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The West and India : Never the twain shall meet ?

Ranbir Singh January 9, 2014 Archives, World Focus 2 Comments
The West and India : Never the twain shall meet ?
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Since the attacks of 9/11 we have been told that there is a war on terror. But India was suffering such terrorism long before this yet the rest of the world averted its gaze. In fact it is a sad indictment of the self-appointed leaders of the Free World, Britain and America, that they would rather cosy up to dictators such as Pakistan’s Zia ul-Haq or Saudi King Fahd, rather than the world’s largest democracy.

What makes it more poignant is that it has been such western allies such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia which have been the ideological and financial logistical launchpads of the very terrorism which now threatens the West. Why is India ignored in all this and why do western nations continue to harbour racist and colonialist prejudice regarding India and its Hindu majority which has been the victim of Islamist terrorism for decades?

War on Terror

In the wake of 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, President George Bush famously said “You are either with us or against us”. The problem was of course defining exactly what ‘us’ meant. Who did it include? Strangely it included Pakistan which had been sponsoring terrorist attacks against India for decades using arms and ammunition supplied to it by Britain and America. It also included Saudi Arabia which was strange because not only was Osama bin laden was from a well-connected Saudi family, but the hijackers included prominent Saudis. Yet this did not bother Bush one bit.

Then four years later in 2005 London was hit by the notorious 7/7 bombings. In the reaction to this outrage and the drafting of new legislation to tackle terrorism, Conservative Party candidate Sayeeda Warsi expressed concern that these new laws should not cover “legitimate freedom fighting in Kashmir”. What was the response from her own party? She was promoted to the House of Lords and now has responsibilities for ethnic communities.

In his 2007 book The History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, right-wing and self-confessed “reactionary” historian Andrew Roberts speaks of “Islamo-facism” and “Islamicist terrorism” as the latest threats to the Anglosphere (Britain, USA, Australia, Canada, and to lesser extent New Zealand and Eire) following on the heels of communism, Nazism and the Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

If Britain and especially America go down then democracy, representative government, and many liberties we take for granted are threatened. Roberts however ignores that Britain itself acted as the incubator for communism when one considers how Karl Marx formulated many of his ideas living in Manchester. But more disturbingly this Islamic terror which threatens the ‘free world’ is a direct result of British and American policies. The most inconvenient part for Roberts is that it is a direct offspring of his hero Winston Churchill.

Father of Pakistan

Churchill has been lauded as a great war hero, the man who led Britain through the Blitz, terror of being taken over by Hitler’s armies and whose foresight was incredible. His dire warnings about the Nazi threat fell on deaf ears before 1939 although his Iron Curtain speech reflected the mood as Stalin pulverised half of Europe. But it was his views on India on which he was so wrong. Brought up on white supremacy he sincerely felt that dark-skinned ‘backward’ races were not able to rule themselves. Hence he wanted India to be under British rule indefinitely.

When this proved impossible he issues dire warnings over the impending doom which India would face under the Raj of corrupt upper-caste Hindu ‘baboos’ such as Nehru and Gandhi. For that reason he asked Viceroy Wavell to “save a bit of India”. That ‘bit’ he explicitly said was Pakistan.

 In doing so Churchill was following colonialist precedents. It is a myth that the British east India Company saved the Hindus from being annihilated by the Islamic forces. In reality Robert Clive, Warren Hastings and others encountered a confident and resurgent Hindu India in the eighteenth century. Marathas, Rajputs, Sikhs and others had torn up the once mighty Mughal Empire.

During the 1857 insurrection dubbed the Mutiny, the Nawab of Avadh offered Hindus the site of Shri Rama’s birth in Ayodhya if they would help support what in essence was a jihad against the British. Now Churchill grew up on the myth that Hindus were weak and cowardly, lacking the masculinity and courage which was inculcated by Islam. Yet if this were the case then why would that nawab offer Ayodhya to bunch of weak and cowardly masses? But it was a myth enforced by British colonial officials helped by such stalwarts of imperialism such as Rudyard Kipling who compared Islam favourably with Hinduism as a civilising force.

Hindu Weakness?

The attachment to India may indeed have been Churchill’s emotional drive created by his early military service there. But despite this he knew scant little of the country and its traditions. And what he did not know he hated. Deeply influential though was Katherine Mayo’s 1927 book Mother India which reinforced his views of Hinduism as a overtly sensual and degenerate set of beliefs.

Islam by contrast was lauded. May also denigrated Bengal as a hotbed of bombs and terrorism. In doing so she actually contradicted her view of Hindus as weak.

The reality is that Hindus did not take British rule passively. Before Kali and Durga nationalists in Bengal swore that they would liberate the motherland with the pistol. Abhinav Bharat or Young India was organised by Savarkar with similar purpose as were a host of other groups. Indian nationalism was born militant and remained militant right through to the organisation of the Indian National Army (INA) under Subhas Chandra Bose during the Second World War.

