Western arms and Islamic terrorism: An endless spiral

BY SAEED NAQVI

“Udhar rakeeb, idhar hum bulaye jaat hain
Ki daana daal ke murghe laraye jaate hain”

(I am invited, so is my enemy – at the same time. Sprinkle some grain in the middle: and the scene is set for an almighty cockfight)

It would be bad form to describe Saudi kings as fools, but the temptation is vastly enhanced by the brazenness with which the Americans dive into Saudi coffers at will and wink at each other.

It turns out that there is a competition on between the Trump administration and its predecessor, the Obama team, as to who made greater fool of the Saudis.

Last month, Trump and his cohorts, after their revelries in Riyadh, announced they had concluded a $110 billion arms deal with their Saudi allies.

Promptly came a rejoinder from a Clinton adviser, Bruce Riedel, now a specialist at Brookings, that President Obama sold the Saudis $112 billion in weapons in 2012 is a single deal negotiated by Defence Secretary, Bob Gates. He then furnished incontrovertible proof that Trump was bragging about a Saudi arms wishlist but no real deals had been concluded.

Riedel’s other argument is a real clincher: “You will know the Trump deal is real when Israel begins to ask for a package to keep the Israeli Defence Forces’ qualitative edge preserved.”

What seems to be on its way are a billion dollars worth of munitions to help the Saudi Air Force to continue its nearly two year old bombardment of the Arab world’s poorest country – Yemen.

It will take the Saudis millennia to build a civilization like the one they are destroying in Yemen.

And in this destruction, the US is as enthusiastic a participant as the Saudis will ever have. In the vanguard of the US supporters of the Saudi war machine is Republican Senator, John McCain. Thumping the table he told Al Jazeera, “We are in a war.” Then he clarified, “The Saudis are in a war in Yemen and they need weapons.” So Americans must provide (sell) these weapons to the embattled Saudis.

Even though Riedel described the Trump’s arms deal with Riyadh as “fake news”, Trump continues to cast himself as a great salesman.

The last time Trump overplayed his salesmanship was with South Korea. After aggravating tensions with Kim Jong-un in North Korea, he proceeded to be a defender of South Korean interests by promising the state of the art missile defence system. Before his altruism could sink in, he flourished a billion dollar bill for Seoul to pay. The South Koreans promptly voted an anti American President in Seoul. But it would still be premature to cast Trump as a latter day Willy Loman in The Death of a Salesman. Just look at the masterly double dealing he is attempting in Qatar.

Creating confusion, Trump’s patented style of diplomacy (and salesmanship), is on show in Qatar yet again.

After having blessed Saudi king Salman’s so called Sunni Armed Front, Trump watched the Saudi-Qatari falling out with both anger and glee. (Saudi-Qatar antipathy is historic and requires separate treatment)

Since Trump imagined he had swung a huge arms deal with the Saudis (since debunked), he felt obliged to call the recalcitrant Qatar names. He called it “a high level sponsor of terrorism.”

While he was spewing his anti Qatar expletives, his Defence Secretary, James Mattis was signing a $12 billion arms deal with his Qatari counterpart, Khalid Al Attiyah. The scene is being set for a perfect cockfight, as my opening couplet suggests. Egg the Saudi on to break with Qatar, promptly dispatch Mattis to Doha to squeeze yet another deal with the nervous Qataris. This would prompt Saudis come running for more arms – and so on.

I have always maintained that Americans, protected by the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, will continue to enhance their dependence on what Eisenhower called the military industrial complex.

Retaliatory consequences of their arms sales in the form of increased terrorism will be borne by Europe which has land and Mediterranean Sea links with areas in West Asia most affected by the post 9/11 wars. Manchester and London Bridge are only the most recent manifestations of terrorism as revenge.

When I told a senior French official in Paris recently that terrorism in Europe would be unstoppable so long as Saudis have the money to buy US, French, and British arms, he shrugged his shoulders. “When US arms giants Lockheed Martin and Raytheon sign mega deals with the oil rich GCC, our governments come under pressure from our arms industry which says – please don’t let us fall behind in the global competition.” It is an endless spiral.

Is “revenge” terrorism in the West different from terrorism elsewhere? For instance, 150 members of Afghan police, army and foreigners were killed by suicide bombers outside the German Embassy in Kabul soon after the Manchester attack. The dynamic here is different. Afghan collaborators with a 16 year old US occupation of Afghanistan are under attack from Taliban, falling back on Afghan nationalism.

What is common in Islamic terror everywhere is the technique: suicide bombing.

This genre was patented by Wahabi, Takfiri thought and will continue until the West lays the blame where it belongs. No Iranian or Hezbollah or indeed Shia militant has yet been found to be a suicide bomber.

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Why the Assault on the Army Chief?

BY RSN SINGH

Ever since Maj Gogoi successfully rescued the team of election officials and associated security personnel from murderous gathering of blood thirsty stone pelters, and ever since the Indian dispensation has cracked down on Pakistan nurtured Hurriyat thugs, the liberal network of jihadi and Maoist backers are on an overdrive.

The Army Chief’s ‘military patriarch’ gesture of awarding commendation card to Maj Gogoi for his ingenuity and cold courage demonstrated under testing circumstances and complex security environment further unnerved the so-called liberal brigade.

