Archive for the ‘India’ category

India’s Modi abandons legacy of Muslim appeasement

January 17, 2018

India’s Modi abandons legacy of Muslim appeasement, American  ThinkerRichard Benkin, January 17, 2018

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has earned a deserved reputation as a no-nonsense opponent of appeasement.  His expansion of the India-Israel relationship and personal affinity with President Donald Trump and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have strengthened that perception.  The latest evidence that it is more than a perception came this week, when Modi’s government discontinued half-century-old government subsidies provided to Muslim pilgrims going on the Hajj.  The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims must carry out at least once, so long as they are physically and financially able – artificial conditions that the subsidy is intended to create.

That’s right: the government of India has been spending badly needed funds for one religious community’s annual pilgrimage.  (There is even a special terminal in New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport exclusively for Hajj pilgrims, which is closed for most of the year.)  Since 2008, about 120,000 Muslims have utilized the government money to go on the Hajj, according to the Indian government, costing the Indian people almost a half-billion dollars in the last five years alone.  This money now will be used for educational purposes, especially for girls who have been particularly underserved in accordance with community practice.

According to minister for minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, “[t]his is part of our policy to empower minorities with dignity and without appeasement.”  Putting an end to Modi’s predecessors’ policies not only does that, but also reduces the role of big government in India, which has been another major element in the prime minister’s actions thus far.  As he promised to do both during and since the 2013 election that brought him his landslide victory, Modi’s conservative government is eliminating the wasteful spending by leftist opponents, which they often carried out to garner the large and largely united Indian Muslim vote.

Winning Afghanistan: Support Trump’s Strategy

August 22, 2017

Winning Afghanistan: Support Trump’s Strategy, Clarion ProjectRyan Maur0, August 22, 2017

A US soldier holds the national flag ahead of a handover ceremony at Leatherneck Camp in Lashkar Gah in the Afghan province of Helmand on April 29, 2017. (Photo: WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)

We have made progress, but the American public rarely heard about it because President Obama did not wish to bring attention to the war and its political liabilities. The progress was then lost due to the rapid withdrawal based on an arbitrary timeline.

“We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistakes our leaders made in Iraq,” Trump said.


President Trump is pledging to “win” in Afghanistan by defeating the terrorist “losers.” He is correct about the disaster ahead if the U.S. retreats from Afghanistan, but his speech doesn’t seem to have addressed the concerns of those who believe that the campaign there is a lost cause.

Trump rightly pointed out that there are 20 groups designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the U.S. State Department operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If the U.S. abandons Afghanistan, these groups will use the country as a launching pad to target the U.S. and destabilize the region, including nuclear-armed Pakistan.

From this base, they will likely be able to roll back progress we’ve made against terror havens in Iraq, Syria and Libya. And, of course, each success breeds a multitude of new members for the victorious terrorist group as momentum is interpreted as Allah’s blessing.

Yet, these realities do not address the core skepticism of those who oppose the war in Afghanistan — that there’s simply nothing more we can do. President Trump needed to confront this head on.

It’s extremely important that the American public understand that the war in Afghanistan is not like a videotape on loop. We have made progress, but the American public rarely heard about it because President Obama did not wish to bring attention to the war and its political liabilities. The progress was then lost due to the rapid withdrawal based on an arbitrary timeline.

“We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistakes our leaders made in Iraq,” Trump said.

Addressing the need to make a long-term commitment to Afghanistan to defeat the terror forces there, Secretary of Defense Mattis said it best when he told President Trump, “Mr. President, we haven’t fought a 16-year war so much as we have fought a one-year war 16 times.”

In 2014, 95% of all operations were being done by the Afghans and they were taking 95% of all casualties, according to Michael O’Hanlon. Foreign forces were only 15% of coalition manpower. The Taliban and other jihadists had a growing presence in the areas where foreign forces decreased, but this territory only encompassed about 10% of the Afghan population.

The Defense Department’s April 2014 report said that U.S. casualties had “dropped significantly” over the previous year and the Afghan forces conduct “virtually all of these operations independently.” The Afghan economy was lunging forward and the Defense Department reported a “dramatic increase in basic education.”

The mantra we always hear in the media is that the Afghans won’t fight the Taliban and other terrorists. They did.

There was also major economic, educational and political progress.

That year, Afghanistan held a hotly-contested presidential election where all of the major candidates agreed that the U.S. military should be asked to stay. The election was a big success, as U.S.-backed Afghan forces made the Taliban and other Islamist terrorists fail miserably in achieving their stated goal of wreaking havoc during the voting.

Despite the extremely high risk, voter turnout was about 58%, matching that of America’s 2012 presidential election. One in three voters were women and a record number of women were running for office, including two for vice president.

After the vote was held, accusations of fraud came from both sides. Sectarian tension was high as each candidate represented different constituencies. Amazingly, despite all these pressures, the parties then reached a power-sharing agreement and had Afghanistan’s first peaceful transfer of the presidency through elections.

It is absolutely essential for President Trump to mention this progress to the skeptical American public so that they can know we haven’t been simply running in circles in Afghanistan. It is also important for the U.S. military that sacrifices so much to hear that their gains are known and appreciated.

Any progress that this new strategy makes will be limited by the assistance that the Taliban and other terrorists are receiving from Pakistan, Iran and Russia.

President Trump put Pakistan on notice like never before. The Pakistani government is going to be held accountable for harboring and materially supporting the terrorist network that sustains the jihad in Afghanistan. It is probable that we’ll see an increase in cross-border operations.

Trump’s praise for India as a strategic partner is a powerful lever to pull to pressure Pakistan. The State Department’s recent designation of Hizbul Mujahideen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization shows that the Trump Administration is serious about this. Hizbul Mujahideen is a terror group that primarily targets India and is backed by Pakistan.

It was strange that Iran’s role in assisting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda went unmentioned in Trump’s speech. Iran is actively murdering U.S. and Afghan troops. However, Secretary of Defense Mattis’ desire to deliver some payback to the Iranian regime for targeting the U.S. military is well-known. You can bet he has plans in mind for that.

All of the talk about the war in Afghanistan inevitably brings up the experience of the Vietnam War. Although there is much to criticize about National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster, he wrote a critically-acclaimed book about the Vietnam War.

There should be no doubt that the lessons of Vietnam are in the mind of McMaster and have been discussed within the Trump Administration every step of the way towards crafting the U.S.’ strategy in Afghanistan.

As Trump acknowledged, Americans are understandably frustrated and sick of being at war in Afghanistan. But there is reason to believe we can be successful. Moreover, advocates of a withdrawal have yet to explain how we can withdraw and still stop Afghanistan from becoming an extremely dangerous terrorist base.

If we would withdraw from Afghanistan now, how would we feel seeing images on our TV screens of the Taliban coming back to power, carrying out massacres and once again stopping girls from going to school, knowing that we could have stopped it.

We’ve sacrificed too much already to hand Afghanistan back to the Taliban and regressive forces. The consequences of retreat are so dire that it’s worth giving Trump and his team a chance for their strategy to work.

While Nobody’s Looking, China And India Are Carrying Out A Real-Life ‘Game Of Thrones’

July 20, 2017

While Nobody’s Looking, China And India Are Carrying Out A Real-Life ‘Game Of Thrones’, The Federalist, July 20, 2017

(The article, dated July 20th, states, “Starting this week, India is holding naval exercises with the United States and Japan, a move viewed by observers as a show of force against China’s rising naval power.” However, the link provided, dated July 10th, states that “The Malabar exercises involving Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force and the US and Indian navies are taking place in the Bay of Bengal and will last until July 17.” Please see also, Malabar Exercise: India, US and Japan deploy its biggest carriers in show of force against China’s growing naval power at Warsclerotic. — DM)

The Asian version of the conflict between House Lannister and House Stark is playing out over a patch of remote land high in the Himalayas, bordered by China, India, and Bhutan. The Chinese dragon and the Indian tiger, the two most populous nations with nuclear weapons, are engaging in their worst border dispute in 40 years, which has turned this spit of land into the most dangerous place in Asia.

You haven’t heard anything about it until now because the U.S. media is so focused on who talked to whom during the 2016 presidential campaign that they can’t spare any resources to report on truly consequential events taking place around the world.

China and India share a very long border of more than 2,000 miles. The two countries have engaged in various border disputes since the nineteenth century. They even fought a war in 1962 over border issues. China claimed it won the war but India only admitted that the war resulted in a stalemate and left many border issues unresolved.

The most recent border dispute started in June, when Indian soldiers stopped a Chinese army construction crew from building a road in a pocket of land in the Dokalam region. Since this land lies between Bhutan, China, and the Indian state of Sikkim, all three countries claim ownership of it. China calls this region Donglang and treats it as part of Chinese-controlled Tibet. Thus, China firmly believes that it has every right to build the road within its sovereign territory. China let India know that “trespass into Chinese territory is a blatant infringement on China’s sovereignty, which should be immediately and unconditionally rectified.” However, Bhutan and India disagree.

This Land Is My Land

Bhutan is a tiny country wedged between two nuclear-armed superpowers. It doesn’t have an official diplomatic relationship with China. The government of Bhutan issued a demarche to China over the road construction, asking China to stop. Since Bhutan has a close relationship with India and relies on India for security protection, it also asked India for help. China has tried unsuccessfully to break the Bhutan-India alliance by engaging Bhutan directly. Bhutan, however, follows India’s lead on this matter.

From India’s perspective, it intervenes on behalf of both India and Bhutan because both have historical claims to the disputed land. Since Beijing and New Delhi agreed back in 2012 to solve their particular border dispute in this tri-junction area through consultations with all countries involved, New Delhi regards China’s recent road construction as a unilateral violation of the 2012 understanding.

Furthermore, India’s military is concerned that the road China intends to build will give China easier access to a strategically important area in India, which is known as the “chicken’s neck,” “a 20km (12-mile) wide corridor that links the seven north-eastern states to the Indian mainland.” If China’s road project succeeds, India military believes it would diminish their own “terrain and tactical advantage” over the Chinese army in this area.

India is also suspicious of the road project’s timing. The construction began right around the same time that India’s Prime Minister Modi was giving U.S. President Trump bear hugs and President Trump proclaimed that the U.S.-India relationship was “never better.” Did China try to warn India not to get too close to the United States by starting a road construction in the disputed area at this particular time? Many in India seem to think so.

Soldiers Face Off ‘Eyeball to Eyeball’

The border standoff continues with no obvious solution in sight. Both China and India increased their troop levels at the border. Online video shows soldiers from both countries facing off “eyeball to eyeball.” So far no one has fired the first shot yet, but the war of words has been heating up, not just at the border, but through both countries’ government officials and media.

China’s ambassador to India said “the first priority is that the Indian troops unconditionally pull back to the Indian side of the boundary. That is the precondition for any meaningful dialogue between China and India.” Chinese media used the 1962 Sino-India border war as an example to forewarn India that if the two sides get into a military conflict again, India will have the most to lose. Chinese media also warned Tibetan exiles in India not to take advantage of the situation because “sovereignty over Tibet is nonnegotiable.”

