All posts by Madhav Nalapat

Madhav Das Nalapat holds the UNESCO Peace Chair at the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations at Manipal University in Manipal, India. Mr. Nalapat writes extensively on security, policy and international affairs. He began his academic career as fellow of the Center for Political Research in 1974. He has contributed to leading publications throughout the world and has written six books. In 2000, Mr. Nalapat organized the first non-official India-China conference in which serving members of the armed forces of both countries participated. He is a Gold Medalist in Economics from the University of Bombay, India.

In South Asia, graft begets Terror

What do elections in India have to do with terrorism? Plenty. These days, well-heeled candidates distribute “notes for votes”, passing out currency so as to entice electors into choosing them. While illegal in India’s absurdly restrictive electoral system (where a candidate for a parliamentary seat with more than five million voters breaks the law if he spends more than $30,000 on his election), why should counter-terrorism experts need to experience blood pressure rises at the fact that an estimated $ 800 million was handed out during the 2009 national elections in India to voters? More recently, last month more than $100 million in cash was seized from politicians in just the state of Tamil Nadu, where elections to the state legislature were due.

Most of the cash handed out by generous politicians is counterfeit. They get the currency from the same networks that operate the terror and narcotics syndicates. Apart from North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, the biggest counterfeiter in the world is Pakistan’s ISI, which uses its multiple contacts in India to circulate cash that has been printed for the purpose. India has, of course, made this easy by relying on the same source for printing its currency as Pakistan does for its own, thereby ensuring that the same inks and paper become available to the ISI as are used in printing India’s legal tender. The cash gets moved into India through multiple channels, a lot of it coming into the possession of politcal leaders, who protect the networks involved so as to be assured of their own supplies of counterfeit currency.

Small wonder that Hassan Ali, one of the world’s biggest money launderers, was residing safely in India for decades, even while moving out tens of billions of dollars, most into Swiss banks. Ali is now in jail, but powerful patrons at the Union Cabinet level are seeking to ensure that he avoid naming any but the “small fish” in his roster of clients. The reality is that a Union Cabinet Minister who is holding a powerful portfolio was a close friend of Ali’s closest associate, Kashinath Tapuriah, and frequently used to meet with him in Kolkata. Small wonder that nobody is holding his or her breath waiting for accountability.

India’s top politicians use “hawala” channels to spirit their money abroad, and protect these sources in their own interest. The problem is that most of the major “hawala” channels are run from out of Pakistan, and are staffed by those active in both narcotics and terrorism. By protecting such channels, high-level politicians in India are in effect protecting the votaries of Terror.

Which is where the U.S. can come in. President Barack Obama needs to appreciate that it is not enough that the Treasury Department discover and sanitize cash belonging to terror syndicates that are in US-based entities. The U.S. needs to be similarly active in the case of entities in South Asia as well. And because of its huge size and even greater scale of corruption, India tops the list. Thus far, politicians in power have cleverly defined illegal assets abroad as “tax evasion”, thereby freeing international financial agencies of the responsibility for identifying and eliminating them, something that would need to be done, were these assets correctly labeled. For the fact is that such assets are the proceeds of crime, and need to be defined as such. Why authorities in India are resisting this is because such a change would mean that banks abroad would be duty bound to reveal the names of their clients.

Some politicians in India park funds with relatives abroad, many of whom have foreign passports. There needs to be complete transparency on the assets and occupations of the relatives of key decision-makers in India, so that the public can be alerted if – for example – a high-school dropout who may be the sister of a prominent politician in India becomes a millionaire through paths that are obscure. More than the fact that such individuals are living high on the hog at the expense of the Indian taxpayer who has been cheated of his assets, the reality is that much of the cash sent abroad through “hawala” is tainted by association with narcotics and terror syndicates. What is needed is for the U.S. to publicly offer to assist South Asian states to identify funds that have been parked abroad as a consequence of graft. This would help the War on Terror as much or more as military hardware.

