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July 12, 1999

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E-Mail this column to a friend Rajeev Srinivasan

Barbarians at the gates

American historian Will Durant says in The Story of Civilization: " civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex and freedom can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without and multiplying from within."

And that is precisely where India is today -- threatened by barbarians from without and by barbarians from within. In this column I shall look at the external threats; in a companion column I shall consider the internal threats.

It is instructive to compare India today with the Roman Empire -- soft, decadent, lulled into a false sense of security, the Romans were helpless when disciplined, ruthless, uncivilized tribes such as the Vandals, the Huns, the Goths and the Visigoths descended upon them, destroying one of the most enduring and powerful civilizations of the world in a few short decades.

Today, India faces similar dangers -- ruthless terrorists from Pakistan and cunning, diabolical cold warriors from China. Both these sets of monsters have demonstrated their capabilities amply before -- in Afghanistan and in Tibet, respectively. They are implacable enemies who will understand only one thing -- force, ruthless savagery. Do unto them as they do unto others.

The cruelty exhibited by the Pakistanis and their mercenaries is shocking, but really not suprising. The brutal torture of Lt Saurav Kalia and five of his men is a blot on humanity -- these Pakistanis are war criminals, and should be treated as such. There is honour among professional soldiers, and they treat each other, including the captured enemy, with respect. And the Geneva Convention codifies this.

The torture and murder of these six men, and that of Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja, was done as a tactical manouver. It is hard for anyone to believe that a professional soldier would descend to this level of inhumanity -- therefore, it buttresses Pakistan's claim that the intruders are not their regular armymen, but Islamic mercenaries.

In some ways, the butchery exhibited by the Pakistanis is a mere reflection of what Semitic monsters have always done -- from Babur to Hitler, from Timurlane to Pol Pot, from Vlad the Impaler to Mao. They have used these terror tactics both because they were genuinely bloodthirsty and also because it would weaken the resolve of their enemies.

Pakistanis in particular have been brought up on a steady diet of lies and propaganda. While undoubtedly there is distortion of history on the Indian side as well -- for instance the inane worship of the Nehru dynasty -- it is nothing compared to what happens to impressionable Pakistani minds.

As has been amply discussed by many, Pakistan has only a negative self-definition -- it is "not-India". Therefore, the impluse is to reject, and in fact scorn, everything Indian. It is pathetic that Pakistanis have to invent Arab ancestors for themselves. Ninetynine per cent of them are the descendants of (forcibly) converted Indian Buddhists and Hindus, but they all claim Arab ancestry. They do not look to South Asia, but to West Asia for their role models and mindsets. In other words, they are Arab wanna-bes. And Arabs disdain them for this.

Despite the trauma of 1948 and 1965 and 1971, I used to have a generally benign attitude towards Pakistanis until I began to encounter them on the Internet, especially on newsgroups like soc.culture.indian and net.nlang.indian in the old days.

I soon found out that the Pakistanis do not think of Hindus as individuals. To them, we are the enemy; specifically, the despised and disgusting enemy. I soon realized that when two Pakistanis fought with each other on the net, to call the other party a Hindu was the second-biggest insult they could think of. The worst insult -- of course -- was to call the other guy a woman. Rhetorical question -- so where does that leave Hindu women in their scheme of things?

After a few years of observing Pakistanis on the Internet, I find it hard to get excited about people-to-people contact with them. I feel no subcontinental solidarity with them -- I view them, collectively, as brainwashed brutes. A Pakistani reader wrote to me that South Indians are "infurrier" "ahoots" [sic], whatever that means. My feelings precisely about them, too. I guess I "infurriated" this person with my columns.

There are several reasons for this unreasoning Pakistani hatred of Hindus. First, they are brought up to hate anybody who is not Muslim. Second, there is a historical religious reason -- it is believed that Islam prevailed over the old religion in Arabia that was rather similar to Hinduism. In fact, it is suggested by some that the Ka'bah itself was once a shrine to a male god and his daughter goddesses.

Third, historically, India was the prize Muslims almost had -- the missing link in the giant Islamic arc from West Africa to Indonesia. After having ruled much of India for many centuries, they are amazed they were unable to convert all Indians to Islam. For they did manage to overcome imperial Iran with its ancient civilization and remove all traces of Zoroastrianism; ditto with Egypt and its ancient Pharaonic religion.