 The INA not only broke the myth of Indian and Hindu passiveness but also conjured the ghosts of 1857. The British had always feared another ‘mutiny’. Well it happened and not just with the INA. In 1946 the Indian Navy mutinied. Now when we realise that the Indian military was the iron fist of the British Empire it becomes easy to see why the transfer of power happened so rapidly after that. India raised the largest volunteer army for the war effort, over 2.5 million men. Having this many with rifles and ready to use them was a much more persuasive factor then Mahatma Gandhi urging the masses to stop buying salt.

But then since his assassination Gandhi has been hailed as an icon and the man responsible for India’s freedom. In reality the freedom movement predated him and his achievements were minimal and actually quite negative as the reinforced the myth of the passive Hindu. This myth was actually not believed by Gandhi himself which is why he denounced Maharana Pratap, Shivaji and Guri Gobind Singh as misguided patriots for not using ahimsa.

So Gandhi himself knew that Hindu history and resistance to subjugation by any colonial power was anything but passive. With the exile of Savarkar and crushing of the revolutionary nationalists he saw his chance to fill the vacuum. Unfortunately in doing so much that is important in India’s freedom struggle has been sidelined.

The myth of Hindus passivity and cowardliness was one of many racial stereotypes manufactured to bolster British rule that last to this day, ensuring India was excluded from any war on terrorism. India’s defence minister at the time of Bush’s presidency, George Fernandes, warned the Americans that Bin Laden was being given sanctuary in Pakistan. But Pakistan was an ally so no action was taken.

It was not until Obama became president that US forces found and executed the terrorist mastermind. Obama’s reward like that of India has been total ingratitude from the neoconservative warmongers. Then again Obama has spoken warmly of India so that is not surprising.

The other myth was that of Aryan invasion which is retained throughout the political spectrum. While other colonialist myths of the Victorian era such as Africans being unable to produce an indigenous civilisation such as Great Zimbabwe without the help of Phoenicians or ‘Hamites’, this Aryan myth continues helped by the dominance of Marxists such as Angana Chatterji and Sudipta Kaviraj in American universities as ‘experts’ on South Asia.

But then it was their holy prophet Marx who said Indian history had always been set of invasions. India would always be ruled by foreigners. That continues today as the dysfunctional kleptocrat elite that dominate the political and media echelons are but a neo-colonialist clique who despise the traditions and ancient culture of their land of birth. It is an Aryan racist myth worthy of an opera by Richard Wagner.

British-Islamist Axis

Jinnah corresponded closely with Churchill, with the latter convincing him to take Mountbatten’s offer on the table. Churchill like many in the British establishment felt a Muslim state in India would be a reliable pro-western ally. So in many ways Churchill acted as the father if not midwife for Pakistan. So here he was the man who had fought Nazism acting as contributor for a state that would be the Launchpad for the very Islamic terrorism his present-day disciple Andrew Roberts find such a threat to the very civilisation he holds so dear.

But collaboration with Islamic separatism had begun much earlier. The British had allowed Ahmed Shah Barelvi to launch his jihad against the Sikhs in the early nineteenth century. The matters really changed after 1857. Former supporter of the Mutiny, Sir Sayyid Ahmad Kahn was keen to show pro-British loyalty against the looming threat of Hindu domination. His Aligarh movement was the genesis of what became the demand for Pakistan.

As such the Muslim League was founded in 1906 with British support to weaken the forces of Indian nationalism. The myth was manufactured of superior martial races. The Bengali Hindus who had formed the backbone of sepoys in the British East India Company, were denounced as greedy and cowardly ‘baboos’. Instead recruitment favoured certain ‘martial races’ notably Muslims from the north-west such as Punjabis, Pathans and Baluchis. Ironically it also favoured Rajputs, Gurkhas, Marathas, Sikhs and Garwalis. Even more ironic was the preponderance of Brahmins in the freedom movement including those that wanted to use force to drive out the British. Savarkar himself was of Chitpavan Brahmin background.

American-Pakistan Axis of Evil

Nevertheless Churchill’s initial prophecies proved true as in the 1950s Pakistan joined western military alliances of CENTO and SEATO. This was welcomed by America. President Eisenhower’s secretary of state John Foster Dulles who denounced India’s plans to form a non-aligned movement. Dulles admired the Pakistanis as an Asian nation he could fight.

He was in fact so enamoured of them that he thought that the Gurkhas were Pakistanis and Muslims. As with Churchill the problem was not just geopolitical.

As largely devout or even nominal Christians, the Americans like other westerners could not understand India’s ancient culture with its mass of what they saw as contradictory beliefs. This was compounded by the popularity of Mayo’s aforementioned book which had sold over a million copies by the time of Eisenhower and Dulles in America alone. Hence the old colonialist myth of Hindu passiveness and sense of the ‘Other’ was rehashed. America found it easy to deal with fellow monotheists even if they did profess Islam.

Pakistan was generously supplied with British and especially American arms even as Churchill’s prediction of a pro-western democratic Muslim state began to look like an unhealthy joke with Ayub Khan and then Yahya Khan putting Pakistan under military dictatorship.

