiscite, we want to obtain the free and unfettered opinion of the people of Kashmir. There should be no pressure exerted on the people and they should make the free choice as to the State to which they wish to accede.”
Not only this the offer that was made by the people of Kashmir to Pakistan long, long ago, but it is the offer made by the Prime Minister of India at a time, I think, he had not the slightest need for making it, as Kashmir was in distress.
We realised that Pakistan would not allow us any time, that we had either to suffer the fate of our kith and kin of Muzaffarabad, Baramulla, Srinagar and other towns and villages, or to seek help from some outside authority.
Under these circumstances, both the Maharaja and the people of Kashmir requested the Government of India to accept our accession. The Government of India could have easily accepted the accession and could have said, “All right we accept your accession and we shall render this help.” There was no necessity for the Prime Minister of India to add the proviso, when accepting the accession, that India does not want to take advantage of the difficult situation in Kashmir. We will accept this accession, without Kashmir’s acceding to the Indian Dominion, we are not in a position to render any military help. But once the country is free from the raiders, marauders and looters, this accession will be subject to ratification by the people. That was the offer made by the Prime Minister of India.
That was the same offer which was made by the people of Kashmir to the Government of Pakistan, but it was refused because at that time Pakistan felt that it could, within a week, conquer the entire Jammu and Kashmir State and then place the fait accompli before the world, just as happened some time ago in Europe. The same tactics were used.
But having failed in these tactics, Pakistan now comes before the bar of the world, pleading, “We want nothing, we only want our people to be given a free hand in deciding their own fate. And in deciding their own fate, they must have a plebiscite.”
They then continue and say, “No, a plebiscite cannot be fair and impartial unless and until there is a neutral administration in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.” I have failed to understand this terminology with reference to a “neutral administration”. After all what does “neutral administration” mean?
The representative of Pakistan has stated that Sheikh Abdullah, because he is a friend of Jawahar Lal Nehru, because he has had sympathy for the Indian National Congress, because he has declared his point of view in favour of accession to India, and because he is head of the Emergency Administration, cannot remain impartial. Therefore, Sheikh Abdullah must depart.
Let us suppose that Sheikh Abdullah goes, who is to replace Sheikh Abdullah ? It will be someone amongst the 4 million people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. But can we find anyone among these 4 million people whom we can call impartial? After all, we are not logs of wood, we are not dolls. We must have an opinion one way or the other. The people of Kashmir are either in favour of Pakistan or in favour of India.
Therefore, Pakistan’s position comes down to this that the 4 million people of that State should have no hand in running the administration of their own country. Someone else must come in for that purpose. Is that fair ? Is that just ? Do the members of the Security Council wish to oust the people of Kashmir from running their own administration and their own country ? Then, for argument’s sake, let us suppose that the 4 million people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir agree to have nothing to do with the administration of their country; some one else must be brought into the country for this purpose. From where do the members of the Security Council propose that such a neutral individual may be secured? From India? No, from Pakistan? No, from anywhere in the world? No, frankly speaking, even if the Security Council were to request Almighty God to administer the State of Jammu and Kashmir during this interim period, I do not feel that He could act impartially. After all, one must have sympathy either for this side or that side.
If elections were to be held in the United Kingdom sometime after tomorrow with the Labour Government in power, would anyone say to Mr Attlee: “The elections are now going on. Because you happen to belong to Labour Party, your sympathies will be in favour of the Labour vote. Therefore, you had better clear out. We must have a neutral man as Prime Minister until our elections are finished?
However, we have been told that Sheikh Abdullah must walk out because he has declared his point of view in favour of India. Therefore, he cannot be impartial. We must have some impartial man we must have some neutral man.
As I have submitted to the members of the Security Council, Sheikh Abdullah happens to be there because the people wish it. As long as the people wish it, I shall be there. There is no power on earth which can displace me from the position which I have there. As long as the people are behind me, I will remain there.
We have declared once for all, that there shall be freedom of voting and for that purpose we have said, “Let anyone come in, we have no objection. Let the Commission of the Security Council on India come into our State and advise us how we should take a vote, how we should organize it, and how it can be completely impartial. We have no objection.” My Government is ready to satisfy, to the last comma, the impartiality of the vote.
But to have an impartial vote is one thing; to have a say in the administration of the State is a different thing entirely. After all, with what are we concerned? We are concerned only with the fact that no influence shall be exercised over the voters, either in one way or in another. The people shall be free to vote according to their own interests. We are ready to accede to that.
It is then said: “You cannot have freedom of voting as long as the Indian Army remains in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.” It is probably very difficult for me to draw a full picture of what is going on in that country. There is absolute chaos in certain parts of the country, fighting is going on and thousands of tribesmen are there ready to take advantage of any weakness on the part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Once we ask the Indian Army, which is the only protective force in Kashmir against these marauders, to clear out, we leave the country open to chaos. After all, one who has suffered for the last seventeen years, in attempting to secure the freedom and liberation of his own country, would not like an outside army to come in and to remain in the country.
However, what is the present situation? If I ask the Indian Army to clear out, how am I going to protect the people from the looting, arson, murder and abduction with which they have been faced all these long months? What is the alternative? here need be no fear since the Indian Army is there, that this army will interfere in the exercise of a free vote. After all, a Commission of the Security Council will be there in order to watch. The Indian Army does not have to go into every village. It will be stationed at certain strategic points, so that in the event of danger from any border, the Army will be there to protect that border. The army is there to curb disorders anywhere in the State; that is all. The army will not be in each and every village in order to watch each and every vote.
It is then said: “Can we not have a joint control ? Can we not have the armies of Pakistan and India inside the State in order to control the situation ?” This is an unusual idea. What Pakistan could not achieve through ordinary means, Pakistan wishes to achieve by entering through the back door, so that it may have its armies inside the State and then start the fight. That is not possible. After all, we have been discussing the situation in Kashmir. I should say that we have been playing the drama of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. The people of Kashmir are vitally interested in this question. Four million people in Kashmir are keenly interested in this entire affair. I have sympathies with the people of Poonch and Mirpur. The representative of Pakistan will probably concede that I have suffered greatly for the people of Poonch as well as for the people of Mirpur. There is no difference on this part of international democratisation of the administration between me, my party and the people of Poonch. We are one, we want our own liberty, we want our own freedom, we do not want autocratic rule. We desire that the 4 million people in Jammu and Kashmir—Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims— shall have the right to change their destiny, to control their country, and to administer it as best as they can. On that point there is absolutely no difference.
However, it is not a question of internal liberation. The Security Council should not confine the issue. The question is not that we want internal freedom, the question is not how the Maharaja got his State, or whether or not he is sovereign. These points are not before the Security Council. Whether Kashmir has lawfully acceded to India—complaints on that score have been brought before the Security Council on behalf of Pakistan—is not the point at issue. If that were the point at issue, then we should discuss that subject. We should prove before the Security Council that Kashmir and the people of Kashmir have lawfully and constitutionally acceded to the Dominion of India and Pakistan has no right to question that accession. However, that is not the discussion before the Security Council.
Indian and Kashmiri forces are ready to deal with tribesmen, to come to an understanding with the people of Kashmir and to establish ademocratic form of government inside the State. We shall do all that. We do not want Pakistan to lend us support to suppress an internal revolt or to drive out the tribesmen. We do not seek any support from Pakistan in that connection. Since Pakistan is a neighbouring country, we desire to remain on the friendliest possible terms with this sister Dominion. But we do ask that Pakistan shall have no hand, directly or indirectly, in this turmoil in Kashmir. The Government of Pakistan has said: “We have no hand in this turmoil.” The only course left to the Security Council is to send out the commission and to see whether or not Pakistan has any hand in this turmoil. If Pakistan has had any hand in this turmoil, then the Government of Pakistan should be asked to desist from such activity. If Pakistan has had no hand in this turmoil, then that can be proved.
This issue has been clouded by very many other issues and interests. I suggested at informal talks that according to my understanding there are two points at issue, first, how to have this neutral impartial administration; second, whether or not the Indian Army shall remain. It is not at all disputed that we must have a plebiscite and that the accession must be ratified by the people of Kashmir, freely and without any pressure on this or that side. That much is conceded, there is no dispute about that. The dispute arises when it is suggested that in order to have the free vote, the administration must be changed. To that suggestion we say, “No.”
I do not know what course future events will take. However, I may assure the Security Council that, if I am asked to conduct the administration of this State, it will be my duty to make the administration absolutely impartial. It will be my duty to request my brothers, who are in a different camp at this time, to come to lend me support. After all, they are my own kith and kin. We suffered together, we have no quarrel with them. I shall tell them: “Come on; it is my country; it is your country. I have been asked to administer the State. Are you prepared to lend me support? It is for me to make the administration successful; it is for me to make the administration look impartial.” It is not for Pakistan to say “No, we must have an impartial administration.” I refuse to accept Pakistan as a party in the affairs of the Jammu and Kashmir State. I refuse this point blank. Pakistan has no right to say that we must do this and we must do that. We have seen enough of Pakistan. The people of Kashmir have seen enough. Muzaffarabad and Baramulla and hundred of villages in Jammu and Kashmir depict the story of Pakistan to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We want to have no more of this.
In concluding, I again request that in order to settle this issue of Kashmir, the Security Council should not confuse the point in dispute. The Security Council should not allow various other extraneous matters to be introduced. Very many extraneous matters have been introduced. The representative of Pakistan gave us the history of the Jammu and Kashmir State. He read to us some letters from Viceroys of India, asking the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir to behave, giving the Maharaja good advice, et cetera. However, we cannot forget that these States are the creation of British imperialism in India who has supported these states and this misrule for these 150 years? It is not going to convince me or the world for the representative of Pakistan to say: “These events have happened and these letters were written.” We know how the Princes have acted, how the states were brought into existence, and how the Princes were supported. This was all a game in the British imperialist policy. But this legacy has now fallen upon us. We are not here to discuss whether or not the Maharaja lawfully became the ruler of the State, whether or not there is moral administration in this State, whether or not the Maharaja is sovereign and whether or not Kashmir has legally acceded to India. These issues are not before the Security Council. The only issue before the Security Council is that Pakistan must observe its international obligations and must not support any outside raiders.
Pakistan should not encourage inside revolt. Pakistan has denied that it has in order to verify the statements made by the representatives of India and Pakistan, the Security Council must send a commission to the spot to see whether the complaint brought before the Security Council is valid or invalid. If the Security Council finds that the complaint brought before it by India is valid, then Pakistan should be asked to desist or India should be permitted to use its means to carry out the decision of the Security Council.
As far as I can speak on behalf of India, India does not want the help of the armies of Pakistan. What it wants from Pakistan is that Pakistan should not supply bases to the raiders on Pakistan territory across the border from Jammu and Kashmir State. All along the border on Pakistan territory, there are huge concentrations of these tribesmen who are Pakistani nationals. We request Pakistan not to allow its territory to be used by these raiders.
Pakistan should not provide ammunition, arms, direction and control to these tribesmen. It should stop the passage of these tribesmen through its territory. Pakistan should not supply arms and ammunition to the people who are fighting within the State because all these matters fall under an international obligation. Therefore, Pakistan should desist from that practice. That is all. We do not want any armed help from Pakistan. If Pakistan does what we have requested, the Indian Army, I am quite sure, will be capable of driving out the raiders and tribesmen. If Pakistan does not meddle in our affairs, we will be capable of solving all our own internal disputes with the Maharaja of Kashmir. However, as long as this unofficial war continues, it is very difficult for us to do any thing. Our hands are tied.
What is happening? The raiders are concentrated just across the border. They enter our State in large number—four or five thousand strong. They raid four or five villages, burn them, abduct women and loot property. When our army tries to capture them, they go across the border, and can not fire a single shot across the border, because if it does, there is the immediate danger of a greater conflagration. So our hands are tied.
We do not want to create this difficult situation without informing the Security Council and we felt honour-bound to inform it of the actual position. The Indian Army could easily have followed the raiders across the border and could have attacked the bases, which were all in Pakistan territory, but it desisted. We thought it would be better to inform the Security Council of the situation.
However, I did not have the slightest idea that when the case came before the Security Council, the representative of Pakistan would so boldly deny that Pakistan supplied all this help. Everybody knows that Pakistan is aiding these raiders and tribesmen and the people who are fighting with the State. However, Pakistan chose boldly to deny all these charges.
What is left for me to do? After all, I do not have any magic lamp so that I might bring the entire picture of Jammu and Kashmir State, along with the borders of Pakistan, before the eyes of the members of the Security Council so that they might see who is fighting and who is not fighting. Therefore, somebody must go to the spot. Then at that time it would be for us to prove that the charges we have brought before the Security Council are correct to the last word. That is the only help we want and no other help.”
Thirdly, though by no means lastly, may be placed the 14 August 1951 Memorandum of prominent Muslims led by Dr Zakir Hussain to the UN Representative Dr. Frank P. Graham:
“It is a remarkable fact that, while the Security Council and its various agencies have devoted so much time to the study of the Kashmir dispute and made various suggestions for its resolution, none of them has tried to ascertain the views of the Indian Muslims nor the possible effect of any hasty step in Kashmir, however well-intentioned, on the interests and well- being of the Indian Muslims. We are convinced that no lasting solution for the problem can be found unless the position of Muslims in Indian society is clearly understood.
Supporters of the idea of Pakistan, before this subcontinent was partitioned, discouraged any attempt to define Pakistan clearly and did little to anticipate the conflicting problems which were bound to arise as a result of the advocacy of the two-nation theory. The concept of Pakistan, therefore, became an emotional slogan with little rational content. It never occurred to the Muslim League or its leaders that if a minority was not prepared to live with a majority on the sub- continent, how could the majority be expected t o tolerate the minority.
It is, therefore, small wonder that the result of partition has been disastrous to Muslims. In undivided India, their strength lay about 100 million. Partition split up the Muslim people, confining them to the three isolated regions. Thus, Muslims number 25 million in Western Pakistan, 35 million to 40 million in India, and the rest in Eastern Pakistan. A single undivided community has been broken into three fragments, each faced with its own problems.
Pakistan was not created on a religious basis. If it had been, our fate as well as the fate of other minorities would have been settled at that time. Nor would the division of the sub- continent for reasons of religion have left large minorities in India or Pakistan.
This merely illustrates what we have said above, that the concept of Pakistan was vague, obscure, and never clearly defined, nor its likely consequences foreseen by the Muslim League, even when some of these should have been obvious.
When the partition took place, Muslims in India were left in the lurch by the Muslim League and its leaders. Most of them departed to Pakistan and a few who stayed behind stayed long enough to wind up their affairs and dispose of their property. Those who went over to Pakistan left a large number of relations and friends behind.
Having brought about a division of the country, Pakistan leaders proclaimed that they would convert Pakistan into a land where people would live a life according to the tenets of Islam. This created nervousness and alarm among the minorities living in Pakistan. Not satisfied with this, Pakistan went further and announced again and again their determination to protect and safeguard the interests of Muslims in India. This naturally aroused suspicion amongst the Hindus against us and our loyalty to India was questioned.
Pakistan had made our position weaker by driving out Hindus from Western Pakistan in utter disregard of the consequences of such a policy to us and our welfare. A similar process is in question in Eastern Pakistan from which Hindus are coming over to India in a large and large number.
If the Hindus are not welcome in Pakistan, how can we, in all fairness, expect Muslims to be welcomed in India ? Such a policy must inevitably, as the past has already shown, result in the uprooting of Muslims in this country and their migration to Pakistan where, as it became clear last year, they are no longer welcome, lest their influx should destroy Pakistan’s economy. Neither some of the Muslims who did migrate to Pakistan after partition, and following the widespread bloodshed and conflict on both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border in the north- west, have been able to find a happy asylum in what they had been told would be their homeland. Consequently some of them have had to return to India, e.g. Meos who are now being rehabilitated in their former areas.