General Petraeus, smell the coffee

In an identity of opinion more typical of North Korea than of the US, “expert” opinion in the Beltway has been near-unanimous that the best (if not the only) way of tackling the Taliban-Al Qaeda (TAQ) menace is to outsource its solution to the Pakistan army. From 1980, when the (far more numerous and reliable) Pashtun nationalists were ignored in favor of arming and training religious extremists to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, to the 2001 permission given to the Pakistan army to remove hundreds of Taliban-Al Qaeda commanders at Kunduz, the empirical evidence makes clear that the Pakistan army is at the core of not the solution but the problem of Wahabbi terror. However, “experts” continue to regale both policymakers as well as the public with fairy tales, such as that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) A P Kayani is a moderate. In fact, he comes from a Wahabbi background that is so hardline that the dress and behavior codes in the Kayani extended family are such as would win the approval of that icon of religious freedom, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Not merely was this disregarded, but Kayani was backed in his quest for an extension by the US, in the process completely neutering the civilian establishment in Pakistan.

pakusarmiesIn Afghanistan, NATO quickly abandoned the Northern Alliance, returning to the clasp of the Pakistan army, which guided the alliance in decisions as to which warlord to fund and which to go after. The problem was that the ISI made sure that the warlords showered with NATO largesse were TAQ supporters, while those targeted were usually Pashtuns who were opposed to the overlordship of the (Punjabi-dominated) Pakistan army. That the Taliban were enabled to recuperate and regroup from 2005 onwards is due in large part to the money that elements within them received from the U.S. taxpayer. As yet there has not been (at least in public) a post-mortem of the errors made by NATO in Afghanistan as a consequence of relying upon the ISI.

Should it take place, the careers of a small army of analysts, diplomats and policymakers in the U.S. would be at risk.

Smell the coffee, General Petraeus. Take a long, objective look at the experience of the U.S. in Afghanistan, beginning with the 1980s and going on to May 2, 2011. Check on the actual progress made, and compare this to what could have happened, had the Pakistan army genuinely cooperated with the U.S. in fighting the Taliban-Al Qaeda. In the 1980s, if the Soviet leadership had even a smidgen of cohones in their makeup, they would have lobbed a few bombs into those areas of Pakistan where religious extremists were being trained to go after them, thereby shutting off the tap. In the past, the U.S. used Pakistan to weaken the USSR. These days, a rising power – China – is backing the Pakistan army in ensuring that NATO continues to flounder in Afghanistan. Only a focus on Pakistan can cure Afghanistan of the extremist virus that is spreading throughout the land.

And this not merely by drone strikes, although these need to be multiplied. Some of the officers of the Pakistan army (both serving and retired) are far more deserving of international sanctions and prosecution than many now adorning such lists. Those within the Pakistan establishment who back the Archipelago of Terror across the globe need to be treated as what they are, enemies rather than partners.

General Petraeus, smell the coffee

In an identity of opinion more typical of North Korea than of the US, “expert” opinion in the Beltway has been near-unanimous that the best (if not the only) way of tackling the Taliban-Al Qaeda (TAQ) menace is to outsource its solution to the Pakistan army. From 1980, when the (far more numerous and reliable) Pashtun nationalists were ignored in favor of arming and training religious extremists to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, to the 2001 permission given to the Pakistan army to remove hundreds of Taliban-Al Qaeda commanders at Kunduz, the empirical evidence makes clear that the Pakistan army is at the core of not the solution but the problem of Wahabbi terror. However, “experts” continue to regale both policymakers as well as the public with fairy tales, such as that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) A P Kayani is a moderate. In fact, he comes from a Wahabbi background that is so hardline that the dress and behavior codes in the Kayani extended family are such as would win the approval of that icon of religious freedom, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Not merely was this disregarded, but Kayani was backed in his quest for an extension by the US, in the process completely neutering the civilian establishment in Pakistan.

pakusarmiesIn Afghanistan, NATO quickly abandoned the Northern Alliance, returning to the clasp of the Pakistan army, which guided the alliance in decisions as to which warlord to fund and which to go after. The problem was that the ISI made sure that the warlords showered with NATO largesse were TAQ supporters, while those targeted were usually Pashtuns who were opposed to the overlordship of the (Punjabi-dominated) Pakistan army. That the Taliban were enabled to recuperate and regroup from 2005 onwards is due in large part to the money that elements within them received from the U.S. taxpayer. As yet there has not been (at least in public) a post-mortem of the errors made by NATO in Afghanistan as a consequence of relying upon the ISI.

Should it take place, the careers of a small army of analysts, diplomats and policymakers in the U.S. would be at risk.