Indian Defense and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley fired back at China’s rhetoric by reminding China that the India of 2017 is not the India of 1962. He further pointed out that China’s intended construction site was on “Bhutan’s land, close to the Indian border, and Bhutan and India have an arrangement to provide security…To say we will come there and grab the land of some other country is what China is doing and it is absolutely wrong.”

Any Misstep Can Be Fatal

This dispute is a reflection of a deeper problem: the underlying, deep-rooted mistrust and hostility between China and India. Each feels insecure of the other nation’s growing economic and military power. These two countries, with a combined population of more than 2 billion people, both have nuclear weapons and strong nationalistic leaders, and are elbowing each other for the iron throne—ultimate dominance in the region. No one is willing to back down at this point.

Besides border disputes, both nations have breathed plenty of fires to irritate the other side. China’s pipeline project with Myanmar not only allows China to have easier access to cheap oil, but also enables Chinese ships to be present in India’s eastern backyard. India snubbed China’s “One Belt and One Road”(OBOR) economic summit in May by not sending a high-level delegation. India media even called the OBOR initiative “a new kind of colonization.” Starting this week, India is holding naval exercises with the United States and Japan, a move viewed by observers as a show of force against China’s rising naval power.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from the 1962 war, it’s this: any miscalculation or any missteps by either nation could lead to a war with devastating consequences not just for the region, but for the rest of the world. Therefore, it’s absolutely essential that the two nations find a peaceful resolution to their border dispute as soon as possible.

The United States probably will need support from both China and India to deal with the rising threat from North Korea. Therefore, it’s in the United States’ best interest to serve as a mediator to help both nations reach a diplomatic solution, before the “Game of Thrones” Asian edition moves from a fantasy to a bloody reality.

Helen Raleigh owns Red Meadow Advisors, LLC, and is an immigration policy fellow at the Centennial Institute in Colorado. She is the author of several books, including “Confucius Never Said” and “The Broken Welcome Mat.

U.S. Group Connected to Terrorists in Kashmir

July 17, 2017

U.S. Group Connected to Terrorists in Kashmir, Clarion ProjectRyan Mauro, July 17, 2017

(Please see also, Exclusive: Jihadi Cult Associate Arrested in NY With Firearms Stockpile. — DM)

The State Department recently blacklisted Mohammad Yusuf Shah (known as Syed Salahuddin), (2nd from right), leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist group (Photo: SAJJAD QAYYUM/AFP/Getty Images)

Neither Hizbul Mujahideen nor Jamaat ul-Fuqra (the original informal name of MOA) are on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.


The U.S. sanctioned the leader of an Islamist terrorist group in Kashmir named Hizbul Mujahideen late last month. The move targets an ideological ally of the U.S.-based Muslims of America organization (MOA), a cultish group known for its “Islamic villages” like Islamberg that is expressing support for the Kashmir terrorist group.

On June 26, the State Department blacklisted Mohammad Yusuf Shah (commonly known as Syed Salahuddin), the leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist group that fights in Kashmir against India and operates in Pakistan with backing from the Pakistani government.

Pakistan condemned the U.S. action.

Hizbul Mujahideen is the largest militant force in Kashmir. It condemns nationalism and democracy. It fights to create a theocratic Islamic state and caliphate. It is also closely linked to other Pakistani terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda affiliates.

MOA’s extremist leader, Sheikh Gilani, is based in Lahore, Pakistan and has long been involved in this circle of Pakistani terrorist groups. A 2003 FBI report says MOA acts as a conduit to groups in Pakistan affiliated with Al-Qaeda. This is substantiated by a former MOA member who went to Pakistan.

That is why it is so concerning that Muslims of America, a group that has boasted of having 22 “Islamic villages” in the U.S., is expressing solidarity with Hizbul Mujahideen.

MOA’s relationship with the group goes as far back as 1990.

Click here for, the authoritative database on Muslims of America (also known as Jamaat ul-Fuqra)

On May 2, MOA announced a “multi-dimensional campaign” to “liberate” Kashmir from India. Its written statement was essentially a declaration to Muslims that Allah requires them to rally behind Hizbul Mujahideen.

It exalts the “charismatic leadership” of Burhan Wani, a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander killed last year. It credits him with inspiring “a new generation of fearless youth” and “freedom fighters.” MOA depicts the terrorist group as the face of the Kashmiri resistance to India.

In August 2016, MOA’s newspaper condemned India for killing a “top pro-independence militant leader.” Based on the wording, you’d think MOA was talking about a Kashmiri George Washington. Actually, it was Hizbul Mujahideen’s operations commander. MOA’s coverage presented the group as enjoying massive popular support.

In March 2017, MOA’s newspaper covered a battle between Indian forces and Hizbul Mujahideen and sided with the jihadists. It referred to them as “Kashmiri freedom fighters” contesting the “oppressive and violent treatment of the Kashmiri people by Indian forces.”

There’s good reason to suspect that MOA is providing Hizbul Mujahideen with more than sympathy.

MOA has a long relationship with the terrorist group. In 1990, MOA even wrote a public letter calling on all Muslims to contribute to jihad in Kashmir and to support the “Kashmir Freedom Front,” which was essentially another name for Hizbul Mujahideen.

Jihadis in Kashmir (Photo: SAJJAD QAYYUM/AFP/Getty Images)


On July 6, 2016, MOA published a public letter to the U.N. that said Muslims in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir are required to defend the Kashmiris against India “by every possible means.” Gilani and MOA have had a long presence in Kashmir, including a village named “Gillaniville.” Therefore, the letter is declaring that MOA is obligated to become involved “by every possible means.”

The letter also called on Muslim countries to unite into a single organization with a single force for intervention in places where Muslims are oppressed. In other words, to form a caliphate. MOA’s ideologyhas always been in favor of a caliphate, theocratic sharia law and violent jihad in places like Kashmir.

MOA’s May 2 press conference emphasized activism and humanitarian aid, but it did not reject violence or supporting violent elements.

In fact, MOA endorsed jihad by calling on Pakistan to intervene against the Indian military, an obviously violent action. Additionally, MOA’s claim that India is engaged in “genocide” would make jihad defensible, if not mandatory, to any Muslim audience.

The online statement announces its support for Kashmiris’ “struggle for self-determination.” Struggle is the synonym for jihad. That same statement heaps praise upon Hizbul Mujahideen for its jihad against India. MOA obviously chose to avoid using the eye-catching word in favor of the vaguer synonym, knowing that a Muslim audience would understand that it is referring to jihad.

MOA chief executive Hussein Adams, son of convicted terrorist Barry Adams, boasted at the May 2 press conference that MOA has been involved in supporting the Kashmiri “struggle” since the 1980s. Of course, he didn’t mention their involvement in jihad and soliciting of support for Hizbul Mujahideen.

Their own documents acknowledge this violent role in the Kashmir jihad. It is also seen in a secret video by Sheikh Gilani filmed and distributed among some MOA members in 1991-1993. Gilani explicitly says that MOA communes in North America can facilitate such training for jihad in places where Muslims are in battle, with Kashmir being the top priority. Training was open to Muslims outside of MOA.

Sheikh Gilani’s tape, which I was the first to publicly release long excerpts of, showed that MOA’s public face is different than what it says and does in private. This is undeniable proof that MOA was engaged in terrorism and that Gilani used his American camps to train and recruit terrorists for Kashmir and other places,” Martin Mawyer, president of the Christian Action Network told Clarion Project.

The Clarion Project later obtained and released a video of women at Islamberg receiving guerilla training that was filmed in 2001-2002.

MOA spoke of its providing of money, food, supplies and medical to Kashmiris using two fronts: The Kashmir American Friendship Society and the American Muslim Medical Relief Team. We know from government reports and prosecutions that MOA sends money, personnel and material to Gilani in Pakistan for more extremist purposes.

MOA complained that its applications for its “journalists” with its newspapers to go to Pakistan and Kashmir are not being approved. Obviously, the Pakistani government and/or the U.S. government don’t see their trips to Pakistan so innocuously.

This issue exposes a gap in America’s national security policy: Neither Hizbul Mujahideen nor Jamaat ul-Fuqra (the original informal name of MOA) are on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

A dozen Muslim organizations in North America have asked the State Department to review Fuqra/MOA for designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, as it fits the listed criteria. The case for designating Hizbul Mujahideen is much stronger, as the State Department has just acknowledged that it fits the criteria for its leader to be blacklisted as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

The State Department acknowledges that Hizbul Mujahideen fits the definition of a Foreign Terrorist Organization and it should now designate it as such. Doing so could sever whatever material relationship exists between Hizbul Mujahideen and Islamists in America like MOA and enable investigations and prosecutions of jihadists in America involved with the Pakistan-backed terrorist group.

India China Standoff in High Himalayas Pulls in Tiny Bhutan

July 14, 2017

India China Standoff in High Himalayas Pulls in Tiny Bhutan, Global Security Org., Anjana Pasricha, July 13, 2017

Despite some calls in Bhutan to settle its border with China without worrying about Indian interests, political analysts say public opinion largely favors New Delhi’s firm stand on the Doklam plateau.

But while in the past such border standoffs have been resolved quickly, this time around there are no signs the issue is getting resolved, nearly a month after it erupted.


A tense standoff between India and China in the high Himalayas is being played out not on the disputed borders between the two Asian giants, but on a plateau claimed by China and Bhutan. Many analysts say the face off is also a play for power in the tiny, strategically located country, which is India’s closest ally in South Asia, but where Beijing wants to increase its presence.

Indian troops obstructed a Chinese road-building project at Doklam Plateau around mid-June. The area also known as “Chicken’s Neck” is hugely strategic for India because it connects the country’s mainland to its northeastern region.

New Delhi cites its treaties with Bhutan, with which it has close military and economic ties, for keeping its soldiers in the area despite strident calls by Beijing to vacate the mountain region.

As the standoff drags on, there are fears in New Delhi that Beijing is also testing its ties with Bhutan, the tiny nation that has made gross national happiness its mantra, but where worries are growing about a big power conflict on its doorstep.

Analysts point out that China wants to wean Bhutan away from India and expand ties with a country with which it has no diplomatic ties.

“At a strategic level, China would like to separate India from Bhutan, they would like to open up Bhutan to their greater influence, that goes without saying,” said Manoj Joshi, a strategic affairs analyst at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

One small move at a time

According to political analysts, it is not the first time the Chinese have built a road in a disputed area in Bhutan, which has a disputed border with China at several places in the high Himalayas.

“They have done the same in other areas, built roads in mountains and valleys and then claimed it was their territory during border negotiations,” said a Bhutanese political analyst who did not want to be identified. “It has been a hot button issue here, and has been repeatedly debated in parliament.”

These “encroachments” are seen as efforts by Beijing to muscle into Bhutan in the same manner as it has done in South China Sea. Analysts call it a “salami slicing” tactic.

But Bhutan, which worries about being drawn into the rivalry between the two large neighbors, has maintained a studied silence on the latest dispute, except to issue one demarche calling on Beijing to restore the status quo in the area.

