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7. THE WEST AND INDIA

7. THE WEST AND INDIA

The West, if it does not always show outright hostility to India, often displays aggressive ignorance � the United States being the prime example � although things are changing thanks to Clinton�s 1999 visit. France, a country which had a huge sympathy capital in India, has not exploited it because it is obsessed with China. On the friendly side, the countries are very few : there is Israel, which shares so much with India, yet has been ignored for decades to please the Arabs; or non-communist Russia, which is discovering anew that she and India are fighting a lonely battle against Muslim fundamentalism.

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE US PRESIDENT

Dear Mr. Clinton,

Next month, you will be arriving in India, an extraordinary, but baffling country to Westerners, because of its immense paradoxes and mystifying diversity. Yet, I am sure that your ambassador in India will have done his homework and briefed you suitably before your coming.

Doubtlessly then, he will have told you that India is one of the oldest civilization in our history and that many of the wonders of humanity originated here : the concept of the zero for instance, plastic surgery, or ancient astronomy - and that its philosophy was so subtle, that it not only influenced the entire East, but that until Nietzsche, many western philosophers acknowledged India as one of their major inspirations. Today even, India is a land of a Living Spirituality, probably the last in a world which has been taken over by the two big monotheist religions and their aggressive dogmas.

Unfortunately, instead of dwelling on the importance and symbolism of this visit � no American President has in the last twenty years graced by his presence the largest democracy on this planet - your Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, keeps harping about Kashmir being the "short fuse" of South Asia. Mrs. Albright�s statement only highlights the United States� ignorance about Kashmir, which until two decades ago was a model of Muslim-Hindu amity. Did you know, Mr. President, that Hindus and Muslims of Kashmir would often pray at the same shrines and that the Islam practiced in Kashmir was an open Islam, very close to ancient Sufism ? But this was not to the taste of the hard-line Sunnis of Pakistan and Afghanistan - and they proceeded to radicalize the whole of Kashmir, by unleashing a reign of terror, which in turn triggered the exodus of all Hindus from the valley of Kashmir : there were 500.000 of them at the beginning of the century and barely a few hundred today.

Your ambassador would have doubtless told you too, Mr. Clinton, that historically and geographically, Kashmir has always been part of India and that the calling of a referendum there would be a suicide for any Indian government, because the Muslim majority of the Valley would automatically vote for a union with Pakistan. That in turn, Mr President, would not only mean that Pakistan would have an immense strategic advantage on India, because of overlooking the Indian plains, but also that other Indian states, who are in a secessionist mood, might follow suit. Bear in mind also, Mr. President, that Indians do not understand why the West is giving lessons to India about Kashmir, when England battled thousands of miles away from their home soil to keep the Falkland islands - which geographically belong more to the Argentineans than to the British - or as France uses its armed might to retain Corsica, an island which has mixed French and Italian roots, or when your own country intervenes militarily in parts of the globe where you feel your interests are endangered !

All right, we know: Pakistan is threatening a nuclear war - and it scares you. We do hope, however, Mr. President, that you are going to call off their bluff by bypassing Islamabad on your way to India (he did not !). Not only because India is much more important country than Pakistan in terms of size, population and economic potential, but also because this country, in spite of all its faults, has been a democracy for more than fifty years. As you know, the same thing cannot be said about Pakistan, which has been under different military dictatorships for more than half its independence - as it is the case now. Your intelligence people must also have told you that not only Pakistan is sponsoring terrorism in India, but also all over the world � even the Empire State Building bombings had a Pakistan connection. Your ambassador, who by now is very knowledgeable about South Asia, must also have told you that Pakistan and Afghanistan�s hatred for the Hindu pagans, their contempt for this polytheist religion, is as old and obsessive as during the first invasion of India by Arabs in 650. Pakistan lost the last four wars it initiated against India � and if it is foolish enough to make first use of a nuclear weapon, it will be wiped-off this earth.

Lastly Mr. Clinton, your ambassador must have informed you as well you that there is no such thing as "Hindu nationalists", or "Hindu fundamentalists", as the foreign press likes to label the party whose leader is today the Prime Minister of India. Because in the whole history of India, Hindus - who let me remind you are 800 millions today and constitute the overwhelming cultural and political majority of this country - have not only shown that they are extremely tolerant, but Hinduism is probably the only religion in the world which never tried to convert others or conquer other countries to propagate their own religion. This historical tolerance of Hinduism is never taken into account by foreign correspondents covering India and even, unfortunately, by Indian journalists.

