Thursday, June 4, 2009



President Barack Obama’s address at the Cairo University on June 4,2009, which was billed in advance by his staff as a historic message of goodwill and reconciliation to the Islamic world, had a limited audience. Though projected as an address to the Islamic world, it was largely an address to the Arab world and focused largely on issues of interest to the Arabs.

2. The Arabs constitute a minority in the Islamic world. Non-Arab Muslims living in countries such as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia constitute the majority. The issues, which agitate them, are different from the issues which agitate the Arab world. Osama bin Laden understands this better than Obama and his advisers. That was why in his audio message released through Al Jazeera a day before Obama’s Cairo address, bin Laden focused on issues of immediate concern to the non-Arab Muslims in the Af-Pak region such as the large-scale displacement of Pashtuns from the tribal areas of Pakistan. By focusing on their plight and by holding the Americans responsible for it, he sought to make it certain that the anti-American anger in the Af-Pak region will increase rather than decrease.

3. Outside India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia, the attitude of the Muslims towards the US is characterized by feelings of hostility or anger or skepticism. There is hardly any feeling of empathy or warmth. There are various reasons for the negative feelings towards the US. Some are country-specific, some are region specific and some are ethnicity specific. The negative feelings of the Arabs towards the US may be due to the Palestine issue and the perceived US support for Israel, but Palestine and Israel are not such burning issues in the non-Arab Islamic world.

4.Obama’s address seemed to have been constructed around the belief that the Muslims constitute a monolithic community and that their actions are motivated by certain issues of common concern to all the Muslims of the world. This is a wrong belief. The Muslims are not a monolithic community and there is no common thread uniting the anger motivating the Muslims in different countries and different regions. There are Muslims and Muslims and issues and issues.

5. If Obama wanted to address the Muslims of the world, Cairo was the wrong place from which to seek to do so. There was a time when Egypt was seen as the beacon of the Arab world. It is no longer so. Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organizations project Egypt and its leaders as apostate. President Hosni Mubarak is a very unpopular Arab leader .Obama going to Cairo to deliver the address is seen by large sections of pro-Al Qaeda and pro-Taliban leaders as a leader of the American infidels traveling to the country of apostates to deliver an address to the Muslims from a platform provided by the apostates.

6. There are two ways of judging the impact----- what has been and what will be the impact on those Muslims, who have taken to terrorism against the US and other countries of the world and what will be the impact on ordinary Muslims, who stay away from the so-called global jihad, but at the same time do not nurse any feelings of empathy for the US?

7. The impact on the world of global jihad will be very little. Their views towards the US have been formed as a result of years of brainwashing in extremist mosques and madrasas. They are not going to change as a result of a beautifully-drafted speech beautifully delivered before an audience carefully assembled by the so-called apostates. They will continue to fight against the US, which will have to defeat them in the battle-field. bin Laden’s projection of the US President as Bush in Obama’s clothing will make a greater impact on the minds of the jihadis than the words and phrases of Obama.

8. The jihadi behaviour till now was influenced by the visuals, which came out of Iraq and Afghanistan. As the impact of those visuals decreases, Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organizations are trying to exploit the visuals of the plight of nearly three million internally displaced Pashtuns, driven out of their homes by a Pakistani war ordered by the US as bin Laden projected it in his message.

9. The impact on the ordinary Muslims outside pockets of urban elite will not be significant. Ordinary Muslims are not so naïve as to be impressed by a couple of quotations from the Holy Koran. Muslims outside India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia are not enamoured of democracy. They have nothing against authoritarian rulers, provided they care for the ordinary Muslims. Mubarak is not an example of a caring ruler. Among Muslim rulers blessed and supported by the US, there is hardly anyone whom one can call caring for the common Muslims. The ordinary Muslims will judge the US by the company it keeps in the Islamic world than by the speeches of Obama.

10. Obama’s speech may help him back home by pushing up his popularity. Americans love such orations. It may not help the US much in the Islamic world. The use of soft power to counter pernicious ideologies coming out of the Islamic world is important. They have to be countered in a more subtle and sophisticated manner through personal interactions, dialogue in small groups, radio and TV programmes, Internet chats etc. A Cairo-style address is not suited for this purpose.