“Bhutan has done well, so far, to avoid both the fire from the Dragon on our heads and also the Elephant’s tusks in our soft underbelly. We must keep it this way,” Bhutanese journalist Tenzing Lamsang wrote for The Wire.

Despite some calls in Bhutan to settle its border with China without worrying about Indian interests, political analysts say public opinion largely favors New Delhi’s firm stand on the Doklam plateau.

Influence at stake

While keeping the Chinese out of the strategic plateau is India’s immediate concern, there is also concern about maintaining its influence in Bhutan, which is a buffer between China and India.

India has watched warily as Beijing has steadily increased its presence in its neighborhood in recent years as countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka have also been increasingly drawn into the Chinese sphere of influence by the promise of massive investments in roads, ports and other infrastructure.

In India there are concerns that the same should not happen in Bhutan, its most steadfast ally. Saying the Chinese have been applying pressure on the Bhutanese border, analystManoj Joshi said. “If Bhutan were to go the way of say Nepal, where Indian influence is now questioned, it would make a difference, that buffer would vanish.”

India’s foreign secretary S. Jaishankar this week expressed confidence that India and China have the maturity to handle their latest dispute and it will be handled diplomatically. “I see no reason why, when having handled so many situations in the past, we would not be able to handle it,” he said.

But while in the past such border standoffs have been resolved quickly, this time around there are no signs the issue is getting resolved, nearly a month after it erupted.

The Israel-India renewed friendship

July 7, 2017

Good News Friday Part I – The Israel-India renewed friendship | Anne’s Opinions, 7th July 2017

The visit this week of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the first ever official visit of an Indian Prime Minister to Israel, is too important to relegate to a small item in a regular Good News Friday post, so this week you shall receive a double portion (just like the Manna in the wilderness 😀 )

Indian PM Narendra Modi and Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Israel’s welcome of Modi was almost ecstatic. Not only the Prime Minister and the government, but the people of Israel too were delighted with the visit of this remarkable man. The warmth between the two nations was expressed right from the start, on Modi’s descending from his plane onto the tarmac. Watch just the first minutes of PM Modi’s (25 minute long) video to understand:

As Modi said:

Israellycool’s Aussie Dave remarks on Modi’s choice of clothing:

But there is even more to the level of respect and affection than meets the eye. The Times of India explains that even PM Modi’s fashion choice was meant as a tribute to Israel.

He wore a white suit with a blue handkerchief to represent the colours of Israel. What a beautiful gesture! What a mensch!

As to the substance of the visit, Vijeta Uniyal, writing at Israellycool, gives us some more background to the visit:

With bilateral relations at all-time high, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has embarked on a 3-day visit to Israel today. Prime Minister Modi becomes the first ever sitting Indian premier to visit the Jewish State.

Developmental issues such as agriculture technology and water management will be high on agenda during the historic visit that marks the 25 years of bilateral diplomatic ties. Both countries are expected to sign an agreement setting up a $40 million innovation fund to finance joint research in agriculture, water, energy and technology during the prime ministerial visit.

“In the last few years the world has seen the India Israel relationship come out from the perception of just Defense related activities to showcasing a fantastic connection in agricultural, educational, entrepreneurial & cultural cooperation. It’s these new areas which are making this bilateral a model for the rest of the world to follow.” Rishi Suri, senior international affairs editor at Indian newspaper Daily Milap, told Israellycool.

Vijeta Uniyal wrote another piece at Legal Insurrection on Israel and India’s newly upgraded ties during the historic visit:

“Narendra Modi receives extraordinary welcome as he begins path-breaking visit to Israel,” noted Indian financial daily Economic Times. “The personal chemistry and the warmth between Modi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was apparent in their remarks and their hugs.” The newspaper noted the significance of the visit that goes beyond the impressive personal rapport that both world leaders have managed to forge:

Behind the overt affection and friendship, lies deep political significance as India for the first time has delinked its relationship with Israel from its traditional support to Palestine. But, India now hopes to leverage its relationship with Israel to attract more investment, and gain from Israeli cutting-edge technology and defence.

“Investments to boost tourism, education and cultural ties and building bridges with the Indian diaspora in Israel can help boost ties between the two countries,” wrote the leading Indian business daily Mint. “Indeed, these are the low-hanging fruits in the bilateral relationship that can be plucked right away.”

Indian PM Narendra Modi and Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu on Modi’s arrival in India

“Red carpet welcome done, PM Narendra Modi gets down to business in Israel today,” reported the Indian news channel NDTV. “Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who usually meets visiting heads of government for a meeting and over dinner or lunch meeting, will accompany PM Modi to most engagements.”

On a historic visit that started with firm handshakes, hugs and a smattering of Hindi and Hebrew, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will get down to business today with back-to-back meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders that will focus on cooperation on defence, security, water and more. Apart from the multiple pacts that the two strategic partners are expected to seal at Wednesday’s meetings, the two leaders are also expected to deliver a strong message against terrorism in their joint statement. Both leaders had yesterday spoken in one voice to resolutely combat terrorism and radicalism.

India-Israel partnership in the field of start-up alone has a revenue potential of $25 billion, projected NASSCOM, the association of Indian IT companies. Indian daily Financial Expresspublished the excerpts of a report compiled by NASSCOM and consultancy firm Accenture:

Revenue worth USD 25 billion can be generated in India and Israel through cumulative cross- border investment into start-ups in these two countries, a joint report by Nasscom and Accenture today said. The report titled ‘Collaborative Innovation: The vehicle driving Indo-Israel prosperity’ noted India and Israel’s innovation ecosystems share unique innovation complementary traits in three areas — temperament, talent and technology.

The reaction in India to Narendra Modi’s visit was surprisingly very positive across all sectors of the country, even among their large Muslim minority as Vijeta Uniyal reports:

In a stunning display, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel received favourable coverage from across the Indian media landscape. The Indian Prime Minister was in Israel on a 3-day visit, first ever by an Indian premier.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit lays “the foundation of a new chapter in relations with Israel,” commented the country’s leading business daily Economic Times. Both countries took “historic steps towards a new engagement,” wrote newspaper Hindustan Times. Like many Indian newspapers, The Hindu described the visit as “ground-breaking” and noted the “extraordinary welcome” Indian leader received in “the Jewish nation.”

“In reorienting India’s foreign policy, Narendra Modi is responding to history and realpolitik,” commented the often left-leaning Indian news website, FirstPost.

“It is time Muslims rethink their idea of Israel,” wrote the Indian-Muslim commentator Tufail Ahmad. “Muslims in India must keep in mind that their success lies in India’s prosperity. As India makes rapid progress, the fruits of economic development and growing educational opportunities will inevitably reach Muslims as well. However, India’s economic progress lies in its strong security partners: Israel and the US.”

There were prominent voices in support of Prime Minister’s visit, even within the main opposition Congress Party. The former Deputy Foreign Minister Shashi Tharoor praised Prime Minister Modi’s diplomacy on Israel. “[This] shows our relationship has reached a level of maturity which makes it possible for us to contemplate first ever PM visit [to Israel],” Tharoor said.

SwarajyaMag, India’s leading centre-right magazine with a young readership, praised Prime Minister Modi’s diplomatic initiative, urging the government to “disassociate itself completely from the Palestinian question” and seek greater strategic cooperation with Israel. Ahead of Modi’s visit, the publication was blunt in its assessment of India’s foreign policy, stating “[the Visit] does not upend India’s decades-long policy by betraying a tilt towards the Jewish state.” Criticising India’s track record at the UN and other international fora, SwarajyaMag wrote:

A truly historic moment would be if India were to disassociate itself completely from the Palestinian question – it is not as if it has contributed in any meaningful way all these years. The issue does not affect India and is best left to the concerned parties to resolve, much as India insists on Kashmir. If India’s voting at international fora were to shift to reflect this new position, such a move would give Israel much diplomatic room to manoeuvre.

Of course there was whining from the Palestinian camp, but that is hardly news. It would only be newsworthy if they had welcomed such a visit.

As for Israel, PM Modi’s visit and the deepening of bilateral relations has very important implications on the diplomatic front. Firstly, it shows that Israel can improve foreign relations even in the absence of a peace process, as Raphael Ahren writes in the Times of Israel:

But amid all the compliments paid and deals struck, perhaps most striking about Modi’s historic visit were the things that weren’t mentioned. Iran — a close Indian ally — for example. The Islamic Republic’s ongoing destabilizing actions in the region and continuous calls for Israel’s destruction were not raised, or at least not publicly.

In meetings with world leaders, even those with good relations to Tehran, Netanyahu usually doesn’t shy away from talking about Iran. Last December in Astana, for instance, he asked Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to send a message to Tehran. “Ask … why Iran continues to threaten us with annihilation. Don’t you understand: we’re not a rabbit. We’re a tiger,” he said.

Hosting Modi, Netanyahu refrained from belligerent statements directed at Tehran, despite the fact that Iranian terrorists were responsible for a 2012 terror attack in New Delhi, during which an Israeli was wounded. India never made any arrests in this case.

More importantly, the Palestinian issue was entirely absent from Modi’s visit. The Indian leader’s intention to separate Delhi’s friendship to Israel from its support for the Palestinians was evident once it emerged that Modi would visit Israel but skip the Palestinian Authority. But it was even more remarkable that in several speeches Modi made in Israel, he never cited the issue.

In a two-page joint statement the governments of Israel and India released Wednesday, the two leaders dedicated but one of 22 paragraphs to their discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. “They underlined the need for the establishment of a just and durable peace in the region,” the declaration read. “They reaffirmed their support for an early negotiated solution between the sides based on mutual recognition and security arrangements.”

The premier of India — a state which in 1947 opposed the UN Partition Plan and, 65 years later, supported granting the “State of Palestine” nonmember state status at the UN General Assembly — did not endorse Palestinian statehood once during his time here. He did not mention the two-state solution or the principle of two states for two peoples.

Herb Keinon in the Jerusalem Post similarly notes that Narendra Modi spent over two days in the country – and never once mentioned the Palestinians, nor did he visit them.

But one of the most refreshing aspects for Netanyahu was certainly that Modi did not publicly lecture or hector about the Palestinian issue. Had he come here and not coupled his visit with a quick trip to Ramallah to see Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, that – in Netanyahu’s eyes – would have been enough.

But Modi did even more than that. He didn’t even mention the Palestinians in public. He didn’t slam Israel for the settlements. And in the joint statement carefully drawn up by both sides spelling out the underpinnings of the relationship, the Palestinians were not mentioned until the 20th clause of a 22-clause document.

And even there, India – which was the first non-Muslim country in 1987 to recognize “Palestine” – spoke only generically about a “just and durable peace in the region,” without explicitly calling for a two-state solution.

Netanyahu had to wish that all his guests – especially those from Europe – behaved like Modi.

Why? What happened? How come Modi, whose country for decades was at the forefront of championing the Palestinian cause, did not even give the issue public lip service while here.

There are many reasons, some having to do with how Asians do business, others with how Modi prepared the ground for the trip, and still others dealing with India’s emerging power and status in the world.

First a word about style. India, unlike many of the European countries, does not like “megaphone diplomacy.”