Fourth, Pakistani propaganda has it that Muslims are severely oppressed in India. A small news item recently evidently escaped Pakistani attention -- the richest Indian in the world is now Azim Premji, a Muslim from Kutch. He heads Wipro, he is worth $ 2.8 billion and he did this all out of Bangalore, India. So much for the alleged institutionalized discrimination against Muslims in India.

It is in their role as the self-appointed 'purest of the pure' that Pakistan has been extorting money from Saudi Arabia, Libya, and other wealthy Muslim nations. They have, in the name of the worldwide Muslim ummah or brotherhood, stood by Pakistan in all its misadventures, for example rubber-stamping a Pakistani resolution at the recent Organization of Islamic Countries meeting.

I personally think this is a failure on the part of Indian Muslims. After all, there are more Muslims in India than anywhere else except Indonesia. They really have the wherewithal to become a power center in Islamic affairs, developing a liberal Muslim ethic that can co-exist with other religions and also be nationalistic. Furthermore, the Shia-Sunni divide is less acrimonious in India than elsewhere, if I am not mistaken. Indian Muslims should be leaders in the affairs of Islam.

And the time for this is ripe. It appears, at long last, that almost everyone is tiring of Pakistan's form of extreme, medieval, Taliban narco-terrorist tactics. In two separate essays on July 9th, C Raja Mohan writing in The Hindu and Saeed Naqvi writing in The Indian Express suggested that Saudi Arabia and Morocco (a relatively liberal Muslim nation) have shown signs of having had it with Pakistan's belligerence, which, quite frankly, is giving their religion a bad name.

Those who support fundamentalist movements are in danger of losing control over them. Indira Gandhi realized this to her chagrin, and she paid with her life. The Arabs, the Americans and the Chinese are now beginning to realize that the Taliban and similar madmen that they have supported via covert assistance to Pakistan are now becoming a liability. These are loose cannon who owe no allegiance to anything but their lunacy, which they claim is the true Islam.

Ironically, it looks as though people are now beginning to believe what Pakistan has been claiming: "we have no control over these militants". The Arabs, the Chinese, and the Americans are worried that they have created a Frankenstein -- a set of uncontrollable automatons armed with deadly weapons. Saudi Arabia is fearful of Osama bin Laden. Chinese are apprehensive for Xinjiang. Americans worry about repeats of the World Trade Center bombing and worse.

Muslims around the world need to rescue their religion from the poisonous grip of the Pakistani army and its surrogates.

Now to take a look at my favourite country of all time, China. As Francois Gautier says in his perceptive column, China is really the villain of the piece. I have argued that they are essentially the Nazis of our time, and that India has to fight them at every turn (see my column The Danger from China). They are also the biggest imperialists of our time -- although their empire is rather fragile, and may collapse like the Soviet Empire.

When the Chinese recently met with Jaswant Singh and made some noises about a 'strategic dialogue', India's 'progressives' could hardly contain their joy. They forecast wonderful tidings -- about how we will be One Big Happy Socialist Family all over again. Utter nonsense! All we can expect from the Chinese is betrayal. India has to be prepared for the worst sort of hypocrisy from them. George Fernandes said they are India's No 1 threat; in fact, they are the No 1 enemy.

China has systematically 'contained' India, partly because they have no respect for India. Apart from strategic considerations of keeping in check their only potential rival in Asia, the Chinese are racists too -- they think their yellow skins somehow make them superior to Indians. Mao Tse-Tung despised Jawaharlal Nehru, but used him: Nehru was the biggest campaigner for getting China into the United Nations. And what did India get for her pains? 1962, of course.

Although I have noticed in the Indian media a tendency to equate the Kargil affair with the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, ("the day that will live in infamy"), I think this is an emotional reaction. Kargil is a mere skirmish; besides the Pakistanis are short-term thinkers. In 1962, the Chinese attack was much more of a betrayal: and the long-term consequences are much worse.

The Chinese triumph has led to the creation of the Karakoram Highway, the major conduit for the Sino-Islamic Axis and its covert arms transfers, including Chinese nuclear and missile proliferation to Pakistan. It is increasingly clear that Pakistan's arsenal of missiles and nuclear bombs are not indigenous, but screwdriver-technology assembly of tested Chinese components sometimes channelled through proxy North Korea. As evidence, consider the North Korean ship, currently in Indian custody, carrying missile parts to Pakistan.