11. A mix of Wahabism and Deobandism of the Pakistani brand is the driving force of the global jihad and of the hostility towards the US. Deoband is in India. The Indian brand of Deobandism was benign and continues to be benign The Pakistani brand is venomous and behind much of the negative ideas influencing the attitudes and conduct of millions of Muslims. Unless the pernicious Wahabi-Deobandi ideas emanating from Pakistan are countered in an intelligent manner, the divide between the Muslims and the non-Muslims will continue to widen. How to do so? That is the question that should occupy the minds of US policy-makers. (5-6-09)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )



There has been unnecessary excitement and unwarranted indignation over an advisory issued by the security officer of the US Embassy in New Delhi about the security precautions to be followed by American citizens travelling to India or living in India.

2.The advisory, which is available for US nationals on the notice boards of the US diplomatic and consular missions in India as well on the web sites of the US missions in India says as follows in a notice dated June 2,2009: "The United States Mission in India wishes to urgently remind all U.S. citizens resident in or traveling to India that there is a high threat from terrorism throughout India. As terror attacks are a serious and growing threat, U.S. citizens are urged to always practice good security, including maintaining a heightened situational awareness and a low profile. Americans in India should be vigilant at all times and monitor local news reports and vary their routes and times in carrying out daily activities. Americans should consider the level of security present when visiting public places, including religious sites, or choosing hotels, restaurants, entertainment and recreation venues.'

3. A similar advisory was issued by the security officer (warden) of the US Embassy on May 26,2009, regarding the dangers of unrest in Punjab following the alleged murder of a Sikh leader by some Sikhs in a Vienna gurudwara. It read as follows: "U.S. citizens are advised of the continuing tensions and civil unrest in the Indian state of Punjab. The killing of a Sikh leader in Austria May 24 sparked violent protests in many areas, particularly around Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Phagwara and Hoshiarpur. There have been no reports of foreigners being targeted, but due to the intensity of the protests, Americans could be at risk. The concern will be heightened when and if the body of the slain cleric is returned to India - possibly during the week of May 26-31. All U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Punjab should exercise caution, maintain a low profile, avoid all demonstrations, monitor local media for security updates, and anticipate major transportation disruptions."

4. Such advisories are routine and are issued by the security officers of all important missions to their nationals travelling to or residing in India. This is part of their responsibility towards the personal security of their nationals in India. The Israeli missions periodically issue such cautionary advice to their nationals in India----particularly to those planning to visit Goa. After the Mumbai terrorist attack of November,2008,in which many foreigners of different nationalities were killed by 10 terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the frequency of such advisories has increased.

5. There are two kinds of advisories---- an advisory against travel to a country and an advisory about security precautions to be observed ina country. The advisory against travel to a country is issued by the Foreign Office of a country on the basis of the advice from the intelligence agencies. The advisory about security precautions to be observed in a country are routinely issued by the security officers of the diplomatic missions.

6. The advisory to which objection has reportedly been taken by P.Chidambaram, the Home Minister of the Government of India, has been routinely issued by the officer in charge of security in the US Embassy. There is nothing objectionable in the advisory and there is no ground for our protesting against it.

7. In fact, the security officers of all Western companies in India issue such advisories regarding security precautions to their foreign staff working in India. This is the right thing to do.

8. Every diplomatic mission is expected to keep advising its citizens about likely threats to their security. If our diplomatic and consular missions in Australia are working as they should be, by now they should have issued a security advisory to all Indian students in Australia in the wake of the violent attacks on some Indian students. Threats to personal security need not arise only from terrorists. they could also arise from others. If the Indian missions in Australia have not yet done it, it would reflect poorly on them. The Australian Government cannot object if they issue such an advisory.

9. We are making a laughing stock of ourselves by creating a rumpus over the US advisory and by projecting it as a negative reflection on India and as an insult to India by equating India with Pakistan. (4-6-09)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )


B. Raman

A significant development in the US-China relations has not received the attention it deserves. After having kept quiet on the issue of the human rights of the Tibetans during her visit to China in February, 2009, which was analysed and interpreted by many in a manner unfavourable to the Barack Obama Administration, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has come out strongly in articulating the US position on the Tiananmen Square massacre by the Chinese security forces 20 years ago and on the way the Chinese authorities have sought to suppress the truth from coming out.