One of the reasons, the officials said, is that India detests when other countries lecture and hector it about its fraught relationship with Pakistan, an indication New Delhi has internalized – at least when it comes to Israel – Hillel’s famous dictum about not doing to others what is hateful to you.

Secondly, Modi could get away with making this a strictly bilateral trip because he carefully prepared the ground for it.

Elected in 2014, there was talk that he would come to Israel already in the summer of 2015. He didn’t. He waited. He first went to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar and Iran, where he obviously explained the nature of India’s relationship with Israel, and that improved ties with Israel would not come at their expense.

He also invited PA President Mahmoud Abbas to New Delhi in May, publicly supported a Palestinian state, and pledged that India’s historical support for the Palestinians would not waver.

In other words, he got all his ducks in a row before making his historic trip to Israel, something important from an Indian perspective considering that more than seven million Indians live and work in the Persian Gulf.

One of the reasons often given in the past for the brakes the Indians put on the relationship with Israel, was that a high-profile relationship would infuriate India’s Muslims.

It doesn’t.

India’s Muslims did not take to the streets when it became clear Modi wanted to visit, they didn’t raise a hue and cry. One conclusion is that the resonance of the Palestinian issue on the Muslim- populations in non-Arab countries is not as great as is often imagined. Another conclusion is that with all the turmoil in the Middle East, with the hundreds and thousands who have died in the region since the Arab Spring, the Palestinian issue has simply dropped as a priority issue.

If only other countries could learn from India and follow their lead, how different would the world, particularly the Middle East, look today.

And lastly, some highlights from PM Narendra Modi’s visit via the ToI link above:

The three-day visit was brimful with grand gestures — including plenty of Modi’s trademark hugs — and mutual declarations of love and admiration. Modi’s jam-packed itinerary comprised political talks with the government and the leader of the opposition, and secret talks on improving counter-terrorism coordination. There was an emotional meeting with an 11-year-old Jewish boy who lost his parents in the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai. Modi addressed a Bollywood-infused concert/rally for Israelis with Indian roots. And after paying his respect to the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, he spontaneously visited the nearby grave of Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl.

A floricultural center named a flower after him, and he took a stroll with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the beach. The photos of the two leaders, their bare feet in the water as they chatted about Israeli desalination techniques, will go down in history as one of the most iconic images to come out of Israel since Netanyahu and Barack Obama took off their suit jackets at Ben Gurion Airport in March 2013.


Watch the two leaders at the beach. 🙂


On the economic front, too, the visit will have an impressive lasting impact. Israel and India established a $40 million Industrial R&D and Innovation Fund, and individual companies from both nations signed deals worth millions. Jerusalem and Delhi signed seven bilateral agreements, covering technology, agriculture, water and even space research. “We already agreed that the sky is not the limit because we’re doing it in space, but I think that the talents that we have in India and Israel are amazing and the possibilities are amazing,” Netanyahu said Thursday at the launch of the Israel-India CEOs’ Forum.

Modi formally invited Netanyahu to visit India, something the Israeli leader had dreamed about for years.

On a more serious note, in a very moving and emotional moment , Modi met with Moshe Holzberg, the little boy who was saved by his Indian nanny during a terror attack in Mumbai in which his parents, Chabad emissaries Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holzberg Hy’d, were killed.

The 11-year-old son of Chabad emissaries who were murdered in a 2008 jihadist rampage in Mumbai told visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he loves India and wants to return to complete the mission of his slain parents, during an emotional meeting Wednesday.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C-L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C-R) meet with Moshe Holtzberg (C), and his nanny Sandra Solomon and with other relatives at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on July 5, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / POOL / ATEF SAFADI)

Modi met with Moshe Holtzberg, pulling the boy close for an embrace and telling him that he would always be welcome in India.

Moshe’s nanny, Sandra Samuel, escaped from the Nariman Chabad House carrying 2-year-old Moshe in November 2008 after the building came under siege. Four Jewish victims were killed, including Moshe’s parents, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg. Samuel has remained in Israel and was at the meeting as well.

At their meeting at a hotel in Tel Aviv, Modi immediately embraced Moshe, pulling him close and cupping his head against his chest before inviting him to come back to India.

The boy, accompanied by his grandparents who are raising him, welcomed the Indian premier to Israel.

Wearing a lapel pin with Indian and Israeli flags, he read out a message in halting English, telling Modi, “I hope I will be able to visit Mumbai, and when I get older, live there. I will be the director of our Chabad House” in place of his murdered father. “With God’s help, this is my answer.”

“Dear Mr. Modi,” Holtzberg concluded, “I love you and your people in India.”

I challenge you to have a dry eye at seeing this courageous little boy, all grown up, speaking two or three languages, and having developed so well thanks to his brave nanny Sandra Solomon and his wonderful grandparents and family.

And one more item from Modi’s visit to conclude this enjoyable post:

The Indian-Israeli community went gaga over Modi’s visit, celebrating in a jubilant fashion:

On Wednesday, thousands of Indian Israelis gathered in the city to greet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a glitzy, wild welcome for the first premier from their home country to visit the Jewish state.

Brightly colored Indian saris mingled with jeans and t-shirts — and not a few kippot and religious headscarves — at Wednesday’s event, which began with several Bollywood dance acts and a concert.

Members of the Indian community in Israel celebrate during the official visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the Convention Center in Tel Aviv, on July 5, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)


Bollywood dancing at festivities celebrating Modi’s visit to Israel

“It gives me chills,” said Naomi Yakub, who immigrated to Israel from India in the early 1970s and is part of a community of some 100,000 Indian Jews living in the country. For the Jewish community in Israel, “a meeting like this we haven’t had in 45 years,” she said.

“We love India, because we were born there and our parents are there,” added her friend Tal Shulamith, now a resident of Be’er Yaakov in central Israel. “It’s very emotional.”

But the culmination of the community’s raw elation was reserved for the moment Modi and Netanyahu walked on stage to Academy Award-level applause and a solid two-minute standing ovation. The leaders — Modi dressed in blue-and-beige, Netanyahu in a blue tie — clasped hands triumphantly in the air.

“Modi! Modi! Modi!” chanted the observers, some of whom wore “I am a fan of Narendra Modi” t-shirts.

Hailing the strong bilateral ties between the two countries for 25 years, Netanyahu noted that “we always remember that there’s a human bridge between us — you. We admire you, we respect you, we love you.”

Taking the stage after Netanyahu, Modi gave a lengthy speech in Hindi to the crowd of mostly Indian immigrants.

“For the first time in 70 years an Indian PM has got an opportunity to visit Israel,” his office wrote on Twitter in English simultaneously. “This is a matter of joy.”

For Israel’s Indian community, it certainly was.

Not only for Israel’s Indian community. For all of us.

Safe journey home Mr. Modi. May our two countries continue on the path to deep and warm relations for our mutual benefit.

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

What We Could Learn from Israel

March 24, 2016

What We Could Learn from Israel, Gatestone InstituteVijeta Uniyal, March 24, 2016

♦ To become a successful nation, India realizes that we have to emulate the Jewish quest for spiritual and worldly learning. We need a nation of empowered men and women, free and fearless to develop social, technological, entrepreneurial and humanitarian creativity, even while under constant attack.

♦ When we see the restoration of Jewish State and revival of Judaism in its ancient lands, we Hindus see ourselves. If Judaism is incomplete without the Jewish homeland, the essence of Hinduism is indivisible with the geography of India. Just as Jews were forced out and in exile for millennia, Hindus too suffered a millennium of Islamic and later European subjugation in their own homeland.

♦ Recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, Mumbai, Paris, Istanbul and Ankara are simply what Israel has been living with for decades — and India, France, Belgium and Turkey do not have “settlements.” The conflict is not about “settlements”. It is about one group of people trying imposing its will, culture, religion and way of life on another group. With Israel, the “settlements” are only the pretext. If you look at any map of “Palestine,” it has the exact outlines of Israel.

For most Indians, it is hard not to feel a deep sense of historic gratitude towards Israel and the Jewish people. The State of Israel came to our military aid in just about every war India fought as an independent nation since 1947. Our elected leaders, in their vanity, polished their statesmanlike credentials denouncing Israel at every possible international gathering, even as they kept on turning to the Jewish State for help in times of dire need, whether civilian or military. From Golda Meir to Ariel Sharon, Israel never turned down any request.

Getting nothing in return, the tiny and beleaguered nation paid a price for its support for India. At times, adversely affecting its relations with China or annoying its most vital ally, the United States, by extending support to a “socialist” country at the height of the Cold War.

If there ever was a true sign of goodwill extended from one nation to another, Israel had shown it toward India and so many other nations, from Zaire to Haiti and elsewhere.

Despite this, it took India more than four decades just to treat Israel as an equal partner on the world stage — when India established full diplomatic relations with Israel in January 1991.

India, however, had one redeeming quality. Although our political leaders hitched their wagon to the Soviet Union and the Pan-Arab nationalism in the early days of the Cold War, the Hindus of India, who constitute an 80% majority of the country’s population, have been steadfast and consistent in their support for the State of Israel and the Jewish people. An international survey conducted by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2009 found Indians having the most favorable opinion of Israel, even ahead of U.S. respondents by a small margin. In August 2014, at the height of Gaza conflict, the city of Calcutta staged a 20,000-strong rally in support of the Jewish State, making it probably the largest pro-Israel rally that Asia ever witnessed.

Finally, with the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2014, the India’s official policies have begun to reflect the desires and aspirations of the majority Hindu population of the nation.

1524Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New York, on September 29, 2014. (Image source: Israel Government Press Office)

To become a successful nation, we realize that we have to emulate the Jewish quest for spiritual and worldly learning. We need a nation of empowered men and women, free and fearless to develop social, technological, entrepreneurial and humanitarian creativity, even while under constant attack.

The homecoming of the Jews and restoration of the Jewish State in its historic land has been a source of great hope for us Hindus. When we see the restoration of Jewish State and revival of Judaism in its ancient land, we Hindus see ourselves.

If Judaism is incomplete without the Jewish homeland, the essence of Hinduism is indivisible with the geography of India. Just as Jews were forced out and in exile for millennia, Hindus too suffered a millennium of Islamic and later European subjugation in their own homeland.

After surviving the most vicious genocide in human history — a brutal and systematic attempt by Nazi Germany to annihilate the entire Jewish population of Europe, claiming six million Jewish lives, the Jewish people worked to create a nation based on democracy, freedom, equality for people of all religions and ethnicities — the only democracy in the Middle East.

Today, over a million Arabs enjoy equal citizenship rights in Israel, and a level of religious liberty and rule of law never seen before in the Middle East. Arab Israelis are present in all walks of Israeli life; holding top positions in business, academia, media, government as well as military leadership.

The tiny nation of Israel absorbed wave after wave of immigration, including a million Jews driven out of the Arab lands soon after the creation of Jewish State in 1948, Ethiopian Jews, and Russians escaping communism. Today, Israel is home to over 80,000 Jews of Indian origin. They have been fully integrated, and have excelled in all areas of society. They serve gallantly in the Israel Defense Force and bring glory to the country in sports. An IDF soldier of Indian origin, Barak Refael Degorker, was killed by Hamas during the Gaza conflict of 2014. Mumbai-born Sarah Avraham became Israel’s 2012 women’s Thai boxing champion.

