Monday, August 26, 2013

Britain and Hinduism 7: Ending the Empire

A British correspondent once said to me after the daily noon briefing at the UN, “You’re the only Indian journalist I’ve ever met who asks about anything other than Kashmir.” Then he added. “Actually, only English journalists ask about everything. Everyone else sticks to their own national issues.” When I pointed out that American journalists asked about all issues, he laughed: “Yeah, but the Americans don’t know what to ask until we tell them.”

Friday, August 9, 2013

Britain and Hinduism 6: Empire of Crime

 In 1916, the third year of Europe's Great War, Grigory Efimovich Rasputin the “mad monk” from Siberia, who had gained access to the Tsar’s family as a faith-healer, was brutally murdered in St. Petersburg, the capital of Tsarist Russia.

A clique at court was blamed for the crime but although its members fed him large amounts of potassium cyanide, bashed in his head with a heavy candlestick, stabbed and shot him, none of them actually did the killing. That was done by a young British Cavalry officer sent from London; he shot Rasputin in the head as the bleeding coatless cleric fled into the freezing night. The British government had anticipated that the Russian amateurs would need help. London wanted Rasputin dead because his pacific influence on Tsar Nicholas II was raising the possibility of a unilateral Russian withdrawal from World War I, and that would have been disastrous for Britain.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

William Dalrymple's Afghan Diary

Dear Diary,

I'm an "eminent historian" I'll have you know. Strobe Talbot said so in a letter introducing my essay for Brookings. Been getting a lot of mail about that. All good except for a narky note that said it was all nonsense, the Afghan War wasn't about the India-Pakistan rivalry at all but about the $60 billion drug trade out of Afghanistan.

You know, I was thinking perhaps I should have mentioned drugs, just to be on the safe side. But then again, once you mention something like that, there's no telling where it will lead ...

Before long someone will probably rake up the fact that we Brits originated the opium trade in the 18th Century and fought two “Opium Wars” in the 19th Century.

Then someone will surely mention how in the 20th Century, HSBC and Matheson and all the other Brit companies took the drug trade underground when the Americans insisted on banning it.

And inevitably, some busybody will mention that we were up to our chins in creating the Afghan war.

I'm not saying any of that's wrong, but do we have to talk about it all the time!

What good will it do to admit yes, we did create Pakistan and its ISI, Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood. And yes, London also jockeyed all of them into supporting the Mujaheddin who established the Afghan opium trade ... but hey, permanent interests, you know.

Anyway, I like the title: “A Deadly Triangle: Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.”

I don't know if I really made the case that “hostility between India and Pakistan lies at the heart of the current war in Afghanistan,” but even if I didn't there's enough razzle dazzle to distract everyone.

I like the paragraph that goes on about "the existential threat posed by India" to the Pakistan military taking "precedence over all other geopolitical and economic goals.”

Hope no one asks why there should be an existential threat when things are improving between the two countries and the atmospherics are quite friendly.

Also: “The fear of being squeezed in an Indian nutcracker is so great that it has led the ISI to take steps that put Pakistan's own internal security at risk ... For much of the last decade the ISI has sought to restore the Taliban to power so that it can oust Karzai and his Indian friends.”

Wonder if the Yanks really buy that...

Well, MI6 certainly will. They desperately need talk of an Indo-Pak war, or perhaps even a real war, to soften up Delhi’s resistance to Vodafone and BP. With China on the skids and a mega recession looming, what’s The City to do if India continues to hang tough!”

Well, Dear Diary, don't be too surprised if there is another blatant 26/11 type episode to get things back the way we like them!