In rich Gulf Arab states, some feel shamed by refugee response

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, fellow Gulf states raced to shelter thousands of displaced Kuwaitis. Fast forward 25 years, and the homeless from Syria’s nearby war have found scant refuge in the Arab world’s richest states.

For critics of the Gulf’s affluent monarchies the contrast is profoundly unflattering, especially as several are backers of the combatants in Syria’s conflict, so must, they argue, shoulder a special responsibility for its consequences.

The wrenching image of a Syrian Kurdish refugee boy drowned on a Turkish beach has stoked debate in Europe. The official silence of Gulf Arab dynasties makes many Gulf citizens uneasy.

Paintings and cartoons of the young boy’s death crowded Arab social media, one depicting little Aylan Kurdi’s corpse laid out before an open grave with inert figures in traditional Gulf Arab cloaks and robes holding shovels.

Another showed the three-year old’s head slumped toward a tombstone marked “the Arab conscience”.

Sara Hashash of rights group Amnesty International called the Gulf Arab states’ behaviour “utterly shameful” and criticised Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for officially taking in zero refugees.

Turkey hosts almost 2 million, tiny Lebanon over a million and other restive and poor neighbours hundreds of thousands.

The Gulf states’ supporters say the numbers involved in Syria’s crisis are vastly larger than in Kuwait’s case. They point to the funding Gulf states have given to aid efforts in countries neighbouring Syria.

“Qatar is very small and already donating to refugees in Jordan, Turkey and northern Iraq. For logistical reasons Qatar cannot take in large numbers of refugees so instead Qatar chooses to support them financially,” said Abdullah Al-Athbah, editor in chief of Arab Newspaper.

But sympathy for Syria’s refugees is on the rise.

“It gives us a glimmer of hope after these recent drowning episodes to see broad campaigns of sympathy and solidarity with the issue of Syrian refugees by governments and peoples in some European countries,” wrote Zeid al-Zeid in a column for Kuwait’s Al-An newspaper on Sunday.

“But it makes us sorry and makes us wonder about the absence of any official response by Arab states … we’re seeing a silence that’s scandalous.”

Sultan Sooud al Qassemi, a commentator in the United Arab Emirates, said he suspected Gulf States were wary of allowing in large numbers of politically vocal Arabs who might somehow influence a traditionally passive society. But he said Gulf states should open their doors to the refugees.

“The Gulf states often complain that the Arabic language is underused and that our culture is under threat due to the large number of foreign immigrants,” al Qassemi said.

“Here is an opportunity to host a group of people who can help alleviate such concerns and are in need of refuge, fleeing a brutal war.”

One Kuwaiti analyst, a regular fixture on pan-Arab news shows, raised hackles by saying in a television interview last week that refugees were better suited to poorer countries, failing to acknowledge the pledges of rich European countries like Germany to take in many thousands.

“Gulf countries clearly can and should do an awful lot more,” said Oxfam’s Syria country director Daniel Gorevan.

He called on Gulf states to “offer up work places, family unification schemes, essentially other legal avenues for them to get into Gulf countries and to be able to earn a living.”

In Arab states beyond the Gulf, there is immense sympathy for Syrians, but mixed views on the feasibility of helping.

“Tunisia is not able to welcome any refugees. We cannot accept Syrian refugees. After the revolution of 2011, Tunisia was the first to pay the price in terms of refugees. We have welcomed 1.2 million Libyans and that has cost us a lot,” Boujemaa Rmili, a spokesman for the Nidaa Tounes party which forms part of the governing coalition.

Migrants from Syria and Sahel countries into Algeria are estimated at 55,000, a source from Algeria’s red crescent told Reuters. “We have done what we can to offer them the basics including food, medicine, host centres, and we have allowed the Syrian kids to study in our schools,” the source said.


Gulf officials and those defending Gulf policies say the outrage overlooks the billions donated to Syrian refugee camps abroad and the delicate demographics of countries where expatriate workers already nearly outnumber locals.

“Qatar has provided over $2 billion in aid to the Syrian people in addition to the $106 million provided by Qatar’s semi-governmental institutions,” a Qatari diplomat said.

Others felt Gulf states should go further.

“(The Gulf) should accept Syrian refugees. Saudis and Syrians have always been brothers and sisters. Aside from the fact that our religion requires us to do so, helping refugees should be a natural reaction to what we have seen in the media,” 22-year old Saudi student Noor Almulla said.

Another Saudi student, Sara Khalid, 23, said Gulf Arab states “as their neighbours and fellow Muslims” had a greater responsibility to Syrian refugees than Europeans.

While none of the Gulf Arab states have signed onto key global agreements defining refugee status and imposing responsibilities on countries to grant asylum, the United Nations Refugee Agency praised the Gulf’s “hospitality.”

“The six GCC governments continue to respect international standards with regards to protecting refugees,” especially in not repatriating them back to their war-torn homes, Nabil Othman, the UNHCR’s representative in the Gulf told Reuters.