If we are living honourably in India today, it is certainly not due to Pakistan which, if anything, has by her policy and action weakened our position. The credit goes to the broadminded leadership of India, to Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, to the traditions of tolerance in this country and to the Constitution which ensures equal rights to all citizens of India, irrespective of their religion caste, creed, colour or sex.
We, therefore, feel that, tragically as Muslims were misled by the Muslim League and subsequently by Pakistan and the unnecessary suffering which we and our Hindu brethren have to go through in Pakistan and in India since partition, we must be given an opportunity to settle down to a life of tolerance and understanding to the mutual benefit of Hindus and Muslims in our country – if only Pakistan would let us do it. To us it is a matter of no small consequence.
Despite continuous provocations, first from the Muslim League and since then from Pakistan, the Hindu majority in India has not thrown us or members of other minorities out of Civil Services, Armed Forces, the judiciary, trade, commerce, business and industry. There are Muslim Ministers in the Union and State cabinets, Muslim Governors, Muslim Ambassadors, representing India in foreign countries, fully enjoying the confidence of the Indian nation, Muslim members in Parliament and state legislatures, Muslim judges serving on the Supreme Court and High Courts, high-ranking officers in the Armed Forces and the Civil services, including the police.
Muslims have large landed estates, run big business and commercial houses in various parts of the country, notably in Bombay and Calcutta, have their shares in industrial production and enterprise in export and import trade. Our famous sacred shrines and places of cultural interest are mostly in India.
Not that our lot is certainly happy. We wish some of the state Governments showed a little greater sympathy to us in the field of education and employment. Nevertheless, we feel we have an honourable place in India. Under the law of the land, our religious and cultural life is protected and we shall share in the opportunities open to all citizens to ensure progress for the people of this country.
It is, therefore, clear that our interest and welfare do not coincide with Pakistan’s conception of the welfare and interests of Muslims in Pakistan.
This is clear from Pakistan’s attitude towards Kashmir. Pakistan claims Kashmir, first, on the ground of the majority of the State’s people being Muslims and, secondly, on the ground, of the state being essential to its economy and defence. To achieve its objective it has been threatening to launch “Jihad” against Kashmir in India. It is a strange commentary on political beliefs that the same Muslims of Pakistan who like the Muslims of Kashmir to join them invaded the state, in October 1947, killing and plundering Muslims in the state and dishonouring Muslim women, all in the interest of what they described as the liberation of Muslims of the State. In its oft-proclaimed anxiety to rescue the 3 million Muslims from what it describes as the tyranny of a handful of Hindus in the State, Pakistan evidently is prepared to sacrifice the interests of 40 million Muslims in India – a strange exhibition of concern for the welfare of fellow- Muslims. Our misguided brothers in Pakistan do not realise that if Muslims in Pakistan can wage a war against Hindus in Kashmir why should not Hindus, sooner or later, retaliate against Muslims in India.
Does Pakistan seriously think that it could give us any help if such an emergency arose or that we would deserve any help thanks to its own follies ? It is incapable of providing room and livelihood to the 40 million Muslims of India, should they migrate to Pakistan. Yet its policy and action, if not changed soon, may well produce the result which it dreads.
We are convinced that India will never attack our interests. First of all, it would be contrary to the spirit animating the political movement in this country. Secondly, it would be opposed to the Constitution and to the sincere leadership of the Prime Minister. Thirdly, India by committing such a folly would be playing straight into the hands of Pakistan.
We wish we were equally convinced of the soundness of Pakistan’s policy. So completely oblivious is it of our present problems and of our future that it is willing to sell us into slavery – if only it can secure Kashmir.
It ignores the fact that Muslims in Kashmir may also have a point of view of their own, that there is a democratic movement with a democratic leadership in the State, both inspired by the progress of a broad minded, secular, democratic movement in India and both naturally being in sympathy with India. Otherwise, the Muslim raiders should have been welcomed with open arms by the Muslims of the State when the invasion took place in 1947.
Persistent propaganda about “Jihad” is intended, among other things, to inflame religious passions in this country. For it would, of course, be in Pakistan’s interests to promote communal rioting in India to show to Kashmiri Muslims how they can find security only in Pakistan. Such a policy, however, can only bring untold misery and suffering to India and Pakistan generally and to Indian Muslims particularly. Pakistan never tires of asserting that it is determined to protect the interests of Muslims in Kashmir and India. Why does not Pakistan express the same concern for Pathans who are fighting for Pakhtoonistan, an independent homeland of their own ? The freedom-loving Pathans under the leadership of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and Dr. Khan Sahib, both nurtured in the traditions of democratic tolerance of the Indian National Congress, are being subjected to political repression of the worst possible kind by their Muslim brethren in power in Pakistan and in the NWFP. Contradictory as Pakistan’s policy generally is, it is no surprise to us that while it insists on a fair and impartial plebiscite in Kashmir, it denies a fair and impartial plebiscite to Pathans.
Pakistan’s policy in general and her attitude towards Kashmir is particular thus tend to create conditions in this country which in the long run can only bring to us Muslims widespread suffering and destruction. Its policy prevents us from settling down, from being honourable citizens of a State, free from suspicion of our fellow-countrymen and adapting ourselves to changing conditions to promote the interests and welfare of India. Its sabre-rattling interferes with its own economy and ours. It expects us to be loyal to it despite its impotence to give us any protection, believing at the same time that we can still claim all the rights of citizenship in a secular democracy.
In the event of a war, it is extremely doubtful whether it will be able to protect the Muslims of East Bengal who are completely cut off from Western Pakistan. Are the Muslims of India and Eastern Pakistan to sacrifice themselves completely to enable the 25 million Muslims in Western Pakistan to embark upon mad, self-destructive adventures?
We should, therefore, like to impress upon you with all the emphasis at our command that Pakistan’s policy towards Kashmir is fraught with the gravest peril to the 40 million Muslims of India. If the Security Council is really interested in peace, human brotherhood and international understanding, it should heed this warning while there is still time.
Dr. Zakir Hussain (Vice Chancellor Aligarh University); Sir Sultan Ahmed (Former Member of Governor General’s Executive Council); Sir Mohd. Ahmed Syed Khan(Nawab of Chhatari, former acting Governor of United Provinces and Prime Minister of Hyderabad); Sir Mohd. Usman (Former member of Governor General’s Executive council and acting Governor of Madras); Sir Iqbal Ahmed (Former Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court); Sir Fazal Rahimtoola (Former Sheriff of Bombay); Maulana Hafz-ur-Rehman M.P.; Col. B.H. Zaidi M.P.; Nawab Zain Yar Jung (Minister Gcvernment of Hyderabad); A.K. Kawaja (Former President of Muslim Majlis); T.M. Zarif (General Secretary West Bengal Bohra Community)”.
Such have been the most eminent voices of India’s Muslims in times past. Sadly, they have no equivalent today when India’s Muslims need them with greater urgency. (Bollywood or cricketing celebrities hardly substitute!) This fault in the intellectual history of the modern subcontinent has been a principal factor causing the misapprehensions and distortions of Pakistan’s and J&K’s political reality to continue worldwide.
October 30, 2007 — drsubrotoroy
India-USA interests: Elements of a serious Indian foreign policy
First published in The Statesman, Editorial Page Special Article, Oct 30 2007
If there is a “natural alliance” between India and the United States, it arises to the extent that both are large democracies and more or less free societies that happen to be placed half way across the globe and pose no perceptible military threat to one another. The real long-term strategic and political dimensions of such an alliance are quite independent of the business interests driving the “nuclear deal” or selfish interests of the few million “elite” Indians who have fled to the USA as immigrants in recent decades. The interests of Indian immigrants in the USA and interests of the vast masses in India are, after all, quite distinct. Also, America derives most if its own energy not from nuclear reactors but from abundant hydroelectric resources. If the nuclear deal has been ill-conceived and fails in implementation at any stage, India will not import expensive nuclear reactors but can still learn much from the USA in developing hydroelectric power which constitutes India’s greatest energy potential as well.
China and Pakistan
Key strategic interests of India and the USA are fully convergent in East Asia, especially in respect of Communist China. But in West Asia, American attitudes and actions towards the Muslim world, specifically the invasion and occupation of Iraq and now a possible assault on Iran, have been deeply disconcerting for India which has some 120 million Muslim citizens.
It is not a coincidence that Pakistan, an overtly religious Muslim state, has had a marriage of convenience with Communist China, an overtly atheistic anti-religious state. Both have been militarist dictatorships that have seen democratic India as a strategic adversary, especially over territorial claims. It was Pakistan that facilitated President Nixon’s desired opening to Communist China and later permitted President Reagan’s attack on the soft underbelly of the USSR in the Afghan civil war (an attack in which China participated too). With the USSR’s collapse, the USA removed its main strategic adversary only to be left with two new adversaries: Islamic fundamentalism in the short run and China in the long run!
Indian diplomacy can credit a rare (indeed exceptional) success in having warned the USA from the early 1990s onwards of the dangers brewing in the jihadist camps in Pakistan sponsored by the ISI. The US Government has now declassified its assessments of those dangers and what it tried to do as early as 1995 and as late as 2000 through the Saudis with the Taliban’s Mullah Omar ~ who refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden to Saudi Arabia and openly spoke of plans for revenge against American interests. With a continuing Cold-War mindset, US policy-makers thought state-actors like Saddam Hussein were a graver risk to Israel than non-state or pan-state actors like Osama could be to the American mainland. Having distracted itself with Saddam, the US Government’s response to Osama has been far too much far too late ~ the maddened bull chasing the matador’s cape, in Stephen Holmes’s recent metaphor.
Pakistan’s consistent motivation was one of gaining advantage with the Americans in the hope of undermining India, and indeed the nexus created in Washington by Pakistan’s bureaucrats, politicians and military over decades has been the envy of all lobbyists. But Pakistan overplayed its hand, and once the 9/11 genie was let out of the bottle it could not be put back in again. Meanwhile, Pakistan allowing Gwadar port to become a haven for China’s Navy would have obvious new strategic repercussions.
American interests in West Asia are to protect Israel, to protect trade-routes and to defend against non-state or pan-state terrorism. American interests in East Asia are to protect Japan, South Korea and Taiwan from communist attack, to protect trade-routes and to defend against new terrorism arising from places like Indonesia or the Philippines. All American interests in Asia would be facilitated by appearance of genuine multiparty democracy and free societies in China and Pakistan.
China as a two-party or multi-party democracy and a free society, even on the Taiwan-model, is unlikely to be an expansionist militarist aggressor in the way it has been as a dictatorship and unfree society. Communist China in the early 21st Century makes the same outrageous unlawful claims on Indian territory as it did half a century ago. Only the USA came to India’s assistance in a tangible way when Communist China attacked in Ladakh and Arunachal in the late months of 1962. John Kenneth Galbraith was President Kennedy’s Ambassador in New Delhi and his memoirs tell the tale of the landings of C-130 aircraft in Kolkata carrying infantry weapons, light artillery and quartermaster stores for the beleaguered Indian Army in Tezpur and Leh.
Nehru, Krishna Menon and India’s whole political and diplomatic leadership revealed gross incompetence as did the Army’s top brass. Indian Communists virtually betrayed the country. The Chinese massed in the Chumbi Valley near Nathu La, and had they attacked all the way to Siliguri, India’s North East would have been cut off. As a demonstration, the Chinese in division strength took and held the whole of Arunachal for a month, withdrawing before there could be anyIndian attempt to retaliate or cut supply lines. The geography has not changed in fifty years. What can yet change is the ideology, away from the communism that has ruined China’s great people, to a new and bold commitment to liberal democracy and the Rule of Law.
As for Pakistan, its people under crude military rule have hardly allowed themselves to become the source of Muslim culture that Iqbal had dreamt of. Pakistan today is not a place even the most ardent pro-Pakistani person in Jammu & Kashmir can find very appealing or inspiring. If there was multiparty democracy and a free society in which the military had a normal small role of defence (as opposed to a large purportedly offensive role against India), Pakistan could calm down from its neuroses and become a normal country for the first time~ one in which the so-called “extremists” of today are transformed into a politically legitimate religious conservatism, who could seek to take power responsibly through the ballot box.
India should be a friendly neutral in the conflict between the West and Muslim world, doing whatever we can to bring better understanding between the two sides. Both have been invaders in Indian history, bringing both evil and good in their wake. India’s culture absorbed and assimilated their influences and became more resilient as a consequence. India also was a haven for Jews and Zoroastrians fleeing persecution. India as a country must condemn fanatical terrorist attacks on the West and bizarre reactionary attempts to return to a caliphate in the world of modern science. Equally, India must condemn vicious racist bombing and warfare unleashed by technologically advanced countries upon ancient societies and cultures struggling to enter the modern world in their own way.
As for the central issue of Israel in Palestine, Martin Buber (1878-1965), the eminent Zionist scholar and philosopher of Judaism, said to Rabindranath Tagore in 1926 that the Jewish purpose should be one of “pursuing the settlement effort in Palestine in agreement, nay, alliance with the peoples of the East, so as to erect with them together a great federative structure, which might learn and receive from the West whatever positive aims and means might be learnt and received from it, without, however, succumbing to the influence of its inner disarray and aimlessness.” If India could guide the region towards such a “great federative structure” of reason and tranquillity, while encouraging democracy in China and Pakistan, the aim of our “natural alliance” with the United States half way across the globe would have been fulfilled.
October 16, 2007 — drsubrotoroy
Iran, America, Iraq: Bush’s post-Saddam Saddamism — one flip-flop too many?
by Subroto Roy
First published in The Statesman, Editorial Page, October 16 2007
All cultures generally, and Eastern cultures invariably, require utmost politeness towards an invited guest.The behaviour of the President of New York’s ColumbiaUniversity on 24 September was thus inexplicable when he gratuitously insulted his guest Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, even before allowing him to deliver the speech he had been invited to give at the university.Iran’s President has become the new hate-figure of choice in the popular American media ever since 2005 when he was mistranslated as having said he wished Israel “wiped off the map”.He has chosen to contribute to his own predicament by seeming to associate with and encourage those known as “Holocaust-deniers” – people who stretch from those who deny any systematic mass-murder took place of Jews by Nazi Europe to those who want evidence for the number of six million such victims that has passed into school textbooks.
Modern Iran’s foreign policy should not have come to depend on the precise history of the atrocities against Jews by Christendom over the centuries. But that is what President Ahmadinejad has now, rather ineptly, made it depend on, jeopardising the lives of tens of thousands of his fellow-citizens from destruction caused by a massive and unlawful American, British, Israeli and possibly French attack. He has been quite needlessly provocative enough to allow himself to be painted by the American popular media, unscrupulous and unthinking as that can be, as some kind of Hitler-figure who plans some day to use nuclear bombs on Israel. Iran has been plaintively pleading in official circles that it wishes to use nuclear-power generated electricity at home while exporting its petroleum, that it has a right to do so as a member in good standing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and that it has neither wish nor capacity to develop nuclear bombs. But no matter the merits of its position with the IAEA, Iran has succeeded in isolating itself and seems to have almost no official allies on the world’s stage (though China, Russia, Royal Dutch Shell etc all have large investments there!).
The US has detailed contingency plans to attack Iran though no American official or military officer has admitted or stated that any such intention exists. The outlines are an open secret. There would be sudden massive bombing of Iran’s military and general infrastructure, including its assumed nuclear installations. US Marines would make seaborne assaults on Iranian islands to prevent Iran from mining or closing the Straits of Hormuz or from attacking American bases or interests in the Gulf. US Army forces based in Iraq would launch massive long-range artillery and rocket attacks preventing Iranian ground forces attempting to manoeuvre or approach them. There may be an amphibious Anglo-American attack from the Caspian Sea towards Tehran. “Special Forces” by way of spies, saboteurs and agents provocateur would have already been placed within Iran to help targeting and other war-aims.
