Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Destruction of the World’s Eastern Heritage in Iraq; Eastern foundations of Western civilization


Destruction of the World's Eastern Heritage in Iraq;            Eastern foundations of Western civilization    
by K Gajendra Singh 9 July , 2003

'It would be a good idea.' Mahatma Gandhi, when asked about his views on western culture.

Bucharest ;There was an international cry and outrage in April and May, when following the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime, US armed forces as the occupying power, had allowed the heritage Museum in Baghdad and other museums in Iraq to be damaged and looted along with libraries, institutions and ministries, except for the ministry of oil (and the oil fields) In spite of warnings, the most comprehensive archives of Iraq's history were set ablaze. Baghdad 's National Library smouldered for two days with its half a million books, newspapers and documents reduced to ashes.  The Awqaf Library in Baghdad with more than 5,000 manuscripts was destroyed. The Saddam Manuscripts Library, with more than 40,000 manuscripts was looted.

Dr Charles Tripp of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London , who had used the Iraqi National Library in the 1980s said, 'It had newspapers from the 1920s and thousands of documents telling tales of the Ottoman period and the British mandate. Its hard to accept it is all gone. ' Mosul University Library with its valuable collections was also partly looted and burnt.' These collections offered a representative sample of the intellectual output of Islamic civilisation,' said Tim Winter, a divinity lecturer at Cambridge University .  'The loss of a thousand years of scholarly interpretation will impoverish Islamic thought, and strengthen the extremists indifferent to it anyway. ' Iraq 's history has been savagely massacred,' said Dr Irvine Finkle of the British Museum . "To burn books is possibly the lowest form of human activity. Who would do this And why?"

During the peak of anarchy, chaos and looting US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had commented "Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things,"

Professor Michalowski of Michigan said that this was "a tragedy that has no parallel in world history; it is as if the Uffizi, the Louvre, or all the museums of Washington DC had been wiped out in one fell swoop".  Professor Zinab Bahrani from Columbia University claimed that, "Blame must be placed with the Bush administration for a catastrophic destruction of culture unparalleled in modern history. " From Edinburgh Professor Trevor Watkins lamented that, "The loss of Iraq 's cultural heritage will go down in history - like the burning of the Library at Alexandria - and Britain and the US will be to blame. " Others used phrases such as cultural genocide and compared the US in particular to the Mongol invaders of 13th-century Iraq .
Cultural heritage bodies in USA and UK had requested their governments to protect hospitals, schools and cultural institutions, but these requests were largely ignored.  Martin Sullivan, Chairman of President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property and its member Gary Vikan resigned because the US military had had advance warning of the danger to Iraq 's historical treasures.  "We certainly know the value of oil but we certainly don't know the value of historical artifacts," said Vikan, director of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore .

On March 20, when US and its allies began their attack on Iraq with Stealth and B-52 bombers, Tomahawk cruise missiles, smart and stupid bombs, museums and curators, universities and scholars across the world were worried what that might do to monuments in Mesopotamia, the fertile crescent land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, the cradle of civilisations, the land of Nineveh, Babylon, Nimrud and Uruk, the world's first city.  Where the Sumerians invented writing 5,000 years ago, where the epic of Gilgamesh, which formed the model for Noah and the flood, was committed to cuneiform writing 1500 years before Homer.  The land of the Old Testament, of the Tower of Babel and of Ur , where Abraham, the father of the three great monotheistic religions, was born. The museum at Mosul , with its oldest churches and from nearby Nineveh has the remains of personality cult of Sennacherib, a seventh-century BC cruel Assyrian ruler.  From nearby Nimrud , the giant winged Assyrian bulls with human heads were stolen and now awe the visitors to the British Museum . The attack on the museum in Saddam's home town of Tikrit was, perhaps, a 21st century symbolic strike at the personality cult of Saddam Hussein.
So US pro-Consul in Iraq Paul Bremer allowed the gates of Baghdad 's heritage museum to be opened on July 3 for some diplomats and media, with heavily armed US troops and black-uniformed Italian carabinieri providing security.  But it was only a symbolic one day photo opportunity to convey the message that things were under control.  The Museum once had one of the world's best collections of pre-Hellenic statuary, gold jewellery and cuneiform tablets "It's important that people know the museum is coming back.  We hope to open properly within a year or two," said Dr Donny George, an Assyrian Christian and the museum's director of studies.

But a most remarkable thing has been the return of around 3000 priceless pieces under the "no questions asked "amnesty in which the clerics played an important role.  Some looters brought back the stolen artifacts, after imams had threatened to ban thieves from worship at mosques. The retrieved treasures included a statue of King Shalmanezzer III from 852BC, the Warka vase - a 5ft-high alabaster vessel from 3000 BC, encircled by several layers of sculpted figures, still with traces of red and grain colouring. Another rare exhibit is the gold treasures of Nimrud consisting of exquisitely crafted crowns, bracelets, cups and pendants discovered only in 1989 and rarely exhibited.  These had been stored in a vault of the central bank and had survived the US invasion, when the bank building was looted, set on fire and partly flooded. When the banks vaults were opened, bodies of looters killed in shoot-outs with rival gangs, were found inside, but the seals on the crates of the antiquities were intact.  The collection had been carefully stored with thousands of pieces hidden in secure rooms around the museum, in vaults in the central bank and in bunkers around Baghdad . This was done according to plans drawn up for 1991 Gulf war. 
But of the 42 most valuable items, 32 are still missing, including a bronze relief from 4000 BC, "worth 100 Mona Lisas.  And many pieces still remained unaccounted, with thousands gone from the storerooms. The museum did not have an inventory of its collection, not even on a handwritten card index, let alone on a computer. Who stole the museum's best items would take time to find out.  Dr George denied that some of the looting was done by museum staff.  But it was not just vandalism, he added.  It was clear that there were some professional thieves. "They had plans, glasscutters, and knowledge. We found keys brought by the looters. They opened the museum director's safe where they found other keys. " There are reports that some retrieved pieces are copies.

Why the initial reports of the losses were exaggerated remains a mystery but Dr George clarified that it was because of a misunderstanding that the 170,000 pieces were reported missing.  He had only given the total number of objects. The reports had outraged the world making it a symbol of the lawlessness of postwar Iraq and America 's failure to establish security after its quick victory.  Now investigations are under way, with help from Interpol and FBI teams.  It is quite possible that the reports of losses were intentionally exaggerated to attract world attention for provision of security by US authorities which was then lacking and to scare away the professional as well as amateur looters

While playing down the numbers stolen, Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, head of the investigating team appointed by USA said,  "Almost 3,000 items have been recovered, but over 12,000 are still missing. " He divided the looters into three kinds, those who went through the public galleries, picking out the most valuable or easily transportable items.  "They were selective in what they stole," he said.  When it came to the items looted from storage chambers, two dynamics were visible. "One was absolute indiscriminate looting.  Bags and boxes were taken from one end of the museum and dropped at the other." The "most troubling" thefts were of items "in the most remote corner of the most remote room. Other stuff on the way to it was not taken. You couldn't get there unless you knew it well. This was the priceless collection of cylinder seals and Hellenistic, Roman and Islamic coins". Under amnesty half the items were returned by people who took them for  "safe keeping "or given by friends, the other 1,500 were seized after tip offs.

About ancient monuments, experience with US armed forces is not very encouraging. American bulldozers had razed the ruins of Tell al-Lahm, south of Ur , during the 1991 Gulf war. The great arch of Ctesphion, still the widest unsupported brick arch in the world, was cracked by the vibrations of the American carpet bombing. John Curtis, the keeper of the department of the ancient near east at the British Museum, who visited Ur last year had little doubt the Americans strafed the ziggurat - a great, stepped pyramid - with heavy machine-gun fire the last time they passed that way.  "Whether this was an accident, I couldn't say," he says.  Another European invader Napolean had tested his artillery against Cairo 's pyramids.  Talibans had bombed Buddhist statues at Bamiyan in Afghanistan a few years ago, leading to international uproar.

On the other hand US and its allies point out that Iraqis have used ancient defences for parking tanks and point out that Iraqi airbase is in the shadow of the great ziggurat of Ur , city of Abraham .  Incidentally "the Ur airbase was built by the British in the days of its colonial mandate, when the RAF first demonstrated the civilising capabilities of bombing civilians from the air." Also if you put a machine-gun emplacement anywhere in Mosul , for instance, it will only be next to antiquities.  But that doesn't make Mosul a valid target.
There was another reason for the Iraqis placing machine guns outside museums.  After the last Gulf war, when Kurds and Shiites of Iraq were encouraged by US president to rise up against Saddam, several important museums and archaeological sites were looted in the chaos. Of the 4,000 precious objects missing (many more were destroyed), most stolen items followed the well-worn route to Israel ,

 Switzerland and, finally, to London , where many Assyrian pieces, broken up for easier transit, ended up on the art market or in the back rooms of antiquarian dealers.  As a pariah state, Iraq could not get them back through official channels, but the Iraqis were still trying to buy some of them back from western collectors when the 2003 invasion started."  Any responsible government must protect their cultural heritage," said a western expert.  Dan Cruickshank, the architectural historian whose film on the subject was screened by the BBC, said, 'It is simply not true that the people of Baghdad looted their own museum,' 'they have far too much respect for their own heritage to do that, he added.