Smell the coffee, General Petraeus. Take a long, objective look at the experience of the U.S. in Afghanistan, beginning with the 1980s and going on to May 2, 2011. Check on the actual progress made, and compare this to what could have happened, had the Pakistan army genuinely cooperated with the U.S. in fighting the Taliban-Al Qaeda. In the 1980s, if the Soviet leadership had even a smidgen of cohones in their makeup, they would have lobbed a few bombs into those areas of Pakistan where religious extremists were being trained to go after them, thereby shutting off the tap. In the past, the U.S. used Pakistan to weaken the USSR. These days, a rising power – China – is backing the Pakistan army in ensuring that NATO continues to flounder in Afghanistan. Only a focus on Pakistan can cure Afghanistan of the extremist virus that is spreading throughout the land.

And this not merely by drone strikes, although these need to be multiplied. Some of the officers of the Pakistan army (both serving and retired) are far more deserving of international sanctions and prosecution than many now adorning such lists. Those within the Pakistan establishment who back the Archipelago of Terror across the globe need to be treated as what they are, enemies rather than partners.

US Errs in Equating Wahabbism with Islam

After the execution of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden on May 2, U.S. military personnel organized a burial at sea for the Yemeni, complete with Islamic rites. Such an action is in line with a string of others from the U.S. side, that identifies Islam with what is an entirely separate faith, Wahabbism.

Since its discovery three centuries ago, the Wahabbi faith has evolved in a direction toxic to international harmony. Resembling the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) in its absolutist and exclusivist doctrines, Wahabbism got traction by its success in convincing the Al Saud family in Saudi Arabia that it was the essence of Islam. In fact, its doctrines are a perversion of the mercy, benevolence and compassion of the true faith, which was revealed more than fifteen centuries ago to Prophet Mohammad.

The Al Sauds – in common with most other Middle East heriditary rulers – owe their ascension to power to western countries, in the case of Saudi Arabia, the then British Empire. The harsh dictums of the Wahabbi faith were found to be useful in convincing several unlettered bedouin that the Sufi variant of Islam favored by the Turkish caliphate was the antithesis of the faith, when in fact it expressed its moderate essence quite well. London used the Wahabbis to create a divide between the Caliphate and the Arabs, a policy justified by the rivalry between Turkey and the UK. Subsequently, in the 1950s and until the start of the 1980s, Wahabbism was found effective as an antidote to the Arab nationalism preached by Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ahmed ben Bella and other secular leaders. In the 1980s, the new faith became the core of the CIA-created resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Since then, however, the ill effects of the policy of relying on fanatics to achieve geopolitical goals has become evident. The world’s “Archipelago of Terror” relies entirely on Wahabbism and its twin, Khomeinism, for recruits. Within Muslim societies, both Wahabbists as well as Khomeinsts are working ceaselessly to create and sustain regimes based on intimidation and injustice. Although the overwhelming majority of Muslims still have the moderate reflexes of the true faith (that revealed to Prophet Mohhammad, in contrast to that created by Abdel Wahab and Ayatollah Khomeini), sadly the US, the U.K. and other western countries persist in regarding Wahabbism as “pure” Islam.

Small wonder that so many Muslims are unable to understand that Wahabbism is not identical to Islam, but is in fact its antipode. It is to Islam what Communism is to Catholicism.

This is why it was wrong to have given a Muslim burial to Bin Laden. The man was not a Muslim but a Wahabbi. His life and beliefs were far removed from the qualities of mercy and compassion that suffuse the Quran. By pretending that those following his toxic creed are Muslims, the U.S. has made more distant the day when the Muslim Ummah will throw off the choking, constricting cloak of Wahabbism-Khomeinism that seeks to entomb the true faith for the benefit of a small elite of fanatics, the elite to which Osama bin Laden belonged.

A US-India Nuclear Alliance

Although President George W Bush understood the need to ensure parity for India with France and the U.K. in a 21st century alliance calculus, the Europeanists within his administration slowed down his effort at ensuring an equal treatment for India. Much the same as Winston Churchill in the previous century, they regard it as a “country of a lesser god” that is simply undeserving of any except a subservient status. Sadly, the Obama administration has become even more a Europeanists’ delight than its predecessor, and it has very rapidly sought to dilute the few concessions that President Bush succeeded in extracting from his skeptical team.

Credit: IBNLive.com

This has been especially pronounced in the nuclear field. It is not rocket science that India’s ascent into middle income status will depend on a huge increase in its generation of energy, and that such an increase, given existing green technologies, will need to be powered mostly by energy from nuclear sources. The nuclear industries of India and the U.S. have excellent synergy between them, provided the U.S. acknowledges the implicit premise of the 2005 Singh-Bush statement and the 2008 unanimous vote of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to allow commerce and cooperation with India.