One aim would be to permanently cripple Iran’s nuclear industry.A second aim would be “regime change” though without any attempt at a large-scale ground occupation of Iran which is recognised as impossible to achieve.The more extreme members of the Bush Administration led by Vice President Cheney aim to see Iran becoming a “failed state”, reversing whatever has taken place by way of nation-building, leaving an emasculated Iran, like an emasculated Iraq, that poses no threat to Israel for the next century and more.
The traditional Christian ethics of a just war are planned to be practically ignored by the United States, and there would not be any formal declaration of war. America’s people either have barely heard of Iran as a place on the map and will mostly continue with their usual lives, or have no idea of the intricacies of the US-Iran relationship in the last 80 years, or have no wish to support their Government machinery’s intent to go to war but have no control over its behaviour.
Three factors have held back an American attack though forces apparently can be made ready within days if not hours of a Presidential order. One has been top military officers, including Admiral Fallon, the head of US Central Command, who have said that Iran’s attempted retaliation on the ground could jeopardize 160,000 US troops now in more than a dozen bases spread across Iraq (besides Israel being threatened by Iran’s Hezbollah ally in Lebanon). A second factor has been the American Jewish community, who have apparently warned that a large bloody counterproductive war against Iran may have negative repercussions on their standing in American society. A third factor has been America’s foreign ministry which knows enough international law, politics and history to realise such aggression would be wholly unlawful, widely condemned by the world, and return the international system to the pre-1914 days of an imperialist free-for-all or destroy it altogether. The UN system would permanently end, and all methods and precedents of international cooperation, law and diplomacy would have been rendered irrelevant and deserving only to be flushed away and forgotten. The UN today seems to be led by an incompetent unknown who will produce even less of a squeak in protest than did his predecessor. Imperialism and Colonialism would return formally except in an age of advanced technology in which some nations have a right and ability to use nuclear weapons in pursuing dominance. The Geneva Conventions and even a medieval right like habeas corpus have already seen breaches; the Vienna Convention and other similar treaties and norms would all be effectively over.The international retrogression may be not merely back to 1914 or 1907 but to the tumult and savagery of Napoleon’s wars which ended with the Congress of Vienna in 1815.
War-planning aside, what is most interesting is that in recent months the USA has apparently gone back to developing, as an alternative, something like Saddam Hussein’s own strategy for containing Iranian influence! Iraq’s Anbar province sits on vast oil reserves which are not going to be pumped as that would lower the price of oil from its current high near $83 a barrel. It is a Sunni-majority area which has now made its Shias refugees, just as Shia-dominated areas of Baghdad have seen forced evictions of Sunnis. The Sunni tribal chiefs of Anbar are now having their loyalty purchased by the Americans just as Saddam had once done, especially by playing an anti-Iran card as Iran is a common enemy. At the same time, the Bush Administration is hard-pressed to try to persuade Iraq’s Shia majority to resist what might seem the inevitability of Iranian hegemony — which can only be done by reminding them of their Arab anti-Persian roots again just as Saddam had tried to do. Anglo-American policy once was to build up the Arabs against the Turks, then the Pehlavis against the Arabs, then Saddam against the Ayatollahs who had toppled the Pehlavis. Saddam himself was then toppled and killed and now post-Saddam Iraq is being built up against an Islamic Iran that may be struggling in its own way to enter the modern world. Perhaps the 2003 invasion of Iraq has been one flip-flop too many for the USA and UK to cope with over the last century.
August 13, 2007 — drsubrotoroy
Saving Pakistan: A Physicist/Political Philosopher May Represent Iqbal’s “Spirit of Modern Times”
by Subroto Roy
First published in The Statesman, Editorial Page Special Article, August 13 2007,
Pakistan’s Nobel winning particle physicist Abdus Salam (1926-1996) was, like Pakistan’s most eminent jurist Zafrullah Khan (1893-1985), treated badly by his country and compatriots merely because of his religious beliefs as an Ahmadiya/Qadiani. This itself may be an adequate reason for secular thinking when it comes to identifying Pakistan’s or any country’s interests. Pakistan has had eminent poets and writers but there have been no dedicated first-rate technical economists ~ and no serious political philosophers other than, recently, Pervez Hoodbhoy who is a physicist. Most political economy by Pakistanis about Pakistan has tended to be at the level of World Bank bureaucratic reports or traveller’s tales, which have their uses but hardly amount to profound insight or significant scholarship. (We in India also have had numerous minor World Bank/UN bureaucrats, with or without PhDs about anything, passing themselves off as experts on India’s political economy.)
Yet during Pakistan’s present national crisis (and Pakistan has continually faced crises ever since 1947) people must go back to first principles of political economy and ask questions like “Who are we?”; “What are we doing to ourselves?”; “What is our future?” etc ~ questions about national identity and national viability and national purpose.
Abu Dhabi Pact
On 29-30 July, a deal was reportedly struck in Abu Dhabi after a secret face-to-face meeting between Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto: he would stay on as President for five years, she would be PM and Head of Government, have prosecutions against her dropped and get back her enormous frozen wealth. Such would be the intended outcome of the long-touted return to fair competitive elections later this year. The deal was brokered by British, American, Saudi and other go-betweens outside Pakistan, and is an overt way of keeping Musharraf in power while also seeming to allow a large concession by way of the return of a purported symbol of democracy like Benazir.
But Benazir seems out of touch with reality. When she returned two decades ago as a young unmarried woman confronting General Zia ul-Haq, she was a genuine popular hero. Her father’s judicial execution at Zia’s hands was still fresh in public memory, and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, no matter how misguided his ideologies, had some makings of a serious modern Pakistani nationalist politician.
Benazir as a middle aged matron is not her father and has lost almost all political credibility with her flip-flopping opportunism, and is now seen merely as a face agreeable to the West. Her good looks were discussed on American TV by the comedian Bill Maher while Musharraf’s publicity agent had him sharing jokes on a rival TV comedy – however, American TV audiences are or should not be a Pakistani constituency.
Benazir also forgets that Zia had set up Nawaz Sharif as an ally of the Pakistan military against her own populism in the late 1980s, just as she is being set up now as an ally of the same military against people like Sharif, Javed Hashmi, Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Imran Khan. Musharraf overthrew Sharif and jailed Hashmi and they are his declared foes; the other two have expressed opinions hostile to Western military presence in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Maulana made a nationalistic overture towards India, while Imran has openly praised Indian democracy despite its faults. But Indian foreign policy has not responded and seems under manifest influence of the Western powers ~ had we felt and thought with genuine independence we could have, for example, easily declared and implemented large-scale humanitarian food-aid from the FCI’s wheat-stocks for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq as was suggested in these pages a year ago.
A Musharraf-Benazir alliance is hardly destined to save Pakistan and will be no more than a cynical example of short-term opportunism: we in India can expect them to use J&K as traditional rhetorical camouflage for their own continuing misgovernance and corruption. As in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan, the Western powers face the dilemma that any government they support in Pakistan will be perceived as lacking legitimacy while a genuine hands-off policy could result in legitimate popular governments which seem to Western Governments beyond their control and hence seemingly adverse to Western interests.
The West has long ill-understood Pakistan, partly because it has seen Pakistan merely to be used as a source of convenient military manpower and real-estate for itself as and when necessary. American diplomats were reporting as early as November 1951 that Maulana Maududi’s Jamaat were hostile to the “evils” of Western materialism which they wanted to “do away with root and branch” in the country. In January 1976, American diplomats were reporting Pakistan’s “crash program to develop nuclear weapons”, and by June 1983 that Pakistan was close to nuclear test capability, intended to deter aggression by India “which remains Pakistan’s greatest security concern”. For Islamic revivalism to coincide with nuclear weapons in the last decade has been something long-predictable if there had been adequate will to do so.
Right wing politicians and religious fundamentalists have come to power in countries with nuclear weapons without untoward results, e.g., Likud in Israel or the BJP/RSS in India. (It is America’s present leaders, as well as all main Democrat and Republican presidential candidates except Ron Paul, who have unilaterally threatened nuclear attacks on a non-nuclear country that has not committed aggression against anyone.) There is no obvious reason why an elected legitimate “conservative” or right wing government in Pakistan must come to pose a special nuclear danger to anyone. If it is serious about governance (which Musharraf-Benazir may not be), it may even succeed in finding enough sobriety and political honesty to start to face up to Pakistan’s real economic and social problems which are vast in size and scope.
Wali Allah vs Iqbal
“We are an Arab people whose fathers have fallen in exile in the country of Hindustan, and Arabic genealogy and Arabic language are our pride,” said Wali Allah (1703-1762). Two centuries later, Mohammad Iqbal (1877-1938), in his 1930 Presidential Speech to the Muslim League in Allahabad conceptualising today’s Pakistan, wished precisely to become free of that Arab influence: “I would like to see the Punjab, NWFP, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state… The life of Islam as a cultural force in this living country very largely depends on its centralisation in a specified territory… For India it means security and peace resulting from an internal balance of power, for Islam an opportunity to rid itself of the stamp that Arabian Imperialism was forced to give it, to mobilise its law, its education, its culture, and to bring them into closer contact with its own original spirit and the spirit of modern times.”
That “spirit of modern times” is today represented most prominently in Pakistan by Pervez Hoodbhoy. In a December 2006 speech, Hoodbhoy suggested a new alternative to MA Jinnah’s ”Faith, Unity, Discipline” slogan: “First, I wish for minds that can deal with the complex nature of truth…. My second wish is for many more Pakistanis who accept diversity as a virtue… My third, and last, wish is that Pakistanis learn to value and nurture creativity.” And he has spoken of bringing “economic justice to Pakistan”, of the “fight to give Pakistan’s women the freedom which is their birthright”, and of people to “wake up” and engage politically. We shall witness a most engaging battle if Benazir and her new military friends all representing the jaded and corrupt old political power structures, come to face in the elections a new conservative alliance of people like Sharif, Hashmi, Fazlur Rahman and Imran all infused with Hoodbhoy’s scientific liberalism representing Iqbal’s ”spirit of modern times”.
August 4, 2007 — drsubrotoroy
The eminent Zionist scholar and Jewish philosopher Martin Buber (1878-1965) said to the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore in 1926 that the Jewish purpose should be:
“pursuing the settlement effort in Palestine in agreement, nay, alliance with the peoples of the East, so as to erect with them together a great federative structure, which might learn and receive from the West whatever positive aims and means might be learnt and received from it, without, however, succumbing to the influence of its inner disarray and aimlessness.”
(This was part of a letter to the New York Times I wrote on January 23 1995 from Scarsdale where I lived at 36 Lynwood Road, the house of an aunt, for two years or so, while working in Greenwich and battling in the Ninth Circuit and US Supreme Court in a battle against racism and corruption that continues to this day.)
Postscript January 23 2008:
I had lost the reference to these words of Martin Buber. I have now found them again thanks to Dr Martin Kaempchen:
Dear Dr Roy,
The quote by Martin Buber is indeed in my book, viz. in the short essay „A Talk with Tagore“. In my „Rabindranath Tagore and Germany: A Documentation“ (Max Mueller Bhavan, Calcutta 1991), the quotation is on page 96. `The original German essay is titled „Ein Gespräch mit Tagore“ (Martin Buber: Nachlese. Lambert Schneider Verlag, Heidelberg 1965, 202-204.) The English translation is to be found in the periodical „India and Israel”. vols. X/XI, 1950. Special Recognition Issue 15.10.1950, p.18 (no translator mentioned). So, the quotation is not in a letter to Tagore; and the essay was not written in 1926 (when the meeting between Tagore and Buber took place in Prague), but in 1950, as the beginning of the essay bears out. I hope this will help you. With my best wishes, Martin Kaempchen”
September 8, 2006 — drsubrotoroy
Racism New and Old
Editorial page, The Statesman September 8 2006
When Iraqi Sunni terrorists killed 11 Pakistani and three Indian Shia pilgrims on the same bus to Karbala the other day, they did not check passports or wait to hear discourses from their victims about the validity of Jinnah’s Two-Nations Theory or the RSS’s views on Akhand Bharat and Bharat-Mata. All Indians and Pakistanis of whatever religion are pretty much “Hindis” to the average Arab. If Pakistanis (much to their own chagrin) are indistinguishable from Indians in many Arab eyes, Hindus and Sikhs are (much to their own chagrin) indistinguishable from Muslims in many North American and British eyes. Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Religion Writer (and whose own splendid ethnicity may appear obvious to us from his name), reports Paul Silverstein, an American anthropologist, saying “Muslims are the new Jews… They are the object of a series of stereotypes, caricatures and fears which are not based in a reality and are independent of a person’s experience with Muslims.” Kuruvila says: “The Muslim caricature has ensnared Hindus, Mexicans and others” across the USA “with violence, suspicion and slurs”, giving new form to America’s “age-old dance around racial identity”.
The subcontinent’s Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and others are from pretty much similar racial populations, so when we wish to distinguish ourselves from one another as we tend to do on the subcontinent, we wear turbans, beards, long hair, veils, bindis etc ~ symbols about which the average New Jersey “dot-buster” or British “Paki-basher” cares not a hoot. London last year even saw Jean Charles de Menezes, a young Brazilian electrician on his way to work in the morning, pinned down by an elite squad of Britain’s much-vaunted policemen and receive seven bullets point-blank in the back of his skull ~ merely for having “looked Asian”.
Subcontinental immigrant families in the West experience a defining moment when the wife first bobs her long hair and takes to wearing slacks, skirts or even shorts, just so she can leave home and assimilate better in the workplace or shopping mall. The saris, salwars and real jewellery are kept for the weekends when she meets people who will understand her as herself, namely, her friends and kith and kin in the immigrant community. When salwar or sari-clad women start fake-kissing one another in Western-style greeting at those weekends, the alternation of their identities (and confusion in their self-knowledge) may have become complete. A limiting point of such attempts at assimilation is reached perhaps when an Asian woman becomes a BBC or CNN newsreader, reading what she has been told to yet still narcissistically indulging in the extent of her external transformation.
Muslim-Hindu differences of religious and cultural beliefs and practices between racially similar peoples may be contrasted with the main fault-lines that have existed in Western societies in recent centuries: fault-lines of race and colour between European and African, and of race and religion between Jew and Gentile.
An eminent American legal scholar once said African slavery had been “the living lie” in America’s official heritage of democracy and individual freedom. Black America took one hundred years from Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to Martin Luther King Jr., to begin to overcome the impossible odds against it. Sports, music, show-biz and the arts were obvious arenas for public demonstration of individual genius. Athletes like Jesse Owens, Joe Louis and Arthur Ashe, musicians like Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole and Eartha Kitt, “in-your-face” satirists like Sammy Davis Jr, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy upto and including modern rapsters and many thousands of others demonstrated that Black America was not going away anywhere, certainly not returning to Liberia, was going to stay in and permanently alter American life and culture, and wondered if anyone thought otherwise. The degree of assimilation into non-black cultures would be a matter of personal choice, not social or economic compulsion. During the Bush invasion of Iraq, Harry Belafonte re-ignited an old controversy when he referred to his fellow West Indian and perfectly assimilated Colin Powell in context of the “plantation slave”/”house slave” dichotomy: plantation slaves were externally oppressed but felt free within while house slaves had more comforts but were docile compradors inside their souls.
Immigrant communities from the subcontinent have had their share of the same. It has been all too easy for young people to reach academic highs in New Delhi or Kolkata only to escape to obscure corners of America and lead docile subservient unfulfilling lives forever afterwards, in exchange for material and ultimately meaningless rewards. It might be called the Madhuri Dixit Phenomenon of being transformed from celebrity-status in India to becoming a complete unknown in America.
