DAWN - Opinion; February 28, 2003

Published February 28, 2003

US media’s soft spot for India

By Akhtar Mahmud Faruqui


A SCREAMING headline “Indian firm aided Iraq” splashed across the front page of the January 19, 2002, issue of The Los Angeles Times should have created quite a stir in the United States at a time when the country is abuzz with war hysteria against Iraq.

The charge against India was well substantiated. Said a paragraph preceding the news story’s explosive text: “In defiance of UN resolutions, a company used deceit to export material that could be used in weapons, Indian court records show.”

Replete with evidence, the exhaustive story filed by the LAT staff writer Bob Drogin in New Delhi, made startling disclosures: “An obscure Indian trading company has provided the first clear evidence that Iraq obtained materials over the last four years to produce or deliver weapons of mass destruction. The company, NEC Engineering Private Ltd., used phony customs declarations and other false documents, as well as front companies in three countries, to export 10 consignments of raw materials and equipment that Saddam Hussein’s regime could use to produce chemical weapons and propellants for long-range missiles, according to Indian court sources....”

Yet, the news hardly created a mild stir in the American press. Bob Drogin was quick to furnish an explanation for the muffled response: “US officials have not publicized the NEC case, in part to avoid embarrassing the Indian government about the lapse in its export controls....” The media appeared equally mindful of the sensitivities of the issue and maintained a studied indifference. But while India’s complicity in Saddam’s sinister weapon-manufacturing designs was conveniently ignored, there was no let-up in the media’s zeal to censure Iraq or to malign Islam.

The attitude is consistent with the media’s policy to ignore Delhi for its misdoings and to chastise Pakistan instead. This is also true of US diplomats. Thus, while the US ambassador to India, Mr Blackwell, gleefully won accolades in Delhi for his outburst against Islamabad vis-a-vis Kashmir, his counterpart in Islamabad, Ambassador Nancy Powell, did not hesitate to cause all-round embarrassment to Pakistan by accusing it of cross-border terrorism while addressing a meeting in Karachi.

Is there a method in this unbecoming display of levity? Perhaps yes. A couple of weeks back, India’s test-firing of the nuclear-capable surface-to-air Akash missile and its attendant threat to Pakistan went largely unnoticed by the western media. Diplomats and political analysts too demonstrated equal indifference. Yet the implications of the Akash test-firing are manifold and worrisome.

What does the test signify? And, more importantly, what does the clandestine sale of propellants for long-range missiles to Iraq demonstrate? The two are vivid indicators of India’s missile production capability and the threat it poses to Pakistan. The seriousness of the threat is unmistakable.

The Indian missile build-up has been a sustained process. Its first success came in May 1989 with the test-firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), Agni. The test, according to the then defence minister, K.C. Pant, signified the country’s “potential to carry lethal warheads over long distances and deliver them with great accuracy.” Lethal in the parlance of IRBMs and ICBMs lethal signifies nuclear payload capability.

Described as the ultimate weapon, the Indian IRBM poses a threat not only to Pakistan but to targets as 1600 to 2,500 kilometers away. Agni has the reach to strike at Saudi Arabia, Iran, the Gulf states, China, Russia and Diego Garcia.

Thus, while Agni has launched India into a new orbit — one which it shares with the US, Russia, France, China and Israel — and has given it the trappings of a mini-superpower in terms of military clout, if not the economic well-being of the country’s teeming millions, it occasioned criticism, both at home and abroad, for its colossal destructive potential.

Following Agni’s test-firing, Baiju Patnaik, Orissa’s Janata Dal chief, was quick to protest to the then Indian prime minister, “I sincerely hope that our defence experts are aware that attempts at mass destruction by nuclear strike are also a direct invitation to mass suicide at home.” On another occasion he wondered: “Must India also participate in the ultimate crime of destroying life on this planet?”

Patnaik’s plain talking at that time was shared by many academics. Said Professor Dhirendra Sharma of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University: “India’s entry into the superpower club is meaningless without first providing its citizens with basic necessities.... Evidently there are no strategic parameters which necessitate the spending of our meagre resources on non-productive and obsolete weapons systems.”

