What’s the connection between the G7 summit in Germany, President Putin’s visit to Italy, the Bilderberg club meeting in Austria, and the TTIP – the US-EU free trade deal – negotiations in Washington?
We start at the G7 in the Bavarian Alps – rather G1 with an added bunch of “junior partners” – as US President Barack Obama gloated about his neo-con induced feat; regiment the EU to soon extend sanctions on Russia even as the austerity-ravaged EU is arguably hurting even more than Russia.
Predictably, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande caved in – even after being forced by realpolitik to talk to Russia and jointly carve the Minsk-2 agreement.
The hypocrisy-meter in the Bavarian Alps had already exploded with a bang right at the pre-dinner speech by EU Council President Donald Tusk, former Prime Minister of Poland and certified Russophobe/warmonger: “All of us would have preferred to have Russia round the G7 table. But our group is not only a group (that shares) political or economic interests, but first of all this is a community of values. And that is why Russia is not among us.”
So this was all about civilized “values” against “Russian aggression.”
It started in April with a rash of deals between Argentina and Russia during President Cristina Kirchner’s visit to Moscow.
And it continues with a $53 billion investment bang as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visits Brazil during the first stop of yet another South American commercial offensive – complete with a sweet metaphor: Li riding on a made in China subway train that will ply a new metro line in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the 2016 Olympics.
Where is the US in all this? Nowhere; little by little, yet inexorably, BRICS members China – and in a smaller measure, Russia – have been no less than restructuring commerce and infrastructure all across Latin America.
Countless Chinese commercial missions have been plying these shores non-stop, much as the US did between World War I and II. In a key meeting in January with Latin American business leaders, President Xi Jinping promised to channel $250 billion for infrastructure projects in the next 10 years.
The real story is, and will continue to be, how Iran, the key power in Southwest Asia, is about to be positioned in the nonstop complex ballet between the US, Russia and China. That’s one of the key vectors of the New Great Game in Eurasia.
The real story was never about how warmonger Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, a foreign leader, would crudely use the House of Cards, sorry, the US Capitol, as a lowly re-election bully pulpit to mould the US presidency and American foreign policy.
A graphic indication is that while “Bomb Iran” Bibi was distilling his 39-minute harangue in Washington, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif were engaged in their third round of nuclear negotiations in Montreux.
The real story is also only partially about this perennial soap opera — the Iranian nuclear dossier. By the end of this month there will be a deadline to reach a framework agreement, and by June – optimistically – a comprehensive final settlement.
In one stroke Russia has named and shamed the culprits of the Information War waged against her and dealt multiple blows in years to come. Now, look at the top 15 and ask yourself what it tells you?
Germany is fooling no one while it tops the list and the so-called International Community is just a bunch of corrupt politicians in western capitals bidding for big capital.
This Index is here to stay as a constant reminder of which nations show duplicitous behaviour in their coverage of Russia. An ever improving sophisticated propaganda (Read the Russian definition) tool developed to counter a sophisticated Mass Media campaign and render it useless in one blow.
The Russian Institute for Strategic Studies introduced its first-ever World Mass Media Hostility Index, which measures potential anti-Russian bias in the media publications of different countries, and then assigns each country an overall score.
On Feb. 18 the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS),a think tank established by the Russian President in 1992, presented its new “World Mass Media Hostility Index,” the main goal of which is to rank how friendly countries are to Russia by analyzing their mass media content. It aims to identify the states that exercise the most aggressive media policy towards Russia and threaten its “information security.”
This analytical report is the result of detailed analysis of the media policies of different countries in 2014, when crucial shifts in the rhetoric employed by Western media about Russia occurred. The author of the mass media hostility index is a senior fellow at RISS, Dr. Igor Nikolaichuk. He suggests that, over the course of 2014, Western media started to “spread anti-Russian propaganda more actively than ever,” which he calls the beginning of “the global information war” against Russia.
Welcome to Kashmir! It is deep winter. The mountains are covered with snow and the naked trees above the lakes at sunset, look melancholic and magnificent, precisely like a completed Chinese brush painting.
Welcome to a nation overrun by the 700,000-strong security forces of the occupying power – India. Welcome to the continuous presence of barbed wire, of military columns, and ‘security checks’. Welcome to a brutality unimaginable almost anywhere else on earth!
Welcome to a land of joint military exercises conducted by the United States, Israel and India.
Kashmir! Still beautiful but scarred. Still proud but bleeding and thoroughly exhausted… Still standing, still resisting, still free and independent, at least in its heart!
(L-R) Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma join their hands at a group photo session during the 6th BRICS summit in Fortaleza July 15, 2014.(Reuters / Nacho Doce )
Here’s the G20 in Australia in a one-liner: a tiny bunch of Anglo-Saxon political buffoons attempts to drown out the Global South.
Countries representing over 85 percent of the world economy get together to (in theory) discuss some really heavy economic/financial issues, and virtually the only thing pitiful Western corporate media blabbers about is Russian President Vladimir Putin cutting an ‘isolated figure’.
Well, Washington and its string of puppets did try to turn the G20 into a farce. Fortunately the adults in the room had some business to do.