As the nation-states of Europe drive toward an impending disaster in failing to assert their spiritual and national identity in the face of the massive influx of Muslim migrants, only the example of Israel offers us hope.

We must admit the failures, based on European liberalism, in our nation-building project. Western-style “affirmative-action” has failed to rid the country of caste-based discrimination, and all that the European style of hyper-sensitivity towards “Muslim sentiments” has done is stifle cultural freedoms in the country. India became the first nation to ban Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses, before even Iran, Saudi Arabia and other theocratic Islamic regimes announced their fatwas and bans. For decades, India shied away from technological and academic cooperation with Israel. India seemed to have been trying to act even more Arab than the Arabs themselves.

Only an enlightened nation, built on a strong bedrock of Hindu unity, can ensure a secure and prosperous future for India. We cannot build a nation on foundations of an unjust and immoral caste system.

Just as the resurgence of Judaism in its historic and ancestral homeland means no threat to the Muslim faith, Hindu resurgence and unity should cause no harm to religious minorities of other faiths. Countries that would like to succeed and thrive would do well to follow the example of Israel.

The terrorism originating from neighboring Muslim lands must not only be countered militarily, but also with a renewed assertion of our on spiritual and national identity.

Arabs and Muslims might surely realize that they themselves have been the biggest losers of the wars of fanaticism they have waged, and turn their attention to rebuilding their societies and facing the real issues of violence, bigotry, ignorance and poverty — to name just a few.

Until then, we all have a nation to build and a home to defend.

Recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, Mumbai, Paris, Istanbul and Ankara are simply what Israel has been living with for decades — and India, France, Belgium and Turkey do not have “settlements.” The conflict is not about “settlements”. It is about one group of people trying imposing its will, culture, religion and way of life on another group. With Israel, the “settlements” are only the pretext. If you look at any map of “Palestine,” it has the exact outlines of Israel.

It is beyond our scope, as Indians, to heal the pathologies of the Muslim world. We can only limit the damage by defending our home and securing our national borders.

Until that day comes, we would all do well to stand with Israel.

Nuclear Iran’s “Spillover Effects”

April 14, 2015

Nuclear Iran’s “Spillover Effects” Gatestone InstituteVijeta Uniyal, April 13, 2015

As President Obama tries to sell the world his mysterious nuclear “framework agreement,” India’s defense establishment is just not buying it. The U.S. and Western commentators might be expecting “peace dividends” from Iran, but India cannot afford to harbor such illusions.

The Iranians have already announced that they plan to sell “enriched uranium” in the international marketplace, and will be “hopefully making some money” from it. To whom will they sell?

A nuclear Iran would be able to hold the world hostage by blocking one-third of the world’s oil supply at the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian proxies have also been trying to seize control of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, the maritime choke point of the Suez Canal.

The only question is whether the West would rather have an adversary such as Iran before it has nuclear weapons or after.

When the West and Iran agreed — or not, depending on whether one believes the U.S. version or Iran’s — on the parameters of a supposed nuclear “framework,” India’s foreign office hailed the agreement as a “significant step.”

India’s foreign office might have joined the international chorus welcoming the deal, but as U.S. President Barack Obama aggressively tries to sell the world his mysterious nuclear “framework,” India’s defense establishment is just not buying it.

India’s defense establishment seems to be having acute qualms about this “framework.”

One day after the P5+1’s mysterious “agreement” with Iran, India began gearing up for a more effective nuclear defense, and unveiled plans to equip the country’s capital, New Delhi, with a comprehensive missile defense shield to avert a nuclear attack.

Once in place, the shield could intercept missiles fired from a range of 5,000 km, roughly double the aerial distance between New Delhi and Tehran.

The first step would be to install the long-range “Swordfish” radars, developed with the help of Israel. They can track missiles from a range of 800 km.

India’s missile interceptor capability is expected to be functional by 2016. India also plans to set up a missile shield for its commercial capital, Mumbai.

1020At left, Indian defense contractors work on an Advanced Air Defence (AAD) interceptor missile. At right, an Indian AAD missile is test-launched.

On April 4, India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) also reiterated the country’s ability to hit targets well beyond its adjoining region.

India has always been seriously concerned about prospect of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. If Arab and Muslim countries decide to counter the Iranian nuclear threat with nuclear arsenal of their own, India’s hostile neighbor, Pakistan, is likely to want to play a crucial role.

India is not only vulnerable to nuclear threats from Pakistan. Both the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda have also openly declared hostility toward it. India has long been concerned about nuclear capabilities or materiel falling into the hands of Islamists in Pakistan. By now, it is no secret that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons capability, nuclear proliferation in the Middle East will increase exponentially. The Iranians have already announced that they plan to sell “enriched uranium” in the international marketplace and will be “hopefully making some money” from it. To whom will they sell?

President Obama and Western commentators might be expecting “peace dividends” from this “historic reconciliation” and be awaiting all sorts of positive “spillover effects” as a result of lifting sanctions — from changing Iran’s attitude towards Israel to democratizing the Iranian regime — but India cannot afford to harbor such illusions. Islamist terror has claimed more than 30,000 Indian lives in just the last two decades.

Indians are now bracing for the real spillover effects of a nuclear Iran.

Thanks to Washington’s indifference, Iran now controls four Arab capitals — Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut, and now Sana’a, while the U.S. has retreated from three: in Libya, Yemen and Iraq. If Iran can hold the Obama administration hostage without any leverage, a nuclear Iran would be able to hold the whole world hostage by blocking one-third of the world’s oil supply at the Strait of Hormuz — with impunity. Iranian proxies have also been trying to seize control of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, the maritime choke point of the Suez Canal.

European leaders who failed to show any resoluteness in face of Russian aggression against Ukraine, and even failed to vote against a “framework” that threatens global security, can hardly be expected to stand up to Tehran. The only question is whether the West would rather have an adversary such as Iran before it has nuclear weapons or after.

Once major European powers such as Russia, France and Germany start investing in Iranian infrastructure and entangling themselves with Iran economically, one can forget about rolling back sanctions.

Western leaders can spin the “framework” agreement all they want to cover up their abysmal diplomatic failure, but as Tehran’s centrifuges keep spinning as a result of the deal, the region turns more and more volatile.

Regardless of the diplomatic chorus and the media circus, the defense planers in New Delhi are just not buying this agreement. Other countries that care about the free world would be wise not to buy it, too.

Pakistan: Between Civility and Fanaticism

January 31, 2015

Pakistan: Between Civility and Fanaticism, The Gatestone InstituteSalim Mansur, January 31, 2015

(The history of Pakistan, “the land (or home) of the pure,” may provide insights into the future of Egypt and other Islamic nations. — DM)

A country made for Muslims has turned into a nightmare for Muslims.

The wish of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the father of Pakistan, was that the country evolved into a modern democratic state where Muslims, as a majority population, could feel at ease.

But the modernizers who succeeded the colonial authorities in taking power aroused expectations that were simply beyond their abilities to deliver.

But religious authorities were agitating, warning the bewildered masses that these defeats were divine punishments for betraying the true message of Islam by not faithfully abiding by its requirements.

Qutb in his writings recast the division in the world from the classic Muslim one between the House of Islam and the House of War, to one between Islam and jahiliyya, a condition of paganism that preceded the coming of Islam to Arabia. Jahiliyya has now become all-pervasive in the modern world, supposedly sparing none, including Muslims, except for that small coterie of Muslims who took flight [hijra] from the corrupted world and prepared for jihad [armed struggle].

Together, Hasan al-Banna, Abul A’la Maududi and Sayed Qutb fashioned political Islam as a closed system, in opposition to all other competing ideologies.

The theology of takfir — declaring other Muslims apostates or unbelievers; excommunication — obsessed with “unbelief,” has provided the politics of jihad [armed struggle] with the theological justification that arms any Muslim to freelance as a soldier of Allah.

The strategic requirement for advancing global jihad was to convince Muslims that they are liable to be found committing heresy if they support non-Muslim or infidel authorities, such as the United States and its allies, or if they wage war against Muslims, such as members of al-Qaeda.

The theology of takfir and jihad has now come full circle. Many Pakistanis, when they disagree, now find themselves trapped in denunciations that they are unbelievers.

It is from these madrasas that the jihadi fighters come forth as cannon fodder for an endless jihad that has become a growth industry in Pakistan. The entire political elite in Pakistan has profited, just as the Iranian elite continues profiting by doing the same.

For many, being “pure” required separating oneself from non-Muslims.

“The Taliban were not providing strategic depth to Pakistan, but Pakistan was providing strategic depth to the Taliban.” — Ahmed Rashid, foremost scholar of the Taliban.

The recent massacre of school children by Taliban jihadists in a Peshawar army school just lowered even further the bar of atrocities carried out under the banner of Islam in Pakistan. As authorities floundered in the face of mounting violence, with serious implications for new wars in the region, the 2014 Global Terrorism Index ranked Pakistan third behind Iraq and Afghanistan among countries most impacted by terrorism. In addition, the “failed states index” elevated the status of Pakistan to being among the top dozen failed states of the world.

According to the intelligence report of the last conversation before the murders, monitored by Pakistan’s security agency, one of the jihadists informed his handler, “We have killed all the children in the auditorium.” He then asked, “What do we do now?” The handler answered, “Wait for the army people, kill them before blowing up yourself.”[1]

When the mayhem was over, 132 children were dead, among 145 people killed by the jihadists.

The Peshawar massacre has once again, just as in 1971, opened a window onto internal fault lines rupturing the country: those of ideology, ethnicity, sectarianism, and class. Of these, the most severe is the rupture over ideology — between those who insist that the country is insufficiently Islamic and those who fear that religious extremism has brought the country to ruin. This ideological fault line also intensifies the other divisions.

There is not only the immense risk of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal getting into the hands of Islamist terrorists, but that Pakistan has more or less turned into a safe-haven for them. For religious extremists of Islam, Pakistan has become a secure fortress, from which they can wage their global jihad.

The injunction against the deliberate killing of children has, unfortunately, often been breached in times of war; the Peshawar massacre of children by militants of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] were, apparently, revenge killings for the loss of their women and children as a result of Pakistan’s military operations in North Waziristan, along the border with Afghanistan.

The TTP leaders, however, went further. They defended their revenge killing in the name of Islam, as a jihad against their enemies. Umar Khorasani, a spokesman for the TTP, justified the massacre by comparing it to the massacre by the Prophet Muhammad of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza, in which children were also killed.

In offering this justification, Khorasani’s reference to Sahih Bukhari — one of the authoritative sources for Sunni Muslims on the traditions (Sunnah) of the Prophet — carried the message that those who even question the religious legitimacy of the killings would be held responsible for igniting any violence against them by the Pakistani Taliban and their supporters, on the charge of having insulted the Prophet. Such a denunciation by the Taliban of their opponents is consistent with Pakistan’s blasphemy law; it forbids any remark that might be taken as insulting the Prophet or the Quran, with the maximum penalty of death, under which some members of the minority religious communities have been indicted — often unfairly — and held in prison.