The hawks in India seemed to share a different perception. Indra Nil Banerjee, for instance, exhorted the Indian government to go the whole hog lest the labour of innumerable scientists, huge investment “and most of all a historic opportunity to assert itself in global politics” was lost by India. Not surprisingly, the post-Agni developments have witnessed aggressive assertion on the diplomatic front. The hawkish mood displayed by an external affairs bureaucrat seemed to mirror Banerjee’s thinking. “Saarc is important to us”, he said, “but we have got to break out of our regional straitjacket and assert ourselves. Our area of concern extends from Afghanistan (which mythologically Hindus claim as part of India) to the Indian Ocean.”

Stemming from such noble intents, Indian efforts to produce missiles received a major boost in July 1983 when the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMBP) was launched with an initial funding of Rs 380 crores. More than 53 independent institutions from the public and private sectors, including 19 defence research laboratories, seven universities, 11 ordnance factories, the Indian Space Research Organization, and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, joined hands to pool the technical know-how and production skills to attempt self-sufficiency in missile production in the 1990s. The Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), the apex body to coordinate the effort, hummed with feverish activity under the leadership of Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as the programme gained momentum.

Dr Kalam did not believe in ‘catching up’ with the advanced countries but strove to develop front-line technologies on the drawing board. “Our aim is to be the first in at least a few key areas of missile technology,” he declared, adding, “the country which has indigenous design capabilities is the winner.... If you only got second-hand technology, you can never hope to catch up with or have access to state-of-the-art equipment. You will always be behind.”

With this insight and Dr Kalam’s belief that “technology respects technology and strength respects strength”, results were not slow in coming. In a short span of six years, India developed three missiles: Trishul, Prithvi, and Agni. The DRDL scientists later succeeded in developing a few more missiles, including Akash and the anti-tank Nag. The effort continues with renewed vigour. The Los Angeles Times’ revelation of the export of propellants for long-range missiles to Iraq testifies to the awesome advances India has made in the production of missiles.

In his Agni baptismal speech, the late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi is said to have personally added a line to the prepared text, “We must remember that technological backwardness also leads to subjugation.” Ironically, these words carried a cryptic and deeper note for countries consistently subjected to Indian muscle-flexing.

Today there is no shortage of chauvinistic firebrands in India who share Rajiv Gandhi’s view. The country’s involvement in the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction — at home and abroad — continues unhindered and unabated. And as New Delhi vainly tries to maintain its facade of secularism, the seething hatred of Hindu fundamentalists against Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities mounts.

In his manifesto ‘We, or Our Nationhood Defined’ (1939), Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, supreme director of the RSS from 1940 to 1973, said that Hindus could ‘profit’ from the example of the Nazis, who had manifested ‘race pride at its highest’ by purging Germany of the Jews. According to him, India was Hindustan, a land of Hindus where Jews and Parsis were ‘guests’ and Muslims and Christians ‘invaders.’” (“The Other Face of Fanaticism” by Pankaj Mishra, New York Times, February 15, 2003).

The implications of such principled observations should not be lost on Ambassadors Blackwell and Powell. Given the testimony of Bob Drog and Pankaj Mishra who should the US chastise: India or Pakistan?

Diplomacy 101

By Art Buchwald


“THE State Department Diplomacy Class 101 will come to order. You are here to learn how to conduct yourselves when you go forth to embassies around the world, as well as how to man the desks here in Foggy Bottom.

“Now, first of all, what is the definition of ‘diplomacy’?”

“Well, Mr. Sedgewick, it is to be tactful, polite, and make your point with finesse and good will.”

“Wrong, stupid. Diplomacy is the art of outsmarting the other side by being shifty, crafty, and using all means, fair or unfair. This not only includes other countries, but also our own Department of Defence.

“Let’s do an exercise. You can’t stand a foreign country’s politics, but you need them for your own nefarious purposes. Miss McGillahuddy, what do you do?”

“I would invite their leader to have enchiladas with President Bush at his ranch for a photo op.”

“And you would also bribe him. World leaders expect to be bribed if they know the United States needs them.”

“I thought bribing foreign leaders was the CIA’s job.”

“There are two kinds of bribery: overt, which we call military aid, and covert, which is what the CIA does.”

“Mr. Sedgewick, what about paying blackmail as a means of furthering our diplomatic goals?”

“The United States will pay blackmail if we consider it necessary. If a country demands more ransom than we want to pay, we will send them a stiff note. If they still hold us hostage, we will tell them we will not allow American troops to cross into Turkey to fight Iraq.”