The Jewish-Gentile divide in Western civilisation has been more insidious and damaging to mankind, and potentially remains so as the anger it generates has been transferred onto modern Muslims instead. At its unspoken roots is the frank Jewish theological assessment that Jesus of Nazareth was at most a wise and honest rabbi, not Christ Immanent ~ a veracious blow that seems to remove the corner-stone of all European culture and civilisation. The length of mutual recriminations and miscomprehensions as well as self-deceptions and cruelties over the millennia that have resulted on both sides, remains endless. On the Christian side there has been the vile persecution of Jews for centuries. On the Jewish side, there has arisen the vast myth that today’s Israel has something to do with the ancient Hebrews, when contemporary Jews likely descend mostly from the conversion to Judaism of the Khazar Khanate in the second half of the 9th Century (see e.g. Paul Meerts, “Assessing Khazaria”, International Institute for Asian Studies July 2004). In between Jewish and Christian self-deceptions and mutual misunderstandings has arisen Anti-Semitism, Zionism, and also Anti-Zionism (many thoughtful Jews having opposed the creation of Israel). As George Eliot, Hannah Arendt and many others noticed, the assimilation of 19th Century Jews into elite society in Vienna or London was only permitted where some exceptional individual genius was displayed, most prominently perhaps in case of Benjamin Disraeli who became Victoria’s Prime Minister. Even that acceptance of assimilated “exceptional” Jews came to disintegrate into the horrors of the 20th Century, from which we are yet to recover. Modern American foreign policy has been partly driven by the East and West Coasts’ understanding or misunderstanding of that history.
July 31, 2006 — drsubrotoroy
First published in The Sunday Statesman & The Statesman Editorial Page Special Article
30-31 July, 2006
Pakistan’s political institutions have failed to develop properly over sixty years. Yet in the last ten years or more, its Government has acquired weapons of mass destruction and in 1998-99 its Foreign Minister half-threatened to use these against India in a first strike. As a religious and cultural phenomenon and as a putative nation-state, Pakistan needs to be sought to be understood in as unbiased and objective a manner as possible, not least by Pakistanis themselves, as well as by Afghans, Bangladeshis, Chinese, Americans,Israelis, Arabs, Iranians etc. besides ourselves in India.
The slogan “Islam in danger” has always had some substance since orthodox Muslims constantly face temptations in the world existing around them from materialism, scepticism, syncretism, pantheism etc. Some responded defensively to the Westernisation/modernisation of India’s Hindus, Parsees and Christians by becoming insular and separatist in outlook, and anti-individualist or communal in behaviour.
“We are an Arab people whose fathers have fallen in exile in the country of Hindustan, and Arabic genealogy and Arabic language are our pride,” declared Wali Allah (1703-1762), a contemporary of Nejd’s founder of Wahhabism. “We must repudiate all those Indian, Persian and Roman customs which are contrary to the Prophet’s teaching”, declared Barelvi (1786-1831), who also initiated the idea of a religious mass migration of North Indian Muslims. His movement saw “jihad as one of the basic tenets of faith… it chose as the venue of jihad the NW Frontier of the subcontinent, where it was directed against the Sikhs. Barelvi temporarily succeeded in carving out a small theocratic principality which collapsed owing to the friction between his Pathan and North Indian followers…” (A. Ahmed, in Basham (ed) Cultural History of India).
Political and psychological tensions between Pakistan’s Pashtun/Baloch tribal people and Punjabi/ Urdu elite continue to this day, even when many of the former have integrated into industries and vocations controlled by the latter. The highlanders were never part of Hindu societies, while the plainsmen, whether they admit it or not, ethnically were converts for the most part from India’s native religions (though here again the religious syncretism of Sindhis, both Muslim and Hindu, may be contrasted with orthodoxy). Barelvi’s theocracy, named Tariqa-yi Muhammadiya, had remnants near Sittana until the First World War, and his followers are still a major component of Pakistan’s most orthodox today.
Muslim separatism in North India would have been futile without British political backing. As early as 1874, the British saw their advantage: “The existence side by side of these hostile creeds (Hindu and Muslim) is one of the strong points in our political position in India. The better classes of Mohammedans are a source of strength to us and not of weakness. They constitute a comparatively small but an energetic minority of the population whose political interests are identical with ours.” When the Agha Khan’s 1906 delegation first pleaded for communal representation, Minto agreed with them, and Minto’s wife wrote in her diary the effect was “nothing less than the pulling back of sixty two millions (of Muslims) from joining the ranks of the seditious opposition.” The slogan “If you are not with us you are against us” was always widely applied by the British in India in the form “If you dare to not be with us, we definitely will be with your adversaries”.
One obscure ideological current of today’s Pakistan came via the enigmatic personage of Inayatullah Mashriqi (1888-1963), who, from being a Cambridge Wrangler, became a friend of Adolf Hitler in 1926, received a Renault as a gift from Hitler (possibly housed in a Lahore museum today) and claimed to have affected Hitler’s ideology. Mashriqi created the Khaksars, modelled on the Nazi SA, and was often jailed for violence.
But the official ideology of today’s Pakistan came from Mohammad Iqbal (1877-1938), an admirer of Friedrich Nietzsche. Indeed, “Pakistan” would have been better named “Iqbalistan” and its nationals “Iqbalians”, just as countries like Colombia, the USA, Israel, Saudi Arabia etc. have been named after an individual person. Iqbal’s 1930 Presidential Speech to the Muslim League in Allahabad conceptualised the country that exists today: “I would like to see the Punjab, NWFP, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state…the formation of a consolidated NW Indian Muslim state appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims at least of NW India… India is the greatest Muslim country in the world. The life of Islam as a cultural force in this living country very largely depends on its centralisation in a specified territory… “
Though Kashmiri himself, Iqbal was silent about J&K being any part of this new entity. Nor did he see this Muslim country being theocratic or filled with anti-Hindu bigotry: “A community which is inspired by feelings of ill-will towards other communities is low and ignoble. I entertain the highest respect for the customs, laws, religious and social institutions of other communities…. Yet I love the communal group which is the source of my life and my behaviour; and which has formed me what I am by giving me its religion, its literature, its thought, its culture,and thereby recreating its whole past, as a living operating factor, in my present consciousness… Nor should the Hindus fear that the creation of autonomous Muslim states will mean the introduction of a kind of religious rule in such states…. I therefore demand the formation of a consolidated Muslim state in the best interests of India and Islam. For India it means security and peace resulting from an internal balance of power, for Islam an opportunity to rid itself of the stamp that Arabian Imperialism was forced to give it, to mobilise its law, its education, its culture, and to bring them into closer contact with its own original spirit and the spirit of modern times.” Iqbal clearly wished to be rid of the same stamp of Arabian Imperialism that Wali Allah had extolled.
In 1937, Iqbal added an economic dimension referring to Shariat in order that “at least the right to subsistence is secured to everybody”. A “free Muslim state or states” was “the only way to solve the problem of bread for Muslims as well as to secure a peaceful India.”
Iqbal persuaded MA Jinnah (1876-1948), who had settled once again into his London law practice, to return to India in 1934. But when, following the 1935 Government of India Act, India experienced its first democratic elections in 1937, the Muslim League’s ideology promoted by Iqbal and Jinnah failed miserably in the very four provinces that Iqbal had named.
Three days after Hitler’s attack on Poland, the British chose to politically empower Jinnah. Until September 4 1939, the British “had had little time for Jinnah and his League. The Government’s declaration of war on Germany on 3 September, however, transformed the situation. A large part of the army was Muslim, much of the war effort was likely to rest on the two Muslim majority provinces of Punjab and Bengal. The following day, the Viceroy invited Jinnah for talks on an equal footing with Gandhi…. because the British found it convenient to take the League seriously, everyone had to as well” (F. Robinson, in James & Roy (eds) Foundations of Pakistan’s Political Economy). Jinnah himself was amazed: “suddenly there was a change in the attitude towards me. I was treated on the same basis as Mr Gandhi. I was wonderstruck why all of a sudden I was promoted and given a place side by side with Mr Gandhi.”
Britain at war was faced too with intransigence from the Congress — Gandhi, for example, rudely dismissing the 1942 Cripps offer as a “post-dated cheque on a failing bank”. It was unsurprising this would contribute to the British tilt towards Congress’s adversary. Suddenly, Rahmat Ali’s acronym “PAKSTAN” , supposedly invented on the top floor of a London bus, was becoming a credible possibility.
By 1946, Muslim electoral opinion had changed drastically in the League’s favour. By 1947, Iqbal’s lofty philosophical vision of a cultured Muslim state had degenerated into irrational street mobs shouting: “Larke lenge Pakistan; Marke lenge Pakistan; Khun se lenge Pakistan; Dena hoga Pakistan”.
Events remote from India’s history and geography, namely, Hitler’s rise and the Second World War, had contributed between 1937 and 1947 to the change of fortune of Jinnah’s League, and hence the fate of all the people of the subcontinent. Even so, thanks to AK Azad’s diplomacy, the May 1946 Cabinet Mission Plan denying Partition and Pakistan did come to be accepted by Jinnah’s Muslim League, and it was doubtless the obduracy and megalomania of Azad’s Congress colleagues which contributed equally to the failure to find a political solution ~ along with the vapid behaviour of a pompous, vacuous Mountbatten who caused infinite uncertainty until June 3 1947, as to what was going to happen to the lives of scores of millions of ordinary people within a few weeks.
In August 1947, the new Pakistani elite hardly felt or even wished to feel free of the British ~ they merely felt independent of what they saw as Congress domination, and had now acquired some power for themselves. Far from any nation-building taking place, Pakistan’s early years were marked by political, legal, constitutional and military chaos and trauma. Both Dominions made a grab for the Raj’s common assets, especially the armed forces.
Indeed, how did the Kashmir problem originate? As much as any other factor, it occurred because of the incompetent partitioning of military assets and hurried decommissioning of British Indian armies ~ causing thousands of Mirpuri soldiers to return to a communally inflamed Punjab/ Jammu region.
The first J&K war started within weeks of Partition and was in all but name a civil war ~ somewhat like the American Civil War. It was a civil war not merely between Kashmir’s National and Muslim Conferences but also between Army regiments who had been jointly fighting Britain’s enemies until very recently.
Pakistan’s leadership vacuum started at once. Jinnah was ill and died shortly. Liaquat Ali Khan was the only politician of any experience left. He faced on one side Pashtuns having no wish to be dominated by a new Karachi/ Rawalpindi elite, and on the other side, the Kashmir conflict. The most basic functions of governance never got started. Taking a Census has been one such function since Roman times, yet Pakistan has never had one. Writing a Constitution is another, but Maududi and others demanded “That the sovereignty in Pakistan belongs to God Almighty alone and that the Government of Pakistan shall administer the country as His agent”. As a result, Pakistan’s few constitutionalists have been battling impossibly ever since to overcome the ontological mistake made of assuming that any earthly government, no matter how pious, can be in communication with God Almighty as easily as it can be with foreign governments.
The Rule of Law is another basic function. But when Liaquat was himself assassinated in 1951, his assassin was killed on the spot yet the murder remained unsolved. Mashriqi was immediately arrested because of his hostility to the Muslim League, but later released. Because the assassin was Pashtun, Afghanistan was blamed but the Afghan Government proved otherwise. The investigating policeman was killed in an aircrash, and all documents went with him. Final suspicion pointed towards Akbar Khan, the renegade Army general who had led the attack on J&K and was in jail for the Rawalpindi conspiracy. Years later, Liaquat’s widow (the former Irene Pant of Naini Tal) rued the fact no one was ever prosecuted.
After Liaquat’s assassination, the period of Ghulam Mohammad, Nazimuddin, Mohammad Ali Bogra, Chaudhury Mohammad Ali, and most importantly, Iskander Mirza leading up to Ayub Khan’s Martial Law in 1958, was simply appalling in its display of the sheer irresponsibility of Pakistan’s new super-elite. Instead of domestic nation-building or fulfilling the basic functions of governance, close comprador relations came to be established with the US and British Governments ~ exemplified by Mirza’s elder son taking the American Ambassador’s daughter as his (first) wife and moving to a lifelong career with the World Bank in Washington. This comprador relationship between Washington, London and Pakistan’s super-elite flourishes and continues to this day. E.g., the current World Bank head and architect of the 2003 Bush invasion of Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz, remains in a mentoring relationship with Shaukat Aziz, a former American bank executive, who is General Musharraf’s Prime Minister. For better or worse, Pakistan’s Government will never veer from the side of Anglo-American policy while such comprador relationships remain intact.
Before the 1971 war, West Pakistan was in a frenzy from a propaganda campaign of “Crush India” and “Hang Mujib”. General Niazi’s surrender to General Arora in Dhaka Stadium ~ causing 90,000 PoWs whom India then protected from Bangladeshi revenge ~ shocked Pakistan and shattered the self-image of its Army. ZA Bhutto was the only populist politician of the country ever, and his few years held vanishing promise of a normal political agenda (no matter how economically misguided) finally arising. But Bhutto suppressed the new Baloch revolt with the Shah of Iran’s military help; at the same time he failed to protect his own back against Zia ul Haq’s coup, leading to his judicial murder in 1979. Zia tried to rebuild the Army’s shattered esprit de corps the only way he knew how, which was by indoctrinating the Punjabi officer corps with Sunni dogmatism. This coincided with the Afghan civil war, influx of refugees, and US-Saudi-Chinese plan to defeat the USSR. Pakistan’s super-elite in their comprador role were happy to allow themselves to be used again and be hung out to dry afterwards.
All normal branches of Pakistan’s polity, like the electorate,press, political parties, Legislature and Judiciary, have remained at best in ill-formed inchoate states of being. The economy remains, like India’s, one fed on endless deficit finance paid for by unlimited printing of inconvertible paper money, though Pakistan has had relatively more labour emigration and much less foreign investment and technological progress than India. Both are wracked by corruption, poverty, ignorance and superstition.
Over half a century, the military has acquired vast economic and political interests and agendas, on pretext of protecting Pakistan from India or gaining “Kashmeer” for it. With few and noble exceptions, academics, politicians and journalists have remained timid in face of fascistic State-power with its militarist/Islamist ideology ~ causing a transferance of the people’s anger and frustration onto an easier target, namely ourselves in India. Anti-Indianism (especially over J&K) remains the sole unifying factor of Pakistan’s super-elite, regardless of what history’s objective facts may have to say. Much political courage and understanding will be needed for that to be reversed.
All countries hunger for genuine national heroes who take upon themselves individual risks on behalf of ordinary people. Wali Khan stood up to his father’s jailors, and young Benazir of 1980s vintage to her father’s executioner. But Pakistan has had few such heroes,certainly none among its bemedalled generals. Why AQ Khan is seen as a hero is because he at least took some personal risks, and finally brought Pakistan a kind of respect and independence in the world with his Bomb.
June 5, 2006 — drsubrotoroy
First published in two parts in The Sunday Statesman, June 4 2006, The Statesman June 5 2006, Editorial Page Special Article
by Subroto Roy
From the 1846 Treaty of Amritsar creating the State of Jammu & Kashmir until the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Britain and later the USA became increasingly interested in the subcontinent’s Northwest. The British came to India by sea to trade. Barren, splendid, landlocked Afghanistan held no interest except as a home of fierce tribes; but it was the source of invasions into the Indian plains and prompted a British misadventure to install Shah Shuja in place of Dost Mohammad Khan leading to ignominious defeat. Later, Afghanistan was seen as the underbelly of the Russian and Soviet empires, and hence a location of interest to British and American strategic causes.
In November 1954, US President Dwight Eisenhower authorized 30 U-2 spy aircraft to be produced for deployment against America’s perceived enemies, especially to investigate Soviet nuclear missiles which could reach the USA. Reconnaissance balloons had been unsuccessful, and numerous Western pilots had been shot down taking photographs from ordinary military aircraft. By June 1956, U-2 were making clandestine flights over the USSR and China. But on May 1 1960, one was shot or forced down over Sverdlovsk, 1,000 miles within Soviet territory. The Americans prevaricated that it had taken off from Turkey on a weather-mission, and been lost due to oxygen problems. Nikita Kruschev then produced the pilot, Francis Gary Powers, who was convicted of spying, though was exchanged later for a Soviet spy. Powers had been headed towards Norway, his task to photograph Soviet missiles from 70,000 ft, his point of origin had been an American base 20 miles from Peshawar.