The Peshawar massacre and the manner in which the TTP offered its justification for it, have roped the Pakistan’s political and military elite into a fix on how to refute Taliban’s interpretation of Islam’s sacred texts, without getting drawn into a potentially deadly conflict that would only deepen sectarian and ideological differences even more.

If the country is not to slide deeper into the lethal mix of Taliban-type fanaticism and armed globaljihad, the elite need to respond forcefully. The prospect, however, is gloomy.

The Pakistani Taliban is the creature of the ruling elite, especially the directorate of the Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI]. There is also a problem of widespread pride, nurtured by the elite over the past four decades, in Pakistan’s identity as an Islamic state. And since the identity of the elite is closely bound with the ideology of the religious establishment — and not merely with that of the Taliban — it follows that the various Islam-oriented parties and their supporters will fight to preserve their Islamist ideology.

The impasse in which Pakistan finds itself needs explaining. Pakistan was established on the basis of religion, on Islam, and the claim that Muslims in an undivided British India deserved a state of their own to preserve their religion and culture, for fear of losing both if ruled by the Hindu majority population once the British departed from the subcontinent.

The argument to have a separate state based on religion was flawed. But that flaw would only become apparent during the break-up of Pakistan in 1971 — despite the shared belief in Islam.

The circumstances under which India was partitioned in August 1947 still remains contentious, given the subsequent history of wars fought by the successor states, the unsettled nature of the Kashmir conflict, and the break up of Pakistan in 1971 as a reminder that this could happen again.

The pressure for partitioning India in 1947 largely succeeded because an exhausted Britain, after the Second World War in 1945, did not have the stomach to suppress the communal violence escalating between those who supported a separate Pakistan, and their opponents who insisted on keeping India united.

The seeds of religious extremism — adherence to Islam as the line of demarcation, using violence, if necessary, against non-Muslims — were embedded in the initial demand made to Britain for creating Pakistan.

The father of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), exploited this demand. He persuaded the British authorities to partition India. Jinnah himself was a nominal Muslim with a taste for things British. He was an Anglophile who barely spoke Urdu, the vernacular language of Muslims of northern India. He married a non-Muslim woman, the daughter of a wealthy Parsi (Zoroastrian) industrial magnate of Bombay (now Mumbai); and he died a little over a year after Pakistan had been launched in a sea of immense communal violence that accompanied its beginning.

For Jinnah, ironically, religion had been a matter of personal choice. He had taken to Islam as a lawyer, not as a theologian. He had been persuaded, against his earlier political inclinations as an Indian nationalist, that the Muslims in India deserved to have a state of their own in the eventuality that Britain granted India independence. His wish[2] was that the country evolve into a modern democratic state where Muslims, as a majority population, could feel at ease, as opposed to the unease they had felt as a minority population in an undivided India.

As Jinnah said to the assembled politicians of the new country, “Now I think we should keep in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”[3]

But Jinnah was old, gravely ill, and probably could not even imagine that the forces of religious extremism he had unleashed would devour his vision of Pakistan as simply a peaceful homeland for the Muslims of India.

910Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, in conversation with India’s Mahatma Gandhi

It did not take long, however, for all the various contradictions of ethnicity, language, sect, and class, to surface soon after Pakistan’s birth, between the Muslim refugees from India and the people who had been born there.

The country was also physically divided into two halves, separated in the middle by over a thousand miles of northern India. The demand for a Pakistan based on Islam had carried emotional appeal, but what Pakistan would mean as a Muslim state had not been given much thought.

Then there was a problem with Kashmir. Jinnah, according to biographers, felt cheated by the British. Kashmir, with a Muslim majority population, but ruled by a hereditary Hindu prince, was left to India, instead of Pakistan. Jinnah was prepared to force Kashmir’s union with Pakistan. But after pressure from the British military officers still in command of British India’s joint armed forces, Jinnah dropped his plans.[4]

Much of the divisiveness within Pakistan resulted in the inability of politicians to draft and ratify a constitution for nearly a decade – unlike India, where, after independence, a republican constitution for a parliamentary system of government was drafted, ratified, and adopted in fewer than thirty months.

In Pakistan, the irresolvable differences were over the nature of the Islamic state, its ideals and objectives, and how such a state was to be organized.

There were, on one side, modernist or reform-oriented Muslims, educated within the Western liberal tradition, with Jinnah as their model. They believed the Quran and the Sunnah (traditions of the Prophet) could be reconciled through liberal-reformist interpretation with the requirements of a modern democratic and representative form of government.

The religious establishment, on the other side, with its traditionalist-minded ulema (religious scholars), was insistent that the law of the land could be based only on the Quran and the Sunnah, which provided the complete and unalterable social and political code for an Islamic society. They required, therefore, that Shariah – Islamic law compiled in the 9th-12th centuries C.E. – was made the law of the land.

Then there was Abul A’la Maududi (1903-79), with the title of Maulana (a learned scholar), bestowed by his followers, as the founder and leader of Jamaat-i-Islami – the South Asian counterpart of Ikhwan-i-Muslimin (the Muslim Brotherhood), founded by the Egyptian, Hasan al-Banna (1906-49). Maududi went even farther by demanding that the constitution recognize the sole sovereignty of Allah, and the state as His agent, be limited only to implementing the Shariah.

Ultimately the difference in these two views was unbridgeable. As a result, holding the country together by authoritarian means became unavoidable.

Men in uniform replaced feckless politicians. General (later made Field Marshal) Ayub Khan, a military chief, seized power in October 1958, and set the pattern of military rule for the country. During the decade he ruled, he imposed on the country a constitution of his making; supervised economic development; invested in the defense establishment; worked to undermine the religious establishment; and in 1965 launched a poorly conceived war against India over Kashmir, which backfired. He was eventually forced, in the midst of political unrest across the country, to hand over power in 1969 to yet another general.

The military rule of Ayub Khan’s successor, General Yahya Khan, ended dismally in December 1971 with the break-up of Pakistan. It was preceded by an election for a national assembly in 1970, which Yahya Khan had arranged with the express purpose of handing power to a civilian government. But when a political party from East Pakistan won the largest number of seats in the assembly and was poised to form a government, Yahya Khan reneged on his promise. The people in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) – estranged from those in West Pakistan (now Pakistan) over ethnic and language differences, and grievances over socioeconomic disparities – rose in opposition to military rule. The situation rapidly deteriorated, a civil conflict turned into a bloody military repression and massacre of unarmed people by the military. It ended with Pakistan declaring war against India, and the surrender of the Pakistani army to Indian forces in Dhaka, the capital of East Pakistan (now independent Bangladesh), on December 16, 1971.

After this humiliating defeat, Pakistanis in general were demoralized and the military discredited. In these circumstances, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the party he founded, the Pakistan People’s Party, maneuvered to fill the void. Bhutto belonged to the wealthiest landlord family in the province of Sind; as a young lawyer-politician, he had been appointed a junior minister in the military regime of Ayub Khan. His later disagreements with Ayub Khan’s policies, following the 1965 war fought by Pakistan and India over Kashmir, forced him out of the government and into opposition against military rule.

In the 1970 election Bhutto’s party had emerged with second largest number of seats in the national assembly, behind the party from East Pakistan. Bhutto claimed this as his mandate to form a civilian government, with himself as president, to replace military rule.

In 1973 he presented the country with its third constitution, and had it adopted by the national assembly. But, as the old differences over the nature of an Islamic state and the place of the Shariah resurfaced, the constitution failed to win the support of the religious establishment.

Bhutto was a populist and a demagogue. Although he was one of the most powerful feudal landlords in Pakistan, he nevertheless appealed for electoral support from students, workers and peasants by posing as a defender of the poor and oppressed in society, and, as an ally of China’s then supreme leader Mao Zedong, by embracing the left-wing politics of anti-imperialism. There was showmanship here, and some grandstanding as a leader of a third world nation. It was at this time – and soon after India tested a nuclear device in 1974 – that he determined that Pakistan must acquire nuclear capability of its own. His populism however would not save him from the wrath of the religious establishment.

But, as the country searched for an identity in the aftermath of 1971, Bhutto was temperamentally unsuited to calm the tensions around him. The Muslim religious leaders and their followers distrusted him as another liberal-secularist; he tried to appease them by meeting their demand in declaring as non-Muslims those belonging to the minority Ahmediyya sect within Islam.

In 1977, the military under General Zia ul-Haq staged a comeback, removed Bhutto from office and put him under arrest. While in prison he was indicted for plotting the murder of his political opponent, and put on trial. The court found him guilty, his appeal was denied, and he was hanged in April 1979.

Zia ul-Haq, the third military dictator to take power, ruled until his death in a mysterious plane crash in August 1988. He was a devout orthodox Sunni Muslim, and, unlike his two military predecessors – Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan – he publicly showed respect for Muslim religious leaders and their various organizations. He sought their support, and embraced their religiously directed political agenda to turn Pakistan officially into an Islamic society (Nizam-i-Islam).


The decades of sixties and seventies in the twentieth century were times of social and political unrest in the West. There was a crisis of values as the young questioned the dominant secular politics mostly concerned with material gain and economic well being, while America’s involvement in the war in Vietnam became increasingly divisive at home. The youth in general defied the authorities on both the Soviet and Western sides of the Cold War. They pushed counter-cultural movements and sought “enlightenment” through sexual freedom, drugs, music, and experimenting with the rites of non-European cultures.

In the Muslim world, the situation was vastly different. The thin veneer of modernity barely penetrated the surface of a world steeped in traditional culture. Islam as understood and practiced for generations sustained the vast majority of people at the edge of poverty. Colonialism had made only a small difference, once independence came, in preparing Muslim societies to meet the immense challenge the modern world posed for them. A tiny segment of the population had received a modern liberal education and had risen in the ranks of colonial administrations as junior civil servants, technocrats, and military officers. On their shoulders fell the task, as in Pakistan after 1947, to lead the country forward and somehow meet the swelling demands of the people for the promise of a better life.

The political leadership of the newly independent states generally looked to the West in terms of their own respective economic and social developments. Within the Muslim world – apart from the few oil-rich Arab states on the Gulf – there was a general consensus among those who held power that there was no alternative to the path for development as historically charted by the advanced Western countries, irrespective of whether those countries were capitalist democracies or socialist.

But the modernizers who succeeded the colonial authorities in taking power – the men in uniform who seized power through military coups due to the fecklessness of politicians, as in Egypt (Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser) or in Pakistan (General Ayub Khan) – aroused expectations that were simply beyond their abilities to deliver.

The sixties and the seventies of the last century were the decades when the political roof caved in over the heads of the Muslim world’s modernizers. The immediate cause was military defeat. In the Arab world, the June war of 1967 with Israel was a catastrophic defeat for Egypt under Nasser; and, similarly, for Pakistan the December 1971 war with India was a colossal humiliation in which the army lost half the country when East Pakistan, with support of the Indian military, seceded to become an independent Bangladesh.

On the political margins of these Muslim countries, religious parties were agitating, warning the bewildered masses that these defeats were divine punishments for betraying the true message of Islam by not faithfully abiding by its requirements.