While authorities generally apply “humanitarian considerations” to those overstaying their visas, Othman said work or local sponsorship still mostly defined residency status.

Foreign workers outnumber locals five to one in the UAE and Qatar, where well-heeled European families and South Asian workers are omnipresent while long-robed citizens are rare. Refugee camps are, and will likely remain, non-existent.

“The numbers of foreigners are overwhelming. Here we have 90 percent – do you want to turn local people into minorities in their own countries? They already are, but to do it really?” said UAE Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political scientist.

Over the decades, Saudi Arabia has become home to around half a million Syrians and the UAE to over 150,000, and the welcome extended to these and other expat professionals has helped fuel a boom in Gulf economies.

But since the unrest and wars unleashed by the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings in 2011, those governments have adopted a stricter line on accepting Palestinians, Syrians and Shi’ite Muslims – a sign of just how much the rich and stable Gulf ruled by absolute monarchs is wary of importing political contagions.

Iyad al-Baghdadi, a Palestinian blogger and activist deported from the UAE last year, has criticized the response of the Gulf states and laments the closed borders and repression.

Recalling time spent in a Norwegian refugee camp with Syrian refugee friends, he said on Twitter: “Something about this felt absolutely alien – three grown Arab Muslim men who were made homeless and are seeking refuge in… Scandinavia.”

“The Arab world is 5 million square miles. When my son was born, among the worst thoughts was how it has no space for him.”



 KG Suresh

The 16th World Sanskrit Conference, held in Bangkok and supported by the Union Government, was yet another feather in India’s soft diplomacy cap, following the grand success of last month’s International Yoga Day

Following the grand success of the International Yoga Day on June 21, another feather in India’s soft diplomacy cap was the 16th World Sanskrit Conference held in Bangkok from June 28th to July 2. Supported by the Government of India, the conference witnessed participation of over 600 delegates from 60 countries. The five day meet was inaugurated by the Thai princess, a scholar and patron of Sanskrit language, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj.

Addressing the distinguished delegates, including scholars, teachers, Indologists and lovers of the ancient language in chaste Sanskrit, Ms Swaraj, emphasised that Sanskrit is not a mere language but a “world view.” In fact, the motto of the international meet itself was “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (the universe is a family).

The hosting of the conference in Suvarnabhumi, Thailand, and the presence of a large number of scholars from across the world including a big chunk of westerners highlighted the significance of the Sanskrit language in understanding ancient India and its contributions as also its relevance in the present times. It also indirectly served to reject attempts by some “secular” sections to project the language as ‘dead’ and a symbol of Hindutva as against its vibrancy and universality.

As Ms Swaraj aptly put it, “the language of Vedanta is Sanskrit. The language of Yoga is Sanskrit. The language of Ayurveda is Sanskrit. The language of Indian mathematics is Sanskrit. The language of Indian dramaturgy (natyashastra) is Sanskrit. The language of the Bhagavad Gita is Sanskrit. The language of ancient Indian architecture, sculpture, agriculture, chemistry, astronomy, veterinary sciences, economics, political science, and other fields of knowledge is Sanskrit.”

Spread over 31 sessions, including 24 main sessions and seven auxiliary sessions, the conference delved deep into Sanskrit lore including 18 seats of knowledge, 64 arts, four Vedas, over 100 Upanishads, six ancillary Vedas (upavedas), six adjuncts of Vedas (vedangas), 18 epics, the 10 systems of philosophy, history (itihas), literature and dramaturgy.

Staging of the popular Thai Ramayana, a play in Sanskrit, the Sanskrit kavi sammelan (poetry session) and shastrarth (debate) were among the other highlights of the event. Interestingly, one heard the ‘dead language’ being spoken extempore by several foreign scholars.

Ironically, in many graduate and post graduate courses in India itself, Sanskrit is not taught through Sanskrit, and candidates often write their examinations in languages other than Sanskrit. Similarly, it has been observed that Sanskrit scholars pay more attention to the subjects in Sanskrit rather than the language.

Sanskrit can prosper only if it is made the medium for teaching and learning the language. Sanskrit and Sanskrit alone should be the language of communication in Sanskrit educational institutions and Sanskrit departments as also Sanskrit conferences. In schools, Sanskrit is seen as a subject which fetches maximum marks as it can be learnt by rot. It is important that the teaching of Sanskrit be made much more attractive for prospective students.

Apart from the Union and State Governments and NGOs such as Samskrita Bharati, which are doing a yeoman’s service to the language, promotion of Sanskrit should be taken up by corporates as part of their CSR activities. Linking Sanskrit with modern subjects, developing literature on contemporary issues, conducting a scientific study of the available texts and carrying out more functional research in Sanskrit are among the measures that can be taken up on a priority basis to get the language its due place under the sun. These philanthropists can also contribute to the health and well being of crumbling ved pathshalas imparting the centuries old oral and written traditions, particularly in States such as Kerala.