America needed clandestine “forward bases” from which to fly U-2 aircraft, and Pakistan’s ingratiating military and diplomatic establishment was more than willing to offer such cooperation, fervently wishing to be seen as a “frontline state” against the USSR. “We will help you defeat the USSR and we are hopeful you will help us defeat India” became their constant refrain. By 1986, the Americans had been permitted to build air-bases in Balochistan and also use Mauripur air-base near Karachi.
Jammu & Kashmir and especially Gilgit-Baltistan adjoins the Pashtun regions whose capital has been Peshawar. In August-November 1947, a British coup d’etat against J&K State secured Gilgit-Baltistan for the new British Dominion of Pakistan.
The Treaty of Amritsar had nowhere required Gulab Singh’s dynasty to accept British political control in J&K as came to be exercised by British “Residents” in all other Indian “Native States”. Despite this, Delhi throughout the late 19th Century relentlessly pressed Gulab Singh’s successors Ranbir Singh and Partab Singh to accept political control. The Dogras acquiesced eventually. Delhi’s desire for control had less to do with the welfare of J&K’s people than with protection of increasing British interests in the area, like European migration to Srinagar Valley and guarding against Russian or German moves in Afghanistan. “Sargin” or “Sargin Gilit”, later corrupted by the Sikhs and Dogras into “Gilgit”, had an ancient people who spoke an archaic Dardic language “intermediate between the Iranian and the Sanskritic”. “The Dards were located by Ptolemy with surprising accuracy on the West of the Upper Indus, beyond the headwaters of the Swat River (Greek: Soastus) and north of the Gandarae (i.e. Kandahar), who occupied Peshawar and the country north of it. This region was traversed by two Chinese pilgrims, Fa-Hsien, coming from the north about AD 400 and Hsuan Tsiang, ascending from Swat in AD 629, and both left records of their journeys.”
Gilgit had been historically ruled by a Hindu dynasty called Trakane; when they became extinct, Gilgit Valley “was desolated by successive invasions of neighbouring rulers, and in the 20 or 30 years ending with 1842 there had been five dynastic revolutions. The Sikhs entered Gilgit about 1842 and kept a garrison there.” When J&K came under Gulab Singh, “the Gilgit claims were transferred with it, and a boundary commission was sent” by the British. In 1852 the Dogras were driven out with 2,000 dead. In 1860 under Ranbir Singh, the Dogras “returned to Gilgit and took Yasin twice, but did not hold it. They also in 1866 invaded Darel, one of the most secluded Dard states, to the south of the Gilgit basin but withdrew again.”
The British appointed a Political Agent in Gilgit in 1877 but he was withdrawn in 1881. “In 1889, in order to guard against the advance of Russia, the British Government, acting as the suzerain power of Kashmir, established the Gilgit Agency”. The Agency was re-established under control of the British Resident in Jammu & Kashmir. “It comprised the Gilgit Wazarat; the State of Hunza and Nagar; the Punial Jagir; the Governorships of Yasin, Kuh-Ghizr and Ishkoman, and Chilas”. In 1935, the British demanded J&K lease to them for 60 years Gilgit town plus most of the Gilgit Agency and the hill-states Hunza, Nagar, Yasin and Ishkuman. Hari Singh had no choice but to acquiesce. The leased region was then treated as part of British India, administered by a Political Agent at Gilgit responsible to Delhi, first through the Resident in J& K and later a British Agent in Peshawar. J& K State no longer kept troops in Gilgit and a mercenary force, the Gilgit Scouts, was recruited with British officers and paid for by Delhi. In April 1947, Delhi decided to formally retrocede the leased areas to Hari Singh’s J& K State as of 15 August 1947. The transfer was to formally take place on 1 August.
On 31 July, Hari Singh’s Governor arrived to find “all the officers of the British Government had opted for service in Pakistan”. The Gilgit Scouts’ commander, a Major William Brown aged 25, and his adjutant, a Captain Mathieson, planned openly to engineer a coup détat against Hari Singh’s Government. Between August and October, Gilgit was in uneasy calm. At midnight on 31 October 1947, the Governor was surrounded by the Scouts and the next day he was “arrested” and a provisional government declared.
Hari Singh’s nearest forces were at Bunji, 34 miles from Gilgit, a few miles downstream from where the Indus is joined by Gilgit River. The 6th J& K Infantry Battalion there was a mixed Sikh-Muslim unit, typical of the State’s Army, commanded by a Lt Col. Majid Khan. Bunji controlled the road to Srinagar. Further upstream was Skardu, capital of Baltistan, part of Laddakh District where there was a small garrison. Following Brown’s coup in Gilgit, Muslim soldiers of the 6th Infantry massacred their Sikh brothers-at-arms at Bunji. The few Sikhs who survived escaped to the hills and from there found their way to the garrison at Skardu.
On 4 November 1947, Brown raised the new Pakistani flag in the Scouts’ lines, and by the third week of November a Political Agent from Pakistan had established himself at Gilgit. Brown had engineered Gilgit and its adjoining states to first secede from J&K, and, after some talk of being independent, had promptly acceded to Pakistan. His commander in Peshawar, a Col. Bacon, as well as Col. Iskander Mirza, Defence Secretary in the new Pakistan and later to lead the first military coup détat and become President of Pakistan, were pleased enough. In July 1948, Brown was awarded an MBE (Military) and the British Governor of the NWFP got him a civilian job with ICI~ which however sent him to Calcutta, where he came to be attacked and left for dead on the streets by Sikhs avenging the Bunji massacre. Brown survived, returned to England, started a riding school, and died in 1984. In March 1994, Pakistan awarded his widow the Sitara-I-Pakistan in recognition of his coup détat.
Gilgit’s ordinary people had not participated in Brown’s coup which carried their fortunes into the new Pakistan, and to this day appear to remain without legislative representation. It was merely assumed that since they were mostly Muslim in number they would wish to be part of Pakistan ~ which also became Liaquat Ali Khan’s assumption about J&K State as a whole in his 1950 statements in North America. What the Gilgit case demonstrates is that J&K State’s descent into a legal condition of ownerless anarchy open to “Military Decision” had begun even before the Pakistani invasion of 22 October 1947 (viz. “Solving Kashmir”, The Statesman, 1-3 December 2005). Also, whatever else the British said or did with respect to J & K, they were closely allied to the new Pakistan on the matter of Gilgit.
The peak of Pakistan’s Anglo-American alliance came with the enormous support in the 1980s to guerrilla forces created and headquartered in Peshawar, to battle the USSR and Afghan communists directly across the Durand Line. It was this guerrilla war which became a proximate cause of the collapse of the USSR as a political entity in 1991. President Ronald Reagan’s CIA chief William J. Casey sent vast sums in 1985-1988 to supply and train these guerrillas. The Washington Post and New Yorker reported the CIA training guerrillas “in the use of mortars, rocket grenades, ground-to-air missiles”. 200 hand-held Stinger missiles were supplied for the first time in 1986 and the New Yorker reported Gulbudin Hikmatyar’s “Hizbe Islami” guerrillas being trained to bring down Soviet aircraft. “Mujahideen had been promised two Stingers for every Soviet aircraft brought down. Operators who failed to aim correctly were given additional training… By 1986, the United States was so deeply involved in the Afghan war that Soviet aircraft were being brought down under the supervision of American experts”. (Raja Anwar, The Tragedy of Afghanistan, 1988, p. 234).
The budding US-China détente brokered by Pakistan came into full bloom here. NBC News on 7 January 1980 said “for the first time in history (a senior State Department official) publicly admitted the possibility of concluding a military alliance between the United States and China”. London’s Daily Telegraph reported on 5 January 1980 “China is flying large supplies of arms and ammunition to the insurgents in Afghanistan. According to diplomatic reports, supplies have arrived in Pakistan from China via the Karakoram Highway…. A major build-up of Chinese involvement is underway ~ in the past few days. Scores of Chinese instructors have arrived at the Shola-e-Javed camps.”
Afghan reports in 1983-1985 said “there were eight training camps near the Afghan border operated by the Chinese in Sinkiang province” and that China had supplied the guerrillas “with a variety of weapons including 40,000 RPG-7 and 20,000 RPG-II anti tank rocket launchers.” Like Pakistan, “China did not publicly admit its involvement in the Afghan conflict: in 1985 the Chinese Mission at the UN distributed a letter denying that China was extending any kind of help to the Afghan rebels” (Anwar, ibid. p. 234). Support extended deep and wide across the Arab world. “The Saudi and Gulf rulers … became the financial patrons of the Afghan rebels from the very start of the conflict”. Anwar Sadat, having won the Nobel Peace Prize, was “keen to claim credit for his role in Afghanistan…. by joining the Afghanistan jihad, Sadat could re-establish his Islamic credentials, or so he believed. He could thus not only please the Muslim nations but also place the USA and Israel in his debt.” Sadat’s Defence Minister said in January 1980: “Army camps have been opened for the training of Afghan rebels; they are being supplied with weapons from Egypt” and Sadat told NBC News on 22 September 1981 “that for the last twenty-one months, the USA had been buying arms from Egypt for the Afghan rebels. He said he had been approached by the USA in December 1979 and he had decided to `open my stores’. He further disclosed that these arms were being flown to Pakistan from Egypt by American aircraft. Egypt had vast supplies of SAM-7 and RPG-7 anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons which Sadat agreed to supply to Afghanistan in exchange for new American arms. The Soviet weapons, being light, were ideally suited to guerrilla warfare. … the Mujahideen could easily claim to have captured them from Soviet and Afghan troops in battle.… Khomeini’s Iran got embroiled in war (against Iraq) otherwise Kabul would also have had to contend with the full might of the Islamic revolutionaries.” (Anwar ibid. p. 235).
Afghanistan had been occupied on 26-27 December 1979 by Soviet forces sent by the decrepit Leonid Brezhnev and Yuri Andropov to carry out a putsch replacing one communist, Hafizullah Amin, with a rival communist and Soviet protégé, Babrak Karmal. By 1985 Brezhnev and Andropov were dead and Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev had begun his attempts to reform the Soviet system, usher in openness, end the Cold War and in particular withdraw from Afghanistan, which by 1986 he had termed “a bleeding wound”. Gorbachev replaced Karmal with a new protégé Najibullah Khan, who was assigned the impossible task of bringing about national reconciliation with the Pakistan-based guerrillas and form a national government. Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan in February 1989 having lost 14,500 dead, while more than a million Afghans had been killed since the invasion a decade earlier.
Not long after Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution, Gregory Zinoviev had said that international communism “turns today to the peoples of the East and says to them, `Brothers, we summon you to a Holy War first of all against British imperialism!’ At this there were cries of Jehad! Jehad! And much brandishing of picturesque Oriental weapons.” (Treadgold, Twentieth Century Russia, 1990, p. 213). Now instead, the Afghan misadventure had contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Empire itself, the USSR ceasing to be a political entity by 1991, and even Gorbachev being displaced by Boris Yeltsin and later Vladimir Putin in a new Russia.
What resulted for the people of the USA and Britain and the West in general was that they no longer had to live under threat of hostile Soviet tanks and missiles, while the people of Russia, Ukraine and the other erstwhile Soviet republics as well as Eastern Europe were able to throw off the yoke of communism that had oppressed them since the Bolshevik Revolution and instead to breathe the air of freedom.
What happened to the people of Afghanistan, however, was that they were plunged into further ghastly civil war for more than ten years. And what happened to the people of Pakistan was that their country was left resembling a gigantic Islamist military camp, awash with airfields, arms, ammunition and trained guerrillas, as well as a military establishment enlivened as always by perpetual hope that these supplies, provisions and personnel of war might find alternative use in attacks against India over J& K. “We helped you when you wished to see the Soviet Union defeated and withdrawing in Afghanistan”, Pakistan’s generals and diplomats pleaded with the Americans and British, “now you must help us in our wish to see India defeated and withdrawing in Kashmir”. Pakistan’s leaders even believed that just as the Soviet Union had disintegrated afterwards, the Indian Union perhaps might be made to do the same. Not only were the two cases as different as chalk from cheese, Palmerstone’s dictum there are no permanent allies in the politics of nations could not have found more apt use than in what actually came to take place next.
Pakistan’s generals and diplomats felt betrayed by the loss of Anglo-American paternalism towards them after 1989.
Modern Pakistanis had never felt they subscribed to the Indian nationalist movement culminating in independence in August 1947. The Pakistani state now finally declared its independence in the world by exploding bombs in a nuclear arsenal secretly created with help purchased from China and North Korea. Pakistan’s leaders thus came to feel in some control of Pakistan’s destiny as a nation-state for the first time, more than fifty years after Pakistan’s formal creation in 1947. If nothing else, at least they had the Bomb.
Secondly, America and its allies would not be safe for long since the civil war they had left behind in Afghanistan while trying to defeat the USSR now became a brew from which arose a new threat of violent Islamism. Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, whom Pakistan’s military and the USA had promoted, now encouraged unprecedented attacks on the American mainland on September 11 2001 ~ causing physical and psychological damage which no Soviet, Chinese or Cuban missiles ever had been allowed to do. In response, America attacked and removed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, once again receiving the cooperative use of Pakistani manpower and real estate ~ except now there was no longer any truck with the Pakistani establishment’s wish for a quid pro quo of Anglo-American support against India on J&K. Pakistan’s generals and diplomats soon realised their Anglo-American alliance of more than a half-century ended on September 11 2001. Their new cooperation was in killing or arresting and handing over fellow-Muslims and necessarily lacked their earlier feelings of subservience and ingratiation towards the Americans and British, and came to be done instead under at least some duress. No benefit could be reaped any more in the fight against India over Jammu & Kashmir. An era had ended in the subcontinent.
(Of related interest here: “Understanding Pakistan”, “Solving Kashmir”, “Law, Justice & J&K”, “History of J&K”, “What to Tell Musharraf”, “Saving Pakistan”, “Pakistan’s Kashmir Obsession”, “Two Cheers for Pakistan!” , “The Greatest Pashtun” .)
May 7, 2006 — drsubrotoroy
MODERN WORLD HISTORY
by Subroto Roy
First published in The Sunday Statesman, Editorial Page Special Article May 7 2006
MUCH as we in India might like to think we were the central focus of Britain’s national life in the 19th and 20th Centuries, we were not. India’s matters were handled mostly by a senior cabinet minister to whom the governor-general or viceroy reported. Though possession and control of India gave the British a sense of mission, self-importance and grandeur, and events in India (mostly bad ones) could hog the newspapers for a few days, it was never the case that India dominated Britain’s political consciousness or national agenda for any length of time. British prime ministers and diplomatists, from Pitt through Canning, Palmerston, Peel, Gladstone, Granville, Disraeli and Salisbury, mostly had other concerns of foreign policy, mostly in Europe and also in the Americas, Africa, and the Near and Far East. India was peripheral to their vision except as a place to be held against any encroachment.
A French historian used to begin lectures on British history saying “Messieurs, l’Angleterre est une ile.” (“Gentlemen, Britain is an island.”) The period of unambiguous British dominance of world diplomacy began with Pitt’s response to the French Revolution, and unambiguously ended in 1917 when Britain and France could have lost the war to Germany if America had not intervened. Since then, America has taken over Britain’s role in world diplomacy, though Lloyd George and Churchill, to a smaller extent Harold Wilson, and finally Thatcher, were respected British voices in world circles. Thatcher’s successor Major failed by seeming immature, while his successor Blair has failed by being immature to the point of being branded America’s “poodle”, making Britain’s loss of prestige complete.