As the largest democracy in the world and the few in Asia, India was treated by America with incredible contempt. By the time of the Nixon-Kissinger rule in the White House, Pakistan was being generously supplied with the latest military weaponry as its brutal crackdown on what Yahya Khan and his top military brass regarded as racially inferior dark-skinned Bengalis in East Pakistan sent ten million mostly Hindu refugees streaming into neighbouring India.

In East Pakistan itself officially sanctioned rape to create a new breed of authentic and racially superior Muslims, as well as specific targeting on intellectuals and the Hindu minority led to at least three million deaths before Indian intervention put an end to the carnage.

If it had not been for the hard work of Senator Edward Kennedy to highlight the genocide being committed by Pakistan the death toll would have been much higher and Bangladesh might never have been born in 1971. This was in stark contrast to Nixon who said that India needed a “mass famine” and Kissinger who called Indians “bastards” who wanted to start a war.

Under Zia ul-Haq who seized power from a democratically elected government in 1977, Pakistan was feted by Reagan as being in the front line against communist threats as he allowed his state to be used as a basis to build up the Afghan mujahedeen. Into the fray of war, refugees, American and British arms supplies, rampant drug trade and Zia’s own harsh Islamisation laws walked Bin Laden in 1982. This was the beginnings of the Frankenstein known as al-Qaeda which would come to haunt the West after America and Britain had effectively created it.

Saudi Arabia had heavily financed the mujahedeen and lent volunteers such as Bin Laden to the cause. Then again this pro-western ally had also contributed volunteers to 9/11 and other terrorist outraged. Despite being lauded as moderate Muslim state, Saudi has sent millions of dollars to find madrasas and front organisations to spread its intolerant strain of Islam globally. Known as Wahhabism or Salafism, this is deeply anti-western. Yet it was British help which allowed the creation of Saudi Arabia in 1932, after the Saudis had been crushed repeatedly by the Ottoman Turks.

Churchill himself praised Ibn Saud as a dependable ally. As with creating Iraq the British hoped for a client state which would guarantee them oil. Following 1945 American interest in the theocracy helped Saudi become move from a nation of desert nomads to riches beyond imagination. Western arms supplied the state while western geological and engineering expertise helped extract the huge oil reserves on which Saudi sat.

Under Bush Jr, the relationship with Saudi only increased, especially since Bush family were Texas oil magnates and had invested heavily in the Saudi funded Carlyle Group. Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, who has served as Saudi ambassador to the USA, was very close to both ‘Dubya’s and his father who of course also served as president.

 Therefore not only where Pakistan and Saudi Arabia creations of British imperialism which were then used to serve the interests of American foreign policy, but these torch-bearers of democracy have had an unhealthy habit of backing the very groups they now castigate as Islamist terrorists. In the 1950s and 1960s the Muslim Brotherhood received Saudi funding and Anglo-American backing ast be built up as a force against Nasser’s pan-Arabism.

Indeed Saudi was fully supported in organising the Organisation of Islamic Countries. There was also support for Darul Islam which launched uprisings against Sukarno in Indonesia. But most surprising of all was the clandestine support in arming Khomeini’s Iran the fury of which broke with full force during the Iran-Contra Affair of 1986.

Churchill’s Ghost

Britain and America may talk tough on terrorism but in reality not only ignore the central role played by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in terrorist attacks upon their own countries and casualties among their troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but have been willing to arm and support these rogue states in their funding and support of attacks against India. It is terrorists from Pakistan who have ethnically cleansed Kashmiri Hindus from their ancestral homeland in 1989. It is from Pakistan that terrorist launched their killing spree in Mumbai.

This is merely a fraction of the attacks India has to endure. Yet it elicits no sympathy from Britain and America, and especially the ‘neocons’ who see India and Hinduism especially as more of a threat then a brother monotheistic creed they are familiar with. Instead they lambast India for not allowing Kashmir to be free, conveniently ignoring the fact that it is not Kashmir that the terrorist want but the whole of India. Generously greased by Saudi oil money the Pakistan-based terrorism that has threatened India now looms large over its former Anglo-American benefactors.

The latter should ask themselves if India had fallen to Islam as other nations did then would the geopolitical impact in this alternative universe have benefited them? With the best universities and financially saturated think-tanks the English-speaking nations have in fact been poor students of history.

India has not only been ignored as the front line against international Islamist terrorism it has also been brushed aside for the role it played in making the world safe from fascism. Churchill is lauded as the war hero who fought the Nazi threat without compromise. But it was India which supplied the largest volunteer army ever to save civilisation from totalitarian barbarism in the last century. Over 2.5 million Indians donned uniform and fought for the Allies. What was their reward? Well as well as causing the needless deaths of three million people during the 1943 Bengal Famine, Churchill sneered:

“I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”

 Unfortunately that attitude is far from dead.

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About The Author

Ranbir Singh : Writer and lecturer, HHR chairman : BA (Honours) History, MA History from School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London : , Have lectured previously at De Montfort University, London School of Economics, Sternberg Centre for Reform Judaism. Contributor to various political and human rights discussion outfits.