The country’s national news channels  Doordarshan News has recently introduced Vaartavali, a 30-minute-long weekly news magazine, which has become very popular with its viewers. Apart from news, the programme includes interviews with celebrities, teaching of Sanskrit words, coverage of cultural events and even snippets from Bollywood movies. Doordarshan has been running Vaarta an early morning news bulletin for five minutes for some time now and the same is expected to be extended by another five minutes. One only hopes that the public broadcaster introduces a bulletin of the same duration later in the evening, encapsulating the developments of the day.

Apart from growing interest in the language and its text the world over, the spread of Yoga, Ayurveda and Indian classical dances have also contributed to the global enthusiasm towards Sanskrit. Recent decisions by the Narendra Modi Government to grant a $20,000 International Sanskrit Award to any scholar making significant contribution to the language, the institution of fellowships for foreign scholars for conducting research in India in Sanskrit language or literature and the provision of opportunities for new learners to pursue graduate or postgraduate courses or research in India are all expected to give a major boost to the promotion of the language internationally. Reflecting the National Democratic Alliance regime’s commitment to the promotion of the language, Ms Swaraj at the conference also announced creation of a post of Joint Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry exclusively to further Sanskrit.

The modern character of the ancient language can be gauged from the fact that it has been found highly effective in developing software for language recognition, translations, cyber security and other aspects of artificial intelligence. As the repository of ancient knowledge, Sanskrit has the potential to provide solutions to many of the contemporary problems.

It would be most appropriate if scholars from organisations representing modern science and technology such as Indian Council for Medical Research, Indian Institutes of Science and Indian Institutes of Technology work together with their Sanskrit counterparts to carry out inter-disciplinary research and come out with the panacea for the manifold problems confronting mankind.

In sharp contrast to the controversies back home, in Buddhist Thailand, one was pleasantly delighted to find Hindu deities such as Vishnu (Wsnu), Ganesh and Brahma being worshipped with equal reverence. At yoga sessions across Thailand, people chant aum, perform the surya namaskar and Ramayana, study Indian classical dances and savour Indian cuisines without any civilisational conflicts whatsoever.

One of the most prominent tableaux at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport is that of the saagar manthan or churning of the ocean from Hindu mythology. Guru Buddhhacharan, a Chinese born Thai scholar of Vedas is planning to open a 100 Vedic schools in the South East Asian country and the nation’s Princess Maha Chakri herself developed interest in Sanskrit studies since she was very young. She obtained her Master of Arts degree in oriental epigraphy from Silpakorn University and Master of Arts in Pali and Sanskrit from Chulalongkorn University. The Princess has supported further education in Sanskrit by granting scholarships for university students to study the language abroad, many of whom have become lecturers at Silpakorn University, whose Sanskrit Study Centre jointly organised the World Conference.

As the world increasingly looks at India as the vishwa guru, learning valuable lessons from its rich past, it is high time we, Indians, close our ranks and reflect our collective identity and unity overcoming petty partisan politics. As our ancestors exhorted, “Sanghacchadhvam, samvadadhvam, Samvomanamsi janatam” (Let us move together, speak in one voice, think alike and understand one another).

(The author is a senior journalist based in New Delhi)

Xi Jinping is a Worried Man


During the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summits at Ufa, the capital of the Russian Federation’s Republic of Bashkortostan, President Xi Jinping of China looked tired.

True, he spoke of a new international order, of a multi-polar world while asking his colleagues from the BRICS and SCO to look at their relations from a ‘strategic and long-term perspective’, but the Chinese President had certainly China’s difficult internal situation in mind, while delivering his speeches of the New Silk Road and other Chinese mega projects.

The state of affairs in the Middle Kingdom is indeed worrisome, most immediately, because of the collapse of the Chinese stock exchange. But that is not all.

On July 2, 2015, several overseas Chinese websites published an article which had appeared in the Cheng Ming Monthly magazine in Hong Kong on the possible collapse of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

It argued that the Party is

“so corrupt that it has come to the verge of disintegration. Even top Party leaders could not avoid speaking of the possibility of the death of the Party.”

Accordingly to the same source, mid-June, the Politburo’s Standing Committee held a two-day expanded meeting to discuss the stern political and economic situation facing the Party.

Though it is difficult to confirm the information contained in the article, it appears that the Standing Committee was joined by the State Councilors (cabinet ministers), senior members of the Central Committee’s Secretariat, members of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and the People’s Political Consultative Conference, members of powerful Central Military Commission and top bureaucrats of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), responsible for the anti-corruption campaign; in other words, the cream of the Party.

Xi Jinping asserted,

“We must have the courage to face, acknowledge, and accept the harsh reality that the Party has become so corrupt and degenerated that it could trigger the Party’s downfall.”

The same source said that a report was distributed during the meeting. The research listed six ‘crises’ in the fields of politics, economy, society, faith (religion), which could lead to the Party’ collapse.

The report showed that only 25% of the senior officials of the Central Committees and local governments have successfully gone through the CCDI’s review; 90% of Party committees at grass-roots or county levels have failed in the review of their performance and needed to be ‘reorganised’, whatever that means.