For all his faults, Saddam Hussein was protective of archaeology, promoting it for a national rebirth and a repeat of the glories of the past, and comparing himself to Nebuchadnezzar (what about US presidents as Roman emperors ) who had built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon . His rebuilding the old city walls with bricks embossed with his own name next to that of Nebuchadnezzar was a crime against archaeology and aesthetics.  But to protect Iraq 's heritage as a patriotic duty, five years ago, 10 men from near Mosul who had cut the head off an Assyrian winged bull at Khorsabad, were executed.

But such is the insatiable hunger of western collectors for eastern artifacts that Iraqis continue to loot and smuggle them out of Iraq . Some American and European experts say that most of the 33 missing items were taken in the first few hours of the collapse of Saddam's regime and were stolen 'to order'.  Professor McGuire Gibson, an Oriental specialist from Chicago University and a member of the Unesco team investigating the thefts, had received reports that the 'top five' items among the 33 had been smuggled to Tehran and Paris within days of their removal.  The loot of eastern heritage has continued since millennia.  But ignorant Europeans have derided eastern civilization and culture.  One ignorant Englishman gave more weight to works of William Shakespeare than the whole of Indian literature.  Recently an uncouth Italian Prime minister described Muslims as culturally inferior.


In the arbitrary division of the world in to the West and the East along the straits of Bosporus, Dardanelles and Gibraltar ( from Arabic Jebel el Tariq ) or into Europe ( and USA ) and Asia, the Europeans first came in to contact with Asians and were either civilised or evolved their own civilization after encountering  superior and existing civilizations in Asia.  These Eastern countries i.e. Egypt, Syria, Iraq , Iran and Turkey, now Muslim countries, have fallen on bad days .In their heydays of the Muslim empires, the Arabs ruled and civilised most of Spain and Ottoman Turks reached right up to the Gates of Vienna .  They developed and spread culture and civilised Europe . Classical Greek and Hellenic works were translated into Arabic and thus saved as these had been lost in the west.  As conservative fundamentalist forces emerged on top, Muslim empires and civilisation decayed and they were colonised by the west with superior arms for waging wars.  As had been done earlier by the Indo-Europeans, Turks and Mongols. 

It is rather unfortunate that Muslims, because of Islam 's origin in  Arabian Peninsula have classified everything that existed before it, even elsewhere, as Jahilya ( ignorance).  Most lands conquered by the swords of Islam or Sufis and saints had ancient and flourishing civilisations. Thus, unfortunately little work has been done by Muslim countries to discover their hoary past, which are such rich sources of ancient history, culture, human thought and philosophy.  Only tourism has made them take some interest in their past i.e. Egypt and secular Turkey .  Even in Turkey , Government publications on their history start with 6th century Gök Turk empire (in Mongolia ) and then come to 11th century AD after the Byzantine defeat at Manzikert by Turkic tribes.  Thus a mis-conceived attempt is made to black out its pre-Greek, Greek, Hellenic, Roman and Byzantine past. The percentage of Turkic blood, mostly Turcomen would not be more than 15% in the Republic of Turkey . Other examples are the governmental attitude to Pharaonic past in Egypt and Indus Valley and Vedic past in Pakistan .   

Most ancient Indo-Aryan and eastern writings were brought to world attention by western scholars.  But some of them were not so enlightened and writing in 19th and first half of 20th century at the height of colonial period, tended to strengthen the notion of ruling white man's civilising mission and hence his superiority and supremacy over the native genius throughout history.  The propensity of the Brahmins, the highest caste among Aryans, to control and keep everything to themselves i.e. their close family members or caste men led to lack of transparency and hindrance to the culture of writing.  So there are few reliable records. Only the oral tradition remained.  Lack of transparency persists even to this day in Indian polity encouraging nepotism, inefficiency and corruption. India is No 71 in world transparency order. Writing has been acknowledged as one of the most important tools of civilisation. 

Apart from intrepid Buddhist travelers from China and others like Megesthnese, Alberuni, Ibn-batuta etc we have to rely mainly on Western sources or translations when it comes to the origins of history, religions, culture and civilisations.  As for the western bias we can see even today how CNN and BBC moderate, distort and even tell blatant lies about events taking place in Afghanistan, Pakistani, Jammu and Kashmir and now Iraq. Even TV channels like Discovery and National Geographic distort the truth.  Truth is becoming a major casualty because of western control of communications and thought, more so after fall of the Berlin Wall. Pravada and Izvestia had exercised some check. But the so-called impartiality, especially of US media has been exposed by independent Arab channels like Al Jazeera etc during the recent US war on Iraq .  

How Alexander "the Great " has been glorified as a Western conqueror of the East.  He was a small town homosexual boy who was taught the intricacies of state protocol, running of an empire and the divinity of the emperor by older civilisations of Asia Minor , Egypt and Persia . If he had followed the advice of his teacher Aristotle and not learnt from the so called barbarians, his vision would have remained limited and shallow.  The desert Arab tribes were civilised by the Byzantine courtiers and princesses in Damascus and Sassanians from Persia in Iraq after being conquered by Muslim Arabs.  So were the nomad Central Asian Turks and Mongols (also by Chinese) by the Persians.   

As there was little comparable civilisation in Western Europe and certainly USA in pre Christian era, they claim that there civilisation, culture and thought originates from the Greeks of Aegean and Asia Minor ( Turkey ).  According to them, Greek civilisation and culture evolved and flourished in Crete and evolved when Greeks (pirates) coming from the Aegean islands settled on the west coast of Asia Minor (called Ionia-Yunani) There fore Minoan civilisation of Crete forms the basis of Greek and hence Western civilisation.   It is too simplistic and illogical, if not downright absurd. Why not Cyprus , Malta , Sicily ?  At that time, there were flourishing civilisations in Egypt , Asia minor , Mesopotamia , Persia , Sogdiana and India . Persian Empire extended up to western Turkish coast with Sardis as its out post. Most Greek city states in Asia Minor were under the Persians, who could cross over the Dardanelles or the Bosporus at will or occupy Greek lands.  The first Greek victory over Persians is celebrated as Marathon race in sports.  The first victory of the West over East!  

Cretian civilisation is derived from Egyptian and Phoenician.  Both are indebted to Mesopotamian, verily the mother of all civilisations, which evolved mostly between Tigris in Euphrates in Iraq and  southeast Turkey .  The evolution in human progress took off six millennia ago.  But fourth millennia BC was remarkable, not only in Mesopotamia but in the Nile valley and the Indus Valley . From family units polity developed into villages and cities, kingdoms and empires.  The cities were ruled by a god and in his name by the king.  To begin with, the first deity was Earth, Mother Goddess. Civilisations in Mesopotamia were created by Sumerians, Babylonians, Akkadians, Assyrians and others. Nile got cylindrical seals from Mesopotamia and the beginnings of writing.  The Nile civilisation is magnificent, well preserved but unidirectional and flourished in isolation, without the stimulus of exchange. 
If one studies the Egyptian or Pharoanic civilisation, much has been contributed to it by the Nubians of Upper Egypt.  Many  Pharao's had  thick lips and crinky hair.  Or La la, Egyptians are bad enough and now to claim that the Sudanese might have influenced the Greek and hence the Western Judo-Hellenic Christian civilisation. Yes, after the development of civilisations in Mesopotamia and the Nile valley, it filtered to eastern Mediterranean , which became a cradle of civilisations, with exchange of ideas through trade and people. That is how the island of Crete acquired civilisation. 
The achievement of a civilization may be expressed in terms of its best points—moral and ethical, aesthetic, scientific, and, not least, literary. Legal theory flourished and was sophisticated. Early on, it was expressed in several collections of legal decisions, the so-called codes, of which the best-known and the earliest is the Code of Hammurabi.  Throughout these codes recurs the concern of the ruler for the weak, the widow, and the orphan.
There are 25 firsts achieved by Sumerians.  These include wheels, the plough, the loom, the potter's wheels, the brick, and the sail, working with metals and finally writing. Technical accomplishments were perfected in the building of amazingly accurate Ziggurats (temple towers resembling pyramids), with their huge bulk, and in irrigation, both in practical execution and in theoretical calculations.  At the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, an artificial stone often regarded as a forerunner of concrete was in use at Uruk (160 miles south-southeast of modern Baghdad ), The ultimate weapon to spread civilisations remains systematic writing. 
Judaism, mother of all revealed Abrahmic religions in West Asia is claimed to be the first monotheistic religion.  But it could have been perhaps influenced by Avestan/Zoroastrian/ pre-Vedic religions in Mesopotamia . In 14th century BC it was an Aryan Mitanni (a kingdom at the borders of Turkey and Syria) princess Gilukhepa, perhaps the well known and famous Nefertiti, who fully supported her husband Pharaoh Akhneton's (AmonhotepIV) efforts to bring in (and perhaps inspire) monotheism, for single God Aton (Sun or Mithra like!). This concept was too sudden and undermined the vested powers of the priests.  It was dislodged and soon after Akhneton was removed from power.  New work in Egypt is moving in that direction.  It was from Egypt that Moses led the Hebrews out to lay the foundations of Judaism.  