Mr. President, in the sixties, China was to the world a backward nation, the "Red Devil". Richard Nixon�s visit there in 1971, changed everything : today, it is a must for Industrialized nations to invest there, even if the returns are very poor and China is bound sooner or later to enter into grave political turmoil when the bloody hand of communism is withdrawn. Mr. President you have a unique opportunity to do for India what Nixon did to China. By coming only to India and by giving this visit the importance it deserves, you will signal to the world that India is the next superpower of this century, the "other" democratic giant of Asia and that you, Bill Jefferson Clinton, was the first western leader to have had the vision of it. And History may just remember you for that.

Yours sincerely,

François Gautier/ correspondent South Asia Le Figaro

"THE TRUTH ABOUT INDO-FRENCH RELATIONS"

(Sleeping with the enemy)

When it was learnt that the French were on the verge of handing over 8 Mirage fighter aircrafts and one Agosta submarine capable of delivering any missiles to Pakistan, George Fernandes, one of the few ministers who is not afraid to call a spade a spade (and is often right in what he says), expressed his surprise in an interview with Le Figaro and warned the French that supplying lethal weapons to a country known to sponsor international terrorism, at a time when India was fighting a bloody war which the Pakistanis had initiated, was not a thing to be done. "You have two countries, he said in substance, one Pakistan, a small nation in near economic bankruptcy, always on the verge of a military dictatorship, or of fundamentalist take over - and on the other hand you have India, a huge, pro-western, democratic country, with an enormous economic potential. France has to make a strategic choice and it should not be that difficult".

And he was right ! For in spite of the Indian media�s illusions about Indo-French friendship, India is not very high on France�s priories - the ill timing of the now postponed delivery shows it. It may also be that the right hand of the French Government does not always know what the left does (which means in this particular case, that the President, Mr Chirac, is Right Wing, while his Prime Minister, Mr Jospin, is a socialist - and both do not necessarily have the same foreign priorities�)

But France could also argue that they too, are not very high on India�s priorities. For it appears today that the BJP Government is ready to "sleep with the enemy" - the enemy being the United States. Indians have long had a ridiculous fascination for anything American (70% of students graduating from IIT, leave for the Us) - could it be now, that there is a warming-up of relations with Washington, that the Indian Government is ready to dump the French, who alone stood by India after Pokhran II, when it was ostracised by the whole world ? No doubt, Mr Clinton will charm the BJP leaders with a few smiles and a visit next year, so as to extract the maximum out of them : signing of the CTBT, freezing their missile program, stopping production of nuclear material, while making sure that India buys Boeings and not Airbuses �. And the BJP, who all along said that it was not in favour of a unipolar world, will do exactly the opposite ! Can�t the Indian Government take a few lessons from the Chinese and understand that you get much more respect from other nations by being firm and taking no s... from anybody, than by always wallowing like a true Third World country ?

Yet, France is one of the few countries in the West which has affinities with India. While the average American does not even know where India is on a map, the French love Satyajit Ray, Indian food, music� There are also a few Frenchmen who understand the political and economic importance of India: Jacques Chirac, the French President, who studied Sanskrit when he was young, and knows that India is an ancient and cultured country; or Claude Blanchemaison, the French ambassador, who has tirelessy worked towards improving indo-french relations.

Finally, The BJP would do well to remember the words of Swami Vivekananda : "In the East, India is the land which gave the world the invaluable concept of Karma or work as duty; and in the West, the central field of that work , the Karmakshetra is France."

THE SECRET BROTHERHOOD OF INDIA AND ISRAEL

For 40 years, India did not have relations with Israel. Yet, India and Israel share so much in common and both can learn a lot from each other ! Hindus and Jews, far from being the persecutors of minorities, that the Marxist, Arab and INC lobby like to portray, have been persecuted for nearly two thousand years and have been the victims of the two worst genocides in the sad history of humanity : Hitler, in his monstrous quest for a "pure" Aryan race, murdered six millions Jews in his gas chambers during the Second World War; and Belgium historian Koenraad Elst estimates that between the year 1000 and 1525, eighty million Hindus died at the hands of Muslim invaders, probably the biggest holocaust in the whole history of our planet.