The next day, China Gate, a Chinese website based in the US, republished another article from Cheng Ming Monthly magazine, this time about the power struggle between different factions within the CCP.

Apparently former President Jiang Zemin and his close associate, Zeng Qinghong, will be the next target of Xi Jinping’s and Wang Qishan’s anti-corruption campaign. Once Zhou Yongkang, the former Security Tsar was arrested, the unspoken rule, that no punishment could be imposed on members of the Politburo’s Standing Committee, did not exist anymore.

All this comes at the time of the worse crack in the short history of the Chinese stock exchanges. The South China Morning Post in a commentary said: ‘Future shock: China’s market turmoil poses a challenge for Xi Jinping’, adding that “the market instability threatens to be a major setback for President Xi Jinping and his authority.”

The Hong Kong daily rightly argued “stock market crashes inevitably lead to unwanted consequences” and it quoted the Black Tuesday in Wall Street on October 29, 1929 which sent the US into the Great Depression and the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, which left deep scars on the economy of the Asian nations involved.

The SCMP asserted:

“Analysts cannot accurately assess the damage that the mainland’s stock market turmoil will cause while it continues to roil despite the government’s rescue efforts. Yet they all agree that it will have a profound impact on the future of the nation’s economy, society and politics.”

Since the stock market started crashing, the loss has been evaluated at $3 trillions; it means that some 30% was lost since June 12, when the exchange was at its peak value.

One of China’s problems is that it is not the institutional investors which hold most of the shares; the stock market is dominated by small individual investors, holding more than 80 % of shares.

The SCMP reported:

“It is believed that many of the 90-million-strong investors were burned because they often increased their stakes when prices were high. …Some might well have lost their entire life savings as they used margin loans to bet on the wild market.”

This explained why Xi is a worried man; economic instability could bring along political instability, the ‘investing’ middle-class on which the leadership was banking to bring economic, political and social stability in the Middle Kingdom, may become dissatisfied with the regime; after losing most of their life-earnings in the present crash, will they invest again?

The deep-rooted corruption, the vested interests in the Party and the dissatisfaction of the masses, could make an explosive cocktail.

Today, sorting out the economy in a sustainable manner will need much more than a reform here and there: the future of the Party is indeed at stake.

The Wall Street Journal sees the crash triggering ‘rare backlash’ for President Xi: Jeremy Page explains:

“Vibrant stock markets are at the center of Mr. Xi’s plans for an economic makeover, intended to help companies offload huge debts, reinvigorate state enterprises and entice more foreign investment. …Investors talked of ‘the Uncle Xi bull market.’ …the government appearing to panic in its response to the drop, some people are starting to voice doubts about Mr. Xi’s autocratic leadership style.”

And this is happening at a time when Xi faces resistance in the anti-corruption campaign and a serious slowdown of the economy.

Chinese-language news portal Aboluowang commented:

“China’s struggling stock market could turn into a major collapse …If China’s stock market continues to nosedive, it could spark a chain reaction that may lead to a political crisis threatening the authority of the Communist Party and the stability of the country’s top leadership.”

It is too early to predict what will happen in the months to come, but the situation is perilous, even if the latest news speaks of a stabilisation of the markets.

A compounded element is the new draconian national security law which creates fears among foreign companies; it was openly mentioned by Michael Clauss, the German ambassador to China in a recent interview.

On July 1, the National People’s Congress passed a controversial national security law defining threats to the Chinese State’s power and sovereignty. For example, a vetting scheme will be introduced to scrutinise any foreign investment that posed a risk to national security’. The NPC is also debating three other laws on foreign investment, cyber security, and foreign NGOs.

Clauss explains that

“Foreign companies feared the laws might be used to keep certain overseas competitors out of the market. …In China the notion of national security [covers] a very wide range – from culture, technology, food safety up to religion. You can hardly find a field that is not relevant to national security concerns.”

This too does not help to create an atmosphere of trust, which China needs so desperately, if it wants to be a ‘normal’ country.

A new bank for a new era


The New Development Bank should not become a World Bank clone but focus instead on eradicating poverty, unemployment, and net carbon emissions

At their annual summit in Russia this week, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) leaders will announce the world’s newest multilateral development bank — the New Development Bank (NDB), which will have U.S.$100 billion as initial capital to fund infrastructure and sustainable development projects both in their own countries as well as elsewhere.

  • Obviously, the NDB should not become another World Bank which finances the same types of projects in the same countries, using the same tools and mindset. At the same time, its purpose should not simply be to symbolise emerging countries’ desire to show off their financial and political power. The reason for its creation must be very substantive.

The NDB should be based on entirely new objectives, to be carried out with new strategies. It would be easy for the NDB to fall into the same track as the World Bank since it is in the same business. But the NDB must resist this from day one.