Now let us take the story of Illiad and Odyssey. For Western culture and civilization, they are almost like Mahabharata and Ramayana are for India , making its author Homer one of the most influential authors in the widest sense. The two epics provided the basis for Greek education and culture throughout the classical age and formed the backbone of humane education down to the time of the Roman Empire and the spread of Christianity.  The Homeric epics had a profound impact on the Renaissance culture of Italy .  Since then the proliferation of translations has helped to make them the most important poems of the classical European tradition. 

Illiad was finalised probably around 750 BC and Odyssey 650 BC (Greek writing started around 650 BC).  It is felt that Odyssey, so different from Iliad was not composed by Homer, the blind bard born in Asia Minor, but probably by a young lady (a Jane Austin) somewhere on the Sicilian coast with time to spare.  Let that pass. But there certainly is historical basis for the story of abduction of Spartan King Menelus's wife Helen by Trojan Prince Paris.  Menelus's brother King Agamemnon of Achaeans, then decided on a voyage of punishment and retrieval. This is when strangely an artificial line, straits of Dardanelles , has been introduced by the Europeans to divide the world into East and West and the victory over Trojans is taken as of the west over East.  Why?  Later Alexander made offerings at Troy (also at Egyptian oasis Siva) before embarking on his conquest of Asia . Ottoman Sultan Fethi after conquering Constantinople , also visited Troy . 
We need not go into the details of the two epics and Troy .  But in the search to find the exact place and the time of the events, credit might be given to Heinrich Schliemann.  Inspired by Iliad's description, he started digging at Troy site but damaged the real Troy .  He was a mythomaniac and big liar.  Paris 's father King Priam King of Troy is an hour's walk on the Asian side from the Dardanelles .  This strategic site, controlling the sea borne trade from the Mediterranean and Aegean to the Black Sea and beyond has been inhabited since fourth millennium BC. Troy 6, site of Homer's Illiad has been dated to about 1260 BC.  

At the same time, there was the majestic and magnificent Asian Hittite Empire (1800 BC to 1200 BC) in central Turkey , whose capital Bogazkoy 's citadel has a circumference of five kilometres.  The Troy fortress measures 200 yards by 150 yards.  Excavations show that Troy perhaps fell as a result of weakening by an earthquake.  It was assaulted and set on fire, women and children taken as slaves.  Evidence from Hittite archives indicates that Troy was a small state in alliance or subordinate to it. It was attacked when the Hittite empire was in decline and fighting its new enemy the Assyrians in the East.  So all this 10 year long Great Trojan war drama was a storm in a tea cup in the ocean of Hittite Empire, which extended from north of Turkey to Syria and up to Babylon (Iraq.)  Hittites were contenders for the control of Syria with the Egyptian Pharaohs and local Aryan kingdom of Mitannis in Turkey and Syria .   
The regions linking the river basins of Euphrates and Tigris , Oxus and Jaxartes, Indus and Ganges have contributed more to religion, culture and civilisation than the rest of the world put together. Comprising of Turkey , Syria , Iraq , Iran , Central Asian Republics , Afghanistan and the Indian sub-continent, there has always been natural interaction in the area through travel, trade, migration and conquest for over five millennia, with many civilisations having also evolved and flourished in desert oasis.  The more civilised areas were dominated first by Indo-Europeans charioteers and then the horse riders from Asian Steppes who shaped the Eurasian history.  Aryans of India migrated from the steppes of north of the Black and Caspian Seas and Khazakhstan from 3rd to 1st millennia BC.  Later Turks and Mongols migrated from the eastern Asian steppes to the Indian sub-continent, Iran and Turkey then known as Asia Minor, where as mentioned earlier had evolved and flowered ancient Greek and Hellenic thought, culture and polity as a result of interaction of incoming Greeks with the existing Asian civilisations of Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, and India beyond.  Turkey has more Greek sites than Greece and more Roman monuments than Italy . 

With a continuous history this area has been the cradle of most civilizations, thought, philosophy and religions; pre-Vedic to Vedic religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Avestan, Zoroasterism, Manichaeism, Judaism, Christianity with its various strands and schisms, Islam and such bye-lanes as Alevis, Alawaites, Yezidis, Druzes and many others.  Indo-Iranian, Ural- Altaic and Semitic languages have mingled with each other and local languages to produce such a mosaic of languages and tongues.  Culturally, linguistically, ethnically and spiritually there is no region in the world which is so rich and diverse but also has so much in common. 
Let us now take western (hence Greek) philosophy, which begins with Thales (who predicted 585 BC solar eclipse). Thales who established the Miletian school (near Smyrna-Izmir , Turkey ) speculated that everything consisted of liquid, his disciples Anaximander said there was unity behind multiplicity and Anaximanes that everything was vapour. They are considered spiritual forefathers of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. 

By 6th century BC schools of Jain and Buddhist philosophy were well established apart from Upanishads, Yoga, Charakva and Sankhya, which have an even older tradition perhaps going back to 8th century BC.  While religion and philosophy in India are fused; Buddhism, Jainism and some other schools started as philosophy of life without creating or relying on Gods.  Socrates with his inner (intuitive) voice and trances with Plato made a team like Ramakrishna Paramhansa with Swami Vivekananda i.e. intuitive speculator and philosopher with his eloquent spokesman. We know about Socrates only from Plato' writings. 

The Orphic and Pythagorean and later Parmenides philosophy or cults are similar to Indian philosophy.  Perhaps the ideas had traveled via Alexandria , hub of eastern Mediterranean , then held in high regard as a place for learning and wisdom , where  Greeks and others used to congregate and learn. Ugarit port on the Syrian coast was another meeting place for traders, travelers and wise men from the west i.e. Cyprus, Crete etc and east i.e. Iraq, Persia and India beyond.  Greeks and Indians were employed in Susa , capital of the Persian Empire , which also ruled north India .  So exchange of ideas and philosophy was normal. Scylax, a Greek origin Persian subject from Asia minor was commanded by Emperor Darius to navigate river Indus from Kabul to its delta on the Arabian Sea , from whose records Herodotus and West learnt about India . 

Earlier Greek writings and thought had everything; logic, speculation, myths, mystery and beliefs.  It's a difficult to say when the divergence between East and West commenced.  And why? European rationalism and renaissance! Does it have something to do with the colder climate of Europe , which made them think more rationally and did not lend to development of intuitive powers.  We can see the divergence even in the evolution of Christianity, Western and Orthodox.  Western theology turns towards dualism making a distinction between the spirit and the matter. Eastern theology maintains that spirit and matter are the two interdependent manifestations of the same ultimate reality.  Christianity has been influenced by Mithraism (from pre-Vedic cult ), then very popular with Roman legions, senators and even Emperors who built Mithra temples all over central and east Europe and Asia Minor. Christmas is celebrated on 24 December eve, time of  Mithra's birth ( when the Sun starts waxing ).
The divergence between conscious intuition of the East and rational thought of the West was perhaps complete after de la Carte announced  "I think therefore I am. ' Of course there's no place for intuition in this.  But many western scientists have declared that only intuition had led them to the discoveries of science.  Zen masters use Kaons, apparently illogical riddles, to unlock intuitive powers. West then took as faith Darwin 's theory of evolution that mutations cause species to change at random and the fittest survives and not Lamarck's theory that species change because they make determined effort to change.  It has played havoc with human history. Survival of the fittest theory brought in colonialism, imperialism and cultural orientalism. West also evolved divisive nationalism, Marxism, capitalism, ideological totalitarianism.  For these causes and ideologies many scores of millions were butchered in, so far the most violent of all , the 20th century.  

And now globalisation (forceful promotion of western corporate interests), under the garb of economic deregulation and integration, creating a system akin to Capitulations ie granting sovereign power to foreign interests and expatriates, roles now played by local presidents, prime ministers and others.  Capitulations undermined the mighty Ottoman empire .  Globalisation is another ruse to control wealth around the world with out any accountability. No concern of the ruler for the weak, the widow, and the orphan. It started with the mercantilism of Genoa and Venice if not Miletians, when  merchants started emerging as power brokers in Europe . 