The five BRICS member-nations – despite their current problems, the G5 that really matters in the world – did meet before the summit, including the ‘isolated figure’. Economically, this G5 more than matches the old, decrepit G7.
A specter haunts the elites of the Empire of Chaos; the new Russia-China strategic partnership. It’s manifesting itself in myriad ways – energy deals, investment deals, a closer political alliance inside the G-20, the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a concerted effort to progressively bypass the petrodollar. I have described this long process as essential to the birth of the Eurasian century.
From a Washington/Wall Street point of view, it was so much easier in those long gone, unipolar, “end of history” days. China was still tiptoeing on the banks of the river of capital accumulation, and Russia was down if not out.
So allow me a flashback to the early 1990s. I had been on the road in Asia for months, from all points Southeast Asia to India, Nepal, the Himalayas and the eastern Chinese seaboard. Then I finally hit Beijing – waiting in the bitter winter of early 1992 to take the Trans-Siberian to Moscow. I was barely aware of the collapse of the Soviet Union – not exactly a news item in the Himalayas. I was also fortunate enough to be in southern China just a few days after Deng Xiaoping made his famous tour – whose key consequence was to catapult the dragon to dizzying development heights. A look back to those heady times may have the merit of illuminating our present.
All aboard the night train
It’s 8:32 pm in Beijing Railway Station, and the Trans-Manchurian Train 19 to Moscow is about to depart. It’s minus 9 degrees Celsius. A bunch of Romanian crazies are trying to load more than 20 huge, vaguely green bundles stuffed with Made-in-China gear into one of the carriages. The Russian comptroller spouts out a “Nyet”. Romanian chicks immerse in Transylvanic hysteria. Then a stash of George Washingtons changes hands at the final whistle, just in time for PLA soldiers and lady sweepers sporting the ubiquitous red armband with the words “Serve The People” to impassibly observe the happy ending.
President Dilma Rousseff of the ruling Worker’s Party (PT) was re-elected this Sunday in a tight run-off against opposition candidate Aecio Neves of the Social Democracy Party of Brazil (PSDB).
Sun, sex, samba, carnival and at least until the recent World Cup hammering by Germany, the “land of football.” And don’t forget “vibrant democracy.” Even as it enjoys one of the highest soft power quotients around the world, Brazil remains submerged by clichés.
“Vibrant democracy” certainly lived up to its billing in this hard-fought presidential election. Yet another cliché would rule this was the victory of “state-centric” policies against “structural reforms.” Or the victory of “high social spending” against a “pro-business” approach – which implies business as the privileged enemy of social equality.
Exit clichés. Enter a cherished national motto: ‘Brazil is not for beginners.’
“Our countries’ companies have developed close ties in all the basic industries: in the fuel and energy sector, which includes nuclear power, in chemical production, in aviation and machine building, space, metallurgy and metals processing, in construction and agriculture. We have developed unique production chains and created technological alliances. Russian capital represents about 32 percent of the Ukrainian banking system.”
The Russian government has been slowly revealing its posture to the world. It is saying “No” to an unfair assault on the people. Instead business is on the cards, everywhere. To have a good understanding of the bigger picture check out the “Energy ballet” that Pepe Escobar has been so eloquently writing about.
The back and forth tossing around of the likes of Master Card and Visa is a good case in point of Russia’s stronger position now. This is not the 90s and the Russians are keen to assert themselves. Upset at being blocked out of his money, the President’s close friend and billionaire is now banking with Union Pay.
“We, Russia, cannot talk about any ceasefire conditions whatsoever, or possible agreements between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk,” Putin stated recently in Minsk.
This is the real foreign policy difference that has now emerged from the Russian camp.
We recently saw a press conference of the resistance setting the stage for a wider struggle and now we have a green light from Russia. This is the real story of the week.
The illusion that the world stands with the aggressor is slowly being replaced as the showdown gains momentum. This is a quick snapshot of some leading headlines.
“Brazil has not received a request from the EU to halt increasing exports to Russia, but if it does, Brasilia wouldn’t care, Ambassador Antonio Jose Vallim Guerreiro told a news conference in Moscow Thursday.”
Ecuador On sanctions, President Correa said “I want to immediately say that we don’t need to get anybody’s permission to sell products to friendly countries: as far as we know Latin America isn’t a part of the European Union,” 
The Spanish have been long protesting Russian sanctions and the crisis is only growing worse. The EU’s measly allocation of €125 million in emergency support is absurd when you consider the actual cost of Russian sanctions. The trade embargo could cost the EU €6.7 billion ($9 billion) and cost up to 130,000 jobs.
Greece The civil disobedience movement is gaining ground with strong criticism of the EU sanctions. The veteran leftist Manolis Glezos has even penned an emotional letter to President Putin urging him to exempt Athens from sanctions. The situation is dire.
Serbia The Serbs have suffered a lot from Nato and the wounds are still fresh. Their solidarity with Russia, despite being hung out to dry during Clinton’s “democracy initiatives”, is commendable.
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has been sending mixed signals through out this conflict. While at one hand she seems to be extending the olive branch, on the other she entices the Ukrainian oligarchy with rebuilding the east (post cleansing).
