Category Archives: Pakistan

The Western Alliance is Falling Apart

Ever since Imran Khan became the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan in August 2018, the winds have changed. While his predecessors, though generally leaning eastwards, have often wavered between the US and the China orbit, Khan is in the process of clearly defining his alliances with the east, in particular China. This is for the good of his country, for the good of the Middle East, and eventually for the good of the world.

A few days ago, RT reported that China, in addition to the expansion of the new port in Gwadar, Balochistan, has entered into agreements with Pakistan to build a military/air base in Pakistan, a new Chinese city for some half a million people, as well as several road and railway improvement projects, including a highway connecting the cities of Karachi and Lahore, reconstruction of the Karakoram Highway, linking Hasan Abdal to the Chinese border, as well as upgrading the Karachi-Peshwar main railway to be completed by the end of 2019, for trains to travel up to 160km/hour.

This rehabilitation of dilapidated Pakistani transportation infrastructure is not only expected to contribute between 2% and 3% of Pakistan’s future GDP, but it offers also another outlet for Iranian gas/hydrocarbons, other than through the Strait of Hurmuz, for example, by rail to the new port of Gwadar which, by the way, is also a new Chinese naval base. From Gwadar Iranian hydrocarbon cargos can be shipped everywhere, including to China, Africa and India. With the new China-built transportation infrastructure Iranian gas can also be shipped overland to China.

In fact, these infrastructure developments, plus several electric power production projects, still mostly fed by fossil fuel, to resolve Pakistani’s chronic energy shortage, are part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also called the New Silk Road. They are a central part of the new so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which was first designed in 2015 during a visit by China’s President Xi Jinping, when some 51 Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) worth then some US$ 46 billion were signed. Pakistan is definitely out of the US orbit.

Today, in the CPEC implementation phase, the projects planned or under construction are estimated at over US$ 60 billion. An estimated 80% are direct investments with considerable Pakistani participation and 20% Chinese concessionary debt. Clearly, Pakistan has become a staunch ally of China and this to the detriment of the US role in the Middle East.

Washington’s wannabe hegemony over the Middle East is fading rapidly. See also Michel Chossudovsky’s detailed analysis “US Foreign Policy in Shambles: NATO and the Middle East. How Do You Wage War Without Allies?

A few days ago, Germany refused Washington’s request to take part in a US-led maritime mission in the Strait of Hormuz, under the pretext to secure hydrocarbon shipments through this Iran-controlled narrow water way. In reality it is more like a new weaponizing of waterways, by controlling what ships do what to whom and applying “sanctions” by blocking or outright pirating of tankers destined for western ‘enemy’ territories.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced last Wednesday in Warsaw, Poland, that there “cannot be a military solution” to the current crisis in the Persian Gulf and that Berlin will turn down Washington’s request to join the US, British and French operation “aimed at protecting sea traffic in the Strait of Hormuz, and combating so-called “Iranian aggression.”

This idea of the Washington war hawks was conceived after Iran’s totally legal seizure of the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker, after it rammed an Iranian fishing boat a couple of weeks ago. However, nothing is said about the totally illegal and US-ordered British piracy of the Iranian super tanker Grace I off the coast of Gibraltar in Spanish waters (another infraction of international law), weeks earlier. While Grace I’s crew in the meantime has been released, the tanker is still under British capture, but western media remain silent about it, but lambast Iran for seizing a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

Germany remains committed to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA (the Iran nuclear deal), from which the United States unilaterally withdrew a year ago, and Germany will therefore not intervene on behalf of the US.

Add to this Turkey – a key NATO member both for her strategic location and NATO’s actual military might established in Turkey – moving ever closer to the east, and becoming a solid ally of Russia, after having ignored Washington’s warnings against Turkey’s purchasing of Russian S-400 cutting-edge air defense systems. For “sleeping with the enemy”; i.e., moving ever closer to Russia, the US has already punished Turkey’s economy by manipulating her currency to fall by about 40% since the beginning of 2018. Turkey is also a candidate to become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and so is Iran.

Turkey has become a de facto lame duck as a NATO member and may soon officially exit NATO which would be a tremendous blow to the North Atlantic Alliance and may tempt other European NATO nations to do likewise. Probably not overnight, but the idea of an ever more defunct NATO is planted.

All indications are that the future, economically and security wise – is in the East.  Even Europe may eventually ‘dare’ making the jump towards better relations with primarily Russia and Central Asia and eventually with China.

And that especially if and when Brexit happens, which is by no means a sure thing.  However, just in case, the UK has already prepared bilateral trade relations with China, ready to be signed, if and when, the UK exits the EU.

Will the UK, another staunch US ally, jump ship?  Unlikely. But dancing on two weddings simultaneously is a customary Anglo-Saxon game plan. The Brits must have learned it from their masters in Washington, who in turn took the lessons from the Brits as colonial power for centuries, across the Atlantic.

Western, US-led war on Iran is therefore unlikely. There is too much at stake, and especially, there are no longer any reliable allies in the region. Remember, allies — shall we call them puppets or peons — are normally doing the dirty work for Washington.

So, threatening, warning and annoying provocations by the US with some of its lasting western allies may continue for a while. It makes for good propaganda. After all, packing up and going home is not exactly Uncle Sam’s forte. The western alliance is no longer what it used to be. In fact, it is in shambles. And Iran knows it.

Finding Reason Beyond the Rage in Kashmir

Kashmir is glorified the world over as paradise on the earth for its scenic beauty, serene valleys, calm and fresh waters, and colourful flora and fauna. But, beyond the gaze of this matrix lies a narrative of pains, sufferings, and broken promises. Caught in the whirlpool of hypersensitive political environs, the Kashmir imbroglio refuses to abate and has assumed multiple forms of uncertainty and chaos with the passage of time.

Many theories have been put forth by the political pundits within and outside the valley, but those theories go astray and turn rudimentary within the framework of time. Like elsewhere, writings on the Kashmir imbroglio were minuscule until the narrative of Basharat Peer’s Curfewed Night caught the attention of the readers worldwide regarding the Kashmir problem and gave impetus to further narratives and perspectives on Kashmir which subsequently assumed some weight and authors began to write and rewrite stories on Kashmir.

Kashmir: Rage and Reason by Gowhar Geelani is a fresh narrative on Kashmir which was recently released after publication by Rupa Publications, New Delhi. The book offers fresh insights about a number of themes about Kashmiri nationalism; resistance of the new age and rebellion after the demise of militant commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani in July, 2016. The book is divided into ten chapters, each dealing with a different theme lucidly.

Chapter 1 of the book describes the killing of rebel commander Burhan Wani on 8 July 2016. Burhan Wani became a phenomenon during the years of his militant affiliation. Notably, among the tools used by Wani was social media to further his cause. After Wani’s death militancy was revived.