West now believes that there is nothing superior to human rational knowledge. In Greek philosophy, the idea of unwritten laws exists - which ''live always and forever, and no man knows from where they have arisen". Western belief in an external moral universe, to which men owe obedience, has been changed to a rational secular alternative to this moral structure. Isaiah Berlin advice that ''solutions to the central problems existed, that one could discover them, and, with sufficient selfless effort, realize them on earth'' has been lost.  Popular religious belief in the West still remains strong, but since mid 20 century its elites have become secularized with radical autonomy and absolute freedom to do whatever one chooses - alone in the universe.  

What are a few centuries in human evolution ? Should we not change course. Does West need more stunning events like 11 September, which could be really devastating and catastrophic. The course being followed by US neo-conservatives in Iraq and elsewhere bodes ill for all.

(K Gajendra Singh, served as Indian Ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan in 1992-96. Prior to that, he served as ambassador to Jordan (during the 1990-91 Gulf war), Romania and Senegal .  He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies 

also see Al-Jazeerah opinion piece, Destruction of World's Eastern Heritage
in Iraq, by Indian diplomat K. Gajendra Singh. July 18, 2003 . ... - 10k - Cached - Similar pages

Alexander the Great on the Web | Images of Alexander | other ancient history sites | contact                       Destruction of World's Eastern Heritage in Iraq" by K Gajendra Singh, on (not the TV station). Wandering text wanders eventually to Alexander, where he comes in for grudging praise for disregarding Aristotle and learning from barbarians. His identification as a "small town homosexual boy" demonstrates all is not sweetness and light. New
Destruction of World's Eastern Heritage in Iraq , By K Gajendra Singh ... seals and
Hellenistic, Roman and Islamic coins". Under amnesty half the items were ... - 52k - Cached - Similar pages  

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ongoing war in Pakistani Balochistan

Ongoing war in Pakistani Balochistan
A.H Amin
It is a great mystery of history that the ongoing war in Balochistan took so long to begin ? As a young student in 1968 in Quetta I do not remember anything Baloch about the city other than few fellow students , all sons of leading sardars who were my classfellows or contemporaries.
All this was a British legacy.The British had created Quetta , to serve the army. The police was almost entirely Punjabi with some Pashtuns and Hazaras.They had even raised two purely Hazara battalions which were used with ruthless effect by Brigadier General Dyer in the Persian Campaign in Iranian Balochistan in the First World War.
The British found the Pashtuns friendly and gave them preference while they found the Baloch hostile.Pakistan inherited this British legacy and instead of improving things mishandled it.
Kalat the biggest of Baloch states was handled arrogantly and old political agents like Iskandar Mirza were the fathers of this excess of arrogance.
Ayub Khan was a diasaster in the Baloch saga.His arrogance and contempt for the Baloch aggravated things.He was treating Balochistan like Karachi where he could settle his district mates and terrorise the Baloch just like his clan terrorized Karachi in 1965 ! The Baloch were not tailored like that ! Thus retaliation of Sardar Nauroz Khan Zarakzai and his surrender obtained on promise of honourable treatment sworn on the Holy Quran.A promise that was rudely broken in torture chambers at Qully camp Quetta and on the gallows of Hyderabad and Sukkur Jail.
The worst blow on the pride of Baloch was thus delivered by Ayub Khan .Bugti came only much later.
Between 1960 to 1968 a fierce but forgotten war was fought by the Baloch against a military usurper against whom all Pakistan should have been in arms ! The torchlight was then picked by the Bengalis in 1971 who finally decided to call it a day and sought a divorce with a crude political arrangement where the minority ruled over the majority.
In 1969 martial law by Yahya Khan was welcomed in Balochistan because this was Pakistans only martial law which restored direct adult franchise in Pakistan,demolished the infamous facist one unit and which held Pakistans first real elections in 1970 ! A job which should have been done by Pakistans first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan.
My father was GSO 2 Operations of 16 Division in Quetta.All major leaders of Balochistan were invited by the general officer commanding for pre election friendly consultations.A young but charismatic Sardar Akbar Bugti then explained Balochistans demographic dilemma in the following words.
Sardar Akbar Bugti then stated that  development in Balochistan would mean turning the Baloch indigenous population into a minority and this would not be acceptable to any Baloch whether a common man or a Sardar. This faux pas was committed by Musharraf once he started Gwadar. Interestingly Gwadar a future Chinese naval base and a city that would turn the Baloch into a minority in their own province is a thorn both for the Baloch and the USA. A deadly possible convergence of interest in a delicate geopolitical era once USA is the only Roman Empire fighting the Barbarians ! 
The 1973-76 Balochistan crisis was engineered by the Jam Sahib of Lasbela , a non Baloch and Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan who engineered Mr Bhutto into launching a military action.When Bhutto wanted to make peace with the Baloch in 1976 he was restrained by the arch intriguer Zia who made peace with the Baloch after usurpring power, thus robbing ZA Bhutto of the credit of doing so earlier.
Ironically the present Balochistan crisis's father is the same Jam Sahibs son and a man with no understanding of Balochistan , ironically nominated as the governor by the usurper Musharraf i.e Owais Ghani.
In mid 2002 I told my coursemate and friend then a lieutenant colonel in the military intelligence and now a major general in the ISI that the next Baloch rebellion will commence from the south west tip of Mand Bullo and Turbat district.This was a strange proposition in 2002.My assessment was based on extensive visits to the area as a custom clearing and forwarding agent.
Gwadar was the catalyst as it was seen as Bugti had said in 1969 , a scheme to alter the demography of Balochistan.Bombings and incidents of sabotage thus started from 2002-3 in Balochistan.There may have been a US angle of checkmating the Chinese but the average Baloch felt like an outsider in the Pakistani state.
The important change took place after US invasion of Afghanistan.Baloch grievances against the Pakistani state were genuine but what kept the Baloch in restrain was absence of a state actor or state actors to support their armed insurrection.In 1974-76 the Baloch had received very limited support from Afghanistan but after Novemver 2001 the entire scenario changed.
Every insurgency in order to succeed requires support of a state actor.Thus the Afghan Mujahids of 1979-92 succeeded not because of their Jihadist zeal but thanks to US Dollars , military hardware and Pakistan as major base area.ISI officers like Brigadier Yasub Dogar was penetrating as far as Gardez to supervise rocket attacks on Gardez.For almost each major Mujahid attack a video film was made and sent to the CIA headquarters .Just like a contractor who has to support his invoices with supporting documents.
While Gwadar acted as a catalyst , Operation Enduring Freedom enabled many state actors to support the Baloch with military hardware and US Dollars just like what Pakistan did to Afghanistan in 1979-92 ! The wheel had turned full 360 degrees.But history is cruel and does not stand ignorance and injustice.
The Pakistani military establishment under the usurper Musharraf stayed in supreme denial.Thus when I stated in an article published in daily Statesman Peshawar that the next low intensity war may be fatal ! In 1971 there was West Pakistan to fall back upon ! In the next conflict the existence of what remains of Pakistan may be at stake ! Baluchistan and NWFP can absorb thrice as many Pakistani troops as Indian Held Kashmir can absorb ! I received an e mail from the editor stating  that my article had caused a stir in GHQ and that the newspaper could not publish my second article.
My work in Balochistan takes me to every nook and corner of the province.Over last seven years  ambushed laid by the Baloch have grown in sophistication with the biggest ambushes being laid at Bahlol Basri on Kingri Chamalang road in late 2011.
Turbat and Panjgur are in the lead with the fiercest ambushes at Niwano in Buleda , Kalatuk and Mad Bullo.Panjgur is like what Marri area was in 1974.Middle class leaders like Dr Allah Nazar command allegiance from Mashke near Khuzdar till Mand Bullo on the Iranian border.
My dear friend now a major general told me that all is in control but the civilians in the intelligence setup were more skeptical.The most brilliant summing up which one of them gave me was that we may be able to physically eliminate some separatists but we have failed to eliminate the idea of independence from the heart of the Baloch youth.
When I met legendary Baloch leader Mir Hazar Khan Ramkhani at Tadhri in December 2011 , he remembered young Punjabi and other leftists like Ahmad Rashid,Najam Sethi,Dillip Das and Rashed Rehman who had come to Tadhri Ghar in early 1970s.Now in his old age Mir Hazar Khan was more philosophical and narrated that the corps commander Quetta had visited him.Alas he said that the new generation was alienated.Although the Marris , the fiercest of all Baloch tribes wanted to make peace, there were major irritants hindering the process.
This is a time to think , to reflect and to meditate.Wars were never won by bullets or swords alone.Blaming India , USA , Israel is counterproductive.All will be OK when we agree that the fault was inside us also .By us I mean the Pakistani establishment.
The first step must be to hold new elections in Balochistan. Amend the 1973 constitution allowing all provincial governments to enter into partnership with foreign governments for any business enterprise .This would bring prosperity to all provinces and specially Balochistan.
Ironically Balochistan is not the only sufferer. In 1995 the Pakistani Federal Government contested Punjab's right to construct a ring road in Lahore and the Faiasalabad Pindi Bhattian Motorway with foreign Build Own Lease and Transfer system. Thus the Lahore Ring Road was delayed by some seven to eight years.
The issue is not Indian interference or US designs but an inbuilt intellectual constipation in Islamabad inherited from the British viceroys. Times have changed , so we have to change also. Or we will be drowned and taken to the bottom of the sea by the ruthless tide of history.
New states can be created in a jiffy when it comes to serious issues of global geopolitics.The congress defied the British in 1939 by non cooperation in the British war effort.The British revenge was partition of India which has kept the Indo Pak in relative instability since 1947.
Bosnia ,Kosovo were created with US support trampling all international principles.Iraq was literally divided in three parts in last ten years. Afghanistan may be divided into two or three parts in the next five years.Maps change , boundaries change. States are important but not sacred.
It is time that Pakistani establishment thinks proactively rather than staking their entire strategy on a few intelligence bosses assessments. Nothing is inevitable in history. What was lost in Hyderabad Jail in 1959-60 can be retrieved with a major change of political and constitutional posture in 2012.
Fear made men believe in the worst , but in this case , if major changes are not made in Balochistan policy , the worse may come true.
Maj (retd) Agha Amin is a strategic thinker and writer in Pakistan 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Short History of the Decline of the American Century & Its Hegemony (2002 -12)