These were the decades when old theological debates from the medieval past of the Muslim world re-surfaced and were widely disseminated. Muslims were repeatedly told by religious scholars that to reverse their humiliations, they needed to return to their authentic past, to emulate the ways of their revered ancestors (salaf) and the companions of the Prophet, and to establish the rule of Islam.

In the Arab world, the Muslim Brotherhood of Hasan al-Banna and Syed Qutb (1906-66), and in Pakistan the Jamaat-i-Islami of Maulana Maududi, gained in popularity with a populace increasingly frustrated with its own political authorities.

In Egypt, Syed Qutb, as one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood that declared a jihadagainst Nasser’s military-led government, was sent to the gallows. In death, Qutb became a martyr-scholar for a whole new generation of Muslims who were searching for meaning in the midst of cultural despair and political authoritarianism.

An earlier generation before 1967 in the Middle East – as elsewhere in Asia and Africa – had sought answers in the revolutionary politics of Marx and Lenin; had supported the Vietnamese communists in their war against the United States, and had admired Mao Zedong and the Chinese revolution.

In the period after 1967, and before the 1973 October war that brought the Arab oil-producing states to quadruple the price of oil and turn it into a political weapon, it was the writings of Syed Qutb that appealed to the young in the Middle East. Hasan al-Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood had turned Islam into a political doctrine – Islamism – as a total answer to all the problems of the Muslim world. Qutb had described the solution in terms of an Islamic state implementing Shariah as the fundamental law of the land. Al-Banna’s message was also directed at the lslamic ummah,the whole Muslim nation.

Qutb in his writings refined and deepened the message of al-Banna. In a significant departure from other Muslim thinkers of his time, Qutb recast the binary division in the world made by Muslim traditionalists, one between Dar al-Islam (House of Islam) and Dar al-Harb (House of War), into one between Islam and jahiliyya (a condition of barbarism or paganism) that had preceded the coming of Islam in Arabia.

Qutb developed this concept of jahiliyya as one of the key explanations for the decline of Islam in the world, and the miserably broken condition of Muslims in it. In his ultimately extreme view, and one that caught the imagination of his most devoted followers, jahiliyya had become all pervasive in the modern world, sparing none, including Muslims, except for that small coterie of Muslims who understood the situation, took flight (hijra) or withdrew from the corrupted world, and prepared for jihad (holistic struggle, including warfare) in the cause of Islam.

Qutb’s views were in part influenced by the writings of Abul A’la Maududi, in the extent to which Maududi had revived the theological views of medieval Muslim jurists on matters of God’s sovereignty in human affairs. Maududi’s innovation was in insisting that Islam was a complete system of faith and politics, in other words a totalitarian ideology promoting a social revolution, and the necessity of jihad as the instrument for realizing God’s plan on earth.

Together, Hasan al-Banna, Maududi, and Syed Qutb had fashioned political Islam as a closed system, in opposition to all other competing ideologies confronting Muslims. It was at once simple, rigidly based on the Quran and the Sunnah (traditions) of the Prophet, and provided Muslims with an armed doctrine of jihad to quell their doubts, overcome their fears, and direct them towards the objective of establishing an Islamic state or gaining martyrdom in the pursuit of it. When the Islamic revolution did successfully occur, however, it was in Iran, and in February 1979.

The Iranian followers of a religious leader in exile, Ayatollah Khomeini (1902-89), seized control of the popular uprising and eventually turned Iran into a theocratic Islamic republic.

Iran had been a monarchical regime, and the anti-monarchist revolution, even though Iranians followed the minority Shi’ite version of Islam, caught the imagination of the majority Sunni Muslims on either side of its borders. The leader of the Palestinian movement, Yasser Arafat, for instance, travelled to Tehran and embraced the founder of Iran’s Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, as the leader of anti-imperialist revolution.

If Iranians could topple the Shah of Iran, an ally of the United States, then it was not unimaginable that Muslims elsewhere could also overthrow similarly pro-American or pro-Soviet authoritarian regimes that they felt had been repressing them into a state of jahiliyya. As a result, the year 1979 – the beginning of the fifteenth century in the Islamic calendar – became a pivotal year in the Muslim world.

Earlier, in November 1979, there had been a failed attempt by a small group of Saudi Wahhabi extremists to ignite a movement against the ruling House of Saud. They seized the grand mosque in Mecca, at the center of which stands the Ka’aba (the ancient cube-like structure), and held the grand mosque for several days until French paratroopers flushed them out. Although this effort was doomed to fail, it signified unrest within the most conservative Arab state, and the messianic wish for an even stricter version of Islam than the one practiced by Saudi rulers.

Then, at the end of 1979, came the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The occupation of a Muslim country by an infidel power became a magnet around which to rally Muslim jihadists, and encourage them to head for Afghanistan and join Afghan mujahideen (freedom fighters) in theirjihad against a military superpower.


Zia ul-Haq (1924-88), an army general who was then president, turned Pakistan into a frontline state in the decade long Afghan war. Zia viewed the Afghan war as the opportunity to reverse the humiliation of 1971, rebuild the morale of the army, and make Pakistan the key ally of the United States in the war against Soviet Communism.

Under Zia’s direction Islamabad forged a new strategic partnership with President Ronald Reagan’s Washington and the Saudi monarchy to help the Afghan mujahideen (freedom fighters) liberate their country from Soviet occupation.

But the blowback from the Afghan war in time has turned Pakistan from a cockpit of global jihadinto a land increasingly torn and bloodied by armed warriors of Islam.

On seizing power, Zia reached out to the religious establishment and made Islamization of Pakistan his military regime’s domestic priority. He believed the country suffered from a crisis of identity, for which it had paid dearly in 1971. Although the country had been established on the basis of Islam, Zia would regularly remind the people in public speeches and interviews, that the political leadership had failed to establish an Islamic-based society.

Zia’s solution was to encourage an Islamic identity to replace, or supersede, ethno-linguistic and sectarian identities that had weakened and divided the country. Accordingly, the measures he adopted were to make the fundamental law of the land, the Constitution, conform to the dictates of the Quran and the Sunnah, and implement the requirements of the Shariah in society. To push for the Islamization of the country, Zia established the Federal Shariah Court and the Shariah Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court.

What Zia could not have foreseen was how the Afghan war would become the petri-dish of Islamist theology and jihadi politics. As Arabs attracted by the appeal of jihad congregated in and around Peshawar, Afghanistan and the Afghan war became the cradle of the global jihadistmovement. The actual contribution of these “Afghan Arabs” in defeating the Soviet Union was negligible, but it was here they found a safe haven to engage in arcane theological debates that shaped the thinking and politics of those who had been radicalized through the writings of Syed Qutb and Maududi.

The Afghan war may be divided into three phases. The first was the war against the Soviet forces, ending with their full withdrawal in February 1989. The Soviet withdrawal marked the beginning of the second phase until 9/11. During this period, the war turned into an internal struggle among the various tribal groups and factions for the control of Afghanistan. Despite the fall of Kabul, the capital, to Afghan Taliban warriors under Mullah Omar in September 1996, this internal conflict raged on. The third phase began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and led to the U.S. sending forces into Afghanistan to search out and destroy the al Qaeda leadership and network.

In Pakistan during the summer and fall of 1988 after the airplane crash that killed Zia, one could see that although the first phase of the Afghan war was winding down, the country was on edge and the military and security forces were everywhere. In Islamabad, at the Institute of Strategic Studies, one could hear the elite opinion about the Afghan war: that the Soviet defeat had been brought about by Pakistan, and that, despite risks, Zia’s bold vision had turned out right.

In helping the Afghan mujahideen liberate their country, Pakistan had acquired strategic depth in its confrontation with India. The victory also celebrated undoing the defeat of 1971, and providing the military establishment with experience in conducting asymmetrical warfare against an enemy larger in size and resources. Pakistan has always been obsessed with India, and the Afghan war gave its men in uniform new confidence on how to engage with India in Kashmir.

The build-up of the military with the offshore money that flowed into Pakistan from Saudi Arabia in aid of the Afghan war further entrenched the special place it occupies in the country. The observation first made by Sir John Morrice James, Britain’s High Commissioner to Pakistan during the rule of Ayub Khan – that re-arming the military by the Americans “was to risk creating a situation where it would not be so much a case of Pakistan having an army as of the Army having Pakistan”[5] – seemed uncannily true at the end of the Zia era. Since Pakistan’s independence in 1947, and at the end of the first phase of the Afghan war, the military had ruled Pakistan for more than half the period, and the men in uniform, given their self-important role as the guarantor of the country’s security, had acquired a sense of entitlement.

During subsequent visits, it seemed as if the victory in the Afghan war that gave most Pakistanis pride and the right to boast was an illusion. War had laid waste to Afghanistan. Virtually the entire Afghani population within the country – as well as in the neighboring countries of Pakistan and Iran – had been turned into refugees. Pakistan had become home for several million Afghan refugees, mostly of Pashtun/Pathan ethnicity, indistinguishable from Pathans on the Pakistani side of the frontier. With these refugees, the war inside Afghanistan was imported across the border into Pakistan, and the struggles of the Afghan mujahideen against Soviet occupation of their country invariably began to change the political landscape inside Pakistan.

The Afghan Taliban emerged from the ranks of its own refugee population in Pakistan. Their struggles against the Soviet forces in their country in turn persuaded their ethnic brethren, the Pakistani Pathans, to join them. In time, the distinction between Afghani and Pakistani Taliban dissolved even as the frontier between the two countries became irrelevant.

Ahmed Rashid, the world’s foremost expert on the Taliban, observed:

“Throughout Afghan history no outsider has been able to manipulate the Afghans, something the British and the Soviets learnt to their cost. Pakistan, it appeared, had learnt no lessons from history while it still lived in the past, when CIA and Saudi funding had given Pakistan the power to dominate the course of the jihad. Moreover, the Taliban’s social, economic and political links to Pakistan’s Pashtun borderlands were immense, forged through two decades of war and life as refugees in Pakistan. The Taliban were born in Pakistani refugee camps, educated in Pakistanimadrassas and learnt their fighting skills from Mujaheddin parties based in Pakistan. Their families carried Pakistan identity cards.”[6]

The Pakistani military, through its ISI intelligence services, had raised, trained, and armed the Taliban to be its proxy inside Afghanistan. The ISI provided key material and logistic support to the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar through the 1990s right to the present. In addition, the ISI’s deep connection with the Taliban, approved at the highest levels of the Pakistani military leadership, became the preferred approach for raising and supporting other Islamist militias to wage secret warfare against India in Kashmir. The ISI’s investment in Taliban was made for returns to its own liking, when needed, in terms of Pakistan’s strategic interests. So the idea of Afghanistan as a strategic depth for Pakistan, was made by Pakistan’s political establishment into an article of faith not to be doubted.