Germany also played an active part in the coup and what followed. It is an active participant in this conflict, it cannot simply be absolved of all blame. Now, as the plan foils and the Nazi regime falters, we have a sudden realization of goals. All of a sudden there is talk of negotiation and federalisation.
This is quite a 180 degree U-turn. This could be a ploy as experienced previously, following resistance momentum and territory gains.
Poodle of the week
Canada has won this weeks “Impress the Emperor” contest. It is eager to show the world that it is standing up to big bad Russia.
Internal breakdown of the state:
The Ukrainian state is in total disrepair, it was already crumbling under US sponsored “democracy” initiatives that brought about the rabidly russophobic and fascist government in power.
The zombies that form the popular support base of the Ukrainian regime, are not just paying for their “EU dream” in mere street protests. They are now actively brainwashed, recruited and sent to die in a war.
The Russian president has already given in his analysis with a whopping 165 billion needed to revive Ukraine. Right now Ukraine is on the operating table, hopelessly unaware, and soon to be woken up when there is no money for morphine.
It will be a painful awakening for a lawless, corrupt puppet state with a federalised oligarchy. The Minister of Economy has resigned and the choco-king is busy cashing out. It is a free for all right now in Ukraine, anything goes.
Protesters are now demanding that the Defence Minister resign and aid to Ilovaysk be sent. Notice how the population is so much under the influence of state propaganda that it is not questioning any logic here. Why are they fighting the residents in the east? Why can they not be left in peace? A war should always be questioned.
Meanwhile, on planet earth, the Novurussiyan Armed Forces (NAF) have been gaining ground with the capture of Novoazovsk and are now reported to be marching further ahead as far as Berdyans’k.
Prior to the ingenious decision to hand over “Nuclear Material” security to fascists the government had also struck a deal with Fasington for Nuclear fuel. Nuclear fuel that is not just incompatible in comparison to the Russian made fuel (used previously and made for purpose) but will most likely cause a meltdown.
It is inhuman, beyond measure, when someone is willing to risk a nuclear disaster for an agenda.
India, where are you? Are you really in the BRICS camp, fighting for a new, free world, or are you now in bed with your former colonial master and her mighty offshoot?
India, a BRICS country, is actually nowhere to be seen while Brazil, South Africa, Russia and China are increasingly facing hostile attacks. India is not helping, as the United States and Europe are now manufacturing all sorts of ‘opposition movements’ inside countries that are still in the West’s path to total and unopposed global dominance.
India, a BRICS country, is silent as both China and Russia are being encircled, provoked and stabbed; at a time when their neighboring countries are constantly being pitched against them, ideologically and militarily.
India, a BRICS country, does not seem to mind as the US increases its military presence in Asia, from Okinawa to the Philippines and Qatar, or when Russia is being demonized and provoked by insane propaganda and by lunatic sanctions, imposed by the West which is actually the one that overthrew the Ukrainian government, putting in place a brutal fascist dictatorship.
And as the Western mass media outlets are now in top gear, spreading propaganda all over the world; the Indian newspapers, magazines and television stations, are dutifully reprinting and repeating the many vitriolic lies and fabrications, in exactly the same way as the Philippine and Indonesian business-owned media outlets are doing. But the Philippines and Indonesia are the West’s client states, and they do not belong to BRICS, while India does, at least on paper.
In the Economic & Political Weekly, published in 2013, Atul Bhardwaj wrote:
“India has got itself trapped into an anti-Chinese matrix set in place by the United States. This has led to a situation where the military is increasing its say in foreign and domestic policy and pushing aggressive postures on to the civilian government. Unless India abandons its aspirations to great power status and pursues a foreign policy which builds on Asian cooperation and strengths, it will continue to become cannon fodder for western strategic aims.”
That’s correct, but it is not only the anti-Chinese matrix; it is the staunchly pro-Western matrix that is serving India’s ruling elites, and it is the matrix of disinformation and ignorance imposed on the members of the underprivileged majority.
I went back to India to see where the country really stands in relation to BRICS. I opted for a very much unplanned, chaotic, jazzy and spontaneous journey. I wanted to speak to those of the Indian majority; to people in the villages and towns, to ask them what they really know about BRICS, about the new winds of freedom and progress that are blowing all over Latin America, about tremendous social changes in China, and about their own lives in the country, which the West continually defines as ‘the largest democracy on earth’.
Two village women are covered from head to toe in colorful fabric, and unlike in Saudi Arabia where only the eyes are visible, but totally. They are carrying huge crooked tin plates on their heads, and those plates are full of cow dung.
The village is called Karora, it is located almost 200 kilometers north from New Delhi, in Haryana State.
It is here that, in 2007, a newlywed couple was murdered in cold blood, after the assembly of village elders, Panchayat, passed ‘the verdict’. Both the girl (18) and boy (23) were only ‘guilty’ of belonging to the same sub-clan.
The Deccan Herald reported then:
“In June 2007, the couple was dragged out of a Karnal-bound bus by the girl’s relatives and was brutally murdered. Their bodies were paraded in the village and then dumped in a canal.”