2. In a statement issued at Washington DC on June 3, 2009, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the massacre, Hillary Clinton said: China should publicly account for those killed in the suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests 20 years ago. China should release those still held over the protests and stop harassing those who took part. The anniversary was a chance for China to "reflect upon the meaning of the events that preceded that day". China "should examine openly the darker events of its past and provide a public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, both to learn and to heal." "China can honour the memory of that day by moving to give the rule of law, protection of internationally-recognised human rights, and democratic development the same priority as it has given to economic reform."

3. This is the toughest statement on China to have come out of the Obama Administration since he assumed office on January 20, 2009. One was expecting a statement of pro forma criticism without unnecessarily needling China. Instead, she has come out with a really strong statement which would be welcomed by the human rights organisations of the world. The statement came in the wake of the bonhomie that prevailed during the just concluded visit to Beijing by Timothy Geithner, US Treasury Secretary, to discuss bilateral economic relations. His discussions with the Chinese authorities were reported to have proceeded smoothly.

4. What then made Hillary Clinton come out with this statement, which is unusually strong for the Obama Administration? Two interpretations are possible. The first is that stung by criticism of what was seen by many as its soft line towards China, the Administration felt it necessary to correct this impression by articulating its position on the Tiananmen Square massacre in strong language. The second interpretation is that the strong line reflects a certain annoyance of the Obama Administration over China's reluctance or failure or both to exercise sufficient pressure on North Korea not to carry out its nuclear test of last month and its repeated firings of missiles.

5. In the past, there was considerable satisfaction in the US over China's role as a facilitator of the six-power talks on North Korea's denuclearisation. China is the only country in a position to exercise meaningful pressure on North Korea to give up the nuclear path. The indications are that apart from facilitating the talks, China did very little by way of exercising pressure on North Korea to co-operate with the international community. China strongly deplored the nuclear test, but beyond that it has done very little to make North Korea change its policy.

6. Is the strong statement on the Tiananmen Square massacre a veiled message to Beijing that if it does not exercise enough pressure on North Korea, that could have an impact on its improving relations with the US?

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: Back to the top


B. Raman

The Iranian authorities reportedly suspect that the May 28 explosion in the second biggest Shia mosque in Zahidan, capital of Sistan-Balochistan, the Sunni majority Baloch province of Iran, was planned by the Jundullah, a Sunni extremist organisation, from its sanctuary in Pakistan's Balochistan province. They claim that the three members of the Jundullah, who were executed in public after the suicide explosion, confessed during their interrogation that they brought the explosive device from Pakistan and gave it to the suicide bomber.

2. While the Iranian authorities accuse the Jundullah of acting at the behest of the US and Israel, other reports indicate that the Jundullah cadres are trained by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), a Sunni extremist organisation of Pakistan, in its training camps in South Waziristan in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. The LEJ, whose involvement along with Al Qaeda was suspected in the huge explosion in the Marriott Hotel of Islamabad in September last year, has been operating jointly with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) headed by Baitullah Mehsud of South Waziristan.

3. The Iranian authorities, who have officially taken up with the Pakistani authorities their information about the terrorist infrastructure of the Jundullah in Pakistani territory, allege that Abdulmalek Rigi, whom they accuse of being the Amir of the Jundullah, operates from Pakistani territory.

4. Citing the Fars News Agency of Iran, the "Dawn" of Karachi reported on June 1, 2009, as follows: ' The chief of the Iranian armed forces, General Hassan Firouzabadi, said Iran had located the base of the group and informed the Pakistani Government of Abdulmalek Rigi’s position.....So far Jundullah has claimed responsibility for a dozen terrorist operations in Iran, however according to the FNA, they have managed to escape punishment by crossing into Pakistan. Tehran has warned Islamabad that it has the power and military means to trace and hunt down terrorist groups in Pakistan if such activity is not stopped by Pakistan. Since the suicide attack, Iran has closed down its border with Pakistan." The Pakistan Foreign Office has denied the "Dawn" report about the closing of the border.