                            FOUNDATION FOR INDO-TURKIC STUDIES                     
Tel/Fax ; 43034706                                                                  Amb (Rtd) K Gajendra Singh                                                      
Emails;                                                   A-44 ,IFS Apartments                                                                     Mayur Vihar –Phase 1,                                                                Delhi 91, India .
                                                                                                          15 February .2012
Short History of the Decline of the American Century & Its Hegemony (2002 -12) 
"Keynes's collective work amounted to a powerful argument that capitalism was by its very nature unstable and prone to collapse. Far from trending toward some magical state of equilibrium, capitalism would inevitably do the opposite. It would lurch over a cliff," --- Hyman Minsky.
"When there is a general change of conditions, it is as if the entire creation had been changed and the whole world been altered." - Ibn Khaldun
"History is ruled by an inexorable determinism in which the free choice of major historical figures plays a minimal role", Leo Tolstoy 
"History is but glorification of murderers, criminals and robbers." - Karl Popper
The author has kept a watch and written about the decline of the American Century and its hegemony since the first anniversary of 11 September, 2001

1.The decline of the American Century   Sept 11, 2002

2.The US Empire –Beginning of the End Game   24 Nov, 2006

3. The Decline and Coming Fall of US Hegemony March 30, 2008

4. Western Military-Capitalist Civilization in Disarray September 25, 2008;

5. Corporate Culture and Greed Sink the American Republic 17 May, 2009

6. Confirmation of Pressure on Dollar and US Decline 8 October, 2009, etc

8. Post Sept 2008 Crippled Economy & US Strategic Decline 4 July.2011
9.Post Bretton Woods; Emerging Outlines of New International Monetary Order