1998 data India Pakistan China
Total armed forces, m 1.18 0.59 2.82
Air force 140,000 45,000 470,000
Nuclear tests 6 6 45
Estimated warheads 50-60 12-18 400
Defence spending 3.3% of GDP 5.8% of GDP 5.7% of GDP

Source: May 22, 1999 The Economist

I have received as number of queries from people commenting on my theory of the Sino-Islamic Axis. It is not something I made up -- it is quite obvious to the casual observer, and certainly to strategic thinkers such as Samuel Huntington and Caspar Weinberger. Also, note in the table above (data from The Economist magazine) that China spends a significantly larger percentage of its GDP (which itself is much larger than India's) on its armed forces. They are arming themselves to the teeth, preparing for the big showdown with the West. India is only a dress rehearsal.

In the context of the Sino-Islamic Axis, the storm troopers are Pakistani regulars and Arab, Afghan and Sudanese mercenaries in the garb of the Taliban or some such. The goal for China is their historic empire -- which is generously defined as stretching from Southeast Asia to the gates of Vienna (for that was the extent of the great Mongol Empire of Genghiz Khan. Although Han Chinese are not Mongols; this they consider a mere detail. In fact the Mongols of Inner Mongolia are an oppressed minority being swamped demographically by the prolifically breeding Hans).

The dream for Pakistan is an imaginary Greater Pakistan -- consisting of ex-Soviet Central Asia, Kashmir, Xinjiang, Afghanistan. A fundamentalist Islamic Empire, which will then presumably wage war with the infidels of Europe. Or at the very least control the mineral riches of Central Asia.

Now, therein lies the opportunity for India. I received some interesting mail from reader Santosh in Italy. He suggests, following in the footsteps of Chanakya, that it is profitable to create bheda, or dissent, amongst the ranks of the enemy. For example, the idea of Xinjiang (where the Chinese have put down insurrections by Uighurs with a increasing savagery) becoming a bone of contention between China and Pakistan would be great.

Well, India should do everything possible to incite the Uighurs. How about information warfare -- printing and distributing leaflets in Xinjiang exhorting Uighurs to join hands with Pakistanis to create the Greater Pakistan? How about printing fake Chinese currency (that can be traced back to Pakistan)? How about giving arms to the Uighurs marked "Made in Pakistan"? The Chinese will doubtless take a dim view of their pals taking their Kashmir tactics into China.

Incidentally, some Chinese Muslims have been found amongst the dead intruders in Kashmir. This may partially explain why the Chinese did not enthusiastically endorse the Pakistani cause recently despite a desperate airdash by Nawaz Sharief. Of course, that is for public consumption; privately, the Chinese, I am sure, are continuing to supply logistical and information support to them.

Therefore, India's two biggest barbarians are Pakistan and China. If India's ruling classes ever get themselves out of their woolly Urdu-poetry-reciting benignness towards Pakistan, and away from the pathetic Hindi-Chini-bhai-bhai nonsense (why wasn't that buried with Nehru?), I do hope they will make some serious efforts to, Chanakya-like, do something to contain the two. It is truly a matter of life and death for India. Brutes deserve brutal responses.

Postscript and Errata. I was pleasantly surprised to receive several hundred email messages from readers responding to my two previous columns, Himalayan Blunder, and Kargil: The China Connection Thank you -- I am overwhelmed: almost 99% liked the columns. Despite the injunction from the Bhagavad Gita, tulya nindau stutir maunam (indifferent to praise, abuse or silence) I must admit I am pleased. But it would be impossible for me to respond individually to every one of them, although I have read them all, so I beg your indulgence. Several people have sent me good suggestions, and I shall gladly steal their ideas for future columns. But, dear reader, note that if you wish your letter to be considered for publication by rediff.com, you should copy it to news@rediff.co.in and not just to me at rajeev@rediffmail.com.

A couple of people, no doubt of the 'progressive' persuasion, pointed out a factual error with unconcealed glee. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I had said something about Mahmud of Ghori being defeated by Prithviraj Chauhan seventeen times. It turns out I mixed up Mohammed of Ghori and Mahmud of Gazni. It was the latter who came seventeen times to sack Somanath. Ghori was let go once by Chauhan. I am chagrined -- I usually check my facts with my historian mother, but did not this time. But my point remains -- Chauhan let Ghori escape after the First Battle of Tarain. Ghori considered this a weakness; chivalry had no place in his scheme of things.

Rajeev Srinivasan

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