Chapter 2, “Why Tral Bleeds Green,” the author narrates a series of events that venerate militants.

Chapter 3 examines the struggle in Kashmir, whether vying for homeland or caliphate. The author argues that the struggle of Kashmiris is for political and economic rights, justice, and dignity that predate the birth of India and Pakistan. According to Geelani, it is important to contextualise and historicize the struggle of Kashmiris for independence which can be traced to the 16th century when it was taken over by the Mughals. The author writes that Kashmiri pandits were driven out of the valley by governor Jagmohan. Nonetheless, those who remained back in Kashmir continued to live as brothers and sisters.

In chapter 4, “A nationalism of multiple identities,” the author argues that multiple identities have played a role in rallying public opinion in J&K.The first mobilisation of masses was against Dogra rule in 1931. The 1987 elections are claimed to have been rigged to thwart the rise of the MUF (Muslim United Front), which caused an eruption of militancy in Kashmir.

In chapter 5, “Violence to Non-Violence: A lost opportunity?,” Geelani argues that violence that ravages the state emanates from New Delhi, to which the current generation bears witness. The majority of people in Kashmir are involved in a battle for their unique identity and existence. Preaching peace to Kashmiris in the current atmosphere is considered invective.

In chapter 6 under the theme “A New Language of Resistance,” the author writes about the development of intellectual and narrative resistance in Kashmir, whose outcome is resilience through creative forms of defiance. Words are weapons, so is memory.

Chapter 7, “Hell in Paradise,” narrates the author’s observation of crackdowns, civilian killings, torture, and the exodus of Kashmiri Hindu pandits. Geelani explores the recreation of a communal bond among Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits.

In chapter 8, the author says that truth in Kashmir is overlaid with competing narratives and hermeneutics. Working as journalist is a tough job. Indian journalists, barring a few, have lost their credibility in Kashmir. Indian media provides one-sided coverage and the masses of mainland India have been misguided about the whole situation.

In Chapter 9, the author notes that the world has yet to take cognizance of the Kashmir conflict. Religion, nationalism, cultural and other identities are key to understand the Kashmir imbroglio. For the peace and prosperity of the region, peaceful negotiation is the sine-qua-non condition for its resolution.

The last chapter of the book titled “A Leadership Crisis” tells that pro-Delhi politics indulges in doublespeak in Kashmir. Pro-India politics has severely eroded its credibility in Kashmir. The author ascribes this to the lack of political will and statesmanship in New Delhi, Islamabad, and Srinagar to the current problem. Statesmanship is necessary according to the author for a crisis resolution in Kashmir.

The book has focussed on few major topics; however, other topics regarding political uncertainty also deserve equal attention. Geelani’s Kashmir is articulate and passionate, helping the reader to understand Kashmir in the current global geopolitical context. The book is a must read for those seeking an insight into Kashmir.

Charting a Jagged Course through the Apocalypse

If something cannot go on forever, it will stop

— Economist Herbert Stein

Those who live in the reaches of the Arctic Circle tend to convey the same humbling lesson: Mother Nature calls the shots and survival depends upon preparing for her mood swings. It’s an adage that will take on increasing relevance as history unfolds because disaster has been baked into our future. Decades ago a whole series of events was set into motion and it may be too late to break their momentum. Civilization will be tested as large swathes of the globe become uninhabitable. While it might be tempting to seek refuge in the form of denial or nihilism, doing so won’t prevent what’s coming down the pike.

It’s Much Worse than You Think   

The indicators are hard to miss. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached levels not seen for nearly a million years. Roughly half of India’s population (which tips the scales at over a billion) currently faces extreme water scarcity and within two decades India’s demand for water will likely rise to twice the available supply. Moreover, by the end of the century scientists assess that population centers across the Middle East will confront “temperature levels that are intolerable to humans.” Which is a polite way of describing a death trap. One that will probably snap shut even if emissions are somehow kept within internationally agreed upon levels.

At some point our system’s requirement for infinite economic growth will hit the limits of a finite planet. As the ensuing collision transpires there will be widespread famine, mass migration, and disease. Thus setting the stage for military conflict on a global scale. People rarely go gently into the night when their backs are thrust against a wall. For instance, it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising if Pakistan and India end up in a nuclear war over water rights to the Indus river system.

This kind of regional clash can spread like a contagion, dragging larger actors into the fray. Daniel Ellsberg, who briefed the Kennedy administration on President Eisenhower’s nuclear war plans, believes that it’s a miracle there hasn’t already been a nuclear war. Given the veritable litany of close calls, he asks “Could we survive another 70 or 100 years without nuclear winter?” To which Ellsberg responds “It’s unlikely.” Other high-ranking Pentagon insiders share Ellsberg’s assessment. Former Defense Secretary William Perry claims that “The likelihood today of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than during the Cold War.”

According to one official who studied the topic at length, economically crippling the United States would only take something in the ballpark of a half dozen sub-megaton nuclear devices detonated in strategically vital cities. The core subset of such targets includes financial hubs (e.g. New York, Chicago, and San Francisco), ports (e.g. Los Angeles, Savannah) and cities with internal waterway access (e.g. Toronto). A strike of this nature is well within the reach of current nuclear powers.

Hope as a Form of Procrastination

Most Americans shrug and quietly hope that experts like Ellsberg and Perry are wrong. But hope can sometimes make things worse. By postponing a much needed reality check. What if it’s too late? What if, as Ellsberg warns, we’ve dramatically underestimated the likelihood of nuclear war? What if civilization is about to perform an epic face-plant, leaving only feudal vestiges of the economy and infrastructure?

Enter John Mosby, the nom de plume of a Special Forces alumnus who has cultivated a keen interest in the decline of empires. Mosby’s insights about survival are drawn from a combination of academic research, piles of military documents, and his own first-hand participation in what he mordantly labels as “nation-building” operations. Mosby is an army veteran who has seen with his own eyes what happens in a country when the state ceases to function.

We’re All Rick Grimes Now 

The future that Mosby envisions isn’t for the faint of heart. In the aftermath of a collapse he expects that the United States would give way to “historically typical failed-state neo-tribalism.” Afghanistan is a textbook example. A destination that the Department of Justice refers to as “largely lawless, weak, and dysfunctional.” In other words, hungry country where groups of farmers struggle to eke out a living amidst mafia-style networks and despotic warlords.

In a setting like this it’s only natural that communities would band together for their common defense. Evolution has programmed us to do so. This, according to Mosby, will be vital for survival. As a lone individual you’ll succumb to the environment. Presumably starve to death or perhaps get run over by a pack of marauders. Only as a member of a larger community do you stand a chance. When the going gets tough, the tough posse up.