5. The " News" of June 1, 2009, carried the following report by its well-informed correspondent Amir Mir: "The rising terrorist activities of the Pakistan-based militant organisation, Jundullah (Soldiers of God) threatens not only the Pak-Iran diplomatic ties but also the future of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, which was signed on May 22 by President Asif Zardari and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran. According to well-placed diplomatic sources in Islamabad, Tehran has lodged a strong protest with Islamabad over the failure of its law enforcement agencies to dismantle the Jundullah network in Pakistan, which has claimed responsibility for the May 28 deadly suicide attack inside the Ameer al-Momenin mosque in Zahedan that killed 25 people and wounded 125 others. The sources said Iranian officials had expressed their deep concern over the failure of the Pakistani authorities to proceed against the Jundullah network in Pakistan despite having been given specific intelligence. The Pakistani Ambassador was told that the Zahedan suicide attack could have been averted had Islamabad acted in time on the Iranian intelligence information.The Iranian authorities had reportedly told the Pakistani Ambassador that the three terrorists (Haji Noti Zehi, Gholam Rasoul Shahi Zehi and Zabihollah Naroui), hanged publicly on May 30 in Zahedan for their alleged participation in the mosque bombing, had confessed to illegally bringing explosives from Pakistan into Iran and giving them to the main person behind the suicide attack. Diplomatic circles in Islamabad say Tehran's concern over the growing terrorist activities of Jundullah, across the border in Iran, could be gauged from the fact that its Ambassador to Pakistan Mashallah Shakeri had addressed an unusual press conference in Islamabad on March 20, accusing Pakistan of allowing its soil to be used against Iran and demanding concrete steps to contain its activities. While claiming that the Jundullah network was located inside the Balochistan province, Shakeri had asked Islamabad to curb its anti-Iran activities by taking a decisive action against its leadership. The Iranian Ambassador had given broad hints at that time that an Iranian diplomat, who had disappeared in Peshawar in 2008, could also have been kidnapped by Jundullah. In his reaction the same day, a Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman had stated that Islamabad was determined that the Pakistani soil would not be allowed to be used by Jundullah in any manner to destabilise the Iranian government. However, the diplomatic circles in Islamabad say the Iranian authorities had warned the Pakistani Ambassador to Tehran on May 30 that Islamabad's failure to act against the Jundullah network in Balochistan could also jeopardise the future of the recently-signed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. They pointed out that the Pakistani and the Iranian Presidents had only signed the initial agreement after 14 years of delayed negotiations and the most crucial gas sales and purchase agreement had not yet been finalised."

6. In the meanwhile, the Jundullah of Iran has disseminated the following statement: "Ayatollah Khamenaei, the supreme leader of Iran, officially interpreted the natural death of Fatema, the daughter of the holy Prophet, as martyrdom, thus justifying the actions of those who have organised Omar Denunciation Ceremonies. The ceremonies began about two months ago in Baluchistan where the majority of the people are Sunnis and resulted in widespread conflicts between Baluch Sunnis and Iranian security forces. The tension mounted when the People's Resistance Movement of Iran, Jondollah, initiated a bomb blast in a mosque that was dominated by the security forces and Iranian militia. The fanatics supported by the militia and security forces published huge posters in the streets and began denunciation speeches with mobile speakers in moving cars in different streets of Zahedan. Jondollah warned these groups to halt their offending ceremonies to one billion Moslems throughout the world but they ignored the warnings and continued displaying posters in their street gatherings. Other Baluch and Sunni leaders requested the Iranian authorities to prevent these provocative ceremonies but they did not stop. The Jondollah bombed the mosque that has become the centre of various provocations and the headquarters of these ceremonies after all other peaceful requests were exhausted. Ayatollah Khamenaei said a few weeks ago in Kurdistan that any action that may create divisions between Shias and Sunnis is treason, but now it is certain that he was behind all the offences that have been officially made against the second Caliph."

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: