Sunday, December 14, 2014

Schizophrenia at The Hindu

The front page of The Hindu today gives top billing to a story headlined “Britain’s MI6 helps India home in on Mehdi.” It tells of the arrest of Bengaluru-based ISIS supporter Mehdi Masroor Biswas after he was interviewed on Britain’s Channel 4 television.

Another story on page 8 directly contradicts the page one narrative; it headlines the claim by Indian intelligence agencies that “Mehdi was under surveillance for long.” They were waiting to see if he would link up with more active jihadis.

I think the reason for this odd and serious dissonance is a kind of editorial schizophrenia induced by pressure from MI6. It probably pits the pro-British former Editor-in-Chief of the paper, N. Ram (now chairing the corporate board), against his younger relatives who control the editorial side.

But why would MI6 want public credit for helping India?

To divert attention from the real reason for outing Mehdi, the need to forestall any of its jihadi agents in the country from falling into the Indian intelligence net.

To make sense of this scenario we have to look at a broader back story involving the ongoing reinvention of British imperialism amidst a global power shift.

That power shift involves four factors:

1. Strong pressure from the United States to check money laundering, Britain’s primary business since the decline of Empire;

2. Pakistan’s growing pressure on the terrorists who control the drug trade out of Afghanistan (the most important source of illicit funds flowing through the British money laundering system);

3. The threat of American shale oil production to the oil economy of the Mid-East where Britain has a dominant role as wealth manager cum security guarantor; and

4. The potential of the emerging India-United States strategic understanding to undermine British influence in the entire region.

The most overt British move to adjust to new realities is the agreement with Bahrain to open a permanent military base there, the first one East of Suez since Britain withdrew all forces from Asia four decades ago.

Perhaps more important is the under-the-radar initiative to have al Qaeda – which Britain has controlled since the Mujaheddin days in Afghanistan – open a new chapter in India. The need to out Mehdi probably became urgent because he would undoubtedly have been a magnet for new recruits in India.

Why open an al Qaeda chapter in India?

Because the country is shaping up as a major new market for opium and heroin, one in which British proxies will find it far easier to launder drug money than in Europe or North America.

As Prime Minister Modi noted in his radio address today, the drug trade is linked to the financing of terrorists.

That is not all.

Everywhere drug traffickers operate -- from African countries trapped in endless conflict to Latin American States plagued with endemic violence -- they undermine civil government and create social havoc.

Unless New Delhi moves to address this situation strategically we could all be in serious trouble.  

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