This emphasis on social collaboration is noteworthy because it contrasts sharply against the stereotype of the lone survivalist. Crouched down in a basement with their freeze-dried food and ammunition. In fact, Mosby predicts that the billionaire crowd is unlikely to survive over the long run despite their high-end designer bunkers. Mosby concedes that “to some degree, the patrician classes CAN buy their way out of some trouble.” However, once society has been steamrolled by calamity, Mosby asserts that “the masses of people will start looking for leadership, towards people who can offer them security in the form of food and protection.”

The oligarchs, with their self-justifying philosophy of radical individualism, are unlikely to acquire this degree of trust. Because it’s not something you can buy. Mosby says that “It is about being the person who puts the tribe before himself.” He concludes “the super-rich probably don’t have that ability.” The financial strip mining of the middle class that followed the events of 2008 stands in testimony.

The bad news is that tribalism is hardly a utopia. Mosby observes that it will be characterized by “continuous endemic violence” and that — given the state of modern armaments — it will result in “catastrophic losses to all parties involved.” Again, Afghanistan comes to mind. Where the typical life expectancy is approximately 50 years. A place so hazardous that it has garnered a reputation as the graveyard of empires.

Or consider Great Britain after the Romans finally lost their grip in 410 A.D. With the Romans gone the island quickly passed into a dark age where it was relentlessly invaded by northern tribes. Wave after wave of conquering Angles, Saxons, and Vikings. Life was uncertain. Death was everywhere. Something as basic as red meat was a luxury that few could afford. The aftermath of a nuclear exchange will almost certainly result in comparable instability and deprivation. Suffice it to say, in the wake of such a catastrophe there will be a sizable contingent of survivors who’ll wish that they’d simply perished at ground zero.

Out of the Ashes

In spite of the gloomy desolation of the post-apocalypse, there’s still a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. History will not end. Yes, it’s true, civilizations fall. But after a rocky transition period new ones emerge from their remains. And as centuries pass fiefdoms unite and fledgling nations are born. While the Romans left England to fend for itself, the turmoil of Britain’s lost years gradually gave way to the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment. The rule of monarchs, which persisted for millennia, was supplanted by rule of law.

In due time established ideologies like socialism and capitalism will be abandoned for doctrines that produce better results. Technology will continue to progress and yield ever more fearsome weapons. Confronted with near term extinction the human species will be obliged to learn from its mistakes and evolve beyond destructive tendencies. Otherwise Mother Nature will relegate the human race to Darwin’s wastebasket and dutifully move on with new experiments.

Credit Suisse Freezes $5 billion of Russian Money due to U.S. Sanctions

A few days ago, Reuter reported that Switzerland’s second largest bank, Crédit Suisse, has ‘frozen‘ about 5 billion Swiss francs of Russian money, or about the same in US-dollars, for fear of falling out of favors with Washington – and being ‘sanctioned’ in one way or another. Crédit Suisse, like her bigger sister, UBS, have been amply punished already by Washington for facilitating in the US as well as in Switzerland tax evasion for US oligarchs. They want to be good boys now with Washington.

Switzerland’s banking watchdog, FINMA, does not require Swiss banks to enforce foreign sanctions, but has said they have a responsibility to minimize legal and reputational risks. Crédit Suisse is cautious. In 2009, it reached a $500 million settlement with U.S. authorities over dealings with sanctions-hit Iran. And most every major bank remembers the 2014 settlement of France’s BNP Paribas for a record $8.9 billion fine for violating U.S. sanctions against Sudan, Cuba and Iran.

When asked, two other Swiss banks, UBS and Julius Baer, who are known to deal with Russian clients, declined a straight forward answer whether they too will resort to sanctioning their Russian customers. An UBS spokesman said evasively, they were “implementing worldwide at least the sanctions currently imposed by Switzerland, the U.N., the EU and the U.S.”

What doesn’t stop amazing me is how the western world just accepts such horrendous US fraud, or better called, outright theft of other countries resources, be it monetary or natural resources. And all that is possible only because the entire western world and all those African and lately again, Latin American countries – many of them developing countries, including some of the major oil producers – are still tied to the US dollar. All international money transactions, regardless whether they concern the United States, or simply two completely independent countries, have to transit through a US bank either in London or New York. This is what makes it possible for the US to implement financial and economic sanctions in the first place.

A few days ago, the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, dared proposing that the EU detach itself from the international, totally privately run, Belgium registered SWIFT transfer system, as it is fully controlled by the US banking oligarchy, is operating in more than 200 countries and territories. He suggested that the EU create an independent transfer system, much like Russia and China have done, to free themselves from the financial slavehood to Washington. The reaction of one of his right wing German countryman and parliamentarian was swift – it was not the right time to even think of de-coupling the EU from Washington, now where Russia is in dire straits and Germany and the rest of Europe needs the US more than ever.  Can you imagine!

In this pathetic, gutless Europe, it is highly questionable whether Mr. Mass’s excellent idea will survive and actually gain support. Hardly at this stage.

Irrespective of the spineless behavior of the EU and the Swiss Government, the latter unable even to stand up to its own neutrality – let them rot in their submissiveness to empire and its EU vassals – gutlessness, which by the way they, the Swiss Government, has also demonstrated vis-à-vis Venezuela – more important, much more important is, what does this all mean for Russia?

To begin with, the Crédit Suisse ‘frozen’ 5 billion dollars, you may as well call it what it is in reality: Totally illegally “confiscated” Russian assets. It is rare, if ever, that the US government returns so called ‘frozen’ assets of any sanctioned country. And under the current scenario, Trump and his masters and the pressure of the corrupt Hillary swamp, will not let go of demonizing and ‘sanctioning’ Russia, regardless of the real impact of these sanctions, and regardless of the total lawlessness of these actions, regardless of the manufactured and lie-based reason for these sanctions, regardless of the fact that everybody with a half-brain knows about the manipulated and false pretexts for sanctions, and regardless of another fact, namely, that these actions are contributing to an ever accelerating suicide of the empire and its corrupt system that eventually will drown in its own Washington swamp. Good riddens!  The sooner the better.

And the impact of these sanctions is hardly what they pretend to be. They are foremost a call on the Atlantists – or call them Fifth Columnists, of which there are still too many embedded in the Russian financial sector – to counteract the internal measures Russia is taking to escape the dollar slavehood. They will not succeed. The vessel is turning and turning ever faster; turning from west to east.

Despite the constant demonization of the ruble, how it lost 50% of its value because of the sanctions, the Russian currency is worth way more than all the western fiat currencies together. The western dollar-dependent moneys are based on hot air, or not even – on zilch, nada, zero; they are literally produced by private banks like casino money. The ruble is doubly-backed by gold and by Russia’s well-recovered economy and so is the Chinese Yuan.

So, what does a 50% loss of the ruble mean? Loss against what? Loss against the US dollar and the currencies of Washington’s vassal allies? With a de-linked Russian economy from the western economy, the western concept of ‘devaluation’ is totally meaningless. The ruble doesn’t need to compare itself anymore to the western dollar-enslaved currencies.

So, the urgent call by the nature of things for Russia to delink from the western economy, from the western fraudulent dollar-based monetary system, is being heeded by Russia.  I cannot but repeat and repeat again that the dollar economy and the enslaving monetary system it produced is an absolute fraud. It is a crime that would be punishable by any international court that deserves the name of a court of law, that is not bought and whose judges are not threatened if they don’t fold to the dictate of Washington. But upholding the laws of ethics and moral, the laws that our more honest and humble forefathers not too long ago crafted, is a thing of the past. The corruption in everything accompanied by intimidations and coercions, have been accepted by just about everybody as the new normal. This, in itself, is not normal. It creates a pressure cooker that eventually will simply explode.

To move away from this ever-increasing stench of cultural decay, a de-dollarization is a must, is a recipe for survival. And survive, Russia will. Russia is buying massively gold, shedding US treasury bonds from its reserves, replacing them with gold and Chinese Yuan, an IMF-accepted official reserve currency. In July 2018 Russia purchased a record 26 tons of gold, leading up to gold reserves of close to a total of 2000 tons, quadrupling her gold inventory since 2008. This makes Russia the world’s fifth largest gold holder.

As Mr. Putin said already a few years ago, the sanctions are the best thing that happened to Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It forced us to rehabilitate and boost our agricultural production for food self-sufficiency and to rebuild and modernize our industrial park. Today Russia has a cutting-edge industrial arsenal and is no longer dependent on “sanctioned” imports. Russia is not only food-autonomous but has become the world’s largest wheat exporter. And take this – according to Mr. Putin, Russia will supply the world with only organic food, no GMOs, no toxic fertilizers and pesticides.

Russia has clearly and unstoppably embarked on an “Economy of Resistance”: Local production for local markets with local money based on and for the development of the local economy; trading with friendly nations who share similar cultural and moral values.  It’s called regaining economic sovereignty. That’s key. That’s what most countries in the west under the yoke of the US empire and its puppets, enforced by NATO, have lost in the steadily increasing stranglehold of globalization. Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, Pakistan, soon Mexico, and others are breaking loose from the fangs of the Washington Consensus that brought the world almost three decades of pure misery, exploitation and monetary enslavement.

Russia is strengthening her ties with China, with whom she has already for years a ruble-yuan swap agreement between the respective central banks, indicating a strong economic and trading relation. Both are members of the SCO – Shanghai Cooperation Organization. And Russia is also an integral part and link in President Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative – BRI – a multi-trillion-yuan economic development scheme for the next at least hundred years, that will span the world with several transport routes, including shipping lines, ports and industrial expansion, as well as cultural exchange, education and research centers on the way. Members of the SCO encompass half the world’s population and account today already for about a third of the globe’s GDP and growing fast, both in members as well as economic output.

Russia as part of this block of sovereign nations doesn’t need the west anymore, doesn’t need the Crédit Suisse confiscated 5 billion dollars anymore. Freedom is priceless. Sanctions are like the fiat currency they are based on; not more than rotten smelling hot air, and dissipating fast into oblivion.

Electing the Cornered Tiger: Imran Khan in Pakistani Politics

Tariq Ali, whilst having a lunch in Knightsbridge with the Pakistani cricket colossus, Imran Khan, suggested that retirement should not be too problematic for him.  (Khan had seemed gloomy, deep in thought about post-retirement prospects at the age of 30.)  Consider, posed Ali, film, or at the very least funding for a film institute.  “You could be an enabler or you could act.  A film with you in it would be a surefire hit and help fund more avant-garde productions.”

Khan did not bite.  He preferred politics, an area which has its fair share of thespians staking their wares.  His stewardship of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) has been years in the making, a gradual yet relentless push into the limelight since its establishment in 1996. When first assuming the mantle of politician, he was a clear target of ridicule.  “Since he foreswore sport and sex for politics and piety about a decade ago,” went The Guardian in August 2005, “Khan’s form has been highly erratic.”  After his divorce from Jemima Goldsmith after a nine-year marriage “he has edged his views ever closer to the fringes of Pakistan’s radicalised political spectrum.”

This Pakistani election is being seen as epochal and singular.  As with others, there have been deaths, disruptions and accusations, the cries of an ill patient.  Some 31 perished in a suicide bombing attack in Balochistan, predictably against a polling centre.  But as the night chugged and throbbed with anticipation, the PTI began to lead at the half-way mark of counting with 113 seats.

As is seemingly genetic in the nature of Pakistani elections, slow counting and technical hurdles have supplied the disgruntled grounds for grievance.  Allegations of rigging have been met by promises from Khan to investigate them.  In the same breath, he has essentially put them to one side, the lamentations of the rightfully defeated. “If you think there has been rigging, we will assist you in the investigation if you have any doubts.  We will stand by you.  I feel that this election has been the fairest in Pakistan’s history.”

Despite his alluring sophistication (the ease with which this is described as “modern” has marked previous assessments of his bearing), those keen to see an enlightened leader gorged with the political principles of Western value stand to be baffled.  Rafia Zakaria of Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper contends that “Khan’s ascent bodes poorly for Pakistani women”, given his promise in making Pakistan an Islamic state and his rejection of “Western feminism as an impediment to motherhood.”

In one sense, he is practical, keen on pursuing matters of governance rather than issues of ideology: Do not, for instance, remove blasphemy laws because doing so would release the lynch mobs.  Those misusing such statutes would be punished.  The orderly function of institutions is paramount.

He is far from keen to box the Taliban from diplomatic engagement and shackle the mullahs.  “For sixteen years,” he explained to Peter Oborne in an interview last year, the United States had “been trying to use [the military] to crush the Taliban movement and it has failed.  And it will fail again.”  Sentiments of sympathy have been expressed for Afghanistan, a country with which he wishes to have open borders.

In a speech in Bani Gala, Khan declared victory, claiming that he had been vested with “a mandate”.  It was one focused on the decay of the Pakistani state, a rotten entity that would only be healed by the vision of Madina, “where widows and the poor were taken care of”. Vast disparities between the indigent and the wealthy had to be overcome.  “A country is not recognised by the lifestyle of the rich, but by the lifestyle of the poor.”

There have been bread-and-butter promises served with a populist crust.  Institutions will be held accountable in an effort to fire lagging trust; farmers and the business community will be assisted; tax revenue will be “safeguarded” (always comforting); youth employment shall be encouraged, and government expenditure will be reduced.

In terms of foreign policy, Khan’s views are a bit of a mash that is bound to excite and disconcert a range of foreign capitals.  To the US, he has expressed a view that drone strikes will be prohibited.  Conciliatory approaches will be sought with both Iran and Saudi Arabia. “Saudi Arabia has stood by us in our toughest times.  We would like to be a reconciliatory state and help them resolve their inner tensions.”  Then comes the India-Pakistan relationship, one characterised by the normality of strife and discord.  “The blame game that whatever goes wrong in Pakistan is because of India and vice versa bring us back to square one.”

A lingering, if crippling wisdom suggests how careful Khan will have to be.  He has been – and in an era that spawns the likes of Donald Trump, this should hardly be surprising – injudicious with his opponents, berating those supporting former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as “donkeys”.  A coalition will probably have to be sought; the sagacious manner displayed by him whilst cricket captain may well have to apply.

Overseeing the process of politicking and any effort at reform will be Pakistan’s meddling army, that self-proclaimed agent of stability that has done its fair share to ignore elected representatives when it wanted to.  That particular institution, argues Hamid Hussain in the Defence Journal (July 31), “views itself as a doctor that needs to administer medicine to the sick patient from time to time for the good of the patient even if he does not like the taste of medicine.”  The new leader will just have to be mindful such medicine doesn’t have the effect of finishing off a patient of such ill-health. For the moment, it seems, Khan is in the good books of Dr Military.

First Bomb the Wedding, Then Bomb the Rescue Workers

Textbook terrorist tactic and war crime – who cares?

On an impoverished, remote mountain village in northwest Yemen, the wedding celebration was still going strong when the first airstrike hit around 11 p.m. on April 22. The Saudi attacks killed the bride first, death toll to “at least 33 people.” The nearest hospital was miles away in Hajjah. The only two cars in the village were knocked out by the bombing. The first casualties reaching the hospital arrived by donkey after midnight. The hospital, one of 13 in Yemen run by MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders), had two ambulances that drove back and forth well into daylight bringing in the wounded, sometimes six at a time. MSF reported receiving 63 casualties, none armed, none in uniform:

The injured had mainly lost limbs and suffered shrapnel wounds. At least three patients required amputation, including two brothers, who each lost a foot. By early morning, many residents of Hajjah had come to the hospital to donate blood. In two hours, 150 bags were collected to treat the wounded.

This was yet another American-sponsored war crime. The US has committed war crimes of this sort all on its own since 2009 in Pakistan (and subsequently in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere). The US president surely knew such attacks are war crimes under international law as well as US law, but who was going to hold him accountable (any more than anyone has held his predecessor or successor accountable)?

US complicity in committing war crimes almost daily in Yemen began in March 2015 when the president, without a murmur from a supine Congress, gave the green light to a Saudi-led coalition of mostly Sunni Arab states to wage a genocidal bombing campaign against the Houthi rebels (predominantly Shi’ite Zaidis) who had ruled Yemen for 1,000 years until 1962. In 2014, the Houthis had overthrown the duly-appointed, internationally-imposed “legitimate” government. Americans’ hands have run red with innocent Yemeni blood ever since. (Not that US media often mention US involvement, as the CNN report on this deadly wedding illustrates: “A coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been fighting Iranian Houthi rebels in Yemen for more than two years” — actually three. And the Houthis are Yemeni, not Iranian, as the official propaganda would love you to believe.)

As with the desecrated wedding described above, the Saudis, with US blessing and extensive tactical support, like to commit their war crimes especially against weddings and funerals (as the CIA was fond of doing in Pakistan). This is state-sponsored terrorism. The states sponsoring it include the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and their allies in Yemen. Weddings and funerals offer large gatherings of innocent people who are defenseless. It doesn’t take a smart bomb to see the value of a soft target like that. When the rescue workers and other first responders show up, a second strike kills more innocent, defenceless people. This is a standard terrorist tactic with fiendish efficiency. In terror jargon it’s called the double-tap.

That same weekend, US-Saudi strikes also killed a family of five and 20 civilians riding in a bus. The US-Saudi air war on the undefended country (Yemen has no air force and limited air defenses) has displaced millions of people in a country of 25 million that was already the poorest in the region when the Saudis attacked. The relentless bombing of civilians (including the use of cluster bombs) has led to severe hunger, approaching famine conditions; a severe shortage of medical supplies and a massive cholera outbreak; and destruction of infrastructure and the near-elimination of clean water. Describing conditions in Yemen, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said:

Every 10 minutes, a child under 5 dies of preventable causes. And nearly 3 million children under 5 and pregnant or lactating women are actually malnourished. Nearly half of all children aged between 6 months and 5 years old are chronically malnourished and suffer from stunting, which causes development delays and reduced ability to learn throughout their entire lives.

This is what genocide looks like. But to blur that perception, the Saudis and the UAE have given the UN nearly $1 billion in humanitarian aid, to ameliorate the humanitarian disaster they created, even as they continue bombing without a pause. This picture has prompted Guterres to say that “peace is possible” in Yemen, but “there are still many obstacles to overcome.”

One such obstacle would be the Saudi claim on April 21 that the Yemeni rebels had seized 19 oil tankers off the coast and had held them hostage for more than 26 days. That was a lie. It was not a credible lie, coming after 25 days of silence during the alleged hostage crisis. It was a lie based on nonsense, since the Saudi naval blockade had allowed the oil tankers into the port of Hodeidah to deliver fuel to the rebel-held area. A commercial shipping traffic website soon located all the “hostage” ships and learned that they were anchored awaiting off-loading. On April 26, Public Radio International exposed the Saudi lie.

On November 13, 2017, the US House of Representatives passed a lengthy resolution (H.Res.599) “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to United States policy towards Yemen, and for other purposes” on a bipartisan vote of 366-30 (with 36 not voting). The resolution expresses basic clichés of US policy, with all their varied levels of inaccuracy, dishonesty, and wishful thinking. The general tone of the document is that it’s all Iran’s fault the US-Saudi offensive is killing Yemenis en masse (no evidence offered). Most to the point, the House acknowledges that the US has no legal authorization for the use of force in Yemen (while omitting specific reference to US participation in the bombing, naval blockade, drone strikes, or other military actions). Having identified the illegality of US involvement in a genocidal war, the House resolution does nothing about it other than to ask all the parties to play nice.

In March 2018, Senate Joint Resolution 54 raised some real issues without actually proposing any solution. The resolution defined itself as a choice: “To direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.” As explained in a Bernie Sanders press release:

It is long past time for Congress to exercise its constitutional authority on matters of war, and if the United States is going to participate in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, there must be a debate and a vote. Otherwise, our involvement is unauthorized and unconstitutional, and it must end.

In a largely party-line vote on March 20, the Senate Republicans voted 55-44 to table the resolution without discussing it or changing the course of carnage and US arms sales.

The Yemen peace process is still a hope more than a reality. The US and the Saudi coalition have shown no willingness to negotiate in good faith, but it’s not clear that anyone else has either. The Houthis control most of western Yemen and roughly 80% of the population. Houthi senior leader Saleh al-Sammad, considered a moderate, was open to negotiation. On April 19, a US-Saudi airstrike assassinated him.

The Trump administration is equally useless in any search for peace in Yemen. The president is enthralled by the scale of arms purchases by the Saudis and their allies, with no apparent interest in how the Pentagon helps use those weapons mostly against civilians.

A US citizen named Nageeb al-Omari has attempted to bring his 11-year-old daughter Shaima to the US for medical care. She was born with cerebral palsy, but the US-Saudi bombing has made her care all but impossible there. There is no US embassy in Yemen. Shaima’s father took her to Djibouti, where she continued deteriorating rapidly. Despite the US anti-Muslim travel ban, the daughter qualifies for the exemptions that would allow her into the US. Even though her father is a US citizen, US State Department officials would not grant her a visa, a waiver, or, most likely, a chance to live. The family has returned to Idlib in Yemen to await the next random act of cruelty from a rogue state that is the world’s greatest purveyor of terrorism.

Why should they expect any better treatment than Iraqi Christians in Michigan who voted for the president and now face deportation?

Pakistan: 11 Coal Miners killed in Spate of Deadly Accidents

A series of deadly accidents has claimed the lives of 11 coal miners in Pakistan since late March. The tragic deaths of the miners once again demonstrates the dismal state of worker safety in the country. The accidents also highlight the deeply exploitative character of the mining industry, which after years of privatization is now dominated by private corporations.

The most recent accident occurred on the night of April 4, when 6 workers were suffocated by poisonous gas at a coal mine in the Sikandarabad area of Kalat in Balochistan, Pakistan’s poorest province. According to reports, the miners were digging deep inside the mine where a lethal amount of methane gas had accumulated, causing them to lose consciousness. Workers outside the mine tried desperately to rescue their friends and colleagues, but to no avail. They had all perished by the time rescue teams arrived. The mine was operating illegally, without the requisite government license, according to the Mines and Minerals Development Department of Balochistan’s provincial government.

A few days earlier, on April 1, 4 coal miners were killed at Ali Mines in the Jhelum district of Punjab. They were among 6 workers trapped under debris when an explosion caused a roof to collapse. Those killed included, Rehmatullah, Sabir Rehman and pair of brothers, Naseebzadah and Naseebullah, all of whom hailed from the Shangla district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to the Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation, another coal miner, Faiz Ullah, was killed in an accident at the Sharigh Coal Mine in Balochistan on March 27.

Poverty-stricken Pakistan has a long history of industrial accidents, which have claimed the lives of countless workers across various industries. According to sources familiar with Pakistan’s coal industry, at least 275 coal miners have been killed in accidents since January 2010. While mining is a dangerous job anywhere, it is especially perilous in Pakistan, where working conditions are deplorable and miners are made to follow outdated procedures. In addition to the threat of lethal accidents, miners are also exposed to toxic chemicals and dust that take a toll on their health. They are forced to endure these conditions while earning a pittance.

The country’s coal mining industry is unregulated. It is also plagued by the illegal ownership and operation of mines, lack of implementation of existing safety and health laws and a severely overburdened mining inspectorate. Mine owners routinely flout the existing regulations, fully cognizant of the fact they won’t suffer any consequences.

Pakistan’s coal miners are also insufficiently organized, with many lacking union representation. The existing unions, meanwhile, tend to limit their activities to appeals directed at the country’s crooked politicians and various domestic and international NGOs.

Last month, IndustriALL Global Union, an international federation of unions, launched a campaign to improve worker safety in Pakistan’s mines. The campaign was launched in partnership with its 10 Pakistani affiliates. IndustriALL has called on the government of Pakistan to immediately ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 176 on safety and health in mines. First adopted in 1995, ILO Convention 176 establishes a framework for countries to create safer mining conditions and provides miners with increased rights. Most significantly, it recognizes the right of workers to participate in workplace safety through independent representation and acknowledges the right of workers to refuse to perform dangerous tasks. While the ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 176 would significantly improve worker safety in mines, only 32 countries have ratified it over the past 23 years.

If history is any guide, the call by IndustriALL to ratify ILO Convention 176 will fall on deaf ears. Successive governments in Pakistan have proven that the country’s elite is utterly impervious to the plight of the working class. Indeed, the response of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N) and the opposition parties to the recent accidents has been one and the same—silence.

The exploitative mine and factory owners will continue to take advantage of this state of affairs until workers unite across industries to fight for safe and humane working conditions.

New Atheists and Islam

Remember our public intellectuals from times past, who fearlessly challenged the social mores and public zeitgeist of their times?

Henry David Thoreau comes to mind, who famously opposed the Mexican-American War with a night in jail, as does Voltaire’s sharp critique of Enlightenment optimism. Well, now these public minds are far and few between.

Instead, in the past few decades, the ‘intellectuals’ among us have borne witness to the new atheists, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Shermer, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins among them. With strut and stammer, they paint themselves as defiant, brave critics of religion and spirituality. And, indeed, they do critique all religions and new age creeds to varying degrees. However, their most scathing excoriations are reserved for Islam.

For example, Hitchens writes: “Islamic belief is…an extreme position to begin with,” in an article about defying the purported “fear” of offending Muslims.

According to Shermer, Islam is “dangerous,” citing a Global Terrorism database study, which found that “since 9/11, most terrorists are Islamic extremists [in the U.S.].” In this same article, he attributes the ‘danger’ posed by Islam to its supposedly never experiencing an Enlightenment as Jews and Christians have in the West.

Sam Harris, with his often-irrelevant analogies, insists that the problem isn’t religious fundamentalism but Islam itself, which is “not a religion of peace”.

Meanwhile, Richard Dawkins has claimed that Muslims would be happier without Islam, for then there would be no terrorism, hostility to science, homophobia, etc., etc.

These stalwart atheists claim that they’re simply advocating for a break of political correctness in denouncing Islam. However, riding the rising crest of racist Islamophobia in the West, they’re simply verifying the public’s ill-informed malice towards Muslims. Instead of offering social criticism against Westerners’ misguided beliefs about Muslims and against Islam, they offer their ‘intelligent’ and supposedly ‘moderate’ perspectives that uphold widely-held, specious stereotypes.

The new atheists’ anti-Islam arguments, masked in pseudo-philosophical dressing, are vapid, flimsy and impotent.

In his discussion with Sam Harris, the Young Turks’ Cent Uygur has accurately pointed out that Sam Harris (among other new atheists) all come from a Judeo-Christian background where extreme criticism of Islam, over and above other religions, comes natural to them.

Uygur goes on to highlight that in religious-related terrorism, such as Catholics in Northern Ireland, Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and Muslims in Palestine, the question is primary political, and religion is merely a contributing factor. Similarly, Uygur suggests that global violence perpetrated by Muslims is principally geopolitical in nature, with Islam as only another part of the mix.

Concerning terrorist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11, statistics show that white men pose a greater threat than Muslims. If new atheists argue on a global scale, it is true that Islamic terrorism has been the most prevalent form of terrorism since 2001.

Many of these terrorist attacks are against other Muslims, some are directed towards U.S forces in Muslim countries and others towards Sufi and Shia sects, who are considered heretical by the more extreme Sunni fundamentalists. Some motivations can indeed be attributed to radical visions of Islam that harken back to a mythical and idealized time in Muslim history. However, the social context in which most global Islamic terrorism derives are societies in disarray, under military occupation or adversely affected by Western intervention.

And if we were to compare the violent deaths caused by U.S. military adventures, that United States feels free to undertake as unelected world leader, with Islamic terrorism – what would we find?

Since 9/11, the U.S. interventions into Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan have directly resulted in 370,000 deaths and indirectly in 870,000 deaths, totaling 1.24 million deaths and 10.1 million displaced persons. Meanwhile, from 2001-2016 (the last year with data), there have been 241,808 terrorism-related deaths resulting throughout the world. A significant number have come from non-Muslim countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia and the Ukraine. Estimating that a majority of 60% were caused by Islamic extremists (as ‘majority’ was suggested in this article) would put the total Islamic terrorism deaths at 101,559 from 2001-2016. U.S. state violence eclipses Islamic terrorism deaths at 1.24 million to 101,559.

It’s certainly telling that new atheists do not critique Americans’ religious-like worship of their military that are responsible for the overwhelming majority of unnatural, violent deaths in the post-9/11 era. More importantly, they offer little criticism of U.S. foreign policy that directs the military towards such action.

When states are shattered into anarchic specters of themselves and day-to-day security is lost, there is inevitable ‘blowback’. Islamic extremist blowback has led to roughly 8 percent of the global deaths in comparison with those caused by U.S. intervention and counter-terror policies.

New atheists can demonize Islam all they want, illuminating it as the most ‘dangerous’ of religions. But perhaps they should think twice as to whether they’re acting as intellectual mouthpieces for irrational government policy and public dislike of Muslims or breaking new ground with their ‘politically incorrect’ critiques. Perhaps they should realize there’s a stark difference between political correctness and being racist, anti-Islam advocates. And, too, their ‘courage’ should be called into question: this isn’t the age of Galileo, where atheists’ lives are endangered in the West. On the contrary, they have increased their celebrity status following spouting their anti-Muslim perspectives on CNN or Fox News. Their views are celebrated because they offer false verification of the rabble’s anti-Muslim racism and xenophobia.

And to Mr. Shermer: Islam did have an ‘Enlightenment’ period. It was called the Abbasid caliphate. During this time, ethnic groups in the caliphate were treated equally, Hellenistic philosophy and medical literature were translated into Arabic, and “Muslims made more scientific discoveries during this period than in any of the whole previously recorded history (p. 54-56).

Please step out of the rabble’s world schema and stop trumpeting mainstream backwardness, as though it were a fortitudinous virtue. Step into the bones of Nietzsche, Thoreau and Voltaire, who had the intellect and intrepidity to sharply criticize their own societies.

Why be a mouthpiece for fallacious, myopic beliefs that stigmatize a vast swath of everyday people, when your putative aim is to counter these same sort of notions in your much-vaunted criticism of religion?

Extrajudicial Murder of Pashtun exposes State Brutality in Pakistan

The murder of a Pashtun man in Karachi by the Sindh police last week has brought renewed attention to the brutal practices of Pakistan’s police and security forces.

According to his relatives, Naqeebullah Mehsud, a 27-year-old from the war-torn region of South Waziristan, was kidnapped by plainclothes police officers in Karachi earlier this month. On January 16, Mehsud’s family was told that he’d been killed in a shootout with police along with 4 other alleged terrorists a few days earlier.  Mehsud was buried in his hometown of Makin in South Waziristan on Friday.  On the same day, a large demonstration in Karachi to demand justice for Mehsud was viciously crushed by baton-wielding police.

Naqeebullah Mehsud made a living as the owner of a small clothing store on the outskirts of Karachi.  He was also an aspiring fashion model, having amassed 14,000 followers on the Facebook account he used to promote his modeling, according to Al Jazeera.  While the Sindh police claim that Mehsud was a member of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and that he was involved in terrorist attacks, they have failed to provide a shred of evidence to back up this assertion. Meanwhile, Mehsud’s relatives, human rights organizations and Pashtun activists continue to insist that he was the innocent victim of an extrajudicial killing.  According to the Dawn, a spokesman for the South Waziristan chapter of the TTP released a statement last week in which it denied any association with Mehsud and described the Sindh police’s allegations against the latter as “baseless.”

On Saturday, following days of angry protests across the country, Sindh’s Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Rao Anwar, who led the operation resulting in Mehsud’s death, was transferred from his post.  Supporters of the Mehsud family have demanded an independent investigation, having no faith in the three-member police inquiry set up by the government to investigate the killing.

The death of Naqeebullah Mehsud has provoked widespread outrage across the country, particularly among Pashtuns.  In recent years, members of this ethnic group have often been stereotyped as hopelessly “backward” and more likely to engage in terrorist attacks against Pakistani targets.  Rarely mentioned is the fact that the Pashtun people have suffered disproportionately due to the war raging on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Since 2004, the Pakistani military has conducted numerous counterinsurgency operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).  These operations have been carried out at the behest of Washington and against the will of the Pakistani people.  Naqeebullah Mehsud’s home region of South Waziristan has itself been the scene of such operations, which have often involved indiscriminate shelling, torture and extrajudicial killings. Pashtuns in the tribal areas have also been terrorized by US drones with the tacit approval of Pakistan’s ruling elites and military establishment.  Millions have been displaced as a result of Islamabad’s policies.

The murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud should be understood as part of a larger pattern of state brutality.  The use of extrajudicial killing and other ruthless tactics has been a pervasive practice among Pakistani police and security forces, particularly when confronted with movements of marginalized ethnic groups. Indeed, this is a fact to which not only Pashtuns, but also the Baloch and Muhajir communities can attest.

Earlier this month, the Islamabad-based think tank, Center for Research and Security Studies, released a report on violence deaths in the country during 2017.  According to the report, more Pakistanis died last year in “encounter killings”, a euphemism for extrajudicial murders, by the police than in suicide bombings.  495 people were killed in what police claimed were shootouts, while 298 were killed in suicide attacks and 144 died in various bombings.

The police in Pakistan have been under increased scrutiny recently due to the horrific rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl named Zainab in the city of Kasur in Punjab.  The murder sparked furious protests against the local police, which had failed to investigate a series of rapes and murders of other children in Kasur over the past year.  After two of the protesters were gunned down by police, residents of Kasur torched the office of a local bureaucrat and tried to burn down the homes of local politicians. Though the protests were prompted by Zainab’s murder, they were also an expression of class-based anger aimed at Pakistan’s corrupt ruling elites.  This was evident in the interviews given to the media by many residents of Kasur, in which issues such as inequality and government corruption were raised alongside the plague of sexual violence.  Eventually, the Punjab Rangers, a paramilitary force, had to be called in to restore “order.”

India and US Bonhomie: Time for a Reality Check

The ongoing India-US rapprochement has been couched in terms of a pact between the “two largest democracies in the world” and similar superlatives. While geographically-challenged Americans may be forgiven for not recognizing their immediate northern neighbour as both a larger nation and a better democracy, mnemonically-challenged Indian pundits should nonetheless subject India-US ties to trend-based reality checks.

Three recent notable sticking points below should deflate India’s pro-American media.

  • Why does the US continue to withhold David Headley aka Daood Syed Gilani – a key planner behind the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks—from the Indian justice system? Headley, long fingered as a CIA-ISI asset, is supposedly serving time in a US prison for terrorist crimes perpetrated on Indian soil and against Indian citizens. If one agrees with this bizarre judicial arrangement, then one shouldn’t be offended by US President Donald J. Trump’s faecal rants against Third World nations. India might as well count itself in as a founding member of this lavatorial bloc as Trump’s sentiments have long been trailblazed by the US justice system.
  • Touching on the US justice system, why hasn’t the State Department offered a formal apology to India over the barbaric treatment of diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who was stripped-searched and cavity-checked for an alleged minimum wage offence in 2013? The incident has no parallel in the history of modern international relations. Not even Nazi Germany had subjected a diplomat of an enemy power to such abject degradation.

Indian geopolitical savants should honestly ask themselves whether the US would dare subject a low-ranking female Iranian or North Korean diplomat to such indignities despite Washington’s daily sabre-rattling against both nations. Will either Trump or the State Department proffer an overdue apology or is that unwarranted for a s***hole country?

  • As for the State Department itself, one should ask whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been officially removed from a US visa sanctions list under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. Even as late as August 2013, the bipartisan United States Commission on International Religious Freedom had opposed granting a visa to Modi due to “very serious” doubts lingering over his alleged role in the “horrific” 2002 Gujarat riots. What changed since then? Did a new US Justice Department review discover exculpatory evidence to exonerate Modi? Otherwise, Modi is still technically on course for a possible indictment at a future date when he no longer enjoys automatic diplomatic immunity as head of government.

Modi remains the only person sanctioned under the Act. Not even Al Qaeda financier sheikhs in the Gulf Arab world carry this stigma. No Pakistani politician has ever been sanctioned under the same Act for the routine rapes, murders and property confiscations of minority Christians and Hindus in his nation.

Yet, instead of questioning US motives; sense of moral proportion; and restitution for past misdeeds, a bovine Indian media is coaxed to play up the China hysteria. It is after all a publicly-stated US policy to use India – and inevitably the blood of Indian soldiers – as a buffer against China. And not just against China. US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis even had the temerity to demand an Indian military presence in Afghanistan during a recent visit to Delhi.

Why can’t the US ask Saudi Arabia, with its vast petrodollar wealth and millions in unemployed youths, to undertake the same task? After all, Washington remains an abiding military patron of Riyadh. Besides, what kind of “war on terror” is the US fighting when its soldiers are routinely photographed protecting opium fields in Afghanistan? This grotesque arrangement with Afghan opium growers has directly resulted in a runaway heroin crisis in Punjab – a state that ironically produces a disproportionate number of soldiers for the Indian army.

As for China, aside from an unresolved border issue and Beijing’s opprobrious support of Pakistan over Hafiz Saeed, no Indian diplomat has ever been arrested and cavity-checked in Beijing.  Indian and Chinese soldiers have not exchanged bullets in Doklam or anywhere else along the Himalayas since the late 1960s. In fact, one potential Himalayan spoiler to the 1975 incorporation of Sikkim was Hope Cooke – the American consort to the 12th Chogyal King, Palden Thondup Namgyal. (David Headley is also incidentally half-American).

American spoliation is not just limited to geopolitics. Just about every notable Indian breakthrough in high technology came in the face of prior US opposition. While NASA may congratulate India on its rocketry and space milestones, it forgets how the US had forced the Soviet Union – or the “evil empire as then President Ronald Reagan called it – to cancel cryogenic technology transfers to Delhi.  When India recently celebrated the unveiling of the Pratyush supercomputer, few retraced its developmental trajectory to PARAM machines that were built in the face of US denials of technology.

Despite its consistent record in stifling Indian innovation, Washington continues to dangle the carrots of military technology transfers along an eternally-stretched dirt road. India buys US weapons systems such as M777 howitzers and GE F404 engines in hard cash. Hardly any major technology transfer has been effectuated despite Washington’s perennial rhetoric.

While some Indian apologists attribute past frictions between Washington and New Delhi to realpolitik and the Cold War zeitgeist, there remains one overriding strategic reason for India to reject any military alliance with the US: None of Washington’s allies can militarily stand on their own in any major conflict despite possessing the technologies and potential manpower to do so. Take a look at Britain, France, Germany, Canada, South Korea, Japan and Australia, amongst numerous other nations, to see how military dependence on the US translates to foreign policy servitude.

Take a closer look at Israel. While US politicians love to bellow their “love for Israel” from the rooftops of Capitol Hill, nationalist Israelis will remember how the Reagan regime had deliberately scuttled the native Lavi fighter jet program and thereby killed a viable competitor to the F-16s and F-18s. The annual military aid to Israel, couched in vacuous civilizational and religious terms, is in reality a quid pro quo to purchase or improvise US weapons systems. India can never be a military-cum-economic superpower if it is ever subsumed into the US security hydra.

On the civilian and commercial fronts, US industrial contributions to India have been patchy, mundane or outright lethal. The 1984 Bhopal tragedy and the ongoing suicides of Indian farmers after the introduction of Monsanto GMO seeds are cases in point.

Of course, US multinationals are undeniably setting up software and R&D centres in India, creating hi-tech jobs in return for low-cost skills. Yet, there is a flip side to this development as Indian ingenuity may be prematurely swallowed up by cash-rich MNCs. Decades-old Indian software prowess has yet to produce native challenges to operating systems from Microsoft and Apple (US); Internet browsers like Yandex (Russia); and mobile apps like Waze (Israel), WeChat (China) or Telegram (Russia).

Finally, one only needs to study how Pakistan’s military alliance with the US had panned out. The global jihadi menace – nurtured by Washington as an ostensible bulwark against Soviet communism in Afghanistan – was predictably re-channelled by Pakistan into unremitting terror in Kashmir.

For now, the US is seen to be acting tough on Pakistan, much to the delight of the visceral Indian “intelligentsia”. However, Indians should remember that no other major power had applied more sanctions on New Delhi, post-WWII, than the United States of America!

So much for the ebullience over the “two largest democracies in the world”….