Between Pitt and Flanders though, Britain’s dominance of world affairs and the process of defining the parameters of international conduct was clear. It was an era in which nations fought using ships, cannon, cavalry and infantry. The machine-gun, airpower and automobile had been hardly invented. Yet it is amazing how many technological inventions and innovations occurred during that era, many in Britain and the new America, vastly improving the welfare of masses of people: the steam-engine, the cotton gin, railways, electricity, telecommunications, systems of public hygiene etc. The age of American dominance has been one of petroleum, airpower, guided missiles and nuclear energy, as well as of penicillin and modern medicine.
It was during the period 1791-1991, between the French Revolution and the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, that world diplomacy created the system of “Western” nation-states, from Canning’s recognition of Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia etc to the emergence of the European Union. There is today peace in Europe and it has become unthinkable there will be war between e.g. France and Germany except on a soccer pitch. Even the unstable Balkans have stabilised. The transition from British to American dominance occurred during and because of the 1914-1918 World War, yet that war’s causes had nothing to do with America and hence America’s rise has been somewhat fortuitous. The War superficially had to do with those unstable Balkans in the summer of 1914 and the system of alliances developed over the previous 100 years; beneath was the economic rise of the new Germany.
Austro-Hungary went to war against Serbia, causing Germany its ally into war with Russia, Serbia’s ally. Belgium’s neutrality was guaranteed through British diplomacy by the Treaty of London in 1839 signed by Austria, France, Britain, Russia and Prussia. This “scrap of paper” Germany tore up to invade Belgium on 4 August 1914, because it was easier to attack France through Belgium than directly as most French generals had expected. Though Germany had no dispute with France, France was Russia’s ally, and the Germans had long-feared fighting on two fronts against larger but more slowly mobilising forces. Violation of Belgian neutrality caused Britain into war with Germany. So all Europe was at war from which it would fail to extricate itself without American intervention. This arrived in 1917 though it too had been provoked by German submarines sinking American ships in the Atlantic. The actual impact of American forces entering the battlefields was small, and it was after the Armistice, when the issue arose of reparations by Germany to everyone and repayments by Britain and France to America, that America’s role became dominant. New York took over from London as the world’s financial capital.
Woodrow Wilson longed to impose a system of transparent international relations on the Europeans who had been used to secret deals and intrigues. He failed, especially when America’s Senate vetoed America’s own entry into the League of Nations. America became isolationist, wishing to have nothing more to do with European wars ~ and remains to this day indifferent towards the League’s successor. But the War also saw Lenin’s Bolsheviks grab power after Russia extricated itself from fighting Germany by the peace of Brest-Litovsk. And the Armistice saw the French desire to humiliate and destroy German power for ever, which in turn sowed the seeds for Hitler’s rise. And the War also had led to the British making the Balfour Declaration that a Jewish “National Home” would arise in Palestine in amity and cooperation with the Arabs. The evolution of these three events dominated the remainder of the 20th Century ~along with the rise and defeat of an imperialist Japan, the rise of communist China, and later, the defeat of both France and America in Vietnam.
Hitler invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, and Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 September. The next day in faraway India, the British in a panic started to place Jinnah on an equal footing as Gandhi ~ astounding Jinnah himself as much as anyone since his few supporters had lost the 1937 elections badly, especially in the provinces that today constitute the country he wished for. After the defeat and occupation of Germany and Japan, America’s economic supremacy was unquestionable. Utterly exhausted from war, the British had no choice but to leave India’s angry peoples to their own fates, and retreated to their fortified island again ~ though as brown and black immigration increased with the end of Empire, many pale-skinned natives boarded ships for Canada, Australia and New Zealand. America came to have much respect for its junior British ally during the fight against Hitler and later in the political battle against the USSR. It was Thatcher who (after battling Argentina in the South Atlantic) led Reagan to make peace with Gorbachov. With the end of Soviet communism, Germany would be unified again. All across Christendom there was peace for the first time ever, and a militarily powerful nuclear-armed Israel had been created too in the old Palestine. In this new period of world history, the Security Council’s permanent members are the modern version of the “Great Powers” of the 19th Century. The American-led and British-supported destruction of Baathist Iraq, and threatened destruction of Khomeinist Iran mark the final end of the League of Nations’ ethos which had arisen from the condemnation of aggression. In Osama bin Laden’s quaint idiom, there seems a battle of “Crusaders” and “Zionists” against Muslim believers. Certainly Muslim believers (which means most Muslims as there are relatively few agnostics and atheists among them) think that it is obvious that the Universe was created, and that its Creator finally and definitively spoke through one human being in 7th Century Arabia. Many people from North Africa to the Philippines are not often able to conceive how things might have been otherwise. The new era of history will undoubtedly see all kinds of conversations take place about this rather subtle question.
February 24, 2006 — drsubrotoroy
WAR OR PEACE
By SUBROTO ROY
First published in The Statesman
Editorial Page Special Article, February 23-24, 2006
An American Attack On Iran Will End The Post-1945 System Of Nation-States
The relevance of the Iran-USA conflict to India’s energy, nuclear and strategic future is obvious, yet it appears ill understood by New Delhi’s bureaucrats and politicians, whether neo-communist or neo-fascist. It is understood even less by Islamabad’s army generals, all of whose official brainpower has been perpetually consumed by one subject alone: how to obtain J&K for Pakistan by hook or by crook from India. Yet Iran’s potential nuclear weapons arose entirely thanks to sales by Pakistan’s AQ Khan and the ISI — friends or allies of the USA, just like Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein once had been. We may surmise that a possible war will be quite catastrophic for the world, and India’s and Pakistan’s region of it in particular.
Israel’s piecemeal strategy
The Americans and Israelis may be assumed to have developed over years contingency plans to attack Iran by air and/or sea, though Israel is unlikely to take any offensive role in view of the circumstances of the end of Ariel Sharon’s political career. For one hundred years, the security and prosperity of the Zionist migration to Palestine, which came to be transmuted into the Israeli Republic in the middle of the 20th Century, has been defined as a matter of vital national interest first by Britain and then by America. Badly outnumbered by hostile Muslim countries, Israel after the 1973 Yom Kippur war adopted a long-term piecemeal strategy of diplomacy with Egypt, Jordan and North Africa; co-existence with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf; battle with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians leading to co-existence; and indirect war, using the USA and UK as proxies, with Iraq and Iran leading in due course to co-existence.
Ayatollah Khomeini’s Revolution in 1978-1979 caused Iran’s Islamic Republic to start to pose a major ideological threat to Israel. But during the decade of the Iran-Iraq war that started immediately after the Iranian Revolution, neither could pose any possible military threat to Israel. Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait was a result of the Iran-Iraq war, and since then Saddam has been neutralised by the Americans as a military threat to Israel. A new Iran, torn between a modern future for itself and a return to its revolutionary origins, is the last Muslim nation-state that could possibly threaten Israel. Pakistan would never dare to do so, nor wish to do so in view of its single-minded obsession for almost sixty years with trying to obtain J&K from India, or to dominate India any which way it can. The Pakistanis — having been Indians previously (even A Q Khan was born in Bhopal) — want to rule or dominate Delhi, or at least display their self-styled superiority to Hindus. They are uninterested from a psychological perspective in what happens to European and American Jews in the Middle East because they are mostly of Indian origin themselves.
Pakistanis’ explicit hatred (or implicit love) of India is at least in part a hatred (or love) of themselves. The US State Department and Pentagon have realised that as long as they tilt towards Pakistan on J&K now and then, the Pakistani Government will stay obsessed with its relationship with India alone, and also remain an American ally.
Possible nuclear strike
The questions to be asked now are when the Americans will make an attack on Iran, what manner it will take, and what Iranian and Muslim and world reaction will be. Israel’s attack on Iraq’s nuclear facilities a quarter century ago taught the Iranians to go underground and disperse their facilities around the country. Conventional heavy B52, B2 or Stealth bombing or cruise-missile attacks using ships, submarines and carrier-based aircraft from American forward bases in Diego Garcia, the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Germany, Turkey or former Soviet Republics will kill at least 10,000 Iranians even if there are American warnings to evacuate human populations. Much physical havoc will be caused to Iran’s two dozen main nuclear installations, delaying or crippling Iran’s ambitions by years. But it is unlikely such attacks will succeed in wiping out Iran’s capacity. America’s warplans may thus include exploding small nuclear warheads on Iran’s suspected installations. If that happens, it would be the first use of atomic weapons since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is doubtful if the world as a whole will actually condemn American use of heavy bombing or even small nuclear weapons against Iran in anything but words. Permanent changes in the post-1945 system of international institutions will certainly result. Kofi Annan (or his successor) will resign, ending the UN staff’s effete pontificating. Indeed, all the inefficient, corrupt international bureaucracies in New York, Washington, Geneva and elsewhere may come to close down. The Japanese Left will weep and wring their hands while the Right will renew calls for Japan’s re-militarization. North Korea’s Kim will issue warnings of how crazy he is. India’s PMO and MEA will express deepest concern, sorrow and tears; after the communists bluster about in Delhi and Kolkata, this will be enlarged to unequivocal condemnation. But India’s anti-Muslim brigades will remain silent and smiling and the VHP/Bajrang Dal will say it is revenge for Nadir Shah and assorted other Iranian plunderers in India’s past. JNU, AMU etc. historians and Bollywood and Tollywood showbiz personalities will hold seminars and processions and shake their fists at America. Pakistan’s Government will issue strong condemnations and call in the American Ambassador for a talking to, then explain to the Karachi street-mobs how important it is to continue the alliance with America so that J&K may be gained for Pakistan one day. The Hurriyat and other friends of Pakistan will agree with Pakistan and demonstrate in Srinagar against India and America. Russia will privately regret its impotence while Putin will refuse to turn up at a G-8 meeting in protest. The Chinese will shake their heads, warning Taiwan not to think itself as loved by America as Israel is. Muslim countries will rant and rave Death to America, and recruit thousands of new suicide bombers. France and Britain will look for new reconstruction or weapons contracts once the smoke clears. Germany, Holland, Scandinavia, Canada and New Zealand will hold candle-light peace vigils. South America’s leftists will decry Il Nord from high in the Andes or deep in the Amazon. Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Dalai Lama and the Pope will condemn the inhumanity of it all. Australia will agree with America. That may be just about all, except the oil price will reach $200 a barrel momentarily, then settle at $150 for ever, causing large macroeconomic problems for several years in the world economy.
The new ideology
Iran itself will be plunged into greater political and economic disarray than it is in already. It is unlikely to be intimidated into accepting Western conditions straightaway. Nor will it experience any kind of “regime-change” with Non-Resident Iranian-Americans coming back from Los Angeles to try their hand at a little government and money-making at home. Iran would launch conventional war against the 140,000 American infantry in Iraq as well as missiles against Israel, but is unlikely to make much successful war against American or Israeli interests. But Iraq’s Shia majority would join with them, and make America’s departure more prompt from an anarchic, chaotic and disintegrating Iraq, hanging Saddam Hussein before they go. Essentially, Iran’s ability to pose any conceivable military threat to Israel will have been militarily neutralized, just as has happened to Iraq recently, and to Egypt, Jordan etc. by diplomacy and foreign aid ever since Jimmy Carter’s Sadat-Begin summit in 1978. Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah will remain but Israel can on its own battle them defensively anytime.
The cost of having eliminated all possible military threats to Israel permanently will have been rendering chaos and immense destruction upon the erstwhile Republics of Iran and Iraq. But that is not a cost that America’s public cares very much about, and so will not appear much on American TV screens or America’s public memory for very long. Iraq and Iran will have been neutralised and destroyed as legal entities and modern nation-states, being left instead as large oil-fields and chaotic/anarchic polities and societies under sway of American and Western military forces. The return in the 21st Century to the pre-1945 world of imperialism would entail an end of the system of worldwide nation-states that was attempted with the United Nations experiment (the progeny of US President Woodrow Wilson’s “League of Nations”), and the imposition of a new ideology of the West vs. the Rest.
A Mature Israel Is The Key To Averting An American Attack On Iran
It would be better for everyone in the world, including Israel and America, if an American attack against Iran could somehow be averted. Muslim cultures have much long-term patience — a virtue modern American culture most conspicuously lacks. There are Iraqi mothers who have promised their unborn sons for vengeance against America and Iranian mothers may well join them. America’s TV-driven culture can barely remember who said or did what last week, whereas ideological Muslims rehearse and revisit endlessly every day what supposedly happened in Muslim history over 1200 years ago. Indeed ideological Muslims and their orthodox Jewish and Christian fundamentalist adversaries have all tended to be obsessed with the purported ancient histories of the three faiths that arose in the deserts of Palestine and Arabia — though none of these religious histories or any other may be able to withstand very much rigorous academic or scientific scrutiny.
What has been forgotten too has been the early joint history of Zionists and Palestinians together. Founders of Zionism, including Theodor Herzl himself, who began his campaign in Vienna about 1897 in response to European anti-Jewish behaviour, envisioned “brotherhood” and “cooperation” with the Arab inhabitants of Palestine, where new Jewish immigrants were to find refuge from the decades of tyranny against them in Europe long before Hitler arose. Martin Buber, the profound Hasidic philosopher and Zionist, corresponded with Rabindranath Tagore about the need to build a strong “federative” structure among all the peoples of the East — because the peoples of the West seemed to Buber to have become lost and aimless. (It is not impossible America’s entry into the First World War in 1917, which thwarted a possible German victory, was part of a complicated trade-off in which the Balfour Declaration by Britain promising creation of an Israel, living peacefully with the Arabs in Palestine, was another part.) It was only later revisionist Zionists, led by Vladimir Jabotinsky, who proposed a complete separation of Jew from Arab in that small land — which is where we seem to have been headed now decades later. Israel and Pakistan were the only two countries created in the 20th Century, and about the same time, supposedly as “homelands” for people based on religious definitions alone. The Zionist Movement was ongoing by the early 1930s, and young Rahmat Ali, the lonely ideological inventor of the term “PAKSTAN” on the top floor of a London bus in 1934, might well have been influenced by what he heard of it.
The one way war may be preventable today is if Israel’s political centre and right-wing (i.e. the Kadima and Likud parties) came to obtain and declare a clear and justifiable view that (a) an American attack on Iran would be counter- productive; and/or (b) that an Iran, even a nuclear armed Iran, shall not be a tangible threat to Israel. If an American attack on Iran is ultimately premised on the defence of Israel, and if the Israelis themselves come to justifiably believe such an attack overall could be a very bad thing and told the Americans so publicly or privately, there would no longer be reason for the Americans to be preparing to make such an attack, and instead could keep their almost 600 warships and submarines in harbour or on normal patrol around the world.
Israeli security assessment
There may be enough reason on both these points for Israel’s toughest hawks to agree that superior alternatives to war need to be and can be found. On the first, Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel’s domestic security agency, Shin Bet, has recently said that Israel may yet come to regret the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. His confidential speech to students preparing for military service came to be secretly recorded and was then broadcast on Israeli TV. “When you dismantle a system in which there is a despot who controls his people by force, you have chaos… I’m not sure we won’t miss Saddam”, saying a strong dictatorship may have been better than the present “chaos” in Iraq. Israeli security assessments are likely to be far more astute than what gets to be produced in America’s East Coast think tanks. The near-chaos the Bush-Blair invasion of Iraq in 2003 has caused will be multiplied several fold if there was now a major attack on Iran, let aside use of atomic bombs against it. Such an attack may be in fact wholly counterproductive.
