Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
Friday, May 18, 2012 – Foreign companies know that a sure way of blocking foreign competition is to get the intelligence agencies of their country to send a report to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) which implicates their competitor as a security risk. Companies that are based in NATO member-states are particularly adept at such “under the waterline” ways of retaining their dominance in the expanding Indian market. So trusting is the IB of intelligence agencies from key NATO states that the organization uncritically accepts their input, unaware of the commercial considerations behind them. Very often, especially when Indian companies make technological advances that challenge the monopoly of foreign companies, scandals surface about them in the media, thereby
paralysing their operations as a result of the subsequent investigation by government agencies. An example was the “cryogenic engine scam” of the 1990s,when false charges of espionage were levied by the IB against key scientists working in the program. The entire operation was CIA-inspired, in furtherance of Bill Clinton’s agenda to keep India from developing high technology items. Two Maldivian women whose only crime was that they were fun-loving were rounded up and accused of being spies. Four key scientists (all active in the cryogenic engine program) were also arrested,” for passing on secrets”. The only secrets that were transferred were photographs of the scientists, but CIA plants inside the IB made sure that they were arrested. The development of an indigenous cryogenic engine for Indian rockets was delayed by nine years as a result of the false accusations made by the IB, all of which were subsequently found to be false. Recently, a huge controversy has erupted over the Antrix Corporation, of the Indian Space Research Organisation. Once again, key scientists are being maligned. The chances are that this is another operation designed to sabotage key programmes, this time in Space research andapplications. It is very likely that foreign competitors are behind the allegations being made against those who have served the country’s Space programme for decades. However, other CIA plants in the IB and in the Home Ministry ensured that the intelligence officers who were guilty of treason in subverting a key strategic programme were allowed to continue their careers without hindrance. So powerful is the influence of the US, British, French and Italian secret services within the Indian establishment that only two officers have thus far had their careers blocked by exposure as foreign agents. One was allowed to retire, while the other — RAW Joint Secretary Robinder Singh – was facilitated in his escape to the US by other officers, all of whom continued in the organisation and were given multiple promotions.
Although Robinder Singh had been exposed as a foreign spy by 2001,he was allowed to continue in RAW. In 2004,despite being under supposed 24-hour surveillance, he “escaped” by car to the Nepal border, from where the CIA took him to the US, to join his sister, who is a long-time resident of that country. No action was taken against those who facilitated his escape, even though telephone records exist of some of them warning him of surveillance during 2001-2003. The fact is that intelligence agencies in India are riddled with those who are secretly working for NATO member-states, either for pecuniary gain, or because they have fallen victim to sex traps,or are looking to permanently relocate to the US or to Canada. While agencies with a professional culture have muscular counter-espionage capabilities, such a corrective is absent in India when it comes to dealing with NATO. Both under A B Vajpayee (1998-2004) and thence under Sonia Gandhi, the alliance which today openly says will police the globe has vast influence in India, such that those friendly to it find their careers moving forward, while others languish. An example of the way in which intelligence agencies block development as a consequence of being misled by commercial interests working through their own agencies is the Northeast.
Although this part of India abuts two of the most dynamic corners of the world – China and ASEAN – yet it is grossly underdeveloped. Although on paper huge amounts of money get spent on roads and other infrastructure, much of this gets eaten away by politicians and officials, with the result that while infrastructure on the Indian side is still in the bullock cart era, that on the Chinese side is 21st century, as is that in most of ASEAN. Since the 1950s,development has been blocked in the region, on grounds of security, when the fact is that the more development there is, the more security there will be.In the case of the north-east, the principal reason why insurgency has cooled off in that corner of India is not because of the ubiquitous presence of security agencies, but because hundreds of thousands of young people from the north-east of India are today working in big cities across the country. The people of the north-east are by nature very charming and polite, and speak much better English than most other people in India. Such qualities have made them attractive as employees across the country, thereby giving them a stake in the unity and prosperity of India.
Integrating India firmly with ASEAN through the creation of air, sea, rail and land routes is the best way of ensuring stability in the north-east. Indeed, such a linkage of India with ASEAN would promote growth on both sides. However, thus far, despite tall talk that has gone on for thirty years, very little has been done to improve communications between ASEAN and India through the east of the country. Indeed, fed on a diet of “Block Development” that has been made available by agencies promoting an alien agenda of keeping India from technological excellence, any call for developing the Northeast falls foul of the intelligence agencies. Even the NATO countries are not exempt from such a prejudice. A couple of weeks ago, a delegation of envoys from the EU visited the North-east, especially Nagaland, and interacted with people there. That members of the EU still regard themselves as overlords of the rest of humanity was made clear in Libya, when bombs and bullets forced through regime change. It is manifest in Syria, where a NATO-assisted civil war is brewing. Countries such as Norway act as though they alone are the repositories of morality and ethics, forgetting the fact that they are among the biggest per capita polluters in the world. However, the EU in 2012 is very different from 1992,the year when the group worked hard to insert itself in Kashmir. At that time, Europe was economically booming, while China had not yet become a superpower. India was still limping along. Even so, the Narasimha Rao government was able to deflect US-EU-GCC-China pressure on Kashmir and stick to its course.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.