Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
Friday, August 21, 2015 - In warfare, what counts is less territory than minds. Capturing land without winning the loyalty of those resident in that area would be of little value, as was clear in Iraq after the 2003 defeat of Saddam Hussein’s conventional forces by the US. Almost every tenet of psychological operations was trampled underfoot by the George W Bush administration, which could not understand the pride of the people of Iraq, a land that has a recorded history of more than three thousand years. The people of Iraq are enthusiasts of argument, and it is not uncommon to see them debate issues with each other in a very loud voice. Unfortunately for them, this aspect of Iraqi behaviour was not communicated to the 20-year olds in the US army who were in charge of security in Baghdad and other locations.
Some of the armed groups that have emerged in what is termed the Middle East owe the bulk of their recruitment to resentment at such disregard for life, although these cannot be compared to Daesh (ISIS) or Al Qaeda, which owe their origins to a sense of mission, however twisted the objectives of such an endeavour be Interestingly, some scholars seek to distinguish between Al Qaeda and Daesh , and even to claim that the former can be used to defeat the latter. It is true that in a formal way, ultimately Daesh - the way it is progressing in the permissive climate created by the US and its European and regional allies - will subsume Al Qaeda. The overwhelming majority of adherents of the latter will desert Al-Qaeda and head for Daesh. Indeed, the danger posed by the new organisation is far greater than that which had been present when earlier variants of this school of extremism flourished.
While the Taliban were the least likely to attract adherents from outside a defined geographical and societal pool, what was termed Al Qaeda had more pulling power, and used social media much more expertly than Mullah Omar’s men. However, the latest version (which has morphed from the earlier variant) is potent enough to attract individuals from across the globe, including those with less than an elementary grounding in theology. Daesh can proliferate in cities across the globe, including in the most developed corners, and with minimal contact and ideological reinforcement, would be able to create cells which would operate as a complete unit, choosing from a basket of tasks from suicide bombing to bombing to seeking to join battle units in Syria and Iraq.
Just as the AK-47 was deadly in its simplicity and its deadly effect, Daesh is the most potent threat to confront the globe since Adolf Hitler took power in Germany. Unlike that country, which fought a conventional war, Daesh would fight a war that was atomised, that was separated into small actions, such as the bombing in Bangkok, which appears to be its handiwork. The only remedy would be todeprive the organisation of the territory which gives it legitimacy, the way Afghanistan conferred status on Al Qaeda from 1996 to 2001.
Sheikh Zayed, the titular head of the UAE has shown the way in ensuring that modernity and moderation prevail over extremism and exclusivism. After all, as has been made clear in the past, the mind is the battlefield. In this context, it was of relevance to note that the United Arab Emirates has sanctioned the setting up of a Hindu temple in that country. It needs to be remembered that every human being is a child of the Almighty, and therefore we are brothers and sisters of each other, no matter what belief systems we hold to.
The fact of every person in every part of the globe being brought to life under the wisdom and control of the Almighty is clear, and hence the reason why those who accept the mercy, compassion and beneficience repeatedly taught in the Word of God will show those qualities to other human beings. To do otherwise would be to go contrary to the foundational message revealed fifteen centuries ago. The people of the GCC, in common with Arab people everywhere, are tolerant and friendly, and have shown this by welcoming into their lands tens of millions from other countries, including those who profess a faith different from the regional norm.
There are Christian churches in the GCC countries, as also Sikh gurudwaras, and these will be joined by a Hindu temple. By this single action, Sheikh Zayed has shown the falsity of the claims made by Islamophobes, that adherents of the faith are intolerant. Across India, those who thought that such a gesture was impossible in that part of the world are now re-evaluating their impressions, and this can be expected to have a very beneficial effect on relations between Hindus and Muslims in India.
The GCC and South Asia form a synergistic alliance, for the countries within both regions have multiple strengths, the impact of which could be magnified several times were they to cooperate. After 34 years of neglect, Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first PM to visit the UAE, a country far more important than many of the countries which Prime Ministers in India visit frequently.
Hopefully, he will visit the GCC several times each year, for the Council is crucial to the success of his Make in India policy. Having lost trillions of dollars in the 2008 financial crash caused by Wall Street greed, and at risk of losing an equal sum because of the turmoil besieging the euro, India offers an investment opportunity with significant long-term potential. Prime Minister Modi has already cut through the knot of commercial links with China by overriding the security agencies and granting e-visas to Chinese nationals. He has also welcomed investment from China, in contrast to Manmohan Singh, who never failed to look to Europe and the US for guidance in the making of policy. Both East Asia (Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan) and West Asia (the GCC) are on course to become the biggest investors in India, with promise of overtaking the US and EU by a significant margin, and this has been factored in by Prime Minister Modi in his outreach to both regions.
Meanwhile, those who used to go about complaining about the “narrow mindedness” of the GCC Sheikhs where it came to freedom of religion have been silenced by the noble gesture of Sheikh Zayed, of allowing a Hindu temple in his land, under the same sky and close to the same seas and breathing the same air which has been created by the Almighty for all living creations.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.