Secondly, Israel needs to abandon her feigned immaturity and coyness with respect to her erstwhile Anglo-American guardians, and instead demonstrate to the world and her neighbours in particular that she is a mature and responsible adult in international politics. Avner Cohen and Thomas Graham Jr. have said in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May/June 2004 that Israel had promised the USA “it [would] not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East…A taboo was created… By September 1969, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Richard Nixon had reached a new secret understanding of the issue. Meir pledged that Israel would not declare its nuclear status, would not test its weapons, and would not use its nuclear capability for diplomatic gains. Rather, the Israeli bomb would be kept in the basement, for use only as a last resort. Israel would not join the NPT, but it would not defy it either. What had begun as a taboo turned into a symbiotic policy. The United States stopped pressuring Israel and accepted a de facto policy of `don’t ask, don’t tell’. …Today … Israel’s policy of nuclear secrecy stands in profound tension with the basic values upon which the country’s democracy rests: the principles of accountability, oversight, and the public’s right to know. In the absence of public debate (and public debate requires some factual information) the taboo only reinforces and perpetuates itself….By becoming more transparent and by associating itself in some way with the nonproliferation regime — from which it indirectly benefits — Israel could gain an important element of legitimacy for its program and for its security posture…. The basic technology needed to create nuclear weapons is increasingly available. Capabilities once possessed only by a few governments can now be purchased in stores and marketplaces around the world. If nuclear weapon states are ever to achieve deep cuts in their nuclear stockpiles — an important part of the basic bargain of the NPT and essential to the long-term viability of the treaty — some account has to be taken of Israel, India, and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. They must be integrated into the non- proliferation regime”.
The road to peace
Israel declaring itself a nuclear weapons power of long-standing with an independent deterrent the size of France or Britain (with perhaps 500 nuclear warheads, more than China, India and Pakistan combined), would be more than enough by way of military warning to its potential adversaries. Indeed even if Iran (having bought from Pakistan’s programme which itself had bought from North Korea and China) was allowed over the next dozen years to crawl towards half a dozen nuclear warheads of its own, recognition and normal diplomatic relations between Israel and Iran, and Israel and Pakistan, could be followed by a new protocol between Israel, India, Pakistan and Iran. Israel, India and Pakistan are not signatories to the existing NPT and Iran has now declared its intent, as a sovereign signatory, to exit the NPT as well. To get Iran and Israel to recognise one another and establish diplomatic relations would be of course a masterly feat of international diplomacy. But it is not impossible if adequate knowledge and determination can be mustered in good time before it becomes too late. Finally of course, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower had warned in his Farewell Address to the American people in 1961, an “alert and knowledgeable citizenry” must also rein in America’s “military industrial complex”.
see also https://independentindian.com/2006/04/06/irans-nationalism/
January 31, 2006 — drsubrotoroy
by Subroto Roy
Editorial page, The Statesman, January 31 2006
Indian diplomacy has, almost accidentally, shown some wisdom. The King of Saudi Arabia should have been long ago invited to be Chief Guest on Republic Day. His Majesty immediately reciprocated with the most gracious words possible: “I consider myself to be in my second homeland. The relationship between India and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an historic one, we have been old friends and, God willing, this visit will renew these historic ties”. Indeed the King should be invited to make a full State visit in the near future travelling all over India, including Srinagar Valley ; where Khruschev and Bulganin went in 1955!
India has the second largest population of Muslim believers in the world after Indonesia, and it is only right the Keeper of the Holy Places of Islam should see for himself that India is indeed dar-ul-aman, not the dar-ul-harb that the propaganda of the Pakistanis and their terroristic protégés have made it out to be in Saudi and Gulf power circles.
Kalam and the King
The Vajpayee Government deserves a little credit for the present success, because it was they who caused the fact that His Majesty Faisal Ibn Abdullah Ibn Muhammad Al-Saud was hosted by an Indian rocket scientist born in a Muslim family in an impecunious fishing village of Tamil Nadu. The King and his princes would not have failed to feel the poignancy in that. India is also the second largest country of Shiá Islam after Iran, and Ayatollah Khatami was Chief Guest a few years ago when he was President of Iran. It has been argued in these columns (“Solving Kashmir”, The Statesman, December 1-3, 2005) that the solution to J&K requires Indian diplomacy with Iran and Afghanistan as well ; which, incidentally, will make the hollowness of Pakistan’s claims in J&K most obvious.
Now the President of the United States is due to visit India shortly. George W Bush is the third Republican President to come to India after Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. His predecessor Bill Clinton came as a single man at the end of his second term, on holiday from a rocky marriage, to dance with Rajasthani women and indulge his love of Indian food. Before Clinton in 2000, the last American President to visit was Jimmy Carter in 1978, who gave a stirring speech to Parliament about democracy after Morarji Desai had defeated Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. George Bush, also in his second term, will come to India amid controversy.
“You’re a good man”, Bush condescendingly said to Manmohan Singh in Washington, half-remembering that morning’s intelligence briefing memo. Had our PM been more experienced of the world he could have replied equally loudly: “Thanks, you’re not so bad yourself. Let’s chop some wood next time”. It is almost definite there will be no agreement on the nuclear collaboration deal, and that the dispute erupting over Iran may have enlarged itself. Platitudes will be exchanged but the fact that the President has chosen to combine his visit to India with a visit to his buddies in the Pakistani Government will not go unnoticed in the MEA.
“Balance of power” has been the motif of Anglo-American foreign policy in Asia at least ever since the Arabs were induced to revolt against the Turks by Allenby and Lawrence, followed by pitting Iran and the Arabs against each other. The same goes for India and Pakistan. Also, our rather uncouth Communists have vowed to make their presence felt in street-protests and boycotts of Parliament when Bush comes.
FDR & Martin Luther King Jr
In this tense atmosphere, where the summit may actually falter rather badly on substance, Manmohan Singh will need to make some important symbolic gestures. Going to meet the Saudi King at the airport was an appropriate gesture. Clinton had expected the Indian PM to meet him too, and was visibly disappointed to land in the middle of the night only amidst the lights of the TV cameras. The Bushes should be met at the airport by our PM and his spouse. The President is our honoured guest and guests are to be treated like gods.
In the same vein, four boulevards across India’s largest cities deserve to be named after four American heroes: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., Dwight D. Eisenhower and Abraham Lincoln. The first two were Democrats, the latter two Republicans.
Naming a boulevard in New Delhi after FDR would belatedly acknowledge his small, spontaneous yet critical and principled role in support of Indian independence that, shockingly, remains unrecognised in India. Britain could not expect American support against German and Japanese imperialism while expecting the Americans not to support Indian aspirations for national freedom. India’s own academic historians, mostly under influence of either Communist or RSS methodologies, have failed even to produce objective biographies of major national leaders, let aside candid accounts of British rule, the development of the Indian nation-state, the Transfer of Power or Partition.
The same intellectual sloppiness has extended to economics too, and underlies the gross misunderstanding of India’s monetary and fiscal histories as was outlined recently in these columns. It has required a young American scholar, Dinyar Patel, writing in an official American Government publication to outline Roosevelt’s role during India’s independence (Span, March 2005).
Where FDR helped India’s struggle for freedom, Martin Luther King Jr adopted India’s method to lead America’s blacks (“Negroes” and “coloureds” as they were then called) to freedom within their own country. MK Gandhi had corresponded with Tolstoy after beginning his campaign of passive resistance to unjust South African laws, and he read Henry Thoreau’s essay on civil disobedience when he was already in jail for that very same offence. Many years later, the young Alabama preacher put to use Gandhi’s example of courageous peaceful defiance of injustice in his own sweet land of liberty. On receiving the Nobel Peace Prize on 10 December 1964, King said: “Non-violence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilisation and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that non-violence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation”. Of course, King like Gandhi would have been appalled by the religious, colour, caste and racial prejudices of contemporary Indians, Pakistanis etc today, and naming a boulevard in King’s name may do more for our own moral well-being than anything else.
Eisenhower and Lincoln
As for Dwight Eisenhower and Abraham Lincoln, the former may well be seen in later centuries as the greatest of 20th Century American Presidents as the latter was of the 19th. Though they had nothing to do with India, naming boulevards after them would remind Indians of the existence of great men in world history.
Jyoti Basu’s Communists once named streets in Kolkata after Lenin and Ho Chi Minh, and still pay annual obeisance at Lenin’s statue with clenched fists and garlands. Ho Chi Minh was a great nationalist and may have deserved an Indian street but it was a cheap and gratuitous insult by the Communists to name the very street on which the American Consulate stood after the Vietnamese leader who was then their enemy. The Americans were mature enough at the time to ignore it and not pull out their Consulate from Kolkata — the very same Consulate that is so highly in demand with Basu’s successor, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
Under influence of the well-known academic apologists for Communist China, Bhattacharjee has been recently extolling the virtues of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai too – apparently ignorant of the 40 million Chinese that Mao killed and apparently forgiving Zhou’s hatred of and perfidy against India. Before any further such nonsense occurs, we should name roads after FDR, King, Eisenhower and Lincoln, and the time to do it would be when George W. Bush makes his visit.
October 26, 2005 — drsubrotoroy
US Espionage Failures
(There is a hippopotamus in the room)
First published in The Statesman Perspective Page under the title “Flunking inteligence” Oct 26 2005
There have been three or four enormous failures of American espionage (i.e. intelligence and counter-intelligence) in the last 20 years. The collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of Soviet communism were salubrious events but they had not been foreseen by the United States which was caught unawares by the speed and nature of the developments that took place. Other failures have been catastrophic.
First, there was the failure to prevent the attack that took place on the American mainland on September 11 2001. It killed several thousand civilians and caused vast, perhaps irreparable, psychological and physical destruction to the United States.
The attack was without precedent. The December 7 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, though a surprise, was carried out by one military against another military and did not affect very many civilians (except that thousands of American civilians of Japanese ancestry came to be persecuted and placed in concentration camps for years by the US Government). And the last time the American mainland had been attacked before 2001 was in 1814 when British troops marched south from Canada and burnt down the Capitol and the US President’s house in Washington.
Secondly, there has been a failure to discover any reasonable justification for the American-led attack on Iraq and its invasion and occupation. Without any doubt, America has lost, at the very least, an incalculable amount of international goodwill as a result of this, let aside suffering two thousand young soldiers killed, fifteen thousand wounded, and an unending cost in terms of prestige and resources in return for the thinnest of tangible gains. India at great cost liberated East Pakistan from the brutal military tyranny of Yahya Khan and Tikka Khan in December 1971 but the average Bangladeshi today could hardly care less. Regardless of what form of government emerges in Iraq now, there is no doubt the mass of the Iraqi people will cheer the departure of the bulk of foreign troops and tanks from their country (even if a permanent set of a dozen hermetically sealed American bases remain there for ever, as appears to have been planned).
When things go wrong in any democracy, it is natural and healthy to set up a committee to investigate, and America has done that several times now. For such committees to have any use at all they must be as candid as possible and perhaps the most candid of the American committees has been the US Government’s 9/11 Commission. But it too has appeared no closer to finding out who was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks or who financed it and who, precisely, executed it. Osama Bin Laden may have been the ideological head of a movement allied to the perpetrators, and Bin Laden undoubtedly expressed his glee afterwards, but it beggars the imagination that Bin Laden could have been executive president in charge of this operation while crawling around Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. If not him, then whom? Mossad the Israeli spy agency was supposed to have pointed to a super-secret invisible Lebanese terrorist but nobody really knows. The biggest modern mass murder remains unsolved.
As for solutions, the American 9/11 Commission went into the same politically correct formulae that came to be followed in 2005 by British PM Tony Blair’s New Labour Cabinet, namely, that “moderate” peace-loving Muslims must be encouraged and bribed not to turn to terrorism (indeed to expose those among them who do), while “extremist” Muslims must be stamped out with brute force. This rests on a mistaken premise that an economic carrot-and-stick policy can work in creating a set of external incentives and disincentives for Muslims, when in fact believing Muslims, like many other religious believers, are people who feel the power of their religion deep within themselves and so are unlikely to be significantly affected by external incentives or disincentives offered by non-believers.
Another committee has been the United States Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence which reported in July 2004, and from whose findings have stemmed as an offshoot the current matter about whether high government officials broke the law that is being investigated by Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
Bertrand Russell said in his obituary of Ludwig Wittgenstein that he had once gone about looking under all the tables and chairs to prove to Wittgenstein that there was not a hippopotamus present in the room. In the present case, however, there is in fact a very large hippopotamus present in the room yet the entire American foreign policy establishment has seemed to refuse to wish to see it. Saddam Hussain and OBL are undoubtedly certifiable members of the international gallery of rogues – but the central fact remains they were rogues who were in alliance with America’s defined strategic interests in the 1980s. Saddam Hussain’s Iraq invaded Iran in 1980 and gassed the Kurds in 1986; an Iraqi Mirage on May 17 1987 fired two Exocet missiles at the USS Stark killing 37 American sailors and injuring 21. The Americans did nothing. The reason was that Saddam was still in favour at the time and had not yet become a demon in the political mythology of the American state, and it was expedient for nothing to be done. Indeed Saddam’s Iraq was explicitly removed in 1982 from the US Government’s list of states sponsoring terrorism because, according to the State Department’s Patterns of Global Terrorism, it had “moved closer to the policies of its moderate Arab neighbours”.
The very large hippopotamus that is present in the room at the moment is April Glaspie, the highly regarded professional career diplomat and American Ambassador to Iraq at the time of the 1990 Gulf War. Saddam Hussein as President had a famous meeting with her on July 25 1990, eight days before he invaded Kuwait. The place was the Presidential Palace in Baghdad and the Iraqis videotaped the meeting:
U.S. Ambassador Glaspie – “I have direct instructions from President (George Herbert Walker) Bush to improve our relations with Iraq. We have considerable sympathy for your quest for higher oil prices, the immediate cause of your confrontation with Kuwait. (pause) As you know, I lived here for years and admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. We know you need funds. We understand that, and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. (pause) We can see that you have deployed massive numbers of troops in the south. Normally that would be none of our business, but when this happens in the context of your threats against Kuwait, then it would be reasonable for us to be concerned. For this reason, I have received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship – not confrontation – regarding your intentions: Why are your troops massed so very close to Kuwait’s borders?
Saddam Hussein – As you know, for years now I have made every effort to reach a settlement on our dispute with Kuwait. There is to be a meeting in two days; I am prepared to give negotiations only this one more brief chance. (pause) When we (the Iraqis) meet (with the Kuwaitis) and we see there is hope, then nothing will happen. But if we are unable to find a solution, then it will be natural that Iraq will not accept death.
U. S. Ambassador Glaspie – What solutions would be acceptable?
Saddam Hussein – If we could keep the whole of the Shatt al Arab – our strategic goal in our war with Iran – we will make concessions (to the Kuwaitis). But, if we are forced to choose between keeping half of the Shatt and the whole of Iraq (i.e., in Saddam’ s view, including Kuwait ) then we will give up all of the Shatt to defend our claims on Kuwait to keep the whole of Iraq in the shape we wish it to be. (pause) What is the United States’ opinion on this?
U.S. Ambassador Glaspie – We have no opinion on your Arab – Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960’s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America. (Saddam smiles)
Saddam had seen himself fighting Islamic Iran on behalf of the Kuwaitis, Saudis and other Arabs, and Islamic Iran was of course the sworn adversary of the USA at least since Khomeini had deposed America’s ally, the Shah. Therefore Saddam could not be all bad in the eyes of the State Department. On August 2 1990, the Iraqi troops seen by American satellites amassed on the border, invaded and occupied Kuwait.
On September 2 1990, the Iraqis released the videotape and transcript of the July 29 Saddam-Glaspie meeting and Glaspie was confronted by British journalists as she left the Embassy:
Journalist 1 – Are the transcripts (holding them up) correct, Madam Ambassador? (No answer from Glaspie)
Journalist 2 – You knew Saddam was going to invade (Kuwait ) but you didn’t warn him not to. You didn’t tell him America would defend Kuwait. You told him the opposite – that America was not associated with Kuwait.
Journalist 1 – You encouraged this aggression – his invasion. What were you thinking?
U.S. Ambassador Glaspie – Obviously, I didn’t think, and nobody else did, that the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait.
Journalist 1 – You thought he was just going to take some of it? But, how could you? Saddam told you that, if negotiations failed , he would give up his Iran(Shatt al Arab waterway) goal for the whole of Iraq, in the shape we wish it to be. You know that includes Kuwait, which the Iraqis have always viewed as a historic part of their country!