Amb(Retd) K Gajendra Singh

Situation in and around Syria

Situation in and around Syria
The Syrian Crisis Looks Unsolvable
For US led West and most of its dependent and submissive allies including many Arab states, the Cold War never ceased from the Western side, after the fall of the Berlin Wall .Just look at the extent of activities of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO troops once arrived in Crimea in Ukraine and were hounded out by an irate populace .Using the pretext of helping the victims of the earth quake, they even entered Pak occupied Kashmir. They are swarming around and all over the Mediterranean.
The events /conflicts /near wars unfolding in north Africa and West Asia are but continuation of the Cold War .Western Franchised street revolutions in early 2000s were resisted and stopped by Sanghai Cooperation Council members, when West entered Russia's near abroad, in spite of promises to Gorbachev (Do not trust anyone when strategic interests are concerned) .Regime changes in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine were successful but failed in Belarus and Uzbekistan. They have been reversed in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. Georgia was bashed up by Russia and Azerbaijan is uneasy with its close relationship with the West.
US led Imperialist powers have now tried to leverage peoples revolts against West supported dictators /puppets in N Africa and Middle East by trying to take over and guide the movements in their favour .They have helped Muslim extremists into positions of influence and power, in Tunisia and Egypt, a policy which the West (UK before WWII and in 50s to 70s) have always followed against national, socialist regimes of Nasser, Mossaddeq, Saddam and others. Or Afghanistan since 1980s and see the deadly effects and ramifications, all around. Saudi Arabia has been the main banker and financier in all such retrograde moves to keep Muslims and Arabs down and backward and let the West takes away their oil and other riches.
After regime change roll backs and failures in Eastern Eurasia ,favorable regime changes in N Africa  &ME is  desperate Western attempt to hold on to and regain power in the region in the name of democracy  , with total support from such 'pillars of democracy' as Saudi Arabia and now Qatar ( mostly their petrodollars) . Ankara, now in close alliance with Riyadh and Washington has followed a very debatable policy .It has upset its armed forces by jailing its last Military chief and many other senior military officers earlier laying the foundations for a Colonels coup at some stage .Turkey's population has 15% Alevis (victims of Sunni pogroms from time to time) similar in belief to Syria's ruling minority Shia Alawite elite. Turkey's Kurds, 20 %, are up in arms. Instead of zero friction with its neighbours , a much heralded foreign policy claim , Turkey now has bad relations with almost all its neighbours ,say , Syria ,Israel  ,Greece, Armenia ,and uneasy relationship with Iraq ,Iran and Russia . Turkish political model for Arabs is western propaganda, with Muslim Brothers in Egypt having declared opposition to it .The Ottoman Empire in any form shall not and cannot be resurrected .Yes, the Arab masses cheered Turkish PM Erdogan's lambasting of Israel's policies in Gaza and Palestine among other aspects. So they have Hezbollah leadership in Lebanon after the defeat of Israeli arms in 2006 and Iran president Ahmedinjed's defiance of US led West and Israel.
For maintaining US-Russian strategic balance of power, Moscow needs naval bases (in Tartus in Syria) and its military base (after losing out in Libya), so it is not going to let Syria be in hostile hands, whatever it may take .Russia is the rising again and has support from affluent and energy hungry China to face off USA and its allies in Middle East .At the same time US and EU are just about bankrupt.
There have been nothing but lies on Syria and earlier Libya in US media , a corporate handmaiden , British Govt propaganda machine BBC ,and unfortunately Al Jazeera ,a Qatar based once independent news outlet, which are now finding echo in Indian media and TV channels  mostly owned by Indian corporate interests ,Western dummies and collaborators.
Below is a very informative and perceptive article on the situation in and around Syria by eminent Indian diplomat ,K.Srinivasan , a former head of the Indian Foreign Office , who had served in Arab capitals including Lebanon , next door to Syria.
K. Gajendra Singh 15 Feb, 2012.Delhi
For Whose Benefit?
The Syrian Crisis Looks Unsolvable
Krishnan Srinivasan
Anti-government protests in Syria began in March 2011, spiraled out of control of the authorities and erupted into a challenge, mainly in Sunni-dominated areas, to forty years of leadership by the Assad Alawaite family. The government revoked the emergency, promised political dialogue and constitutional reform with multi-party elections, offered amnesties and released thousands of detainees, but the opposition rejects any compromise. The opposition comprises the exile-led Syrian National Council dominated by Sunnis and Muslim Brothers, the National Coordination Committee within Syria who are wary of Islamists, the UK-based Observatory for Human Rights, and army deserters comprising the Free Syrian Army based in Turkey. Syria has 21 million people and a Sunni majority, but with a 20% Alawite and Christian minority that supports President Bashar al-Assad's secularism. In November 2011, the Arab League, prompted by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, suspended Syria, imposed economic sanctions and organized an observer mission that was later withdrawn.  In January, the League called on Assad to cede power to a deputy, hold a dialogue with the opposition and elections under a government of national unity. Meanwhile, the government blames armed gangs and terrorists for the violence that its army attempts to crush, incurring 2000 casualties in the process. Each side blames the other for excesses and atrocities.
The United Nations has stopped estimating the casualties after the number reached 5000, and has struggled to get to grips with this crisis, because from the outset the Security Council has been split. The first attempt to move a resolution at the UNSC was last October, after the fall of Libya's Gaddafi, but a draft was vetoed by China and Russia with India, South Africa, Brazil and Lebanon abstaining. The BRICs stood together and Indian journalists reported that never had India been so popular in Syria, a country that has caused India no harm throughout its history.
With horrific images and emotional statements from the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Council filling television screens, the UNSC's second attempt came this month, giving rise to strong language. USA's Clinton called the vote a 'travesty' and Britain's Hague a 'betrayal', while Russia's Lavrov described the West's reaction as 'indecent' and 'hysterical'. The draft resolution noted the Arab League's efforts but did not endorse Assad stepping down, and denied it was the intention to intervene under the mandatory clauses of the UN Charter. But it did call for dialogue under the League's auspices, demanded access and investigation by League monitors, and cooperation with the UN Office for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council, all of which had previously condemned the Assad government. Therefore the resolution was supportive of the opposition and not even-handed. Predictably, there was another double veto from China and Russia, while the other members, including India and South Africa, voted in favour. Brazil had left the Council, and BRIC solidarity had broken. Another Indian abstention would have been lauded by our media as reflecting India's traditional approach, but the affirmative vote was received in surprised silence. Because voting at the UN is rarely based solely on the merits of a situation, the underlying objectives need examination.
The overall context is that both Beijing and Moscow feel under pressure from the USA; China fears increased American military presence in Southeast Asia and Russia a US missile-defence system in Eastern Europe. Though it stalled UN action against allies like Myanmar, North Korea and Sudan, China has never vetoed any resolution on its own, but always in the company of Russia. This is why the West's ire has been directed exclusively at Moscow. Beijing said the draft 'sought regime change that did not reflect the heart-rending state of affairs in that country', and could send a message to Assad's armed opponents that they had international support. It cited the Libyan precedent, where Gaddafi's overthrow had not brought stability to Libyans, but pushed that country towards civil war.
Russia derives prestige and foreign influence through maintaining a distinction between internal and international affairs, and rejects any pro-active norm-enforcing UNSC. It remembers the 'constructive interpretation' of resolutions by the West over Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Iraq and Libya that led to interventions of highly doubtful legality. It had abstained on Libya in March 2011, and was determined not to repeat that error. Russia is cautious about the outcomes of the Arab spring and unhappy at the rise of Islamists and Salafists in Tunisia and Egypt. It has its last remaining Mediterranean naval base in Tartus, and is the main supplier to Syria of military material.  It assesses that Assad cannot be toppled from within. Striving for a central position, foreign minister Lavrov said 'we are not a friend; we are not an ally of President Assad. We never said Assad remaining in power is the solution to the crisis…I do not think Russian policy is about asking people to step down. Regime change is not our profession. It is up to the Syrians themselves to decide how to run the country, how to introduce reforms, what kind of reforms, without any outside interference.' This stand has enabled Russia to be the only country working to find a solution on the ground, and one million Syrians are said to have turned out to welcome Lavrov on arrival recently.  Moscow would want whatever new Syria emerges to maintain close ties with Russia, but may find that its attempts to manage developments are as fruitless as those of the West and the Arab League.
The West seeks regime change in an unfriendly country. It will not allow Moscow to drive the process because it is determined that Assad must go. It will frustrate any Russian plan to bring the parties to a dialogue. Its objective is to separate Syria from Iran, the latter being the main enemy with Syria as its major ally. Deposing Assad would lead, in this thinking, to the bonus of weakening Hezbollah and Hamas as well. The UNSC resolution having aborted, there will be tremendous increment in clandestine and special forces' operations, especially through Turkey, in support of the insurgents. Turkey is pro-West and its Arab policy a dismal failure when it tried to influence events in the Arab spring. It was left an outsider, like Iran, and wants to recover lost ground. The Gulf sheikhs fear a 'Shia belt' from the Gulf to the Mediterranean, and have repeatedly urged US action against Shias in Iraq, Iran and now Syria. They will countenance strikes even by Israel to achieve this.
Of course, there are double standards galore. The US has used the veto fifty times since 1945 to protect Israel and deny the Palestinians their rights, turning a blind eye to Israeli massacres in the occupied territories. There was no call for UN action in Yemen or Bahrain, where large numbers of people were killed, because Yemen is an ally in the 'war on terror' and Bahrain is home to a major US military base. France's president Sarkozy asserts that 'France will not abandon the Syrian people'; bitter irony from the former mandatory power in Syria. The co-sponsors of the UNSC draft included Morocco, Colombia, Togo, Libya, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman, whose record of democracy, inclusive politics and tolerance of criticism cannot bear any scrutiny.
As for Israel, it remains silent, content to be out of the limelight for a change. It will not gain from Assad's fall; there will be instability and Islamists might triumph. In general terms, the Arab spring has been to Israel's disadvantage, but any weakening of Iran suits its agenda.
In Syria itself, Damascus and Aleppo and the principal units of the army are with Assad. So are Iran and Iraq and Shia Lebanon. Public support is also solid, but hard to quantify. All states, including the permanent members of the UNSC, have used excessive force against their own citizens at times, and given the reports that foreign elements are within Syria acting as 'advisers' to the armed opposition which is financed from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Assad can hardly do otherwise than respond with force. He has made many conciliatory offers; the opposition has made none. But even if Assad survives, it is hard to envisage what kind of future Syria he will preside over. The alternative is equally bleak; the opposition is a mixed bag of terrorists, Muslim Brothers, army deserters, secular activists and Sunnis, but Islamists are most likely to emerge on top as they have in Tunisia and Egypt. It will be a fertile soil for al-Qaeda.
The Indian 'explanation of vote', which is a facility given to every UNSC member, was opaque about India's real intentions. Perhaps New Delhi assesses that Assad's fall is imminent and there was need to curry favour with the opposition. Possibly India, knowing the resolution was going to be defeated, considered it had little to lose by a 'yes' vote and much to gain from the USA – our current obsession with permanent membership – and the oil-producing Arab states. Conspiracy theorists might bring in the Sunni vote in the UP elections, though this stretches the imagination.
Cicero suggested that one test be applied before any action is undertaken, cui bono? Who benefits?  In the case of the UN tractations on Syria, the answer is obvious – nobody.
12 February 2012 , Kolkata
Krishnan Srinivasan is a former foreign secretary

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Romania’s Capitalist Dream Turns into Nightmare

Romania's Capitalist Dream Turns into Nightmare
Another Victim of Neo-liberal Capitalism  
Romanian President Traian Basescu accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Emil Boc, heading a centre –right coalition on Monday, 6 February following massive street protests for weeks, first such ones after the fall of Communist leader Nikolai Ceausescu 22 years ago .Boc joins a list of European leaders felled by public fury at massive spending cuts introduced at IMF 's behest , as part of neo-liberal reforms medicine. The IMF had rescued Romania's state finances in 2009 with a 20 billion-euro ($26-billion) loan on condition of deep cuts in government spending,
Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu, former foreign minister and foreign intelligence service chief will form the new government. Ungureanu's statement that he will continue the unpopular economic reforms will do little to calm popular anger and unrest. The people are distrustful of intelligence chiefs as it reminds them of Ceausescu's dreaded Securitate (secret police). But as elsewhere in Communist countries say Vladimir Putin in Russia , the security services attracted the best brains and after the collapse of the communism , being well placed in the corridors of powers , most former spooks have done well and even flourished, except a few at the very top who were toppled .
 In spite of enough petroleum, gas, water and land and other resources, the loot under the Washington led policy of neoliberal capitalism has transformed Romania into the second poorest country in Europe Union (EU)
Finally the truth is coming out , the suffering masses have risen against neo-liberal capitalism enforced under US domination in Romania as they have elsewhere , across north Africa , the Middle East , except perhaps in Gulf Cooperation Council led by Saudi Arabia and egged on by Qatar two feudal kingdoms like others in GCC promoting democracy in Syria after having bloodily implanted it in Libya , with western energy and other interests taking over the resources .How about some freedoms and democracy in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The author who was ambassador at Bucharest in 1981 -84 , then entering a most difficult phase , spent nearly 10 years ( 1997 -2007) as an independent freelance journalist in Romania under the spreading wings of neoliberal capitalism , a Wall Street and the City, London gift to humanity. Soon after reaching Bucharest , an old grizzled Romanian engineer told the author that financiers were taking over the country and soon everyone will be indebted and spend the rest of lives in repaying the loans , which really benefitted the corrupt ruling class.
Strategically located on the Black Sea, Romania is a large country with a population of 23 million in the region, where population of most of its neighbors is less than 10 million. Its military importance was brought home when US war planes used Romania's airport near Constanza and other facilities after March, 2003 after NATO ally Turkey's parliament turned down US request for use of its land bases and airports to attack Iraq. There have been reports of Romania having allowed use of its military and other facilities for US rendition for torture.
Romanians , who consider themselves as Latin people in Slav lake were never happy being part of the mostly Slav Communist block and followed an independent line in foreign affairs , somewhat like de Gaulle's policies in Western block  .After the breakup of the Soviet Union and Communist bloc, Romania assiduously cultivated Europe for entry into Europe Union (EU) and USA for Nato membership .The latter efforts bore fruit in November 2002 when its admission into Nato was approved at the Prague summit in spite of many institutional deficiencies.
For whatever the strategic configurations in Eurasia between USA, Europe Union, Russia, Caucasus & Central Asia and now destabilized Middle East, Romania will remain an important strategic asset. Its vast rail and road network linking it to central and Western Europe and the seaport of Constanza on western shores of the Black Sea would provide a commercial hub across the Black Sea for Europe Union's export to energy rich countries like Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan after oil and gas starts flowing out the Caspian Basin. But following US policies blindly and its total dislike of the Russians has stopped Romania from benefitting, say in the transport of energy from central Asia, Caspian region and Iran to Europe.
The Romanian leadership was very exultant when joining NATO. "it would be a new beginning," said Romanian President Ion Iliescu. It will allow Romania "to be integrated into the civilized world, and to receive necessary support for internal reform." Indeed, many Romanians saw entry into NATO almost as a divine gift that will transform the country after a decade of post-communist bungling and looting by its politicians.
The Legend of Dracula
For centuries, Romania was ruled by the Ottoman Turks, and Romanian Prince Vlad Tepes, the Impaler, on whom the Dracula myth is based learnt some of his blood-curdling tactics when he was held as a hostage in the Ottoman capital Istanbul in the late 1400s. Tepes is a greta national hero . The Romanians in general dislike the Russians, and have little love for other Slavs too. Lying in the path of marauding hordes and armies from the Eurasian steppes and elsewhere throughout its history, it possesses an ethnic mix of a richness and beauty that few other countries can match.