“Mr. Sedgewick, how much are we willing to give Turkey?”

“We are willing to give them $26 billion for their defence, but they are holding out for $32 billion.”

“That’s not much of a difference.”

“It is more complicated than that. Turkey is part of NATO, but they are not sure the NATO countries will defend them if they are attacked by Iraq, so the Turks say they want money to protect themselves.”

“Mr. Sedgewick, how are our diplomatic relations with France?”

“Very bad, but that is not something new. We can’t have good foreign relations with the French, and we never will. It’s a waste of time to write stiff notes, particularly since they will not accept them if they are not written in French.”

“At this moment what are our relations with Germany?”

“They could be better if we bought more BMWs from them, and we are skating on thin ice with China. They supply the entire world with music boxes, but we have to work hard not to get them upset over Taiwan.

“I think that is enough for today, class. Your homework for next Thursday is to write an essay on ‘Why the United States has such good diplomatic relations with the rest of the world’.” — Dawn/Tribune Media Services

‘No’ to war: globalization with a human face

By Dr Mahathir Mohamad


THIS summit meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the first to be held in the new century, indeed the new millennium, is taking place at a most crucial time. The world now lives in fear. We are afraid of everything.

We are afraid of flying, afraid of certain countries; afraid of bearded Asian men, afraid of the shoes airline passengers wear; of letters and parcels, of white powder. The countries allegedly harbouring terrorists, their people, innocent or otherwise, are afraid too. They are afraid of war, of being killed and maimed by bombs being dropped on them, by missiles fired from hundreds of miles away by unseen forces. They are afraid because they would become the collaterals to be killed because they get in the way of the destruction of their countries.

The preparations and the measures taken to ensure security go on frantically. Trillions of dollars are spent by the world for new weapons, new technology, new strategy; the deployment of forces and inspectors worldwide. Those who cannot afford these security measures must simply await their fate and trust in God. Yet, despite all these, terrorist attacks have taken place where they are least expected, killing collaterals again. There is still no guarantee that the well-dressed, clean shaven family man next door might not become another hijacker, crashing his aircraft into buildings and killing collaterals.

In the meantime the economy of the world has slowed down and in some instances has been reversed, with huge deficits burdening countries. Jobs are lost and poverty is increasing even in the rich countries. No new investments in foreign countries or at home. With the threat of war oil prices have shot up, increasing further the economic and social burdens of the poor countries.

Aid for the poor has practically stopped and loans are not available as the poor countries defaulted and defaulted again.

Truly the world is in a terrible mess, a state that is worse than during the East-West confrontation, the cold war. All the great hopes following the end of the cold war have vanished. And with the terrorists and the anti-terrorists fumbling blindly in their fight against each other, normality will not return for quite a long while.

Surely at some stage we must ask ourselves why this is happening to the world. Why is there terrorism? Is it true that the Muslims are born terrorists because of the teachings of a prophet who was a terrorist? How do we explain the pogroms, the inquisitions and the Holocaust which characterized Christian Europe for almost 2,000 years? Why did the Jews choose to seek haven in Muslim countries whenever Christian Europeans persecuted them? Do people seek safety in the land of terrorists? Does not sound very likely.

The Christians too were terrorized, not by Muslims but by fellow Christians who condemned them as heretics. They were persecuted, tortured, burnt at the stakes for their beliefs and forced to migrate. Seems that, the Muslims did not have a monopoly of terrorism, certainly not on the scale of the Holocaust, the pogroms and the inquisitions.

So it cannot be that Muslims are the sole cause of all these problems. If they are not then is it a clash of civilisations, a clash of the Muslim civilisation against the Judea-Christian civilisation, that is responsible.

Frankly I do not think so. Frankly I think it is because of a revival of the old European trait of wanting to dominate the world. And the expression of this trait invariably involves injustice and oppression of people of other ethnic origins and colours.

If we care to think back, there was no systematic campaign of terror outside Europe until the Europeans and the Jews created a Jewish state out of Palestinian land. Incidentally, terrorism was first used by the Haganah and the Irgun Zvai Leumi to persuade the British to set up Israel. The Palestinians were actually ejected from their homes and their country and forced to live in miserable refugee camps for more than 50 years now.