Journalist 1 – America green-lighted the invasion. At a minimum, you admit signalling Saddam that some aggression was okay – that the U.S. would not oppose a grab of the al-Rumeilah oil field, the disputed border strip and the Gulf Islands (including Bubiyan) – the territories claimed by Iraq?
Glaspie said nothing, the car door closed behind her, the car drove off. Nothing has been apparently heard from Glaspie ever since, and we may have to wait for her memoirs in 25 years when they are declassified to come to know what happened. It is astonishing, however, that the 521 page report of the US Senate’s Select Committee on espionage about Iraq before the 2003 war finds no cause whatsoever to mention Glaspie at all (at least in its public censored version). It is almost as if Glaspie has never existed and her conversation with Saddam never happened. Glaspie has disappeared down an Orwellian memory-hole. Yet her conversation with Saddam was the last official, recorded conversation between the Americans and Saddam while they were still on friendly terms.
There may be many causes explaining how such serious failures have come to occur in a country where billions of dollars have been annually spent on espionage. Among them must be that while America’s great strengths have included creation of the finest advanced scientific and technological base on earth, America’s great intellectual weaknesses in recent decades have included an impatience with historical and philosophical reflection of all sorts, and that includes reflection about her own as well as other cultures. This is exemplified too in the third palpable failure of intelligence of the last 20 years, which has been to have not foreseen or prevented atomic weapons from being developed by America and Britain’s Islamist ally and client-state, Pakistan, and thence to have failed to prevent the proliferation of such weapons in general. The consequences of that may yet turn out to be the most grave.
October 11, 2005 — drsubrotoroy
The Mitrokhin Archives II from an Indian Perspective: A Review Article
by Subroto Roy
First published in The Statesman, Oct. 11 2005, Perspective Page
Vasili Mitrokhin’s defection from the former Soviet Union to Britain in 1992 caused a treasure-trove to reach MI-6 and the CIA and FBI, because he exposed many dozens of Soviet agents and their plots and intrigues around the world. But this fact that his material greatly helped Anglo-American counter-intelligence does not per se make it a source of accurate evidence with which a historian’s history book can be created. Rather, what this monumental and extremely informative volume amounts to being is a vast documentation, from an Anglo-American perspective, of what MI-6 and its allies have agreed to make public about what they now know of Soviet foreign policy and KGB practices, and of how Russian diplomacy and the KGB’s successors might function in the future.
That this is not a detached and disinterested history of intelligence is revealed by the three chapters on the subcontinent which have been causing a stir in India for the wrong reasons.
Everyone in the 1970s and through the 1980s knew of the tight grip around New Delhi’s policy-making circles of top bureaucrats, academics, journalists etc who were blatantly and incorrigibly pro-Soviet, some being active communists or fellow- travellers. Some of those complaining today know fully well that a cardinal implicit reason the CPI(M) broke from its parent party had to do precisely with Moscow’s control of the CPI. Moreover, while it might have been newsworthy when the KGB honey-trapped a senior diplomat or a junior cipher clerk in the Indian Embassy now and then, there were also hundreds of public sector bureaucrats, military personnel, journalists, technology professors, writers, artists, dancers et al who were treated most hospitably by the Soviet state – getting freebies flying to Soviet cities, being greeted by singing Young Pioneers, touring L’Hermitage with Intourist, receiving dollar honoraria and splendid gifts, sitting in on “technical training”, even receiving bogus Soviet doctoral degrees to allow themselves to be called “Dr” etc. Purchasing influence in New Delhi or any other capital city has never been merely a crude matter of cash-filled suitcases sloshing around in the middle of the night. Much of what Mitrokhin’s material says about the KGB’s penetration of India should, candidly speaking, generate but a desultory yawn from us –although even this book seems not to know that Narasimha Rao’s infamous, catastrophically damaging remarks in August 1991, in favour of the abortive KGB coup led by Kryuchkov against Gorbachev and Yeltsin, had been prompted by a staunchly pro-Soviet retired Indian diplomat at his side long-associated with the CPI.
Yes there are many titbits in this book that may be of interest from an Indian perspective — such as that Sanjay Gandhi’s entourage contained both a Soviet and an American mole in it (where are they now?). But what may be far more interesting to us today is what can be deduced from what Mitrokhin is silent about. For example, India and the Soviets were close allies in 1971 when Kissinger had teamed up with Yahya Khan and Bhutto to send Nixon to China. It is well known our Army Chief, General Maneckshaw, had demanded and received from Indira Gandhi and Jagjivan Ram enough time to prepare to go to war, and when Maneckshaw finally did move to liberate Bangladesh in December, it surprised Yahya and the Americans. Were the Soviets also quite surprised? If so, it would mean that although the Indian establishment was as porous as a sieve with respect to arms’ deals etc, on a matter of paramount national interest, namely, the just war on our own against Yahya Khan and Tikka Khan’s brutality in East Pakistan condoned by Nixon and Kissinger, India had kept her secrets secure. If, as seems likely, Indira Gandhi and her overtly communistic advisers had kept India’s war plans from not leaking to the KGB between March and December 1971, we may not have been in fact too badly compromised despite the widespread “shallow” penetration that occurred through corruption all around in the bureaucracy, academic institutions, media, political parties, etc.
Mitrokhin’s material describes this kind of shallow corrupt penetration that everyone knew was (and still remains) part of the lobbying process in Delhi. But there is no evidence in the book that the KGB knew of General Maneckshaw’s military preparations or plan of action until the lights went out in a blackout in Delhi on the night of December 2 1971 — that at least is something of which Indians may be slightly proud today. The same goes for the Pokhran nuclear tests. It is well known the CIA was caught by surprise by Pokhran-II in 1998; was the KGB caught by surprise by Pokhran-I in 1974? Probably so. Equally, the book says the KGB had at one point cracked Pakistani codes; did the Soviets share this information with India? Almost certainly not. Our Government’s chummery with the Soviets during the Cold War probably stopped well short of complete incest.
Unfortunately, many questions of interest to India or other countries have simply not been asked in the book. The Soviets (and Harold Wilson) had seemed to broker the India-Pakistan ceasefire in 1965, and Lal Bahadur Shastri died the day after he signed the Tashkent Declaration. What is the inside KGB information on that?
We do not know from this book. What do Soviet archives say about communist influence through the 1940s in Jammu & Kashmir (upon some of the very names who became Indira Gandhi’s inner circle later in Delhi)? Or about the uncritical adoption in the 1950s of Sovietesque economic models by the Planning Commission (and the suppression of Milton Friedman’s November 1955 memorandum to the Government of India, as well as the tarnishing of BR Shenoy as a CIA agent)? The answers are not present in this book because these and analogous questions of interest to India or many other countries simply have not been asked. Mitrokhin’s material has been mined only from an Anglo-American point of view, and until it is thrown open completely to everyone, a detached and disinterested history of permanent and universal interest on the important matters it touches upon is not available.
Several factual and methodological problems result as a consequence, and these need to be identified for purposes of future progress in understanding. For example, the book speaks many times of the KGB having forged or fabricated documents around the world as a technique of spreading disinformation.
Doubtless this was standard operating procedure for intelligence agencies but it is left completely impossible for the average reader to come to any assessment whether a given document mentioned was genuine or forged.
Consider a case in Iran. The book states that in February 1958, the KGB “forged a letter from the American Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, to his ambassador in Tehran belittling the Shah’s ability and implying that the United States was plotting his overthrow. The Teheran residency circulated copies of the letter to influential Iranian parliamentarians and editors in the confident expectation that one would come to the attention of the Shah – which it duly did. According to the KGB files on the operation, the Shah was completely taken in by the fabricated Dulles letter and personally instructed that a copy be sent to the US embassy with a demand for an explanation. Though the embassy dismissed it as a forgery, the Teheran residency reported that its denials were disbelieved. Dulles’s supposedly slighting references to the Shah were said to be a frequent topic of whispered conversation among the Iranian elite.” (p. 171)
It is impossible for anyone who has not seen this document or other supporting evidence to come to any assessment of what actually happened here. Matters are made worse by a note that says the KGB “claimed improbably that the Americans blamed the forgery not on the KGB but the British, who were said to be jealous of the strength of US influence in Iran”.
Was the document genuine or was it forged and if so by whom? If forged, must we believe the KGB was so astute in 1958 in its knowledge of American idiom that it could achieve the tremendous deception of mimicking the greatest of Cold Warriors writing to his own ambassador, enough to fool the Shah of Iran who had been placed in power by the very same Americans? No one can really tell unless the documents are opened up completely.
Another example is of more topical interest, and also reveals that this book must be seen as a contribution to a continuing (if friendly and academic) battle between rival intelligence agencies. Yevgeny Primakov, the former KGB chief and reformist Prime Minister (and Soviet Ambassador to India) is quoted as saying about the American help to the Pakistan-based guerrillas against the Soviets in Afghanistan: “the idea of deploying the Stingers (shoulder-held ground-to- air-missiles) was supplied by Osama bin Laden, who had been cooperating closely with the CIA at the time.” (Russian Crossroads, Yale University Press, 2004.)
Professor Andrew denies this flatly: “There is no support in the Mitrokhin material (or any other reliable source) for the claim that the CIA funded bin Laden or any of the other Arab volunteers who came to support the mujahideen. Most were funded through charities and mosques in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and were frequently viewed with suspicion by the Afghan mujahideen.” (p. 579)
It is obvious why this question is important: if Primakov is right and Andrew is wrong the Americans must be acutely embarrassed in having been allies or supporters or financiers not long ago of the very same Bin Laden who has now become their most bitter enemy. The United States Government’s “9/11 Commission” in 2004 made a much weaker statement than Professor Andrew: “Saudi Arabia and the United States supplied billions of dollars worth of secret assistance to rebel groups in Afghanistan fighting the Soviet occupation. This assistance was funnelled through Pakistan: the Pakistani military intelligence (ISID) helped train the rebels and distribute the arms. But Bin Laden and his associates had their own sources of support and training and they received little or no assistance from the United States…. In his memoirs, (Bin Laden’s deputy) Ayman al Zawahiri contemptuously rejects the claim that the Arab mujahideen were financed (even `one penny’) or trained by the United States… CIA officials involved in aiding the Afghan resistance regarded Bin Laden and his `Arab Afghans’ as having been militarily insignificant in the war and recall having little to do with him.”
Bin Laden was a callow youth when he got to Afghanistan shortly after the Soviet invasion in December 1979. Yet his contributions of funds, military effort and religious zealotry made him emerge age 33-34 as the “Emir” of Al Qaeda by the time the Soviets were compelled to withdraw in 1989, having suffered 14,500 dead. The Americans then began to lose interest in the region and in their Pakistani clients, and it was in that atmosphere that Pakistan decided to declare its independence in the world with its clandestine nuclear programme (never having felt part of the nationalist movement which led to Indian independence in 1947). It was in the same period that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda grew to become implacable and formidable enemies of the West, which culminated in the 9/11 mass murders in 2001. The claim that while the CIA certainly supported “Afghan” jihadists, it did not support Arab or African ones like Bin Laden and his friends is highly implausible. The New Yorker and Washington Post reported in 1986 the CIA supplying and training Hekmatyar’s “Hizbe-Islami” in the use of Stinger missiles to bring down Soviet aircraft. It is impossible to imagine the admittedly myopic American policy at the time included checking passports of these trainee- beneficiaries, saying “OK, you’re an Afghan resistance fighter you get a Stinger, you’re an Arab/African terrorist-of-the-future-who-may-attack-New York, you don’t”. Professor Andrew quotes positively the work on Bhutto of Raza Anwar, the Pakistani socialist, but he may have been unaware of Anwar’s The Tragedy of Afghanistan (Verso, 1988) where the precise nature of the American, Chinese and Arab support for the thousands of guerrillas in the dozens of camps in Zia’s Pakistan is quite fully and objectively documented. Foreign jihadists in Jammu & Kashmir came to be known as “Afghans” because they were veterans of the Afghan conflicts, not because they were Afghan nationals. Unlike Britain’s MI-6, the United States Government’s 9/11 Commission has made no bones about the connection between Bin Laden and the Pakistani ISI whose intent has been to attack India: “Pakistan’s rulers found these multitudes of ardent young `Afghans’ a source of potential trouble at home but potentially useful abroad. Those who joined the Taliban movement, espousing a ruthless version of Islamic law, perhaps could bring order in chaotic Afghanistan and make it a cooperative ally. They thus might give Pakistan greater security on one of the several borders where Pakistani military officers hoped for what they called `strategic depth’ (…. Pakistan’s need for a friendly, pliable neighbour on the west due to its hostile relationship with India on the east.)… It is unlikely that Bin Laden could have returned to Afghanistan (in 1996) had Pakistan disapproved. The Pakistani military intelligence service probably had advance knowledge of his coming, and its officers may have facilitated his travel. During his entire time in Sudan, he had maintained guesthouses and training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These were part of a larger network used by diverse organisations for recruiting and training fighters for Islamic insurgencies in such places as Tajikistan, Kashmir and Chechnya. Pakistani intelligence officers reportedly introduced Bin Laden to Taliban leaders in Kandahar, their main base of power, to aid his reassertion of control over camps near Khowst, out of an apparent hope that he would now expand the camps and make them available for training of Kashmiri militants.”
Regardless of the fondness of the very strong lobby of British apologists (led by a former British High Commissioner to Pakistan) for the ISI and Pakistani Army, no detached history of modern intelligence in our part of the world can be written which whitewashes the misdeeds of Pakistan’s generals over several decades. Aside from what The Mitrokihn Archive II signifies about our region, there is a great amount of invaluable material on other parts of the world too, from Chile and Peru to Cuba and Nicaragua, to South Africa and Egypt and Israel, to China and Korea and Japan.
Indeed the keenest pages have to do with the internecine tensions between communists, like Castro and Gorbachev, or Khrushchev and Mao Zedong, in which no Anglo-American interests were involved. We in India have had our share of academic apologists and fellow travellers for totalitarian communist China, but the roots of the Sino-Soviet split have never come to be aired in Indian discussion. Professor Andrew is a leading member of the vitally important Cold War International History Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, whose website displays new and vitally important data from formerly communist countries (like Mongolia, Russia and East Germany) about how Chinese communists saw and felt about India, Pakistan, Tibet etc, which needs urgent attention from serious Indian observers. The Mitrokhin Archive II gives us a privileged glimpse of some of what happened: “The Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960s brought to an acrimonious end the deference from the PRC which Stalin had taken for granted. The first public attack on Moscow was made by Mao’s veteran security chief, Kang Sheng, whose ferocious purges during Mao’s Great Leap Forward were largely modelled on techniques he had learned in Moscow during the Great Terror. On the Soviet side, the ideological dispute with China was compounded by personal loathing for Mao – the `Great Helmsman’ – and a more general dislike of the Chinese population as a whole, Khrushchev `repeatedly’ told a Romanian delegation shortly before his overthrow in 1964 that `Mao Zedong is sick, crazy, that he should be taken to an asylum, etc.” An assessment of Chinese national character circulated to KGB residencies by the Centre twelve years later claimed that the Chinese were `noted for their spitefulness’. What most outraged both the Kremlin and the Centre was Beijing’s impudence in setting itself up as a rival capital of world Communism, attempting to seduce other Communist parties from their rightful allegiance to the Soviet Union. Moscow blamed the horrors of Pol Pot’s regime… on the takeover of the Cambodian Communist Party by `an anti-popular, pro-Beijing clique’.
If nothing else, The Mitrokhin Archives II provides an honest opportunity for India’s Left to come clean with their frank and non-ideological opinions about Soviet, Chinese and other communist histories, and hence to candidly gain self-knowledge. Will they take it? Are there any George Orwells out there?
Kolkata, October 5 2005