Romanians claim that they are a Latin island in a Slav lake, with their cultural moorings in France . Two millennia ago, for two centuries, Roman legions were garrisoned here; some were from Catalonia in Spain and even Palestine . Their mixing with the local Dacian people gave the Romanian language its Latin character - in fact it is quite close to Italian, and even the Catalan dialect.

If Romania is described as a part of the Balkans, Romanians demur: "We are north of the Danube River, and entirely European," as Traian Basescu, a former mayor of Bucharest, then said. And they were reluctant communists. The system was forced on them by the invading Soviet army after World War II. Many Romanians confided to the author in the early 1980s that they wished that they had been liberated from the Nazis by the Americans, and not by the Soviet Russians.

Romania is fortunately self-sufficient in oil and gas, unlike its neighbors. It has rich agriculture land and was known as the "bread basket" of the Balkans. But now only 60 percent of the land is cultivated and land ownership laws are not clear or fully implemented; nor has land been distributed, with collective farm mangers from the past still making hay. Except for the summer months when vegetables and fruits sprout from the rich fertile soil, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and other simple fruits and vegetables are imported from Holland, Greece, Turkey, Spain and Italy. If state farms could be leased to agriculture and horticulture entrepreneurs from Turkey , Israel or India , Romania could not only feed itself, it could flood Europe with its fruit, vegetables and flowers.