To them it did not matter that the officer had saved democracy, the ultimate guarantor of liberty and freedom, and that too without the cost of a drop of blood. It is probably the rescue of democracy in Kashmir that rattled the liberals. After all, jihadis and leftists masquerading as liberals, are known to participate in democratic process, to wreck democracy from within for capture of the State.

To them the Indian Army is a robust obstacle against realizing their objective even with the support of China, Pakistan and certain quarters in the Western world. Other vested interests have been feeding into the jihadi-maoist (liberals) combine, impelled by strategic and economic agenda of their patron countries.

A typical specimen of the economic agenda is the issue of cow slaughter. The motivation of liberals is not ‘freedom to eat’ or ‘freedom to meat’. Their stimulus for protests is money from the Western world and countries which unabashedly sponsors jihad. These are therefore paid protests. They are paid because it concerns the food security of the patron countries whose ‘food basket’ in terms of variety and spread of edibles is very poor and therefore have to depend on ‘packaged’ food and beef imports.

Some years ago on a visit to Dhaka, I was bewildered by the fact that every time tea was served, it was accompanied not with normal milk but condensed milk. I reckoned that it must be a novelty extended to official guests like me. Nevertheless, I could not resist my curiosity and inquired from the mess service boy about such emphasis on condense milk. He said that fresh milk was exorbitant in the country, since most cattle of no-milk yield or little yield are consumed as meat. He significantly added that if cattle smuggling from India were to cease, religious festivals would be bereft of festivities.

The stakes are therefore very high and hence both the legal and illegal beef industry cannot survive without soliciting the industry of politicians and so called ‘liberals’ in India. They come in handy in giving the affair a communal, caste and intellectual twists.

The liberals brazenly disregard environmental issues in their protest against beef ban. It is an established fact that the water footprints of a kilo of beef is at least ten times more than say a kilo of wheat or rice. Environment and human rights are two vectors that the liberals employ to destabilize India. It is diabolical, for how can communists who are Godless be sensitive to nature and humans. Moreover, it is said that you can judge the size of a man’s heart by the way he treats animals.

For the liberals i.e. apologists and ideologues for jihadis and maoists, nothing is outrageous, nothing too shocking and nothing unassailable, even the idea and territorial integrity of India. But, when it comes to China and the role of PLA in Tibet and Tiananmen Square or China’s aggression against India in 1962, or China’s support to naxalites or support to insurgents or millions of killings during cultural revolution or lack of free speech and human rights in that country, there is deafening silence.

Mao’s cultural revolution is a perfect mirror of the murderous proclivities of the communists. The same China today is obsessed with showcasing its past and continuity of civilization. A essential attendance for foreign tourists are the thirteenth century Hakka villages that enclose massive and high circular houses, built of wood and mud, containing several floors. Apart from economic imperatives, the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project is also an aggressive diplomatic bid to reclaim, reconfigure and emphasize the civilization connections via the ancient Silk Route through which trade, ideas and religion travelled.

Just as China, Indian civilization too is formidable in terms of continuity and reach. Its influence and soft power ran across Southeast Asia, Far East, Central Asia and even China. An herculean effort was made by Art of Living organization to invoke and reclaim India’s soft power links and civilizational influence. Indonesia boasts of an ideal blend of its pre-Islamic past and Islamic present. Thailand and Cambodia too have retained some very powerful narratives and symbols from their Hindu past.

Millions of Koreans are proud descendants of Princess Suriratna of Ayodhya who married the Korean king in 48 AD. A mammoth World Cultural Festival was organized on the auspicious banks of the Yamuna in March 2016. More than 150 countries participated. It was indeed a civilizational assertion for India, after more than thousand years of slavery, because this cultural world stage had India’s centrality and underpinning.

The communists or leftists in the garb of activists at behest of the Pakistani and Chinese masters employed every sinister means to sabotage the event. Activists of all hues, unknown commodities till then, having dubious financial links, sprang up like monsoon frogs and abused the event with environment as the vector. This is how China and other inimical forces contest and control the strategic environment in their favour. Then the same activists then went on to criticize India’s refusal to attend the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) meet held recently in China wherein 29 Heads of State and representative of 40 other countries participated.

These activists are very anxious to share Xi Jinping’s ambition of propelling China to the centre stage of global power game at the cost of India.

Internationalism has been the core ideology of Indian communists. In his book Indian Struggle Subash Chandra Bose says: “Communism today has no sympathy for nationalism in any form and the Indian movement is a Nationalist Movement.” In the year 1925 during the first meet of Indian communists at Kanpur, a key leader by the name of Satyabhakta was hounded because he had temerity to insist that the communism in India should have nationalism as the primary impulse. The meet witnessed hostile debates whether the party be named Indian Communist Party or Communist Party of India. The nationalists were intimidated, the internationalists prevailed, the latter name was adopted. The internationalists argued that communism could not be contained within territorial confines.

The jihadis concept of Ummah are imbued with similar interpretation of Islam. To the Indian communists the vector of internationalism for many years served the Soviet Union and even more faithfully continues to serve China and its strategic ally Pakistan. The Chinese masters of Indian communists do not share or display the same enthusiasm on internationalism.