We did not come here to only discuss honor killing and the horrible lot of Indian women; we came here to this remote corner of Haryana to discuss what the West calls ‘the biggest democracy on earth’, and above all, how India really fits into the BRICS, and to their determined fight against Western imperialism and market fundamentalism.
Yes, India is part of BRICS; but it is feudal in the countryside and capitalist in the cities. It is increasingly close to its colonial master and to the grand Empire.
We could not see the expression on the faces of the two Karora village women when we asked them about democracy, voting, women’s rights, caste oppression and honor killing. But the first female began speaking, bravely if reluctantly, in front of an entire army of onlookers:
“I’m only a poor village woman, how can I know such things? I have to work for 14 hours every day to make out a living for my family. My husband doesn’t have any regular work, and he is an alcoholic. I’m constantly worried about my children going hungry. The government doesn’t care about people like us and I don’t know who else could help. I’m very afraid so I can’t talk more about the caste system or honor killings. Women have no freedom here. “
The second lady echoes her, and then adds:
“I know the family of the eloped couple who suffered at the hands of Panchayat but I can’t talk about it. I’m afraid of such things. Women have no freedom here. Most of us are struggling to survive and I don’t know how things could be better, anytime soon. About democracy: I don’t know how the election could improve living conditions in this village and I don’t know about people’s movement in other countries or about things that are happening elsewhere.”
Soon, the crowd of onlookers begins to participate in the discussion.
The youths surrounded us to find out the reason for our sudden appearance in their village.
A boy named Biswan, wearing a black T-shirt, explained:
“My impression of what they call ‘Indian democracy’ and of the political parties that are participating in this game is… that it is a pattern of appealing for votes by some political party, with the inducement of local liquor by their men to the villagers, one day before every election day, then disappearing, to be never seen again for the next 5 years. We don’t have work here nor can anyone make a decent living with earnings here. I don’t feel this type of democracy works for us… We still haven’t got real freedom.”
Then the village youths begin speaking over each other:
“Money talks here, we are all educated to some degree, but only those who can afford to bribe some officials manage to get regular employment. We are poor villagers and unaware of developments in our own country, then how can we know about China, Latin America or other countries?”
The forlorn expression on the faces of the villagers showed their frustration, even resignation. Most certainly, we saw no hope and no enthusiasm here.
Our driver, Sunil, appeared to be extremely unhappy to be here. “In these villages, they have already torched so many cars belonging to those who came to ask questions!”
I insist that we have to finish our work here, in the heart of Haryana State. The driver fumes. He drives us around, missing the motorway a few times, but after we activate our navigation system, he gives up and just gets us where we want to go.
Later, in Delhi, my good friend and colleague, Anish, calls me and explains:
“Before he dropped me home, he said that he was so mad at you, he was ready to drive into a tree and kill us all.
“Kill us?” I thought I misunderstood.
“Yes. You may want to know that he was a soldier, serving in Kashmir… He told me that much, just a few minutes ago. We had a chat… He said he was court-martialed, because he killed a few civilians there. In Kashmir, in 1996, he was on a mission to capture members of some insurgency group, but things went wrong and the people he was after, had fled… So he opened fire on civilians, killing several of them. He said he used a LMG inside the house, emptying 2 magazines of ammunition, killing at least 3 civilians… Just like that!”
“Why is he driving a taxi?” I asked. “Isn’t he supposed to be in prison?”
Anish just commented, laconically:
“When we discussed this, he was depressed. Not because of what he had done, but because he was caught and punished. He said to me: ‘was I to have managed to kill at least one insurgent, then even if I killed dozens of civilians, I would never have got court-martialed.”
I wondered whether this approach is one that would really serve as an inspiration for the BRICS countries.
Some 1,500 kilometers from Karora Village, in Mumbai, a monster building belonging to the richest man in India, Mukesh Ambani, is allegedly the most expensive dwelling ever constructed on this planet.
Arundhati Roy describes Ambani’s home in her book “Capitalism A Ghost Story”:
“…The twenty seven floors, three helipads, nine lifts, hanging gardens, ballrooms, weather rooms, gymnasiums, six floors of parking, and six hundred servants… In a nation of 1.2 billion, India’s one hundred richest people own assets equivalent to one-fourth of the GDP.”
But to own all those billions is not enough. In order to rule, in order to fully control society, this small group of modern day rajas has to always find a way to morally justify their medieval, feudalist behavior.
The most effective way to do it is through almost total control of the media. Arundhati Roy continues:
“Mukesh Ambani is personally worth $20 billion. He holds a majority-controlling share in Reliance Industries Limited (RIL)… RIL recently bought 95 shares in Infotel, a TV consortium that controls twenty-seven TV news and entertainment channels, including CNN-IBN, IBN Live, CNBC, IBN Lokmat, and ETV in almost every regional language. Infotel owns the only nation-wide license for 4G broadband, a high-speed information pipeline which, if the technology works, could be the future of information exchange.”