It is the struggle of the Palestinians to regain their land that has precipitated, first conventional wars, then civil protest and eventually violent demonstrations. The Israelis demanded European support to atone for European crimes against them in the past. In desperation the Palestinians finally resorted to what is described as acts of terror. Rightly, this is condemned by the world. But the world does not condemn as acts of terror the more terrifying acts of the Israelis; the massacres in Sabra and Shatila, the shooting and killing of children, the use of depleted uranium-coated bullets, the bulldozing of Palestinian homes while the occupants are still in them, the helicopter gunships, etc. And Israel is now threatening to use nuclear weapons.

This blatant double standards is what infuriate Muslims, infuriate them to the extent of launching their own terror attacks. If Iraq is linked to Al Qaeda, is it not more logical to link the expropriation of Palestinian land and the persecution and oppression of the Palestinians with September 11? It is not religious differences that angered the attackers of the World Trade Centre. It is simply sympathy and anger over the expropriation of Palestinian land, over the injustice and the oppression of the Palestinians and Muslims everywhere. If the innocent people who died in the attacks on Afghanistan, and those who have been dying from lack of food and medical care in Iraq, are considered collaterals, are not the 3,000 who died in New York and the 200 in Bali also just collaterals whose deaths were necessary for the operations to succeed?

Actually the life of any human being is sacred, no matter if the person is a friend or an enemy. That is why war is not a solution. A contest based on who can kill more people in order to establish who is the victor and who the loser, in order to determine who is right and who is wrong is primitive and does not speak well of the so-called high level of civilisation we have achieved. The greatness of a nation should be based on a culture that values high moral qualities, aesthetics, learning and advancements in the sciences. Unfortunately thousands of years after the stone age we still measure the greatness of a nation by the capacity to slaughter the greatest number of people.

But the oppression and injustice is not confined to waging war and killing people; there is oppression in ideological propagation. We are now allowed only a democratic system of government. We admit it is by far the best system of government. But applying sanctions, starving people, denying access to medicine in order to force the acceptance of democracy hardly seem to be democratic. Actually, millions have died because they have not converted to this new religion. And millions more are suffering because they are unable to make democracy work, because of the resulting anarchy.

Relieved of the need to compete with the Communists, the capitalist free traders have ceased to show a friendly face. Their greed knows no bounds. They want countries which had fought hard to gain independence, to give up that independence, to do away with their borders, to allow the capitalists free access to do what they like to the economies of these countries. They call this free competition. As they merge and acquire each other, they become monstrous giants against whom the small businesses in the developing countries will not be able to compete. What is the meaning of competition if you cannot win at all. In the end a few of these monsters will control the economy of the whole world.

The sad thing is that they are not above cheating and corruption. And we know they can fail. We have seen how spectacularly they fail, losing 100 billion dollars in one year. And that is only one corporation.

Then there are the rogue currency traders who destroyed the economies of half the world, threw tens of millions out of work, bankrupted banks and thousands of businesses, caused the collapse of governments and precipitated anarchy — all so that half a dozen individuals can make billions for themselves.

Now the rich give no more aid. They do not lend either. And all the time the international agencies they control try to strangle the debt-laden poor countries which had been attacked by their greedy market manipulators.

The disparities between rich and poor widen daily. The rich have per capita incomes of more than 30,000 dollars, the poor only 300 US Dollars. Still the rich want to squeeze out literally the last drop of blood from the poor.

It is this which plagues the word today, this oppression of the poor by the rich; this injustice, this inequality. To rub salt into the wounds, the poor are always being told that they lack transparency and good governance, they don’t respect human rights, they don’t uphold freedom of speech, freedom of the press and so on and so forth, when in fact it is the rich who lack transparency, who do not respect human rights, who curb our rights to speak the truth about what they are doing, who use their media to hide their misdeeds and spread lies. How else can we interpret the operations of the hedge funds and the currency traders, sanctions and the systematic bombings of certain countries, the impoverishment of the already poor, and the censorship of news as well as distorted and fabricated reports about the South?

(Excerpted below is the keynote speech delivered by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia and the current chairman of the 116-nation Non-Aligned Movement, at the 13th summit of NAM in Kuala Lumpur earlier this week. The speech focused mainly on the Anglo-American threats of war on Iraq and the consequences of the globalization process seriously affecting the economic interests of the Third World countries.)

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