The non-proliferation lobby within the U.S. (a group heavily represented in the Obama administration) made India its primary target since 1974, neglecting to take account of the leaching of nuclear and missile technology from China and other locations to Pakistan and North Korea. Small wonder that it has demonized the India-US deal as a “danger to non-proliferation efforts”, despite the fact that a democracy of a billion-plus people is as much entitled to critical technologies as France or the UK. The reality, however, is that the Manmohan Singh government made several concessions to the U.S. side that have had the effect of substantially degrading India’s offensive capability. An example was the closing down of the CIRUS reactor, which was producing weapons-grade plutonium for decades. In exchange, India was to be given access to re-processing technology. Not merely has such technology continued to be denied to India, but the Obama administration is seeking to cap, roll back and eliminate India’s homegrown reprocessing capabilities.

Apart from strong-arm (and secret) tactics designed to force India to agree to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), the Obama administration is now seeking to force India to give up its Fast Breeder Reactor program. As if on cue, those commentators in the world’s second-largest English-speaking country – including those not known for any previous interest in matters nuclear- who hew to the line of any incumbent U.S. administration have used the Fukushima disaster to call for the FBR program to be abandoned.

Whether by accident or by design, since 2007, this program has slowed down substantially, to the dismay of scientists working in the Atomic Energy Establishment who were rooting strongly for the India-US nuclear deal on the premise that this would ensure a much-needed alliance between the nuclear industries of both countries.

¬†Instead, because of the present administration’s steady drumbeat of fresh conditions (and retrogressive tweaking of existing agreements), nuclear cooperation between the U.S. and India has remained frozen, even while that with Russia has bloomed. Hopefully, such a state of affairs will not continue for long.

One sector where a vigorous India-US partnership would immensely benefit both countries (of course, on the assumption – challenged by key elements in the Obama administration – that India is entitled to the same status as other key U.S. allies) would be in the field of thorium. India has nearly 300,000 tons of thorium (Th), more than enough to power the nuclear industries of both countries. India has already gone a substantial distance towards a viable thorium-based technology. The catch is that this involves reprocessing on a significant scale, a technology that the Churchillians in the U.S. administration say should be denied to India. This is despite the fact that when anyone last checked, India was not an authoritarian state but a democracy. Unless of course, such a prejudice is based on instincts that are not mentionable in polite company.

Despite having been treated as a pariah state by the US, India consistently abided even by agreements that the U.S. side had unilaterally discarded, for example at Tarapur. In this facility, a huge amount of radioactive material has piled up, that India has not re-processed, despite having the technology to, because the plant was set up in collaboration with the US. Some of the spent fuel has been converted after much expense and effort from unsafeguarded radioactive material to safeguarded irradiated fuel, especially in RAPS 1 and 2.

Despite such good behavior, not to mention an impeccable non-proliferation record, the Obama administration in effect continues to treat India as a nuclear pariah, seeking to drive it down to the status of a recipient country under the proposed international scheme for nuclear cooperation. Such a mindset would put paid to any possibility of an India-US alliance, and would be very good news to a country that U.S. non-proliferationists treat with kid gloves, China.

Credit: www.dae.govIndia has already developed two thorium-based systems, the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) and the Compact High Temperature Reactor (CHTR). Although for some reason there seems to be a sharp deceleration in such plans by the present Manmohan Singh government, plans are for the entry of the Indian private sector in this greenfield industry. Ideally, these would partner with U.S. companies, but the way matters are going, it would seem that Russian state enterprises may eventually end up as the preferred partners. This is presumably the reason why there is a significant lobby within India that opposes those within the government who seek to buy either the F -16 or the F-18 for the Indian Air Force. The continued reluctance to give India its due as a major power is behind the skepticism in South and North Block about relying on the U.S. for critical defense equipment. The Obama administration’s cavalier treatment of India’s rights as a responsible nuclear power are behind the pressure by elements of the armed forces to backtrack on plans for a comprehensive defense partnership with India. India gets treated as a Sudan or as a Gautemala in such a pairing, rather than get located in the same bracket as France and the US.

 

Despite their worst efforts, the plan to once again consign India to the bottom of the nuclear heap will not succeed. The 21st century mandates a vigorous partnership of the two most populous Anglosphere countries, India and the US. The non-proliferationists in the U.S. ought not to be allowed to make this hostage to their refusal to admit that India and its population are as responsible and deserving of privileges as the people of major U.S. allies in Europe. Should such a Churchillian view on India continue, the geopolitical gainers would be Russia and China.