Ramchandra Guha was invited to a seminar in southern China and his observations on Chinese participants in his book ‘Democrats and Dissenters’ is a telling commentary on the issue of “internationalism vs nationalism”. He observes: “The conference I attended in southern China was more representative. The scholars came from all parts of the country. In age they ranged from the early thirties to the late sixties. Some had university positions, some party affiliations, some were genuinely freelance. What conclusions might I draw from my (unusual) experience? First, the scholars I met and listened to all loved their country deeply. The words normally used to convey this love, namely ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’, have unfortunately acquired pejorative connotations in India. Our intellectuals are embarrassed to profess a love for their country. Indian leftists do often identify with a single country — but this not India. Once it was Russia, then China, still later Cuba or Vietnam and most recently Venezuela. (The death of Hugo Chavez may prompt a search for fresh fatherland).”

As per the CIA released documents, the extent to which Indian communists look for direction from Russia and China was amazing and that to at the cost of subordinating India’s national interests at the altar of a dubious ideology. As per the document: “In Feb 1958, an official of Soviet Embassy contacted CPI to renew the request to setup an underground organization… In Feb 1959, Ajay Ghosh in his report to the Central Executive Committee said that China and Russia insisted that the CPI must develop a standby operator capable of armed resistance while intensifying penetration of Indian Military forces.” Significantly, the CPI did proceed to recruit a secret organization within the Indian Army. In April 1959, Ranadive met the Chinese leader and offer ‘CPI support to China on Tibet’ as per the report.

A reference has been made to Mani Shankar Aiyar, the spearhead of the liberal brigade in favour of Pakistan and its proxy Hurriyat, by Sanjay Baru in his book ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’. Sanjay Baru says, “Once in a flight with the PM in an Air Force aircraft, Mani Shankar Aiyar was holding forth on the problems of the nuclear deal… in this flight he said that he was a proud communist, who would rather have the old Soviet Union than befriend the US. I had to tell the outspoken Congressman that if he were a minister in the Stalin’s cabinet then the Officials, who would have been my equivalent, Stalin’s media advisor, would have simply opened the door and pushed him out. I reminded him that he felt secure, criticizing the PM on the PM’s official aircraft because Dr Manmohan Singh …was not a dictator.”

See how the liberals in India have furthered the strategic cause of China and its proxy Pakistan over the years. As a consequence of Indo-Pak war in 1947-48 Pakistan came into illegal possession of a part of J&K. Subsequently, following the 1962 Indo-War Pakistan ceded 5000 sq km territory to China in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The communists in India did not upbraid China for aggression in 1962, nor did they condemn Pakistan and China of misappropriating 5000 sq km territory belonging to India. Without this territory, there would have been no direct geographical interface between Pakistan and China, consequently the Karakoram highway and road from Kasghar in Xinjiang to Islamabad would not have been possible, and now the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would have been inconceivable.

The CPEC as part of Belt Road Initiative runs through PoK (Indian territory) which India considers illegal as it violates its sovereignty. The Chinese are rather nervous of the Indian position because an unsettled territory leaves a huge question mark on the long term legality and security of the project with an enduring strategic proposition and massive economic investment.

In his book ‘The China-Pakistan Axis’, Andew Small writes: “Plans for an economic corridor running from China through Pakistan to the Middle-East and beyond are not new. As long ago as the 1960s, Zhau-Enlai had discussed using Karachi as an outlet for rediscovering an ancient trade route lost to modern times not only for trade but for strategic purposes as well.”

China and Pakistan have triggered all their leverages which includes politicians, sections of media and liberals to ensure that the valley continues to simmer so as to ensure that India is kept distracted from PoK and consequently from CPEC. The Hurriyat has critical covert role to play in ensuring that the Kashmir remains intractable. It is for this reason that we see politicians which includes liberal left in a state of frenzy and making a beeline to meet anti-nationals like Geelani.

Demonizing Indian security forces is an external compulsion of the liberals, because it is the security forces that stand between the design of jihadists (Pakistan) and leftists (China) to break India.

Satisfaction and concealed joy over martyrdom of security personnel in engagements with terrorists (jihadis and Maoists) now commonly exceeds into celebrations. The liberals had demonstrated their vicious global network during trial of Binayak Sen as he remains critical to Maoist war on India. Leftist collaborators as European Commission members descended on India to watch his trial in High Court. The Indian liberals not only facilitated the visit but ensured that he is accorded respectability, so he was appointed as member of a health committee of erstwhile Planning Commission. Thus the then Indian establishment sided clearly with the Maoists. The same phenomenon was witnessed prior to hanging of Yakub Memon.

The network of over-ground jihadis and sympathisers was bewildering in terms of their sophisticated veneer and reach. The two ideologies, Jihad and Communism are foreign, hence alien to this land, and hence it is naïve to believe that they could be loyal and benign to India. The leftists in India refuse to answer whether China can now be deemed leftist or rightist. To answer this is a tricky proposition because, leftists and rightists are imported terms and not Indian concepts.

The stakes are high for these anti-nationals i.e. destruction of India’s nation building and exert for building of China’s global hegemony.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

Fair is foul and foul is fair in Syria

BY SAEED NAQVI

Like Henry Kissinger, New York Times columnist, Thomas L Friedman, belongs to a growing tribe of strategists who insist that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been overshadowed, indeed overwhelmed, by a much bigger, Shia-Sunni faultline.