The criticism of Indian elites does not only come from the Left. Conservative British news magazine, The Economist, recently ran its cover story about Ambani: “An Unloved Billionaire”, asking the rhetorical question “Why Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, needs to reform his empire”:
“Reliance’srelationship with the government is even more troubling. Anti-corruption campaigners claim Mr Ambani is the power behind the throne of India’s political leaders…”
In Indian ‘democracy’, the real rulers of the country pay politicians, to get to the top, while the voters get paid to vote a certain way, which is suitable to the regime. Mass media shapes public opinion constantly, so it stays exactly where the elites want it to stay.
From an amazing tolerance level for medieval oppressive ‘cultural practices’, to the gross cruelty towards women and ethnic/religious minorities, India is hardly a beacon of light for other BRICS nations, or, for the rest of the world. The way its economy, election practices, foreign policy and government systems are structured, the Indian state is much closer to MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey – although in this group, too, there is Mexico, which is, despite everything, culturally and historically, in the Social Democratic camp), a group which, if allowed to join BRICS, would surely destroy their political and social direction: (http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/08/15/the-challenge-to-the-west/).
But the West is always extremely generous towards its allies and economic cohorts. It promotes and glorifies those countries that are willing to sacrifice their people, throwing them on the sacrificial altar of global market fundamentalism.
Therefore, for the West, both Indonesia and India, two enormous and impoverished countries, are the true democratic and economic stars!
DLF Promenade in Vasant Kunj is a symbol of new wealth, hosting some of the top international retail brands, from Armani to Prada.
There are literally armies of guards, some in their white butler informs, others armed with guns. Photographing is prohibited. Surveillance is constant, just as in every place frequented by the elites.
Situated right near the DLF Promenade is the Khushampur Pahari slum, a place that is miserable and rough. Children move around aimlessly and barefoot. It is not as dirty as many of the much bigger settlements in Mumbai or Calcutta are, but still, people here are clearly desperate and deprived.
Mr. Jagdish is a ‘wage laborer’, not permanently employed:
“I have no regular work and the system is geared for the rich. We, poor people who form the great majority in India, don’t count.”
I ask him about the mall, but he insists on calling it ‘that huge building’:
“There is that huge building, but I don’t go there. They built it nearby, but I would never be allowed to enter. I would be beaten up if I try to go there.”
He looks into the distance:
“We are struggling here to meet basic needs. We don’t have clean drinking water and before each election they offer us free electricity supply and water. Promises that are never fulfilled; they lie to us. And they have always lied, whether it is the Congress Party or BJP…”
Electric poles and wires hang loosely above the roofs of the settlement. I ask whether people here are managing to get free electricity supply, by simply stealing the juice as they do in Peru or in Haiti, but the answer is resolutely ‘no’. They check on them, constantly. In fact, people here suffer from gross overcharging by the private company, Reliance Energy(owned by Anil Ambani, brother of the richest man in the country, the abovementioned Mukesh Ambani), which supplies power to this entire area.
“We are receiving a 1,000 Rs (approximately US$16) bill, every month”, explains an old couple next door. “On top of it we have to bribe employees of the electric company, to keep the connection. We have to go begging to more fortunate neighborhoods for water, and it is not always that the people there are willing to help us.”
An old man in the house actually follows what is happening in the world:
“I am aware of changes that are taking place in China, but our government is not doing the same things for us. Here, things are so bad that if we fall seriously ill, we simply die.”
“What about democracy?” I ask.
“Democracy is for the rich.”
Mr. Jagdish chips in: “As you heard, political parties come here, and they promise us free electricity and water, but nothing happens after the elections. Democracy is not working for us; it is the tool for the people with money to keep in power.”
Down an alley, a lady with a child confirms that there is no supply of clean water to this settlement.
Eventually, small barefoot children begin begging.
The ITC Hotel manager in Jaipur, Rajasthan, philosophizes:
“Arvind Kejriwal from AAM Admi Party (AAP) was very critical of the private media, and the mass media got extremely angry with him… You see; Arvind Kejriwal could become the Indian answer to the Latin American leadership!”
So I go to see him and his people.
On 3 August 2014, at the ancient star observatory, Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi, Aam Aadmi party held a mass gathering consisting of around 5,000 local residents, who were demanding fresh elections. There were fiery speeches coming from the podium and the AAP’s leader, Arwind Kerjiwal, agitated the dense crowd with anti-corruption slogans, swearing he would implement reforms, were he to be voted in, back into the office. He was also promising to improve the lot of common man. The reigning cry of the day was of getting rid of the oppressor ruling class through the democratic contest of the ballot boxes.
Here, surely, people knew something about BRICS and the Latin American revolutions?
But it was not the case. The campaign was almost exclusively about corruption.
Mr.Pawan Das, a cable manufacturer from the Shahdara constituency, spoke about the impact of AAP and the ex-chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, and his former 49 days rule in Delhi:
“I noticed the policeman in our factory who used to extort Rs.300 bribe money from me every month, didn’t turn up for 3 months. I egged him on to collect his extortion dues on coming across him, and enquired as to why he didn’t come to get the money, to which he replied, evasively, that he was posted on an election duty. I retorted: ‘were you really engaged in any election duty or got scared by the fear of prosecution instituted by Arvind Kejriwal’s strong anti-corruption measures?’