Indians and Israelis of today also share in common an awesome problem with Muslim fundamentalists. And India should learn a lesson of two from the way Israel handles this problem, however much it is criticized by the western medias. Unlike India, which since Independence has chosen to deal with this problem in the Gandhian spirit, that is by compromising most of the time with Islamic intransigence - if not giving in - Israel showed that toughness first, accompanied later by negotiations pays much more. Basically, the "land for money" concept is something that India should learn from : in 1967, Israel was threatened to be engulfed by its fanatic neighbors, so it stole the initiative by crushing them in a lightning six days war and kept some land which it used later as bargaining chips with Egypt and Syria. India is also surrounded by hostile Muslim countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and more and more Bangladesh. So far, India has followed the Nehruvian policy of Good Neighborhood : you give first, expecting that your neighborhood will reciprocate the gesture later. Unfortunately, history has shown that India mostly gets stabbed in the back for its generosity by small insignificant nations such as Bangladesh, which owes its freedom to the sacrifices of India�s soldiers and is more and more lending its territory to the ISI. If during the 1965 Indo-Pak war, India would have kept a chunk of the Pakistani territory it has conquered, or if during the Kargil war, it had carried on with its victorious momentum by seizing some of the Pakistan-held Kashmir, which could be used as a buffer zone, there would be probably today less cross-border terrorism.

There is another area where India has a lot to learn from Israel, it is the VIP security. We all know how it has become here a status symbol, a constant hassle for the ordinary citizen, who has to wait endlessly in his car for the VIP motorcade to pass by, or in his plane for the Prime Minister of India to land. Mr Vajpayee must be the most protected leader in the world - and it is a very heavy-handed, unfriendly and ultimately inefficient protection. But look at the Israelis: their Prime Minister moves around with only a few boyish looking men, in sneakers and civil dress and they don�t rough up onlookers or hassle innocent citizens. As for the recent hijack of the Indian Airline plane, again we have to look towards Israel, whose airline, EL Al, is the safest in the world, in spite of being the most threatened. But for them, no rude cops who hardly talk any English frisking you at airports, but civil and educated EL Al employees, who ask polite but pointed questions and unobtrusive security in the airports and aboard their aircrafts. Israelis have also shown that you should NEVER give in to terrorist demands and also that its commandos are the best. 24 years ago, when an Air France airplane, carrying mostly Israelis, was hijacked by Arab terrorists and forced to land in far away Uganda, which like the Taliban, were actually protecting the terrorists while pretending to help in the release of the passengers, Israel in one of the most daring rescue operation ever, sent its commandos flying in the dead of the night over half of the world, killed the terrorists, freed the passengers and brought them back to Israel with very little casualties. Unfortunately, India adopted a total opposite attitude during the hijack of IC 814, with the catastrophic result that we know : the terrorists released are today openly preaching in Pakistan a jihad unto death towards India.

There is also another aspect from which India can learn a great deal from Israel and it is its language. In 1948, Israel regained part of it Holy land and Israelis, who had been scattered all over the world, came back to live in Israel. There was one problem though: they all spoke different languages and no tongue unified them except Yiddish, a bastard language spoken by the Jews of Eastern Europe. So the state of Israel set its scholars to revive Hebrew, Israel�s ancient language, which had fallen in decrepitude, so that today everybody speaks Hebrew and it has unified Israel like nothing else. India should invite some of these linguists and they should sit down with Sanskrit scholars and devise a way of simplifying and modernizing Sanskrit, which is the mother of all European tongues, a language so subtle and rich that it will energize and revitalize the whole Indian culture.

And finally, Like Indians, Israel is one of those �elected people of God�, of whom Sri Aurobindo speaks in his book the "Hour of God", who have managed to keep their spirituality alive in spite of oppressions, invasions and genocides. That the Israelis turned their back on their avatar and crucified him, may account for their sufferings for two thousand years, as India went through these centuries of atoning for its �black karma�. But both, in their own ways, are becoming again powerful nations, vibrant with spirituality and vigour.