I propose three core objectives for the NDB which I feel are globally relevant. The primary objectives of the NDB should be to achieve three zeros by 2050: zero poverty, zero unemployment, and zero net carbon emissions. Every year the NDB could publish a report on the BRICS’ progress against these objectives.

Four strategies

The NDB could achieve these goals using four basic strategies. The first strategy would be to unleash the creative power and commitment of the new generation of youth. If the BRICS can mobilise the power of the youth, it will become easier to achieve the goals.

The second strategy would be to focus on technological innovations to solve human problems. Technology today is under the command of money-makers and war-makers. Socially committed drivers must take charge of technology. They are invisible today. Combining the power of the youth with that of technology will create an unshakeable force.

This brings us to the third strategy: building social businesses to mobilise their creative power to solve long-standing and complex social, economic, and environmental problems.

Social business is a new variety of business which delinks itself from a profit motive. This business is mission-driven, with non-dividend companies being exclusively devoted to solving human problems. After the company makes profit, the investor recoups his or her investment money but does not take any profit after that. Additional profits made are ploughed back into the business to expand and improve it.

Conventional businesses cannot solve social problems. Other actors such as the state and private charities may be unsustainable and inefficient. Social businesses are sustainable, efficient, replicable, and transferable.

This type of business has been created and promoted around the world with great results. I believe that the social business model should be the centrepiece of the NDB’s institutional structure and policy package. It is a model that can easily be replicated across a number of contexts.

Unemployment can be brought down to zero through social business initiatives. Unemployment is the product of a flawed and theoretical interpretation of human beings. Human beings are not job-seekers; they are entrepreneurs by birth. Entrepreneurship is in the DNA of human beings. They are go-getters and problem solvers. Social businesses can turn the unemployed into entrepreneurs. We are doing that in Bangladesh. NDB can adopt this as its prime programme.

Once the NDB creates a new window for financing and promoting social businesses, it will attract the young, old, men, women, individuals and organisations, with social business ideas. It can encourage each conventional business to undertake social businesses alongside their main business activities

The NDB could create country-level social business funds as joint ventures with local partners. It could create provincial-level social business funds in which it holds a minor equity with majority equity coming from local investors.

Ensuring financial services and healthcare to the poor can be done through creating social businesses.

Ownership by social businesses

While the NDB will undertake many types of infrastructure projects, it should give serious consideration to the ownership and maintenance of the same. We have now examples of major infrastructure being owned by money-makers. In the old days, this was the exclusive preserve of governments. Apart from government and commercial ownership, there is also ownership by social businesses. From the perspective of its users, ownership by social businesses will be much more satisfying than other two alternatives.

Finally, human rights and good governance should lie at the heart of the NDB’s operations.

At its inception, the NDB has the opportunity to create the right objectives and appropriate strategies for their implementation.

(Muhammad Yunus is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist and banker.)

On Pakistan, Terrorism, Insurgencies and Treason


Ask a foreign friend what he makes of the recent Masrat-Geelani traitor rally and the response is a sardonic smile and says this is your internal matter, but the eyes convey the message what is wrong with you guys? Let us face it that if such sedition was on display in China and Pakistan, they would have faced the firing squad years back and their kith and kin would have vanished. Yes, you would say that China is a communist country and Pakistan being under indirect army rule is no democracy, while we are. But then how would you view such a happening say in the USA? Ever followed American bloggers describing Predator attacks within the country against US citizens, leave action by the NSA and others? The fact is that it would be difficult to lay the finger on another country tolerating the flag of another country being waived on its own soil with subversive and seditious sermons. Nehru’s ingenious gifts (ulterior motives?) to J&K of Article 370 and a separate Constitution to J&K despite protests by Sardar Patel notwithstanding, even these don’t leave scope for treason.

The fact that the Home Minister had to speak to Mufti, Chief Minister of J&K to act speaks volumes by itself. But despite that, Mufti’s statement that law will take its own course has been followed up by placing few of these traitors under house arrest. For such acts, any other country would have put these fellows in solitary confinement with all outside communications cut off. Here these protégés of Pakistan’s ISI will continue to communicate with their mentors in Pakistan and continue to spew venom against India and plan their next moves in conjunction their Delhi based councilor Abdul Basit. That we have not even hacked the blog of Geelani all these years despite his continuing anti-India agenda based on falsifications is another issue.  The traitors rally may well have been planned on Pakistan Day celebrations under Basit. And, we had the idiocy of forcing a former army chief to attend a congregation of traitors in the mission of a country that is hell bent to balkanise or at best destabilise India.

What would be the response of Pakistan to this business of the rally and house arrest other than the rabid mullah Hafiz Saeed declaring his support? Obviously they would be laughing all the way home. Apprehended Pakistani infiltrators as early as 1989-90 openly confessed at the joint interrogation centre at Srinagar that while they were trained, armed and financed by the ISI-military, directive to them was to get into J&K, kill as many infidels and enjoy as many women of J&K. But more importantly, they were told that in the event of them getting apprehended, no lawyer in J&K would fight against them, they would be looked after in prison and soon India’s human rights brigade would get them released. So, what has Pakistan gained in the context of the recent episode? The rally was permitted, and it is not possible that the State Government did not know in advance what was going to happen. So the message to the youth in the Valley was conveyed in unambiguous terms as planned. House arrest permits communications with all and sundry, plus conniving for future seditious events to raise the frenzy in the youth, particularly the unemployed – continuing psychological operations.

Mufti’s reaction was more than anticipated. As the Union Home Minister he was rumoured to have stage managed the abduction of his elder daughter Rubaiya Saeed. But even if that was not the case, though mentioned by Wikipedia, he arranged the exchange of hard core militants for release of Rubaiya. The younger sibling even when electioneering in 2001 sported known Hijbul Mujahideen as bodyguards. His openly thanking Pakistan on becoming Chief Minster this time says it all. It would not be surprising if he was paying protection money to terrorist organisations for his own and kin’s safety before becoming Chief Minister. Witness the release of Masrat, passing on the blame to proceedings in the case during Omar Abdullah government. Not that Omar was not in league with radicals. Remember his guffawing off the two fellows waiving the ISIS flags and not arresting them? For that matter, has Mufti arrested the fellows waiving the Pakistani flag during the recent rally that are explicitly recognisable in the TV coverage? One can safely they would have not been arrested.

What India fails to appreciate is that it is not only the loss of East Pakistan that the Pakistani Military is smarting under. The fact is that such has been the legacy of Zia ul Haq, Ayub and Musharraf that they have not won a single war, have had Osama bin Laden snatched from under their protective cover (remember late Benazir Bhutto’s remark that Osama is in the backyard of Musharraf) and are now tasting their own medicine for spawning and supporting terrorist organisations. But such is the lure for power and money that Gilgit-Baltistan has been gifted to China (50 years or more?) and Balochistan is to follow suit – talk of national pride and sovereignty! So these nonsensical proxy wars against India and Afghanistan are not going to stop, no matter what the cost to Pakistani public. Proxy forces are earmarked separately for operating across the western and eastern borders. In our case, the LeT, JeM JuD and HuM lead the pack with Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi as advisors of Raheel Sharif and Zaheer ul Islam, Pakistan’s army and ISI chiefs respectively.  J&K is reeking in corruption and nexus of the PDP and NC with radicals is quite apparent with successive NIA reports detailing how terrorism is being funded in J&K. While Geelani and Co continue to feast on the bone marrow and curry provided by the ISI, hopefully our IB is not continuing to fund these separatists, that to without reference to the army, as was happening during the Congress regime. And hopefully, we don’t have people in the government machinery who are under ISI blackmail having used hawala, as was also the case earlier.

Our Pakistan policy certainly needs a clear cut and sustained approach in backdrop of the fact that Pakistan will not only not give up its proxy war, it will make every effort to raise the level. As important is the need to review and institutionalise separation of ‘Law and Order’ from acts of ‘Terrorism’, ‘Insurgencies’ and ‘Treason’, last three being directed at the Union of India. Lackadaisical approach to these promotes them and adversely impacts our national security. These should no more be left to individual states. The Centre absolving itself of such responsibilities cannot claim the slogan ‘India First’. In the instant case, the least that should have happened is that these traitors should have been moved to unannounced prisons outside J&K to prevent their merry-making and enjoying treason, to drive home a clear message. We also need to think what to do about our presstitutes who are providing unending publicity to these traitors. In his article ‘The Presstitute Files’ dated April 15, Rakesh Krishnan Simha, a New Zealand journalist who has worked in Indian media for considerable number of years, has specifically named some of these  presstitutes albeit he misses out the fellow spreading canards of army coups. Not bringing them to heel would be inimical to our national interests. That one of these fellows was brought to do their bidding by the erstwhile government through a Rs 100 crore defamation suit is just one pointer.


Claude Arpi

One wonders why the White Paper on Tibet attacks the Dalai Lama when he is China’s best bet. But a perusal of the lengthy document makes it clear that, for the communist regime, there is no ‘Tibetan issue’; all is fine

The State Council Information Office (China’s Cabinet) recently released a White Paper, ‘on the development path of Tibet’. It is not the first WP published by the Chinese Government on Tibet; in fact, it is the 13th since 1992, when the State Council, tried to justify its position about ‘ownership and human rights’. The characteristic of the latest avatar is best described by the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala: “[it] tries to belittle His Holiness the Dalai Lama by questioning his sincerity in dealing with China. His Holiness admired around the world and revered by the Tibetan people, does not need any certificate on his motivation from the Chinese Government.”

One wonders: Why such a violent attack on the Tibetan leader, when many in China realise that he is undoubtedly the best bet if Beijing wants to find a solution to the Tibetan issue. But reading through the longish paper, it is clear that for the communist regime, there is no ‘Tibetan issue’; everything is fine and wonderful on the roof of the world. Beijing, however, warns: “The wheels of history roll forward and the tides of the times are irresistible. …Any person or force that attempts to resist the tide will simply be cast aside by history and by the people.”

One can only agree with Beijing, except for the fact that they mistakenly judge the tides’ direction. Democracy, freedom of thought and speech are accepted concepts everywhere on the planet, except in a Middle Kingdom which seems to have passed into a reverse gear. The WP asks the Dalai Lama to ‘put aside his illusions’ about talks on Tibet’s future status. For Beijing, the Dalai Lama has little understanding of modern Tibet, but keeps ‘a sentimental attachment to the old theocratic feudal serfdom’.

The WP argues: “The only sensible alternative is for the Dalai Lama and his supporters to accept that Tibet has been part of China since antiquity, to abandon their goals of dividing China and seeking independence for Tibet. …The Central Government [Beijing] hopes that the Dalai Lama will …face up to reality in his remaining years.”

Tibet has been part of China since antiquity however raises a serious question: What is China? A few years ago, Ge Jianxiong, Director of the Institute of Chinese Historical Geography, Fudan university in Shanghai stated in an article in China Review: “If we ask: How big was eighth century China and if we speak about the borders of the Tang dynasty, we cannot include the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. [Tibet] was sovereign and independent of the Tang dynasty.”

Mr Ge went further and questioned the notion of ‘China’: “First of all, ‘China’ (Zhongguo) only officially became the name of our country with the founding of the Republic of China in 1912. Before this, the idea of ‘Zhongguo’ was not clearly conceptualised. The concept of ‘China’ has continued to expand. From referring specifically to the central plains of China, the concept has since grown to now refer generally to a whole nation…”

The timing of the WP’s publication is linked to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region. In 1965, Tibet was divided in five areas, with Southern and Western Tibet becoming the Tibetan Autonomous Region, while other parts of historic Tibet were officially integrated in the Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai.

The WP categorically rejects the concept of a historic ‘greater Tibet’, as well as the Dalai Lama’s demand that all the Tibetan-inhabited areas should be incorporated into a unified administrative area. Beijing also condemns the Dalai Lama’s middle way approach which seeks a genuine autonomy for roof of the world, simply because China believes that the Dalai Lama’s ultimate goal is independence, which he has denied time and again. Beijing also can’t accept that the religious leader decides on his own to terminate the Dalai Lama Institution: It is for the party to decide!

In several cases, Beijing put in the Dalai Lama’s mouth statements that he never made: “The Red Han people were snakes in your chest and abominable, …the Han people are like psychopaths, …they tortured us Tibetans ruthlessly and treat us like beasts”.

More serious is the constant distortion of history. Take the Tibetan uprising of March 1959, in which the entire population of Lhasa participated to protect the Dalai Lama. Beijing says: “In 1959, the Dalai party launched a large-scale armed revolt against officials the Central Government stationed in Tibet, and massacred local Tibetans who supported democratic reform.”

The Tibetans remember the facts differently: “In a crackdown operation launched in the wake of the National Uprising, 10,000 to 15,000 Tibetans [by the People’s Liberation Army] were killed within three days.” Dharamsala quotes a Chinese source (a secret 1960 Tibet Military District Political Department report) which admits that “between March 1959 and October 1960, 87,000 Tibetans were killed in Central Tibet alone.”

Dharamsala affirms that according to the information that they compiled, over 1.2 million Tibetans died between 1949 and 1979. In its report on Tibet in 1960, the International Commission of Jurists confirmed these facts. A couple of decades ago, I remember seeing in Dharamsala the files documenting the casualties of these tragic years; it is perhaps time for the Central Tibetan Administration to come out of its shyness, show the world what really happened in Tibet and publish these records. But there is still some irony in Tibet.

As the WP was released, a Chinese official website,, reported the renovation of a palace in Tronkhang village of Nyingchi prefecture; the building is said to be the house where Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama was born. The Tibetan leader, who is reverently called “The Great Thirteenth” by Beijing, fought all his life to make Tibet an independent nation; this ‘detail’ has now been forgotten by Beijing. Another irony, Lhasa has been awarded by the ‘CCTV Economic Life Survey’, China’s highest happiness index for five years in a row; it is however not mentioned, if the ‘happiness’ is for the migrant Hans or local Tibetans! More sadly, as long as the tide does not change, the doors seem closed for the Dalai Lama.

For India (which is never criticised in the WP), the publication is also significant as it shows that, despite its claim of becoming a ‘normal’ nation, a power which wants to lead Asia (for example in the two New Silk Roads project or with the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank), the Middle Kingdom remains rather feudal as far was freedom, plurality (and history) is concerned.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits China next month, he should go with pride: India has succeeded in growing and developing, with her citizens remaining free human beings. This is not the case in China.

Crime and no punishment


That Pakistan has failed to charge 26/11 mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi despite the available evidence is outrageous

April 22, 2015:

Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who was released from Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi on April 10, is a household name in India. The 46-year-old has been the operations commander and member of the decision-making general council of the Lashkar-e-Taiba for nearly a decade.

