Friday, November 17, 2017

BBC Investigation Exposes US, UK, Saudis Protecting IS in Syria

BBC Investigation Exposes US, UK, Saudis Protecting IS in Syria
                                                                                        Saeed Naqvi

The BBC expose, with graphic visuals, is quite emphatic: the US and British led coalition forces enabled hundreds of IS jihadists escape from Raqqa after the headquarters of their self declared Caliphate had been bombarded out of recognition. This will set the cat among the pigeons.

The matter will surely come up in the British Parliament and Congressional hearings in Washington. More such mischief is surfacing.

The Defence Ministry in Moscow is already in overdrive. “The US refused to bomb a military convoy retreating from Abu Kamal (in Raqqa). The coalition’s aircraft also attempted to prevent Russian Aerospace Forces from carrying out air strikes against militants.” There is considerable evidence of “direct cooperation and support for ISIS terrorists by the US led International Coalition”, the Defence Ministry said.

In a separate incident “Americans peremptorily refused to conduct airstrikes on ISIS terrorists.” The reason given was that the militants were agreeing to surrender as prisoners of war and were “therefore subject to the provisions of the Geneva convention.” US aircraft obstructed “Russian aerospace from taking action.”

Stratfor, an establishment think tank, offers almost an apology for terrorism perpetrated by returning jihadists. “Looking at recent cases involving fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, they have tended to conduct attacks against soft targets instead of making more complex attacks against harder, more significant targets. Some examples include a Jewish museum and the soft side of the airport in Brussels; a concert in Manchester in the UK; and a cafĂ©, concert venue and sports stadium in Paris.” Is it not too sanguine a tone on the theme of returning jihadists who destabilize Western societies?

Youth, fired by jihad, who have left their homes in the West for destinations like Syria, are unlikely to be less than hostile towards their respective societies when they return home. This hostility will erupt into acts of terrorism listed in the stratfor brief.

The cat-and-mouse that goes on between terrorists and counter terrorism units confronting them provides room for others to advance their rogue agendas. It is a witches brew.

This was lethal enough. What has evolved since the 9/11 wars in West Asia is a system of regularizing terrorists in Company and Platoon strengths, backed by trainers, finance and weapons, as a military asset to be relocated wherever required. Sophisticated propaganda is integral to the project.

If readers have not seen Amaq, the propaganda organ of the IS, they must instantly obtain a copy online. It is a glossy publication which would put to shame some of the better magazines in the business. If IS is an underground, guerrilla outfit, living in bunkers and trenches, how does it have time, skill, printing presses to regularly churn out this professional product?

Non GCC Arab diplomats, with access to their respective agencies, have been informing South Block that US terrorists, air lifted from various theatres in Syria and Iraq, may have been relocated to war zones like Afghanistan and Rakhine state in Myanmar. India cannot consider itself exempt from this global menace.

Almost on cue, appears a piece by Sara Flounders of the International Action Centre, Washington, focusing on how the Rohingyas plight worsened in Myanmar. Hostility between the Buddhist clergy, the Myanmar military and the Rohingya Muslim in Rakhine has continued for years. What then was the need for the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an armed resistance group, to carry on attacks on 30 Myanmar military posts on august 30? It was only then that the Myanmar military responded with a wave of brutal attacks on the Muslims driving them in thousands over the border.

There is an intriguing twist to the tail: ARSA is headquartered in Mecca, under Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi, a Pakistani national resident in Saudi Arabia.

Why have the US and Saudi Arabia, who have supervised a three year long war in Yemen, rendering millions homeless and killing thousands, turned with so much sympathy to the one million Muslim Rohingyas in Rakhine? It is their callousness elsewhere that invites this cynicism at their concern for Rakhine? Are they driven by a desire to control a group in a poor, mineral rich country bordering China?

Former President, Hamid Karzai has, in an interview to Tehran Times expressed similar fears.

According to him IS “is the brainchild of the US and its allies which introduced this terrorist group to the world under the pretext of fighting extremism and terrorism.” He warns regional powers not to allow the IS to grow in Afghanistan. He said the “number of this terrorist group is increasing by the day in Afghanistan.”

The Moscow Initiative on Afghanistan enunciated by Putin last April sought regional co-operation to isolate IS and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Towards this end the Taleban, an Afghan national entity, should be accommodated in Kabul’s power apparatus. As soon as Trump saw Moscow developing a constructive theme in Kabul, he reversed his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan,. He will stay come wind, come weather.

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Pinned Against The Wall: Losing The Argument In Srinagar

Pinned Against The Wall: Losing The Argument In Srinagar
                                                                                   Saeed Naqvi

The arrival of Dineshwar Sharma, formerly of the Intelligence Bureau, as the Centre’s interlocutor in the troubled state, has clearly not set the Jhelum on fire. But Hari Niwas, the former Maharaja’s palace, Sharma’s headquarter, has acquired a temporary prominence with Armoured Personnel carriers, TV vans, and a gradually diminishing number of journalists outside. The approaching winter is a deterrence for assembly after sunset.