Even though Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 hijackers, Wahabism, Salafism, are all traced to Saudi Arabia, the US, Israel and the West in general have developed a high comfort level with Saudi Arabia regardless. In this framework, the West has placed the Shia world in opposition to it.

Was it always like this? Consider this recent historical perspective.

“As we approach the season of the Nobel Peace Prize, I would like to nominate the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiites, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, for this year’s medal.” The recommendation came from NYT ace columnist, Friedman. For emphasis, he added: “I’m serious.”

This was in 2005. Friedman, was “in” with George W. Bush. In ecstatic pieces for the world’s most powerful newspaper, the NYT, he repeatedly described the occupation of Iraq as history’s greatest effort at democratization.

Americans had come against Saddam Hussain, a tough Baathist and atheist by belief and a manufacturer of weapons of mass destruction. Remember Saddam invoked “Allah” for political mobilization only after the 1992 operation Desert Storm. He had Allah o Akbar inscribed on an otherwise secular emblem as an afterthought.

The eclipse of Saddam brought great relief to Shias in the South – around the holy cities of Najaf, Karbala and oil rich enclaves neighbouring Basra. For the first time the world realized that Shias were an overwhelming majority in all of Iraq.

A triangular situation had emerged – the occupying Americans, Sunni (plus Kurdish) minority and the Shia majority. The Shias, led by Ayatollah Sistani, played a straight political hand. Once occupation had taken place, he encouraged the occupiers against his tormentor, Saddam Hussain.

That is when Friedman was moved to write:

“If some kind of democracy takes root here (Iraq), it will also be due in large measure to the instincts and directives of the dominant Iraqi Shiite communal leader, Ayatollah Sistani.”

“It was Sistani who insisted that the elections not be postponed in the face of the Baathist-fascist insurgency. And it was Sistani who ordered Shiites not to retaliate for the Sunni Baathist and Jihadist attempts to drag them into civil war by attacking Shiite mosques and massacring Shiite civilians.”

Friedman proceeded to compare the Ayatollah with other icons who helped bring democracy to their respective countries – Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev. The quality of democracy that obtains in Russia, Iraq and South must be left for Friedman to applaud.

Rightly or wrongly, Friedman extrapolated from his experience in Iraq. This is at a variance from the fraud Bush’s Defence Secretary, Dick Cheney sought to perpetrate on April 9, 2003, when he had the marines pull down Saddam Hussain’s statue at Firdous square and attributed the event to a popular uprising.

Friedman zigzagged along shifting convictions, until by August 2015, he began to show the first signs of tolerating something so totally different from Sistani as to take one’s breath away. In a conversation with Barack Obama he appeared to be nodding agreement on a kind of positive ambiguity about the ISIS.

Sudden and exponential growth of the Islamic State was something of a mystery. It is in the nature of the post colonial media that the views of Developing country elites particularly in the Arab world (except allies like Saudi Arabia, other GCC countries and Jordan) never get reflected in the media. How did the elites in Iraq, Oman, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Iran and other Muslim countries view the IS phenomenon. Without exception, they described it as an American, French, British, Saudi, Qatari and Turkish cooperative effort. I know first hand. Ask the ambassadors in New Delhi.

If this is what they thought, why were they silent? They were not silent, but their protestations were ignored by the global networks. So hopelessly one sided is the global media, that even shining stars of independent journalism like Seymour Hersh and Robert Fisk are killed by a simple trick of being ignored.

Writing on Donald Trump’s proposed visit to the centres of semitic religions, Riyadh, the Vatican and Jerusalem, Fisk satirically speculates: “Trump will be able to ask Netanyahu for help against the IS without – presumably – realizing that Israel bombs only the Syrian army and the Shia Hezbollah in Syria but has never – ever – bombed IS in Syria. In fact, the Israelis have given medical aid to fighters from Jabhat al Nusra which is part of Al Qaeda which attacked the US on 9/11.”

By universal consent, Fisk is among the most knowledgeable journalist who has lived in West Asia for decades. But the Imperial Information order keeps him outside the ken.

Truth however has a way of surfacing. Let us revert to Friedman’s interview with Obama. Friedman asked Obama why he delayed taking action against the IS when it was in its nascent stages?

Obama replies: “That we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as the IS came in was because that would have taken the pressure off Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki.”

In other words, by the US President’s own admission, the IS at that stage worked as an asset to apply pressure on Maliki who was in bad adour with the US because he had refused to sign the Status of Forces Agreement with the US ironically on the advice of exactly the person Friedman was recommending for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 – Sistani.

Lo and behold, in his recent column, Friedman is advising Trump to give up the pretense of fighting IS – because that is not in the US (and presumably Israel’s) national interest.

He wants “Trump to be Trump – utterly cynical and unpredictable. ISIS right now is the biggest threat to Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and pro-Shiite Iranian militias.”

“In Syria” Friedman recommends, “Trump should let ISIS be Assad’s, Iran’s Hezbollah’s and Russia’s headache.” In other words, let the IS be a Western asset.

A recent cartoon with a most succinct message shows one Saudi ask another: “We finance wars all around us, when shall we bomb the Jewish state?” “When it becomes Shia.”

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Is global establishment in for surprise in France too?