RUSSIA AND INDIA : SHARING THE SAME FIGHT

Once more, the West is putting pressure on a nation � Russia, in the present case � which is trying to fight the scourge of Muslim fundamentalism, in some of its ex-republics, particularly in Chechnya. Once more, the western medias are bombarding European countries and the United States, with images of refugees fleeing, of children and old men killed by blind bombardments, of women wailing in front of their dead men, thus setting up the public opinion and politicians against the "bad" Russians. Once more, we see the United States, the UN, the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, applying all kinds of pressure on Russia so that it stops its "genocide". And Russia being a weak nation and desperately needing international investment, might well give in the end and let Muslim fundamentalism take hold again in Chechnya and then spread elsewhere like a cancer - in Dagestan, for instance, an Islamic independent state, which has called for a jihad against Russia

But what should be understood is that the pity that the Western world has for the sufferings of the poor civilians in Chechnya, however noble, is misplaced. Because not only separatisms are civilian movements - that is, their armies are dressed in civilian dresses - but generally they get the covert or overt support of the local population from which they recruit their militants in the first instance. This is particularly striking in Kashmir, where � whatever the Indian Government says � 95% of the Muslim population of the Valley wishes independence from India, or merging with Pakistan. Indeed, the parallel between Kashmir and Chechnya is very much relevant, because both the Indian and Russian governments are waging a war against Muslim separatism; both are watching with growing horror as it spreads fast from Afghanistan to Kashmir, or Tajikistan; from Pakistan to Bangladesh, or Dagestan; and both are drawing flaks from Human Right agencies, the UN, or the United States for their heavy handed actions against "civilian" populations.

But there is also such a thing as karma. In the Buddhist-Hindu sense, it means that an individual or a nation pays, many years or many centuries, later for atrocities or faults committed in past lives or ancient cycles; in the Western, or Cartesian sense, it means that an individual or a nation suffers logically at the hands of revengeful traditional adversaries, against whom it committed earlier wrongs. In this light, it is easier to understand and accept the sufferings of Muslim civilian populations, whether in Chechnya, Kashmir, or Yugoslavia, knowing that throughout the ages, Muslims were ruthless conquerors and have committed untold atrocities. Take for instance the recent agony of the Bosnian (and the Albanians) Muslims, at the hands of the Serbs, which again stirred so much western opinion. But the Bosnian Muslims have themselves committed countless crimes against the Serbs for many centuries - and as late as during the Second World War - when they sided with the Nazis against the Allies. Thus during the recent conflict, they might have got back, in the Hindu meaning as well as the Western sense of karma, what they well deserved.

Of all the western medias putting pressure on nations which are fighting Muslim fundamentalism, the BBC, which prides itself in its unbiased reporting, has to be singled out for its partiality towards Muslim separatisms from all over the world. For the BBC has two standards : one for the Muslims� never mind that that they practice a ruthless religion which still teaches them that theirs is only one true God � and another for the bad Hindus / Russians / Israelis. It chooses for instance to label Sheikh Abhas, the founder of the dreaded terrorist movement Hamas, a "spiritual leader", when he has ordered numerous bomb attacks against innocent civilians in Israel. But Hindus, whose history has been of tolerance and of welcoming all persecuted minorities, do not find grace in the eyes of the BBC : at best they are "Hindu nationalists", at worst, "Hindu fanatics". Never mind that they never planted bombs against Muslims, but only destroyed one single mosque without killing anybody in the process, when Muslims invaders have razed tens of thousands of temples in India throughout the centuries and slaughtered millions of Hindus.

But is the West mad to put down countries like Yugoslavia or Russia, or India, which are its natural allies and to support nations which are its sworn enemies ? Samuel Hutington in his famous book "The clash of civilisations", has predicted that in the 21st century there will be a clash between two civilisations : the West and Islam. Of course, the big question mark is China. Huntington wrote that China, for its own selfish purposes, will sometimes side with Islam against the West. It has already happened with Pakistan, to whom China not only gave the know-how to develop nuclear weapons, but also missiles to deliver them. But China has its own separatist problems in Sin kiang (which by the way are prodded by Pakistan), and many in India hope that it will bring China closer to India and dissuade her from helping Pakistan. Will it ? Some experts are not so sure : China views (and rightly so) India as its enemy number one; because it is the only country which has the numbers and the size (but not the will) to contain China�s hegemonic ambitions in Asia. And secondly, China still believes in the efficiency of the iron hand, whether to crush any dissent in Tibet, Tianamen Square, or Sin kiang

Contrary to China, India is a bastion of democracy in Asia, and like Russia, it is fighting a lone battle against Muslim fundamentalism which surrounds her. And it deserves the support of the West� which it is not getting. We have seen how the United States prefers to give the benefit of the doubt to General Musharraf, even though Pakistan is the biggest supporter of Muslim fundamentalism in South Asia and Mushrarraf its champion.