The massive tourist infrastructure built by Ceausescu has been eroded, dismantled and destroyed over the past decade. In the absence of maintenance, hotels parceled among cronies have fallen apart, but room rates are on a par with West Europe . This discourages businessmen and keeps tourists away from Romania 's legendary fresco-painted churches and monasteries, scenic sights, Black Sea beaches and winter holiday resorts. Before being admitted in 2007 in to EU conditionally (along with Bulgaria), mafias from neighboring countries like Greece, Italy, Turkey had infiltrated the country's economic and political life. Despite making some progress in fighting corruption and organized crime
, both Romania and Bulgaria have been severely criticized in by EU over a catalog of failings, which could delay the two nations from joining Europe's passport-free Schengen travel zone. The objections are only to semiskilled and unskilled labor, not to their doctors and engineers.
After the collapse of Communism in end 1990, the hapless masses were required to transform themselves into free marketers, entrepreneurs and agriculturists, a herculean task for those where the state controlled everything. Before the masses could learn even the ABC , they were thrown at the mercies of Mafias and corporate .Then big cooperates like Metro , Carrefour etc were allowed in 2006 , the small shop keepers and retailers were stopped in their tracks and had to close shop .
Neo-Liberal Attempts in India for SDI in Retail must be Resisted and Stopped.
The western retailer's chains were not interested in promoting agriculture in Romania and had earlier closed its fine textiles manufacturing and readymade export business, creating misery and unemployment all around. The consumer is happy to begin with, buying vegetables imported in winter from Holland, Spain, Turkey, Syria and even Jordan .After monopoly control, the consumers feel the pain too ,like the local producers .But it too late
Ceausescu; the most influential leader in Romanian history; Soros Poll 2007
A Soros Public Opinion Barometer made public in end 2007 showed that Romanians put Nicolai Ceausescu as the most influential leader in Romanian history ahead of post Ceausescu era leaders like presidents Basescu and Ion Iliescu, as well as Kings Carol I and Mihai I and others .Although after capture of Ceausescus and their Kangaroo Court trial and murder , the authorities did not disclose the place ( in Bucharest where he is buried ) but poor and misery laden people have traced it and regularly place flowers and candles at the supposed tombs of the Ceausescu couple .
After a year's stay in Bucharest in end 1998, I had written the article below on Romania under capitalism and globalization, the buzz words then.
(Published slightly edited by Khaleej Times as Romania's Capitalist Dream Turns into Nightmare 3 January, 1999)
Like Count Dracula, if Romanian dictator Nikolai Ceausescu could rise from the dead, he would not complain about his comrades executing him after a sham trial. He would understand that, but letting US and Capitalist symbols pollute Romania , known as Dacia in ancient days, for even under communism, recourse to its national past and a Foreign policy diverging from Communist block provided acceptance and the underpinning for his regime .The symbols of victorious power, glittering neon lights of Coca Cola. KGC, MacDonald's, and even Sony and Daewoo would have hastened his return to the nether world.
Western media led by Radio Liberty and Free Europe during the Cold War had convinced most Romanians that they were the lost Christian brothers whom West wanted to liberate from the tyrannical and atheist communist regime .Those who could go to the West returned with glowing stories of freedom and of shops full of undreamt goodies. To counteract this, when his regime televised a Hollywood soap opera to highlight Western decadence, Romanians instead took it that once they had democracy and capitalism everyone would live in luxury with only board-room and bedroom battles to take care off and life would be a round of night clubs, casino bars, soda fountains and bowling alleys. But the reality has turned out to be very bitter, harsh and brutal leaving them confused and disoriented, selfish and even unfriendly.
It was preached and fervently hoped that market driven economy will usher in unlimited prosperity. Yes, for 5/6 % of the population, (who live as in European Union and think Euro-currency); wheeler dealers and unscrupulous smart Alecs, most entrenched in power since Communist era, exploiting old party networks and newly elected ones. But for the majority, victims of a free fall of 40/% in GDP since 1990, life is a dreary unmitigated misery with falling employment, rising inflation .Pensions of retired professors military officers, engineers have been reduced to $50 per month while prices are at par with West Europe .Yes, the shops are full of imported goods but, only to watch for the majority. And the country is now aglitter with symbols of victorious superpower and its ideology instead of huge wall sized posters of a youthful looking Nicolai Ceausescu staring at you. Romanians can have passports for the asking but get no visas. They are unwanted in West and if they do reach there are promptly deported back. An industrialized Romania is fast getting Africanized into an exporter of semi-finished goods .Social engineering in reverse has reduced  a socialist middle class and intellectual elite to penury and starvation. Yes, there is a democratic constitution, multiparty system, liberal and global economy
Being the most Stalinist regime with an omnipresent Securitate force (most still in place .A health Minister, an ex- Securitate informer, was made to resign) no dissent or alternate leadership emerged as in Poland, Czechoslovakia or Hungary. So the same old nomenklatura controls the levers of power .State enterprises are run as personal fiefs as in the past. Barring transfer of flats to tenants (more than 80% of population lives in flats built during Ceausescu era) for nominal sums to win the elections, until end 1996, under President Iliescu there was not even a pretense of reforms. So there is little change in old economic structures. There is a 'dog in the manger' policy. Incapable of handling complex business and industrial activity they would not let others in. Foreigners want to buy it cheap, perhaps sometimes true, but the cash gobbling inefficiently run enterprises with massive current account deficits are corroding the entrails of national economy while apparatchiks are eating into national wealth and undermining future prosperity.
Except for those from foreign trade ministry and state export enterprises the rest had no idea at all of how to trade, run a business or industry. So they are learning by doing -the hard way. Many set up rows after rows of snack shops, Casino bars and kiosks selling the same soft drinks, beer and hard liquors with fancy names like Sheriffs, Texas , Hollywood , Bingo Pall-mall or Chez Gabi. But unlike Hollywood serials there are few customers. Many which had opened with great fanfare and glittering facades have downed shutters. Now deserted and abandoned along with silent and rusting industries they have become symbols of the vanquished in the Cold War. And living examples of Romanians' American dream come unstuck.
 Since last two years the so called reform coalitions are perpetually squabbling in and out of Parliament, fighting for jobs for their cronies (govt servants can be party members) Barring few, professors like President Constantinescu and others who are hapless and ineffective, others have joined in the privatization of public assets into their own names or their friends and relatives with everyone looking for a fast buck. There is little transparency in privatization or elsewhere leading to unfair practices. With insider trading the stock exchange has become moribund. Even in acute economic austerity, a minister wanted to order Bell Helicopters for $ 2 Billion, even embarrassing USA .When accused of kickbacks he fished out the draft contract on TV showing that it did not include any commission clause. President's own Security chief was involved in large scale systematic smuggling of aircrafts full of contra-band cigarettes through a military airport. A well meaning President and Prime Minister, another professor, unable to comprehend, lacking the will or resolution prefers travelling abroad to avoid facing problems at home...
There is little regulation and rule of law. The swindling of life savings of millions in get rich quick pyramid scheme in Club up North with the regime's connivance if not participation are living examples. But lotteries still do a thriving business. Mafias attracted from Italy , Greece , and Turkey and elsewhere have linked up with officials and are spreading its tentacles. Little has been done to establish property laws, banking regulations or stock market, a necessity for the Milton and system of laissez faire. The banks are being used to enrich the politicians and their cronies. Visas are difficult even for businessmen because some Romanian diplomats trade in them. The first interface for visitors and tourists are the taxi drivers of Bucharest , always ready to make a killing, Reasonable cabbies charge only four times, many extorting $100 from the airport for a $10 trip. And there is no recourse or law the establishment seems to imply OK you wanted freedom, democracy and capitalism. You have it. 
Romania started with many natural and built in advantages to soften the pains of transition to market economy. It has a strategic location on Black Sea for NATO and as cross roads for trade between energy rich Caspian countries and Europe . Almost self sufficient in oil and gas unlike its neighbors, Romania has rich agriculture land and was known as the "bread basket' of the Balkans. But now only 60% of the land is cultivated. Land ownership laws have not been passed nor land distributed with collective farm mangers from the past making hay. Romanian wheat is more expansive than from neighboring Hungary. Except for a few summer months when some vegetables and fruits sprout from rich fertile soil, year round even beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and other simple fruits and vegetables are imported from Holland , Greece , Turkey , Spain , or Italy .
The massive tourist infrastructure built by Ceausescu is being eroded, dismantled and destroyed fast. In the absence of maintenance, hotels parceled among cronies, are falling apart but rents are at par with West Europe which discourages businessmen and keeps tourists away from Romania 's legendary fresco painted churches and monasteries, scenic sights, Black Sea beaches and winter holiday resorts. And now with economies collapsing in ASEAN, Russia and elsewhere, investors are wary of investing any where, more so in Romania. Still inspite of many problems, because of big market of 23 million and hopes to join NATO and EU, it offers good opportunities for investors. Imports from the Gulf, are on the increase with many Iranians and Arabs doing retail business. There are over two hundred thousand Muslims mostly of Tatar and Turkish origin, whose freedoms were more or less suppressed during the Communist era. But they are now much freer to worship and getting organized .So are the Gypsies, who were persecuted earlier. With their inborn flair for trade they are doing exceedingly well in marketing of flowers, vegetables and fruits. But there is a growing emergence of racism against Arabs and Asians and anti-Semitism, for the latter Romania was known even in the past but it had been kept in check under communism
Unfortunately the most devastating development with long term consequences is the precipiticious fall in educational standards. Romania was rightly proud of its exacting high standards in technical and medical education and tens of thousands mostly from Arab countries but even from the West and USA used to study in its polytechnics and universities. But shrinking budgets for education leave little money for labs or books with Professor's salaries declining to $100 per month. Life is a struggle and there is little teaching .Instead teachers try to earn money otherwise and elsewhere neglecting their duties .So the new engineering and medical graduates might be literate but will be uneducated. Similarly health and culture, with a very high reputation in music, ballet and theater, have also suffered. With no role models and no discipline or regulation, the young have taken to enjoying themselves. More than 60% failed their high school examinations. Tall, slim and beautiful , some stunningly so, a result of multiethnic mixture ,the new generation presents a pleasing sight ; the effervescence of sheer youth, joie de vivre bubbling up after decades of communist  uniformity and drabness .If any one wanted , like in Venezuela , one beauty Queen after another could be chiseled out year after year.
Indo Romanian Relations
Traditionally Romanians have been fascinated by India ,its history, culture, religion and spirituality .Over centuries thousands of Indian classics or books on India have been translated .Rabindra Nath Tagore, who visited Romania in 1926 is a household name. Sanskrit has been taught at Universities since last century. Poets and intellectuals like M.Eminescu, M.Eliade and S.Al-George have brought Indian philosophy, religion, art, history and poetry to Romania and acted as interpreters to the West. The Indian Embassy has done a splendid job in keeping the flame of Indian culture alive by holding seminars, exhibitions, publication of books with a bust of Tagore having been recently unveiled at the prestigious National Theater.
But the new generation is Western consumer oriented. The story of Dr Amita Bose, who had taught Sanskrit, Bengali and Indian culture in Bucharest for twenty years is a tragic example. In the new era she was confident and enthusiastic to do even more, but the authorities under the spoils system dismissed her without much ado and appointed instead one of her own but inadequate pupils. Heartbroken, Dr Bose died soon after, unwanted in her country of adoption and unsung in India, whose cultural ambassador she had become. But she has left behind thousands of students, many still pursuing Sanskrit studies and Indian philosophy.  But one wonders if some who after a few years of Sanskrit and philosophy translate Gaeta and other India classics into Romanian do it for love or to earn publishers royalties.
India always had a strong economic relationship with Romania, which helped her in oil and refining industry in 1950s. Romania was a major buyer of iron ore and supplier of urea, chemicals and steel products. Inspire of many problems , because of its location ,a big market of 23 million and a candidate for NATO and EU, it offers good opportunities to Indians to invest in pulp and paper, pharmaceuticals, furniture ,textiles, steel, petrochemicals and fertilizers (with 30 million tons of refining capacity). Currently India is a major buyer of Romanian products which at US$ 177 million in 1996 ($239 million in 95), were more than its combined exports to China , Japan and Korea or total exports to Latin America . But there are unnecessary hurdles in grant of visas to Indian businessmen, simply because some Romanian diplomats were trading in visas in its missions in Amman and Bonn etc. During Ceausescu era Romania always supported India on Kashmir but now it takes an equivocal stand, not on merits but perhaps to please USA , while it badly treats its own Hungarian minority in Transylvania, even objecting to setting up a Hungarian language university.
 While it took communism 50 years to discredit itself (and 80 years in Russia) unbridled capitalism let loose on hapless and unprepared populace has done so here in 8 years only, which could make capitalism the most tortuous and hardest path from Communism to authoritarianism or worse. Romanians continue to suffer as they have done throughout history, ever obedient to the powerful. The youth who had sparked the 1989 December spontaneous revolution, stolen by the older nomenclature, have lost faith and become disheartened. Not that people want communism back, but there is nostalgia for Ceausescu among the elderly who miss the social equality and security system; almost free medical aid, subsidised food and housing   Regrettably the Capitalist world glorying in the defeat of Communism has proved to be very short sighted and has been hypnotized by its own propaganda of the victory and efficacy of Capitalism


Of course unlike after the WWII there was no alternative political and economic system to frighten the USA and thus there was no Marshal Plan. (And the money? considering the cost in East Germany alone!)  Also it is doubtful if it would have succeeded everywhere in the absence of a receptive economic soil. (How money seeped out from Russia) It takes a generation and more to establish respect and obedience for laws on property, commerce, banking, stock exchange and to have the requisite economic institutions and infrastructure in place. With the very concept of capitalism as panacea for all being questioned now, even in the West, because of its collapse even after its prescriptions were followed under IMF tutelage in South East Asia for decades and its being in trouble even in Korea, Japan, Brazil, it could only further strengthen the suffocating control of the old guard in Romania and elsewhere taking a cue from Prime Ministers Mahathir, Primakov and others. While Bill Clinton and Parrot quibble about a few thousands jobs in election debates , West expects reformers or former Communists turned 'democrats and free marketers ' to let millions down the poverty line-only a dip in the prosperity curve drawn by Business school  shock therapists - and get re-elected democratically. It is not an easy dilemma for most former communist's states. The least the West ought to have done and can still do is to organize and implement a massive' Marshal Plan 'for training and retraining of managerial cadres.  

K.Gajendra Singh; Bucharest, Romania. 18 December   , 1998