BY SAEED NAQVI

Accustomed either to isolation or global dominance, the US has in recent years been playing a third role. Ever since its power diminished following the 2008 meltdown, it finds itself running around to block political forces which are ascendant everywhere almost independent of its authority.

Brexit happened despite the US. The country itself has a President it did not want. And now, the weight of its establishment is behind the centrist banker, Emmanuel Macron in France. But will that suffice to keep the ultranationalist Marine Le Pen at bay? The falcon cannot see the falconer.

Electoral eruptions are taking place everywhere almost in defiance of American will. In some instances it is difficult to fathom what possible interest the US might have had in a certain outcome until the truth suddenly leaps out of the thicket, in sharp silhouette.

Why, for instances, would the CIA exert every muscle to support the Right Wing Guillermo Lasso in Ecuador, a country of 16 million people? In the event, a rank Leftist with a menacing name, Lenin Moreno, won.

World Affairs these days are sometimes like a game of billiards. That roughly is the effect of Lenin Moreno’s victory in Quito. The consequence of this outcome is that Julian Assange, who controls the nightmare called Wikileaks, now cannot be dispatched to Sweden for trial. He can live for the next few years in the comfort of the Ecuador Embassy in London. That clearly is an affront to the US establishment.

Worse maybe on its way in Mexico, Monroe doctrine or no Monroe doctrine. Come the 2018 elections, President Enrique Nieto will by all accounts be hit for a six, to be replaced by Leftist Lopez Obrador, if not something more radical. “Building the wall” rhetoric is not the only humiliation that has registered with the Mexican electorate.

So, scramble CIA; reversal in Mexico has to be averted at all costs just as one has to be speeded up in Venezuela.

You may sail the world’s most powerful Armada to threaten Kim Jong-un, but every school boy in Seoul knows that US troops in Panmunjom and at nearby Okinawa Island would be exposed to even hand carried ordnance in the unlikely event of hostilities.

Then why all this bluster on the part of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Vice President Mike Pence and President Trump himself? The US has patronized many corrupt regimes in Seoul, but the disgrace in which President Park Geun-hye had to leave office has left South Koreans shattered. Is the US influence with the regime that comes in after May 9 elections about to plummet?

Is all this muscle flexing, then mixing hot and cold (Trump says he would meet Kim Jong-un), designed to somehow psyche Korean voting intentions. South Korea is not exempt from anti Americanism. An outcome conditioned by this factor will clearly be advantageous to China and Russia.

The global establishment is on sixes and sevens on which way the cookie might crumble in France. At the outset Macron seemed a clever idea, responding to the universal quest for something new, different from the established parties. But as the date of elections approaches, the idea begins to look too clever by half.

A 39-year-old, married to a grandmother, branches out with his own party, En Marche, or March Ahead has considerable novelty attached to it. But on close scrutiny he is a Rothschild banker, a former member of the most unpopular Francois Hollande government. Establishment to the core. Old wine in new bottle. Le Pen tattooed him with punches on that count in the TV debate the other night.

Suddenly imagination transports me to that Dumbo Loft under the Brooklyn Bridge on the evening of November 8. Hillary Clinton was the front runner. It was an impressive assembly of World bankers, State Department officials, artists, journalists, friends Saeed Raza and Nusrat Durrani from Lucknow (to underscore my parochialism), all eager to celebrate a Clinton victory. But we all know what happened. (for the rest of the drama read my November 10, blog.)

Does Macron’s fate on election day resemble Clinton’s. American establishment shows traces of Joseph McCarthy in its DNA at the sight of anything resembling the classical left. Comfort level with a Bertolt Brecht and Arthur Miller is confined to Broadway shows. Little wonder, Bernie Sanders was grounded by the Democratic Establishment when he was miles ahead in the race.

In the French campaign, the communist Jean-Luc Melenchon surged with lightening speed, but French public were witness to his brilliant presentation only towards the end of the campaign. Imagine where he might have been had a viscerally anti Left media placed the spotlight on him earlier. Even so, he got 20 percent of the first round votes as against Le Pen’s 21 and Macron’s 23 percent.

All sorts of calculations are afoot: if 90 percent of Le Pen’s supporter turned out but only 65 of Macron’s were mobilized, she would win.

The trophy for prescience on the US elections clearly belonged to the film maker Michael Moore:

“This election is only about who gets who out to vote, who gets the most rabid supporters, the mind of candidate who gets people out of bed at 5.00 am on Election Day.”

Moore added: “So many people have given up on the system because the system has given up on them. They know it is all bullshit: politics, politicians, elections. People want to tear down establishments.” And Macron sadly, is “the” establishment in very thin disguise.

In an insightful piece, Ross Douthat wrote in the New York Times, that Le Pen has with great deliberation distanced herself from the anti Semitism of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen. This brings her closer to the middle.

According to Douthat, “Nobody seriously doubts Le Pen’s competence, her command of policy, her ability to serve as President without turning the office into a Reality – TV thunderdrome.” Trump’s inability to master his own turbulent emotions is not an issue with his Gallic counterpart.

In the US, the media (except Fox News) threw its total weight behind Clinton. It had egg on its face. The French media, likewise, is supporting Macron to the hilt. In our perverse times, is that not a good omen for Le Pen?

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

The Malegaon Mystery and its Big Little Lies – Part 2

BY VK SHASHIKUMAR

The second part of the series by veteran investigative journalist, VK Shashikumar, raises difficult questions on the continued imprisonment of Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit’s as an accused in the 2008 Malegaon terrorist bomb attack case. With his customary hard-nosed approach he once again brings into public focus new documents unravelling a disturbing plot to severely undermine the apolitical institutional stature of the Indian Army and the morale of its soldiers and officers.

The Sadhvi & The Soldier

The National Investigation Agency on May 13, 2016 exonerated Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur in the September 29, 2008, Malegaon bomb blast case that left six persons dead. The Sadhvi was an accused along with Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Purohit in the case. The NIA states in the supplementary charge sheet filed in the special court trying Col. Purohit and others: “The evidence on record against her is not sufficient to prosecute her as all the witnesses have retracted their statements. Thus, no case is made out against her.”

This conclusion by NIA surfaces several difficult questions – If this holds true for the Sadhvi, then why is the soldier still in prison? Is Col. Purohit’s continued imprisonment on account his sustained intelligence inputs on terror-related activities of extremist Hindu organizations much before the Malegaon blasts and its aftermath?

There is an outrage in the country over attacks on Indian army personnel serving in conflict zones. Videos of Indian citizens spontaneously applauding and appreciating Indian army soldiers are going viral. During the days of cash crunch last year after demonetization was announced, those frustrated of standing in long queues outside ATMs and banks were consoled by fellow citizens citing the hardships faced by soldiers on India’s borders.

But why isn’t there any outrage over Col. Purohit’s suspicious and continued imprisonment? On May 13, 2016 the NIA also charged the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of planting evidence (RDX traces) against Col. Purohit to frame him in the Malegaon blast case. So, if the charges against the Sadhvi have been dropped, then why aren’t the charges against Col. Purohit being dropped as well? Why is he incarcerated without trial for his alleged involvement in cases involving Hindu terror groups when the cases of accused belonging to such groups seem to be floundering?

On 27 September 2009, a year after the Malegaon blasts, an ‘Action Taken Report’ was dispatched to BGS (Int), Southern Command. The following excerpts from the report clearly vindicate the consistent stand taken by Col. Purohit that as an intelligence officer he was only doing his job as tasked by his superiors. That he had infiltrated extremist Hindu groups which were keen to carry out terror activities to avenge attacks of Muslim terror groups and that after successfully embedding himself in such groups; he was constantly feeding intelligence information to his superiors as per the established chain of command.

On 14 October 2008 the following report was received from Col. Purohit by 3 Det SCLU, military intelligence unit in Deolali, Nashik:

“A Sadhvi named Ms Pragya Singh Thakur may have been involved in the 29 September 2008 Malegaon bomb blast. The lady drives a LML Freedom motorcycle. This motorcycle was reportedly used in the blast. It was likely that police was on the trail of the lady.”

Two days before Col. Purohit’s input was received telephonically by the 3 Det, SCLU (Southern Command Liaison Unit), the ATS had “reportedly picked up/detained the Sadhvi.”

The action taken report states that the information was shared by 3 Det SCLU with Dr. Sukhwinder Singh, DIG, ATS on October 15, 2008. He indicated that the Sadhvi had been “picked up” and “operations were on in the general area Malegaon and Surat.”

In fact, the ATS’s charge sheet against the Sadhvi was anchored on her ownership of the LML Freedom motorcycle which was rigged with explosives to carry out the blasts. But the NIA charge sheet rubbished the ATS version by claiming that she had handed over the motorcycle to Ramchandra Kalsangra, an absconding accused, almost two years before the blasts. The NIA further said that the charge that she attended a meeting in Bhopal to plot the Malegaon blasts could not be proved because two witnesses, Yashpal Bhadana and R P Singh, retracted their statements about her presence at the meet.

In spite of the embarrassingly wide divergence between the two charge sheets filed in the court by two different agencies – Maharashtra ATS and the NIA – there is no doubt in the minds of the police investigators or intelligence sleuths that Col. Purohit knew Sadhvi Pragya quite well.

Therefore, it should not come as a surprise when a military intelligence memo eight years ago affirmed that Col. Purohit knew the Sadhvi and that he had indeed met her in Bhopal and Jabalpur. The action taken report dated 27 September 2009 clearly states that he had shared details of his meeting with the Sadhvi.

“The areas mentioned by Lt. Col. Purohit where he supposedly met Sadhvi in person before i.e. Bhopal and Jabalpur are outside own AOR (Area of Responsibility). Thus, details regarding meeting and the background of Sadhvi could not be corroborated in the immediate time frame.”

The military intelligence unit’s assessment in 2009 further acknowledges:

“The officer most likely knew that the police investigation was leading towards the Sadhvi’s trail…The officer had reportedly met the Sadhvi on his own accord more than twice as confirmed by him.”

If the investigating agencies haven’t been able to prove the culpability of the Sadhvi and have exonerated her, then, on what grounds does Col. Purohit continue to be jailed for several years with the trial yet to commence?

When Col. Purohit voluntarily provided inputs on October 14, 2008, just couple of weeks after the Malegaon blasts he was stationed at the Army Education Corps Training College in Panchmarhi. He was learning Arabic as part of his intelligence operations when the police allegedly found and decoded some SMSes that he purportedly sent to an accused after Malegaon blasts. Why aren’t the investigative agencies giving credence to the fact that he already knew that the police was closing in on Sadhvi? Was it because of his successful infiltration of the alleged Hindu terror groups that he was able to glean information even when he at AEC and that if this is indeed accepted, then it might lead to opening of a can of worms?

At this point it must be asked whether the fear in the establishment really is that if he is exonerated, then, that will directly establish what Purohit had been claiming- that he infiltrated the terror group Abhinav Bharat, which allegedly planned and carried out the Malegaon blasts and that he kept all his seniors in the army informed about his activities.

Recent media reports citing affidavit filed by the Ministry of Defence validate Col. Purohit’s consistent plea of just doing his job and keeping his seniors updated and informed. In the last few days media reports suggest the MoD informed the court that Col. Purohit informed his superiors about all his source meetings. “The appellant had informed about the meetings prior to and immediately after the meetings to his superiors in that unit.

Col. Purohit has been tireless in his effort to seek bail and while doing so submitted numerous letters of appreciation from his superiors in the Army. The Nashik police also appreciated him for his work and effective coordination during his tenure as an Army intelligence officer in the region.

Several army officers who have worked with Col. Purohit during his tenure in the Maratha Light Infantry and later in military intelligence have publicly dismissed charges against him as false. Recently, Colonel S.S. Raikar affirmed in a public meeting that the charge that Col. Purohit stole 60 kg of RDX from the army is a fabrication. This has, anyway, been confirmed by the NIA in its supplementary charge sheet. The NIA’s investigation suggests that RDX traces were planted as an evidence to frame Col. Purohit.

Col. Purohit’s counsel Shrikant Shivade submitted official records of from the Army to prove that his client did not and could have illegally shipped out RDX from Jammu and Kashmir during his tenure there between 2002 – 2004. Shivade has also repeatedly emphasized during the hearings of the special court that his client was merely interested in doing his job of “generating intelligence” in accordance with the protocols associated with his job. His superiors were not only aware of his intelligence gathering activities, but were also regularly updated by him officially.

At the end of the heaviness of an inescapable reality is that its increasingly becoming a moral load to bear for soldiers and officers of the Indian Army. Why is an officer in prison for doing his job, when charges against other accused are dropped?

More important, why on earth would Col. Purohit implicate himself in a crime he did not commit?

(VK Shashikumar is an investigative journalist and a strategist. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

Remove Article 370 to salvage Kashmir from Al Qaeda

BY RSN SINGH

For some years now, the Kashmir Valley has been witnessing the most sleazy and abysmal form of jihad by way of ‘stone pelting’. The youth of Kashmir have been robbed off their ability and manliness to cut or chisel rocks for building of society and India. For this they must depend on the labour from outside the Valley. It is this labour which has created the recent Chenani-Nashri Tunnel linking Jammu with the Valley.

Weaned on Wahhabi or Salafi Islam, the life of youth in the Valley is self-destructive. Every stone that is hurled at the security personnel is also a hit on Kashmiriyat and ancestors of the stone-pelters. A segment of the population which treats its geography and history as its enemies, is certainly in the brink of destruction.

If conversion to another religion manifests in hatred for inherited ancestors and ethnicity, surely then security analysts must reflect on those streams of religion which cause ‘terrorism’ and lead to the phenomenon of self-destruction and suicide bombers. The stone-pelting facet of terrorism in the Valley has been the consequence of years of religious ferment. The whole country was aware of this ferment, the Kashmiri Hindus even suffered on that account, and yet we never had the intellectual courage to confront it. It is possible that probably the non-Muslims of India did not exercise their intellect on the study of various schools of Islam like Wahhabi, Salafi and Deobandi.

Kashmiriyat was killed in the Valley the day half a million Hindus were terrorized to leave their ancestral homeland and compelled to become refugees in their own country. The Kashmiri Hindus were the last the most tenuous historical link between the Kashmiri Muslims and the Kashmiri Hindus, between the Valley and the Kashmiriyat.

The demographic purge of the Kashmiri Hindus from the Valley was in accordance with a devious and sinister jihadi strategy. The ghettoization of the Valley had been going on for very long. Wahhabi and Salafi ideologies had been consuming the state for many years through the aegis of Madrasas and Mullahs. Ironically, most of these vicious Mullahs belonged to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The Mullahs from these states were also primarily responsible for partition of India and creation of Pakistan.

Once Kashmiriyat was killed and requisite radicalization effected, it became easy for Pakistan-based jihadi organizations like LeT, JeM and HM to spread their tentacles.

There should be no doubt that all jihadi organizations active in Pakistan and India, rather the subcontinent, like the LeT, JeM, HM, IM, JMB or even Islamic State, are linked one way or the other with Al Qaeda. Since the Arab jihadis of Al Qaeda find it difficult to operate in the Indian subcontinent, it has outsourced the responsibility to organizations like LeT to conduct jihad in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Maldives. There are reports to suggest that the organization and structure of Islamic State in the Af-Pak region was established jointly by the ISI and LeT in Peshawar. Sources have also revealed that the Islamic State cadres are operating from the barracks of Frontier Corps in Balochistan.

The subcontinent connection of Islamic State with organizations like LeT, as also the Indian connection has been underscored by a Hindustan Times report dated 19-Apr-2017 in which it has been revealed that the GBU-43B Ordnance, euphemistically referred as Mother Of All Bombs (MOAB), used by the US in Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar, Afghanistan had taken toll of nearly 100 militants of which 13 were Indian recruits. It also included two commanders from India, i.e. Mohammad and Alla Gupta. Amongst the killed, was also an LeT commander Sheikh Waqas.

Writing on the significance of Al Qaeda for the jihadi groups, Vahid Brown and Don Rassler in the book ‘Fountainhead of Jihad’ maintains: “In the sense used by Al Qaeda, jihad has come to mean universal privatized, volunteer, militarism in asymmetrical conflict with globally distributed enemy. This phenomenon – also known as ‘global jihadism’ – arose in large part due to initiative of two famous Arab supporters of anti-Soviet mujahideen Abdullah Azam and Osama Bin Laden.” Hafiz Saeed treats Abdullah Azam as his mentor and Guru.

The affinity between Osama Bin Laden and the Pakistani military is well known. Most jihadi organizations in Pakistan and India are beholden to the Al Qaeda for finances and global reach. The Al Qaeda and its affiliate Islamic State are particularly known for their ability to produce some of the most sophisticated jihadi videos for indoctrination and recruitment. It was Osama Bin Laden, who established the Zhawara jihadi training camp in the Af-Pak region. A large number of jihadi leaders in the subcontinent are products of this camp. This camp produced the nucleus of jihadi leadership for waging ‘global jihad’.

It is therefore not surprising that Islamic State flags are displayed outside the mosques in the Valley after Friday prayers.

In overall perspective, the Pakistan military is also a part of the Al Qaeda. The Pakistani affiliates of Al Qaeda of which the military is an intrinsic part consider the US, India and Israel as their sworn enemies. We should not get distracted by the fact that in Syria the Islamic State received covert support from the US and Israel. It is quite usual for countries to provide covert support to one or more terrorist organization for strategic ends. The same applies for jihadi terrorist organizations as well. They are in a very complicated relationship like the linkages between Afghan-Taliban and TTP in the Af-Pak region. This is because of exigencies of survivability and in deference to the regional and the global jihadi agenda. The Pakistani state uses various jihadi groups because of their specific reach and influence in respective geographical areas. Nevertheless, the overall arching organization of global jihad is the ‘Al Qaeda’.

By corollary it can also be said that the separatists, the Hurriyat and mainstream leaders in the Valley are also directly or indirectly part of the ‘Al Qaeda’ network. Arguably, it is for this reason that President Trump ordered the MOAB to be dropped on that specific area of Afghanistan, wherein a warning could be issued to Pakistan for patronizing the Islamic State (Al Qaeda). The MOAB also caused damage to some buildings in the Khurram Agency in Pakistan.

The challenge before the Indian State is to salvage Kashmir Valley from the ideology and depredations of Al Qaeda. We need to create a counter ideology. If Zia-ul-Haq in the late 70s could hijack the Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent towards Arab, i.e. Wahhabi and Deobandi brand of Islam, it would be our intellectual failure to not revert the Indian and Pakistani Muslims to their Indian roots. Zia-ul-Haq while embarking on themWahhabi/Deobandi path had famously said: “If Iran imbibes Indian culture, it will still remain Iran, but if Pakistan retains Indian traditions, it will over time become India.”

The nature of Islam that should impact on India is not the monopoly of Muslims, but it is the responsibility of every Indian to determine. If a particular foreign brand of Islam declares war on India, then it becomes incumbent upon every Indian to crush it.

However in the Valley, there are also Muslims whose hearts beat for Kashmiriyat and for India. In the latest by-election in the Valley, the polling percentage was seven percent. If there was no intimidation by the Al Qaeda and its affiliates, the percentage could have been much more. This seven percent people need to be celebrated. They are the actual braves. If one vote can decide victory and loss in an election, one vote can also be decisive in deciding between democracy and jihadi animalism. By this reckoning seven percent is stupendous.

Last time, when the Valley was ravaged by floods, it was seen that many of the pro-Pakistan elements after collecting the relief material pelted stones on security forces sitting on boats. In contrast, in Shia majority areas, love, affection and gratitude were showered on them. This clearly illustrates that the problem in Kashmir is not political but of religious ideology.

It is the same ideology, which is bent upon dragging Kashmir Valley to the Arab brand of Islam with all its violent shades and manifestations. It may be recalled that when Arab Islam impacted on other superior cultures like Persian, Central Asian or Indian, these regions refused to accept the cultural hegemony of Arab Islam. It is therefore bewildering as to how the cultural richness of Kashmir has given way to Arab Islam.

If people of the Kashmir Valley, who reside in only 7.2 percent of the total area of the state and democratically lord over 93 percent of the area, if the per capita consumption of meat in the Valley is the highest in the world, then, the problem is certainly not political and economic. The main problem is Islamic radicalization by an ‘Al Qaeda State of Pakistan’. Therefore, talking to the separatists or the leaders in the Valley, or Pakistan, will yield ‘no results’ because they are all part of the Al Qaeda.

To re-establish Hindustaniyat and Kashmiriyat, Article 370 needs to be immediately revoked.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)