But BRICS or the fight against Western imperialism – definitely not!
“On asking about their stance on India’s strengthening alliance with the American government and India’s unassuming posture at BRICS meeting, all of them expressed their unawareness about such matters”, explained Anish, in rather decorative language.
Then, at Jantar Mantar, we encountered several individuals who clearly demonstrated the art of sitting on two chairs.
Both Mr. Deepak Lal and his wifevoiced their favorable opinion about the strengthening of ties with America:
“It’s in the interest of India to be a great partner in creating alternatives to the dominant paradigm offered by the U.S., but at the same time India-US relations should remain unaffected”.
Another old couple went on in an even more Kafkaesque manner:
“US-India relation is the way to the rise of India along with creating alignments leading to a multipolar world”.
At the May Day Bookstore in New Delhi, after an avant-garde theatre performance, I met my friend Sudhanva. Comrade Sudhanva Deshpande, is the editor of LeftWord Books, as well as a famous Indian intellectual and actor. He explained:
“You are absolutely right posing the question: “Where is India in all this? It is very a good question because it is well known that for the last several years, a decade or more, Indian foreign policy had turned more and more towards the US. A few years ago, India conducted the Indo-US nuclear deal. That led to a lot of opposition back home, here in India, but the government went ahead with the deal. The Hindu right became more and more oriented towards the US. The government also argued for much closer ties with the Israel. As you know, India is the biggest buyer of Israeli arms in the world today.”
“Earlier this year, in May, in the general elections, the party of the Hindu right, which is Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), came to power. It is led by Narendra Modi, the man who is widely seen as being complicit in the pogrom of Muslims, in his homestay, Gujarat, in 2002, when he was a chief minister. His campaign was a very muscular campaign, a very macho campaign… He presented himself and his party as aggressively nationalist. The pre-election campaign was marked by anti-Muslim violence and rhetoric. As for foreign policy, there had been a long-term trend for more and more orientation towards the West, towards the US. In the current aggression on Gaza, for instance, the Indian government took the stand of so-called ‘equidistance’ from both Israel and Hamas, and this is really… this is compromising India’s long-term commitment to the cause of Palestinian independence. And this goes back to even the 1940’s, when India was not even independent.
The fact that India itself was a colony, and that it fought an anti-colonial struggle – it all seems now as a distant memory.”
I asked Sudhanva about BRICS, concretely: “Is it even possible that India, where it stands right now, could and should be considered as a member of BRICS?”
“I think right now, Indian foreign policy is trying to calibrate its position”, he replies”.
And he continued:
“On one hand there is a trend towards more and more alignment with the US, and on closer and closer ties with Israel. So that’s on the one side. On the other side there are also hard economic realities. And that is what forced the Indian establishment to look towards formations like the BRICS. If indeed it so happens that BRICS will not be just an economic club, but if it starts taking a more determined anti-imperialist position, then the Indian establishment would have to really decide, where it stands. I don’t see India taking an anti-imperialist stand anytime soon, beyond some lip service.”
We talk about the past, about India’s determined anti-imperialist stand in its post-colonial period. Nehru brought this country to Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955, where the Non-Aligned movement was created.
“India abandoned the Non-Alignment movement, effectively, in the late 80’s. In some sense you can say that it happened in Delhi, in the early 80’s, that it was the swansong of the non-alignment movement… The fact was that India became more and more ambivalent towards the idea of non-alignment, which helped to terminate the movement, because India was such an important part of it.”
And then India took a neo-liberal turn, in the early 90’s, and even the past was forgotten.
What can be expected of the present nationalist government of Narendra Modi, in relation to BRICS?
Benny Kuruvilla is from Kerala, a recognized expert on BRICS, and political lead at the ‘South Solidarity Initiative’. I met him, and his Chilean wife, Susana Barria, a labor organizer, after a demonstration in support of Palestine, in front of the Kerala House, in the center of New Delhi.
Benny readily clarified:
“Modi and his government would be happy to be part of the Western alliance and of the BRICS… This is really an ultra-nationalist government, and it has to reassert its ideology… In the past it was all very different: during the Cold War, India was very close to Cuba, and to the USSR. Now that India has a very pronounced right-wing government, it is very reluctant to side with the anti-Western block. I don’t think India will go along with the idea that the Western concept should be cancelled. Indian Left-wing forces are very weak now, and this government is so happy to be part of big-boy’s club; for them it is the place in the sun! What is happening in BRICS and in Latin America is mainly monitored by the local intelligentsia; mainly by the upper class.”
Susana appeared to be more optimistic and hopeful, believing in change, and in a way she echoed what Noam Chomsky told me about the Arab world, several years ago:
“Look, some 5 years before Hugo Chavez came to power in Venezuela, everything was bleak, in many parts of Latin America. We did not think that everything would be reversed so fast. We should not underestimate that things could change very fast.”
But India is not Venezuela. All three of us agreed that the Indian Left is too ‘purist’. It is stuck in theoretical definitions of what Communism or Socialism should be. For its taste, China is not socialist enough; most of the Latin American countries are not really purely Marxist. In the end, much is being discussed here, but very little achieved.