He rose rapidly in the LeT after the Kargil conflict and has organised terrorist operations not only against India but also in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia. He is known to have masterminded not just the 26/11 Mumbai attack but also the Mumbai train bombings in 2006 in which around 200 people perished.

During his trial, Syed Yousuf Gilani aka David Coleman Headley, and his Canadian buddy Tahawur Rana in Chicago, Headley testified how he was tasked by Lakhvi to identify and photograph targets for the 26/11 attack. Lakhvi’s pernicious role has been exposed by an Indian national from Maharashtra, Syed Zabiuddin Ansari aka Abu Jundul.

Just a charade

Ansari was a member of the ISI-backed Indian Mujahideen; he became an active Lashkar member after finding his way to Karachi. He was tasked by Lakhvi to teach the 10 terrorists to speak Hindi. Ansari was extradited from Saudi Arabia to India in 2012 on the basis of information provided by India and the US. He has confirmed that he was in the operations room near Karachi where Lakhvi was giving minute-to-minute instructions to the terrorists in Mumbai. Voice samples of VOIP communications by Lakhvi with the terrorists have been provided to Pakistan. They have not been used as evidence by Pakistan. Ajmal Kasab, who referred to Lakhvi as chacha (uncle), also gave a sworn testimony on Lakhvi’s role.

Forced to act because of the international outrage sparked by the 26/11 attack in which 28 of the 166 persons killed were foreign nationals, including citizens of the US, UK, Israel, Australia, Singapore and Canada, the Zardari government charged Lakhvi and six of his associates with planning and executing the attack. What has transpired thereafter has been a charade.

It is evident that the prosecution has no intention of utilising evidence like the testimonies of Kasab, Headley, Ansari and others, or acting on voice samples provided, to seriously prosecute the accused.

World outraged

Lakhvi and his co-accused have been provided five-star comforts in the Adiala jail. His daily stream of visitors has included luminaries such as the former ISI chief Lt-Gen Shuja Pasha. He was permitted conjugal rights in jail, with daily visits by his wife. He even fathered a child while in prison!

In a recent broadcast, after Lakhvi was granted bail, the BBC’s Islamabad correspondent Ilyas Khan observed: “Six years ago, then Interior Minister Rehman Malik revealed how part of the Mumbai attacks conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan. Most of this evidence has not been made part of the record. Jail officers said he (Lakhvi) along with six of his comrades, had several rooms at their disposal. They had access to television, mobile phones and the internet, as well as dozens of visitors daily. These privileges enabled him to remain in effective contact with the Lashkar-e-Taiba rank and file. Elements of the Pakistani establishment are known to have provided such facilities to jailed militant commanders, whom they believe they may need in future.”

Reaction to Lakhvi’s release has been sharp. New Delhi labelled the development an “insult” to the memory of the 166 victims of the Mumbai carnage. The US State Department denounced the decision. Stating that the US was “gravely concerned” at Lakhvi’s release, Washington announced that it had communicated its serious concern to senior Pakistani officials “over the course of many months and as recently as yesterday”.

The American spokesperson noted: “Terrorist attacks are an insult to the collective security and safety of all countries.” French President Francois Hollande thanked Narendra Modi for the “solidarity” shown by India during the Paris terrorist attacks.

He added: “In the same vein I express to you my indignation each time a terrorist is freed, while he still has responsibility for an abominable act of terrorism.” Expressing “surprise and disappointment” at Lakhvi’s release, Israel, whose citizens were killed during the 26/11 terror strike, termed it a “setback to international efforts in the war against terror”.

Unchanged attitude

Despite sentimental and unrealistic expressions of hope in India that Pakistan would change its ways on sponsoring terrorism abroad after the Peshawar massacre of schoolchildren, there has really been no change.

Its military operations on the borders with Afghanistan have not resulted in the capture or elimination of a single member of the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar, or of the dreaded Haqqani Network. Likewise, on its borders with India, the entire infrastructure of terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed remains intact.

Pakistan is confident that it will continue to receive military and financial support from its ‘all weather friend’, China. Moreover, the US has recently approved the supply of sophisticated weapons valued at around $1 billion to Pakistan, generously financed under the provisions of the Kerry-Lugar Act. Pakistan obviously believes it will remain a recipient of American largesse, even if it backs terrorist groups acting against India and Afghanistan.

New Delhi will now have to activate the US Congress and indeed public opinion in the US, to demand that Lakhvi and others are extradited and charged in US courts, for killing American nationals in Mumbai. The Jewish and Indian communities in the US should be motivated for doing this. Class action litigation to charge those who killed US and Israeli nationals in Mumbai should be vigorously pursued through the relatives and associates of those killed.

Moreover, none of those who live beyond our borders, who were involved in the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 1993 and 2008, or the Parliament attack of 2001, should ever be allowed to feel they are safe from Indian action.

The writer is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan

(This article was published on April 22, 2015)