Ahmed Rashid also noted, however, that “the backwash from Afghanistan was leading to the ‘Talibanization’ of Pakistan. The Taliban were not providing strategic depth to Pakistan, but Pakistan was providing strategic depth to the Taliban.”[7] This was shown in the Afghan war, after September 11, 2001, when American and the allied forces under NATO/ISAF (North Atlantic Treaty

Organization/International Security Assistance Force) command found how difficult it was – and still is – to pacify Afghanistan when the Taliban have continued to operate out of safe havens inside Pakistan. The leaders of both the Pakistani and Afghani Talibans are able to slip back and forth across the border to hide with ease.

The Taliban were raised, on both sides of the border, in the Deobandi school of fundamentalist Islam, different in tradition from what the “Afghan Arabs” brought with them to Pakistan.

The “Afghan Arabs” are Arabs who headed for Afghanistan in 1979 following the Soviet invasion of that country. Osama bin Laden and his entire al Qaeda crew, for instance, came to be referred to as “Afghan Arabs” to distinguish them from native Afghans and this is why the quotes. The “Afghan Arabs” introduced the doctrine of takfir [excommunication] theology to non-Arab Muslimjihadis, especially the Afghani and Pakistani Talibans in their pursuit of global jihad.

The Deobandi school, originating out of the nineteenth century Darul Ulum Deoband – an Islamic school that took its name from the town, Deoband, located in north India where it was foundedcirca 1867 – has been, since it was established, the flag-bearer of jihadi movements in India and Central Asia.

The religious scholars at Deoband, were practitioners of taqlid (imitation): of strictly adhering to the authoritative interpretations of the traditional four schools of fiqh (jurisprudence) in Sunni Islam. They insisted that Muslims follow the Shariah-code as required by their faith and tradition.

The “Afghan Arabs” brought with them to Afghanistan and Pakistan the more rigid teachings of the medieval jurist, Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328), especially his stringent pronouncements on apostasy and jihad.

The mainline consensus of Sunni Muslim jurists on what constitutes Muslim belief, in accordance with the Shariah’s minimal requirement, is the utterance of the Shahada, or the formula of the Islamic creed: “There is no god other than Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger.” The saying of obligatory prayers, keeping the fast during the month of Ramadan, making pilgrimage at least once in lifetime, and giving charity (zakat) have been traditionally considered the key pillars of Islam, as stipulated in the Quran, and abiding by them is evidence of Muslim piety.

Ibn Taymiyya ruled, however, that such minimal requirement was insufficient, especially when a Muslim ruler failed to implement the Shariah, and when any Muslim failed to engage in jihad(armed struggle) to demand the rule of Shariah. From such a standpoint, as Ibn Taymiyya underscored, when a Muslim ruler transgressed the Shariah-code, or set aside the rule of Shariah in territory under his control, he turned into an infidel, or apostate, and thereupon became a legitimate object for jihad.

Ibn Taymiyya’s medieval excursions into jurisprudence and theology, once revived, became the hallmark of the new generation of Arab Islamists. They made takfir (declaring someone to be an apostate or an unbeliever, excommunication) a signature instrument of their jihad, and readily used such pronouncements to attack their opponents.

The most striking example of this from recent history was in pronouncing takfir on President Anwar Sadat for signing the peace agreement with Israel. That act turned him into an object ofjihad, which eventually brought about his public assassination in October 1981.

Ibn Taymiyya’s hard line extremist thinking was a result of the upheaval in Arab lands during the Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century. His views were a marginal innovation in medieval Islamic theology, but nonetheless became the signature of the contemporary jihadis, the “Afghan Arabs.” In mainline traditional Sunni jurisprudence, the ulema (religious scholars) stressed the importance of obeying Muslim rulers and in avoiding fitnah (disorder or internecine warfare) as a major sin.

The theology of takfir, declaring other Muslims apostates, was, and is, riddled with Muslim-on-Muslim violence. From the earliest decades of Islamic history, Muslim extremists have given a theological justification for their violence against Muslims with whom they disagree, such as Shiites, and other minority sects.

Consequently, in contemporary times within the Muslim world, the fear or apprehension of early Muslim jurists – based on lessons, drawn from the earliest phase of Islamic history, of fratricide and tribal conflicts – has become widespread.


The theology of takfir, obsessed with “unbelief,” has provided the politics of jihad with the sort of theological justification that arms any Muslim to freelance as soldier of Allah.

A soldier, for instance, in the security detail of Salman Taseer – the governor of Punjab and Pakistan’s largest province with an estimated population of around one hundred million – shot him dead in January 2011 to punish him for his efforts to amend the blasphemy law in the penal code. Furthermore, Pakistani lawyers praised his murderer.

The law was first introduced in the colonial period, and the Zia regime further broadened its scope, as part of the Islamization process, by requiring anyone accused of insulting the Prophet or desecrating the Quran to be imprisoned ahead of an investigation.

After the swift defeat of the Taliban by American forces in Afghanistan in 2001, the “Afghan Arabs” of the al-Qaeda network were on the run in search of sanctuary. Many of them, including Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, found safe haven in the Pathan tribal areas of Waziristan within Pakistan, and dug in there for the long struggle of the global jihad. They indoctrinated the Taliban and other elements of the Pakistani jihadi militias based in Punjab with their highly polarized doctrine of takfir theology, culled from the writings of Ibn Taymiyya. (Among the most well known militias besides the Pakistani Taliban are the fiercely anti-Shia and Deobandi trained jihadists of Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi; the Jaish-e-Mohammad operatives in Kashmir; and jihadists of Laskar-e-Taiba, funded by the ISI, and accused of plotting the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi, and of carrying out the 2008 attack in Mumbai.)

For the jihadi theorists among “Afghan Arabs,” the strategic requirement for advancing globaljihad was to convince Muslims that they are liable to be found committing heresy if they support non-Muslim or infidel authorities, such as the United States and its allies, or if they wage war against Muslims, such as members of al Qaeda network.

The “Afghan Arabs” also sought to convince their jihadi allies among Muslims in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, especially the Islamists among them, to declare their co-religionists apostates if they were found unwilling to establish Shariah rule in society and assist the global jihad.

The logic behind the doctrine of takfir theology for “Afghan Arabs” – as they instructed the Pakistani Islamists – was straightforward: Once Islamists in Pakistan – with many inside the military, and especially those inside the ISI – became convinced that Pakistan could not be considered any longer an Islamic state due to its role as a junior partner of the United States in the war against the global jihad – represented by Islamist organizations, such as al Qaeda – then the Pakistani Islamists would likely lead a revolt. A successful revolt in Pakistan would then make the country the most important base of global jihad.

The theology of takfir has borne fruit within Pakistan. The assassination in 2007 of Benazir Bhutto – a former prime minister and opposition leader and daughter of Ali Bhutto (hanged by the military in 1979) – and then of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, in 2011, were two high profile jihadi executions. Since 2001, there has been a steady toll of victims from jihadi violence inside Pakistan. Taliban and jihadi militias have directed terrorist attacks and suicide missions against the minority Shia population; against Ahmediyyas, declared non-Muslims; against Christian and Hindu minorities; against Sufi shrines and Sufi Muslims (those devoted to a mystical tradition of spiritual Islam) as heretics; and even against Pakistani military targets, such as the naval base in Karachi in May 2011 and an air force installation in Peshawar in December 2012.[8]

In nearly four decades of strife, warfare, and jockeying for power inside Afghanistan, with the epicenter in the mountainous areas bordering on Pakistan, a culture of jihad and takfir took root. The Pakistan army, answerable to no higher authority than itself, contributed to the making of this culture. The Pakistan army is in part responsible for creating the jihadi militias, which have become monsters that cannot be entirely controlled by the ISI. It is also widely believed that the ISI and some segment of the military establishment are in league with Islamists, and supportive of the goals of global jihad.

The fecklessness and corruption of politicians and civilian authorities work to the advantage of the military establishment, still viewed by a majority of the people as the one institution – in spite of the record – trusted to maintain Pakistan’s security.

Because of Pakistan’s rivalry with India and the unwillingness of the Pakistani population, pushed by Islamist rhetoric, to negotiate with India a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir conflict – which, with rising civilian casualties has worsened over the years as a result of jihadi organized terrorism – the military establishment is unlikely to end its support for jihadi militias operating inside Kashmir from bases inside Pakistan. Similarly, by hanging onto the illusion of Afghanistan as some sort of strategic depth for Pakistan, the military will not disband the Pakistani Taliban.

The Islamization of Pakistan has given more official encouragement and “teeth” to Islamists armed with the theology of takfir. These Islamists have shown, that, when squeezed too hard by the military or civilian authorities, they are ready to bite with attacks on military installations, such as one on the naval base in Karachi, or by assassinations, such as in the killings of Salman Taseer and Benazir Bhutto.

Large segments of the Pakistani population live in poverty. The most impoverished region is in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan, and home to the Taliban. For a vast majority of the people, basic needs in terms of medicine, clean water, nutrition, education and jobs are barely met by the state. The insult to the human dignity of those more or less abandoned to endless destitution is compounded by the lifestyle of the rich and the privileged. The people in the military are the most privileged among the Pakistanis, and resentment against them is not far below the surface of a society seething with tensions.

The Taliban attack on the Peshawar army school, and the murder of the children there, most of whom came from military homes, went beyond revenge. It signified class-based hostility against a system of privilege for a tiny minority. There are over one hundred specially built army schools, such as the one in Peshawar, for children of the military establishment and the civilian elite, to provide for modern education.

In contrast, there are nearly 14,000 madrasas (religious seminaries) where, under the supervision of Deobandi scholars, a Quran-based education of rote learning and memorization, ill-equipped for modern needs, is provided to an estimated two million children of the poor. It is from these madrasas that the jihadi fighters come forth as cannon fodder for an endless jihad that has become a growth industry in Pakistan. The entire political elite in Pakistan has profited, just as the entire Saudi elite has profited by funding the Islamists, and just as the entire Iranian elite continues to profit by doing the same.

Politics in Pakistan has carried in its blood stream the virus of religious fanaticism right from the outset of its creation. The name chosen for the country at birth, “Pakistan,” in Urdu means “the land (or home) of the pure.” For many, the significance of being a Pakistani came to mean striving, as Muslims, to be “pure,” and that a true believer required separating themselves from non-Muslims. But this mentality turned full circle. Infected by the theology of takfir and the politics of jihad, Pakistanis, when they disagree, now find themselves trapped in denunciations that they are unbelievers. A country made for Muslims has now turned into a nightmare for Muslims. The children killed in the Peshawar army school by Taliban were innocent of the politics of their elders, even as these children were their sad victims.

[1] Ismail Khan, “We have killed all the children… What do we do now?” Reported in Dawn(Karachi), 18 December 2014.

[2] As he indicated in his address to Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly meeting for the first time in Karachi in August 1947

[3] See Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), pp. 337-340.

[4] See Wolpert, Jinnah, pp. 347-354.

[5] Cited in Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 200.

[6] Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2000), p. 185.

[7] Rashid, Taliban, p. 187.

[8] See Declan Walsh, “Pakistani commandos regain control of Karachi military base,” in The Guardian (UK), 23 May 2011, for report on the attack on the naval base in the port city of Karachi; and see Ismail Khan, “Audacious attack on Peshawar PAF base,” in Dawn (Karachi), 16 December 2012 for report on the attack on the air force base in Peshawar.