The next day I asked my friend Anish Gopinathan, a former international banker who spent several years working in Dubai, before returning, disgusted, back to India and began studying the Chinese language, and culture, whether all that I asked and heard so far made any sense. He replied:
“Yes. In 2002 MP Modi was the Chief Minister in Gujarat, during the pogrom. For years, there was a US ban on him, a refusal to issue him an entry visa. That ban was lifted around the time of elections…”
The same happened in Indonesia, against Prabowo, an ultra-nationalist who was accused of crimes against humanity in Indonesia and blacklisted by the US Department of the State, but was quickly rehabilitated when he almost won the presidential elections earlier this year.
“Modi is pro-business and pro-West. But in a way, he can also sometimes stand against the West, and for India. You often mentioned the Indian colonial hangover, when Indian elites shamefully idealize the colonial era. Well, Modi is one politician who does not have this hangover… For instance, he insists on using Hindi at international meetings. All our elites were conditioned in the West: Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Manmohan Singh… But not Modi! In fact he represents a big break against that colonial hangover… But the price is – he wants his Hindu state!”
Hindu state… We flew to Varanasi, to the ‘holy city’ built on the banks of Ganga River. It is a depressing, oppressed and miserably poor city, but at the same time it is the place that the current MP – Mr. Modi – was elected from.
We went to Kashi Vishwanath Temple, to talk to Brahmin priests, about their vision for India.
The results were shocking.
Mr. Pandey spoke to us in front of two military sentinels guarding the entrance to the temple. He was a Brahmin priest, associated with this place of worship since his childhood:
“I am here, I am a priest, because… actually… I couldn’t get a job anywhere else. Really, no regular employment for me… And so, this is how I make a living… To me, religion is important, because it gives me some income… I like Americans, because they come here, and give us money… Somehow I sense that they feel good, giving us money… I have no idea about the developments in China, Russia or Latin America… I really don’t care.”
Mr. Shyama Prasad Sharma who also works for the temple, clarified his views:
“Latin America? BRICS? No, we don’t have time for stuff like that. We are busy here, at this temple, with business, with trade.”
What about something higher, more enlightened than that?
He walks away.
Anish is outraged:
“This is like some market place; market mentality. It is like some fish market or vegetable market, or stock market! No time for any big questions in life! This is what BJP is fighting for. Hindu state… It is exactly what the mullahs in Pakistan are trying to create in their madrasahs. A cold, religious society; the code of primitive society…”
Desperate, we approach a simple man, a vegetarian food vendor. His name is Mr. Anoop Upadhyaya and he somehow brings things into perspective:
“I voted for Modi because my parents ordered me to do it. I don’t expect much improvement from his government. If they deliver even some 25% of what they were promising us, I would be satisfied. We are always ‘Bhajpa’ (BJP)… That is what we are. We don’t think about it, don’t question it.”
We ask about BRICS.
He does not react, as if we were talking about some distant planet.
At some point I had had enough and I expressed a desire to visit some old-fashioned school to talk to teachers who were already there, teaching, before India entered the pragmatically-oblivious realm.
I was taken to Bhigan, just across the border from the capital, on the very edge of Haryana State, to a well-organized, clean and optimistic looking primary school.
I don’t know if what I saw was true or whether my friends were just being too kind to me, creating a spectacle, similar to that in the film ‘Goodbye Lenin’.
The educators and the principal – Mr. Kuldeep Singh Chavhan, as well as the history and physical education teacher – were extremely kind, knowledgeable and supportive.
We all expressed our admiration for the Soviet Union, and then we condemned Western imperialism.
“Friendship with Russia!” Screamed one of the teachers.
“Israel is the oppressor! US are behind Israel!”
Then the Principal spoke:
“We are very well aware that the US is trying to buy India through its multi-national companies!’
Then I spoke.
It all felt like a scene from a long time ago, even before I was born…
We did not hug, kiss or embrace. We did not sing. But it all felt fantastic.
A dog barked outside.
Children began leaving the school. We were still speaking.
Then I asked about BRICS.
“There is an issue,” the Principal admitted. “I am not really aware of the BRICS’s cooperation with India.”
“But…” I howled: “India is member of BRICS.”
“But Modi went to Brazil!”
“I don’t know”, said the Principal, sadly.
‘It’s better if we sing!’ I thought.
From the other geographical extreme of the country, in the poorest Dalit villages around Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, my dear friend Venkat (he wanted to use only his first name for this report), a Cambridge-educated Brahmin, who was so appalled by the helplessness of the poor people, that he went against all that the upper cast and the elites represent, wrote to me:
“The Indian social and political landscape hasn’t changed in years. Like the distant mirage, new governments come and go giving hope to the parched souls who are soon left out to die with still hope in their eyes!
The new middle class, thanks to the growth of IT, has often been praised and written about but this is only a small percentage although in a country of this size even such small percentages works out to be huge in numbers!
An average rural person is still struggling to make ends meet and still hoping for the “paradise’ that every politician promises! There is no time to read, think, discuss about other issues that affect the nation or the world. Cricket stars, film stars and sleazy politics fascinate conveniently Indian media, as the mass media are only concerned about TRP ratings and not about what people think and want!
