By MADHAV NALAPAT
The aim is to convince the international community that Government of India is intolerant and neglectful of minorities, women and Dalits in particular.
Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, in a series of meetings held in late July and early August, decided to “fire on the shoulders of the US and the UN” to tarnish the reputation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sources within London, New York and Geneva say that the plan is to ensure the further penetration by the ISI, and its auxiliary elements, of groups which will be used to paint India as a semi-fascist state. The aim is to convince the international community that Government of India is intolerant and neglectful of minorities, women and Dalits. The ISI is trying to ensure that the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva begins discussion on a complaint, which the Pakistan agency expects will get filed this year. The complaint will be by the US-based Coalition Against Genocide (CAG) and will contain strictures against the Modi government. According to a Washington-based expert, “16 of the 47 key NGOs (forming the CAG) have received partial or complete funding from the ISI”, directly or through channels in the Gulf Cooperation Council and friendly contacts in western countries. “Nine of the CAG’s key NGOs have extensive linkages with the Pakistan-American community, which is riddled with ISI sympathisers.” These NGOs are leading the charge against India.
Although some effort has gone in the past to spotlight cases of anti-Sikh violence, the focus has shifted since the Narendra Modi-led NDA II government took office on 26 May. The effort now is to manufacture testimony and contrive evidence to show that India is a country where three human rights violations are rife. These are (i) violence against women (ii) human trafficking and (iii) “genocide” of Christians and Muslims, all of this by Hindus.
According to a London-based source, through its global network “the ISI has funded the travel of 247 individuals from India to Washington, Geneva and other capitals from 2007 to 2011”. The purpose of such travel was to ensure that “testimony created and vetted in advance by ISI-linked individuals was given by such Indian nationals in the US Congress, the European Parliament and the UN Human Rights Council. Such assertions, the ISI colonels expect, will intensify already ongoing efforts to “depict India as a fascist state killing minorities and the disadvantaged in a systematic manner”.
The speed and depth of Modi’s diplomacy towards the SAARC countries has alarmed the ISI, which for the past 16 years has watched Delhi’s footprint become fainter and fainter in the region. “The warming of relations with Sri Lanka and Nepal has been particularly worrisome for the colonels in the ISI”, warned a London-based analyst, adding that “even worse is the fact that the public in both countries is now becoming more India-friendly”. According to his colleague, “the warmth with which Modi’s diplomacy was greeted by the Sinhala majority in Sri Lanka (which till now has been wary of India) and the cordiality with which even the Maoists greeted the Indian PM while he was in Kathmandu has sounded a warning to the ISI”, which till now has found a welcome mat in both countries, largely because of the distaste of large sections of the population towards India, the Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka and the Maoists in Nepal.
A key official in Geneva warns that “since 26 May 2014, individuals across India are being located by ISI cutouts”. These are those willing to present “black” (i.e. manufactured) testimony on the three human rights issues mentioned earlier. Another source from the same location claimed that “a mass grave relating to the Khalistan insurgency, which contained more than 50 bodies had been discovered in 2011 in Haryana” but that “the US administration had ensured that this be suppressed, as it did not want to embarrass the Congress Party”, which was in power in both the state as well as at the national level (when the incident was alleged to have taken place). Systematic efforts spread over years to discover mass graves of Muslims in Gujarat were abandoned in 2011 as futile, clearly because none existed.
These sources say that the objective of the ISI’s operation is to “character assassinate Prime Minister Modi by making NGOs penetrated by the ISI and its auxiliaries ensure that issues of genocide, violence against women, discrimination against Dalits and human trafficking enter the formal agenda of the UNHRC by mid-2015 at the latest”. Efforts directed at the US Congress and the European Parliament have also been intensified. A source said that the UK-based Channel 4 “will soon air a documentary about Singrauli in India”, which will paint the Modi government as being intolerant. Two individuals were named in this context, Krishan Gopal and Hugo Ward. However, these assertions could not be independently verified.
“The sizeable pro-Pakistan lobby in the US State Department and the Cold War residue of anti-India policymakers are working together with elements in contact with the ISI to ensure that hearings take place on Capitol Hill by mid-2015 at the latest that would bring together dozens of individuals with a coordinated message, that India is a hell on earth for minorities, women and Dalits”, according to a London source. The source adds that the ISI has a budget of $34 million to fund (through hidden affiliates) the stay and travel of the more than 300 individuals from India who have been selected to present perspectives before these organisations.
It may be remembered that much of the funding for such “black” operations comes from the narcotics trade and from printing counterfeit currency, especially Indian rupees. Sources in Washington warn that the ISI, along with the pro-Pakistan lobby and its allies of convenience amongst religious fundamentalists in the US, angered by various anti-conversion laws “has enough influence to ensure that staffers on Capitol Hill and agencies such as the US Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the European Parliament or the Geneva-based human rights organisations call only those who present a negative view on the Modi government”, a key official predicted, adding that “at such hearings, the other point of view is never heard”.
Another tack agreed upon by the ISI colonels at the meetings was to ensure that more cases get filed in US courts against key political figures in India (connected with the Union government) on the grounds of human rights abuses. Such a process has become possible because of the extra-territorial International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) passed by the US Congress a decade ago. This law gives US courts the power to accept a complaint from a national of any country against the leader of any other country, and is an extraordinary example of the way in which the US Congress believes itself to be the successor to the British Empire, “where the sun never set”. Interestingly, India has been lumped together with Afghanistan and Russia as a Tier 2 country under the law, rather than a Tier 1 country that (US authorities hold) upholds religious freedom. In a Tier 2 country, violations of religious freedom are held to be present in two of the following three heads: “systematic, egregious and ongoing”, and placing a country under such a watch-list may open the door for sanctions against it by the US.
While US President Barack Obama rolls out the red carpet for Prime Minister Modi, the colonels in the ISI are looking towards other branches of government in the US to go into overdrive in the coming months against the NDA government on the issue of rights and freedoms. They are also mining their contacts to ensure that similar allegations against India get taken up in the European Parliament and at Geneva. In this task, they have the advantage of years of penetration of NGOs dealing with such matters in the US and European capitals, groups that have scarcely received attention in India, although they fund the stay and travel of hundreds of Indian nationals each year on missions to caricature this country as a state which systematically discriminates against minorities, women and the underprivileged.
“The ISI plan is to ensure that a torrent of negative hearings take place in Washington, Brussels and Geneva by mid-2015, so that the diplomatic outreach of the Modi government can be blunted”, the London-based source warned, adding that “thus far, Indian officialdom has concentrated on its peers rather than the broader civil society, where the ISI has been much more successful in gaining access and influence”, ironically, especially in those dealing with human rights.