By Aijaz Zaka Syed
As the debate over India’s nuclear deal with the United States heats up, a totally new angle has been added to the controversy: Whether the deal is ‘anti-Muslim’ and if the Muslims, India’s largest minority and the world’s largest Muslim population, support or oppose the accord with the US.
So the poor Indian Muslim, who keeps his head down and is ever grateful for the empty rhetoric and promises of calculating politicians, finds himself yet again at the heart of petty vote bank politics.
From Congress politicians like Salman Khurshed to media pundits like Barkha Dutt, just about everybody seems to be debating if the nuclear accord with Washington is acceptable to Indian Muslims or not.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, who once claimed to champion the Muslim cause and took pride in being called Maulana Mulayam, is making much song and dance about “protecting the interests” of his Muslim constituency.
Mulayam’s Samajwadi Party consulted experts like the illustrious former president and father of India’s nuclear-missile programme Dr APJ Kalam before coming forward to rescue the governing Congress Party. After the Left parties walked out of the coalition protesting the nuclear deal, the Samajwadis have offered their own crutches to prop up the government tottering on the brink.
What I find most amusing about this whole debate is the hypocrisy of politicians like Mulayam and the pretension that the Indian government and leaders somehow make their policies and decisions, as crucial as these, according to the wishes and concerns of the Muslim community.
Frankly speaking, who gives a damn what Indian Muslim thinks? Not this government. For that matter, no government in the past has ever lost any sleep over the concerns and sentiments of the 200-million-strong Muslim community.
The Muslim sentiments were hardly of any concern to the government of Narasimha Rao when it went ahead ignoring the community’s protests – and those of others — to establish full-fledged diplomatic relations with Israel.
In any case, who are we to protest India’s love affair with Israel when many Arab and Muslim countries are bending over backwards to hug our Zionist friends?
Returning to the US nuclear deal, many in the Muslim community have been alarmed by the Indian media’s dangerous attempts to give a religious spin to the issue. The other day NDTV hosted a lively debate on the US deal and how Muslims look at the whole business.
And everyone involved obsessed over the so-called Muslim stance on the issue as if it was crucial to the success or failure of nuclear arrangement with the US.
No wonder the Muslims are concerned. Given the long history of such innocuous issues turning into explosives in the hands of militant anti-Muslim organisations such as Shiv Sena and RSS-VHP-BJP combine, their concern is not unjustified.
Alarmed by the dangerous direction the whole debate has taken, and even as the Congress-led government fights for survival, Muslim organisations and groups are trying hard to distance themselves from the issue.
Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind, a staunch Congress ally, has passed a resolution dissociating the Muslim community from the controversy. The organisation, which played a leading role in the independence struggle, has condemned politicians for using the issue for Muslim vote bank.
The party has reasonably argued that the decision if the deal is in national interest or not is for the politicians and scientists to decide. A party functionary, Kalimullah Khan Quasmi, has complained that there is a concerted effort to link the deal with the Muslim vote bank. “This is not a religious issue," pointed out Quasmi.
Exactly! What has a nuclear agreement between India and the US got to do with the Muslims and their religious convictions? And why those opposed to the deal are doing so in the name of Muslims?
That said, I believe the Muslims as well as other communities in India must oppose this unholy nuclear alliance with the neocons. Not because this accord is against the Muslims, as some of our politician friends in their excessive enthusiasm seem to suggest, but because this is against India’s long-term interests.
I am no expert on nuclear energy or finer points of strategic cooperation between the two nuclear weapons states like India and US. I don’t know and I don’t care if this will help India meet its growing energy needs, as some enthusiastic supporters of the arrangement claim.
All I know is this is a well-calibrated plot by big powers to ensnare and use the world’s largest democracy to promote their own agenda.
The enterprising Muslim community does not have to withdraw itself into its defensive shell if it is being dragged into this debate. Indian Muslim does NOT have to be apologetic in opposing this deal because this country belongs to him as much as it does to the next Indian.
In fact, anyone who cares for this great country should and would oppose this dubious deal.
We must oppose this arrangement for two reasons:
First and foremost, this deal will undermine and compromise India’s historical independence and political sovereignty. I am not suggesting that by inking this pact, India will become a US colony and White House will station its viceroy in Delhi.
But by offering this carrot, the reigning superpower is seeking to enlist Gandhi’s nation as a client state and as a junior cop to police this part of the world.
Having given up on an increasingly unpredictable Pakistan, the US badly needs India to contain emerging China on the one hand and the Islamists of Iran and Central Asia on the other.
More importantly, there’s now evidence to suggest that the US neocons and the Zionists are trying to form an axis of the US, Israel and India to check the rising force of Islam.
It’s a grand conspiracy against the Muslim world as well as India. I call it a conspiracy because India and Muslim world have been historically close allies and friends. These are ties that are as old as Islam. In fact, they go way back in time — long before the advent of Islam. And India has been a home of Islam and Muslims for more than a millennium.
This is why the inimitable Iqbal called India ‘saare jahaan se achha’ (best in the whole world). And the neocons and Zionists want to sabotage this historical relationship.
Secondly, this opportunistic alliance goes against everything that secular and democratic India has believed in and championed; ideals like peace, non-violence, non-alignment and always, always standing with the disadvantaged, oppressed and the vulnerable people everywhere.
This is why the world looked to India for leadership even when it was not a nuclear power and half of its population lived below the poverty line. Which is why it’s a tragic irony that the party that once led the independence struggle should now be seeking to enslave this great land once again.
It is time for the Indians to decide whether they want to continue leading the world as a peaceful and progressive nation of Gandhi and Nehru or want to end up as yet another Third world colony of Pax Americana.
-Aijaz Zaka Syed is Opinion Editor of Khaleej Times. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: email@example.com