So, discussions about BRICS or what happens in Syria or Iraq doesn’t really matter. Many villagers accept the stereotypes that the western media has painted. For example – the US is the land of wealth; China means cheap goods, Latin America – Che on your T-shirts and Cigars, Africa- famine and dangerous diseases, Middle East- only war!
The education system is being so commercialized that Indian youth are actually produced in large numbers, lacking even the skills that Industry wants!
Unless ‘real’ education is given to our children, we may not have a ‘thinking’ population in the future. But only if people are educated, can we hope for a greater critical mass of intellectuals who can guide the country.”
After having our boarding passes scanned at the gate and before entering the airplane, passengers had to go through three more military checkpoints! The entire state of affairs appeared to be thoroughly Kafkaesque. This confused, frustrated ‘police state’ was using its military, cops and other armed forces to intimidate and to keep at bay its own citizens. It has been doing it, for decades, in the most open and despicable way.
I still remember how in Gujarat, after that horrid sectarian pogrom of 2002, the Akshardham Temple killing and both (then) Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Sonia Gandhi, decided to visit the area. A huge crowd gathered, to welcome the politicians. It was a very peaceful crowd, consisting mainly of poor onlookers. But the police began beating the people with batons, savagely, just ‘preventively’ I was told, as if it were the most natural thing on earth: ‘The largest democracy on earth at work’. Nobody dared to protest against such treatment.
After talking to many, it appears that the poor see it all very clearly now: in the villages and in the slums, they laugh and cry or gesticulate angrily whenever the word ‘democracy’ is uttered in front of them. Most of the poor (that is the great majority of the country) have no doubts that they are living in a country whose rulers and oligarchs, backed by the security apparatus, are alimenting on their sweat, misery and blood.
Those ‘educated classes’, including most of the intellectuals from the Indian ‘Left’, live in a continuous and great deception. Most of them are desperately clinging to the notion that has been spread by the old and new Western colonial masters: that India is actually the largest democracy on earth.
Even those individuals in India who see clearly that both European and North American ‘democracies’ are increasingly becoming nothing else other than a grand farce, do not dare to admit that their own, Indian, multi-party system (aped from the West) in which all major political parties are controlled by corporate interests, as most of the mass media is, have been totally failing to represent the interests of the Indian majority.
‘Democracy’ is not a secretive and complicated scientific formula. It only means, in Greek, ‘the rule of the people’. And it goes without saying that most of the long-suffering Indian people that I spoke to, do not feel that they are ruling their own country!
Just before I took off from Delhi, I found myself sitting right next to a member of the new local elites. A Sikh man, who began with the usual line of interrogation: where am I from, where do I live, what is my line of work? Dutifully and calmly, I replied. Then he offered his short biography: he was a manufacturer and owned 3 homes in 3 different parts of the world: one in India, one in Bangkok and one in Vancouver. “I am taking my family back to Bangkok, now”, he explained. “I have a wonderful house there. It is such a great place to live.”
“It is quite complicated there, lately”, I suggested, neutrally. “After the coup…”
My statement shocked him: “Why do you say that? It is all very simple. One and a half months ago it was complicated, but after the army took over, everything is great.”
“For you, maybe”, I said, “And for the Thai elites, as well as for their Western handlers.”
He gave me that look, indicating that I was actually nothing more than a piece of dirt to him; that very look, which has increasingly began appearing on the faces of the new Indian ‘elites’, in those 5 star malls and hotels, in both India itself, and in countries like Thailand and Malaysia, which are now inundated by corrupt Indian officials and businessmen.
The conversation ended: from then on, arrogantly, he refused to reply to anything that I uttered, ignoring my attempts to be at least essentially civil and polite to someone who was occupying the seat next to me.
I did not ask about BRICS. I knew what he would reply: “They should all go to hell!” or something of that nature.
BRICS countries have to maintain high standards, if they are to make a significant difference in this world. Their determination to fight against colonialism, imperialism and for true freedom for countries worldwide cannot and should not be diluted.
If states like Indonesia, with governments full of war criminals and mass murderers, and one of the most inhumane economic/social systems on earth, are allowed to join, if Turkey, a member of NATO and one of the closest allies of the West in the Middle East, with several Western air force and military bases, is allowed to join; if India, which is openly and shamelessly collaborating with the West while sitting on two chairs is allowed to maintain its membership, then BRICS will soon lose all of its clout as well as its moral upper-hand.
If such a scenario takes place, the world will lose an alternative, and that would be an enormous tragedy.
India matters. Its people matter! It is a great and important nation. It used to be ‘our nation’. It used to stand firmly against colonialism and imperialism. In many ways, and in many of its parts, it still does.
India should wake up. It is needed. It should rebel against the oppressive system, both domestic and global. And it should become a proud BRICS nation: with all its heart, and not just on paper!
Symbol of Indian democracy
André Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. The result is his latest book: “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. ‘Pluto’ published his discussion with Noam Chomsky:On Western Terrorism. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. His feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” is about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.