Reactions range from total nonchalance at the Amar Singh club, to bewilderment among the intelligencia and anger among prominent members of the civil society. “Yet again, this is an insult to Kashmiris; what can an interlocutor find out that the State does not already know after 28 years of total military occupation.”

Subjects that were hush hush in the past are now part of casual conversation over cups of kahva. “Democratization of corruption” for instance. This the intelligence agencies have achieved – transferring cash in ever expanding concentric circles. This kind of money, induces dependency, not gratitude, a sort of helplessness, demoralization, which conceals simmering anger.

Householders are more liable to be implicated in such transactions. This would distance them further from the youth fired by idealism and the social media. It is this youth which is controlling the agitational mood. I must however, add in parenthesis that too much should not be extrapolated from the experience of urban centres like Srinagar.

Hardly a day passes without an encounter, a shootout, disappearances. Director General of Police S.P. Vaid’s boast that 170 militants have been killed this year disguises the hundreds of civilians and security personnel, including the Army, who have also been killed. Figures, in any case, do not reflect the scale of the tragedy.

South Asian Terrorism Portal records 11 civilians, 15 security forces and 40 militants killed in the past two months. These, again, are mere figures. They reveal little. The tragedy is in the empty streets past 9 pm. During a 30 kms ride from a friend’s house near the airport to my hotel past Dal Lake, I saw headlights of one or two cars, but no people, not even security personnel. Has this stretch been totally tranquilized? No one will ever know what fills the spaces within the heart behind those unlit windows?

One of the finer intellectuals in Srinagar tossed in a comparison with Catalonia. He was suggesting that Catalonia is more prosperous than the rest of Spain and is yet in rebellion. seeking independence. The comparison is slightly farfetched even though people in Kashmir are apparently better off than in many places in the rest of India. A study of this relative economic well being would have to be a mean minded accumulation of data. How can you point to the decorous carpet in a man’s house when you have blinded two of his sons with pellet guns?

Lifestyles are sometimes a self-deception, make belief, a cover up for a deeper want. The most spectacular arrangement of colours and motifs in women’s wear in Rajasthan, Kutch and Sind, compensate for the aridity as far as the eye can see.

People living under extreme pressure pick up nuances swiftly. When Mehbooba Mufti, Ram Madhav and Dineshwar Sharma repeat the same image, ears are cocked: “We do not want Kashmir to become another Syria”. This raises a spectre of Jabhat al Nusra, Al Qaeda, the Islamic State. Well, the US had to flatten out Raqqa on the scale of Dresden during World War II and yet allowed 375 IS to sneak out to few know where.

The very mention of Syria invites a kneejerk response. After the massive protests last year following Burhan Wani’s killing, new names are being brought into focus as militant leaders, some of them demanding Shariah law, unusual for youth rebels in their 20s.

Zakir Musa, once associated with Burhan Wani, is being projected as the new jihadist. That Musa is alive in a culture saturated with “encounters”, is interpreted here, by some groups, as the Deep State promoting ogres to justify some drastic action in the future.

In an atmosphere so charged with suspicion, no one is expecting the interlocutor to pull a rabbit out of his hat. He has diligently started visiting senior politicians who ask “what is the bottom line?” To this Sharma cannot possibly be expected to have an answer. Has he been sent to salvage accidental Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s sinking political fortunes? It has certainly given people something to watch – wearily though.

The Sharma initiative makes sense if there is a similar expedition to Pakistan. This cannot happen before the 2019 General elections because such a step would immediately bring down Hindu-Muslim temperatures, a state of affairs most deleterious to the BJP’s electoral health.

In the 70s and 80s I wrote repeatedly with such conviction:
“Indian secularism protects, among a billion others, the world’s second largest Muslim population. Any issue, including Kashmir should be addressed keeping this in mind.’

How foolish I feel when some of the best minds in Kashmir hurl the following at me: Love Jihad, Cow lynchings, Ghar Wapsi, Tipu the traitor, transformation of shrines into temples….

“You in India are a cowering minority” they mock. “We in Kashmir are in battle against occupation.”

“They disempowered you through secularism; they are disempowering us through democracy.” It is a staggering barrage. I find myself wriggling against the wall.

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Friday, November 3, 2017

If Freelance Muslim Spokesmen Do Not Shut Up, Its Advantage BJP

If Freelance Muslim Spokesmen Do Not Shut Up, Its Advantage BJP
                                                                                               Saeed Naqvi

It is one of the great ironies of our times that Muslims are a problem for all political parties, except the BJP. In a totally different way, for Mamata too. Without Muslims as a foil, there would be no Hindutva gameplan. If, by some miracle, Indian Muslims were to vanish into thin air, the social edifice erected so far, around which politics is spun, would collapse. Communities and castes would splinter. A new adhesive would be required to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

For the Congress, Muslims are a squeezed lemon. It would be indiscreet for them to say so but it is a fact they have internalized. Having been copiously used, the Muslim can now be discarded. The party may discard them but the far right, for its own reasons, can still allege a Congress collusion with minorities: “look they are silent on Love Jihad, how our women are being exploited.”

Confronted with this “have you stopped beating your wife question”, the Congress looks the other way. The other day, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India expressed his exasperation with what he called the “Muslim question”. To navigate politics past communalism, it is important to set aside “the Muslim question” he said. I suppose “setting aside” means ignoring the issue, not talking about it.

This is easier said than done. How do you set aside a community whose would be leaders pop up, like eager beavers, on the most aggressive channels only to be brutalized by the anchors. They may imagine their being willingly pummeled earns them brownie points with the Qaum and for their own next life, but in this life their rants only swell the ranks of the BJP. As a function of deep strategy, the Muslim must shut up.

That the BJP led government has appointed an interlocutor for Kashmir is welcome because any talk is an advance on the jam in which Kashmir is. But anyone with minimal common sense knows that the interlocutor has not been appointed to proceed towards any resolution of the issue. That would require reaching out to Pakistan.

Such a scenario is unthinkable before the 2019 general elections. And for a very simple reason. Indo-Pak talks would bring down the communal temperature. It would cause the saffron in the air to turn pale. National Anthem, Vande Matram, lynching for the cow, Love Jihad, Ram Temple are all nudging the nation towards a crescendo, a climactic clashing of the Cymbals. This carefully crafted backdrop would begin to fray if the interlocutor were to be infused with serious purpose.

In this national mood, with saffron as the dominant shade, political parties can quite sensibly avoid responding to issues the Hindutva tribe is tossing up to provoke Muslims, a sort of invitation for their most willing but least articulate spokesmen to rush to TV channels.

It is a tossup whether these solo operators do more harm to the Muslim cause or the collective called the Muslim Personal Law Board. Both are self appointed and both, by the sheer quality of and frequency of their utterances, serve as multipliers for the Hindutva cause. A contrived feeling of pre eminence in the wider community is so heady for this lot that it blinds them to the harm they do. It serves the Hindutva purpose to confer recognition on this growing multitude of spokesmen in the clerical mould, supremely identifiable as the “other”.

It is not that the Hindutva spokesmen on show are God’s gift to brilliant debates. They are quite as hopeless as the counterparts they have been set up to tease. Their job is to peg away at a nagging length on an issue in such a way as to invite bumbling responses and thereby add a few shades to the saffron already in the air.

If I am being carried away it is because the imagery in my mind derives largely from the Hindi belt, Maharashtra and Gujarat. There being no monoliths in India, the communal interplay in the South, for instance, is different, except Telengana where memories from Nizam’s rule have faded but attitudes linger.

Communal politics in Kerala became possible because currents came together in the 80s. The quadrupling of oil prices attracted labour from Malabar who returned with irritating new wealth some of which went into the building of garish villas, the Dubai houses, quite out of character with Kerala’s austere skyline. Along with the nouveau riche came nouveau Islam, complete with hijab and other marks of assertion. The phenomena coincided with Nizam e Mustafa in Zia ul Haq’s Pakistan. The huge play given to the 1981 Meenakshipuram conversions in neighbouring Tamil Nadu was the final cherry on the communal cake.

The RSS has therefore gained but not enough to break its duck in the State Assembly. But it is making inroads through its undeclared B team, the Congress. The purpose of this configuration is to devour the CPM.

It is this RSS-Congress interplay, which peaked during K. Karunakaran’s Chief Ministership, that makes CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury’s proposed line for the 2019 elections so reckless. He sees Narendra Modi as the ogre which all democratic forces, primarily the Congress, must combine to crush. His heavy weight Politburu comrade, Prakash Karat says “plague on both their houses”. How can the CPM support the Congress which it fights tooth and nail in Kerala? And you never know when they start playing toey toey with each other.

Yechury’s basic anxiety is to recover the Kingdom of West Bengal lost to Mamata Banerjee. For this reason, the CPM coordinated with the Congress for 2016 Assembly elections and came a cropper.

Mamata has mobilized the State’s 30 per cent Muslim as the central column of her support. While Mamata, with cent percent Muslim support, is willing to stand on the secular democratic platform against Modi, Yechury sees Mamata as the main enemy.

To take advantage of the confusion, the BJP has rushed to preempt the opposition by announcing November 8, the first anniversary of Demonetization, as Black Money Day. Congress, JDU, RJD, DMK, SP, BSP, Trinamool etcetera have sworn to dwarf BJP with their very own “Day of Shame”. Why is the Left missing from this galaxy? Because the CPM is unwilling to stand on the same platform as Mamata.

Instead, the Left will have their own show – day of Protest. Does this not weaken the opposition against Modi?

No, no, no, Yechury’s voice wafts across. We shall walk separately but strike together.

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