Archive for the ‘crimes of powerful’ Category

It’s not (just) Modi, it’s Neoliberalism and Military-Industrial Complex

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

The 2019-2020 union budget allocated Rs. 64,559 Cr. to Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Rs. 4.3 Lakh Cr. to Ministry of Defence. There are expenses on health not included in this but that is compensated by the fact that a lot of defence funding is done through the Home Affairs ministry (especially of the forces and operations in Kashmir and Chattishghar) and the secret budgets for intelligence services are never revealed – so the comparison still holds. And a SIPRI report released yesterday shows that the actual publicly available defence spending was Rs 5.4 Lakh Cr.

<span;>And this trend is not new. For decades the fighter aircraft, carriers, missiles are eating away the money, manpower and technical expertise that could have instead created a stable healthcare system better prepared for something like Covid-19. Instead of producing guns and bombs, we could have produced masks and ventilators and instead of procuring missile defence systems from Israel and Russia, we could have procured material and tech for these health care needs.

<span;>This next one is a heartbreaking comparison to make but the most common argument for defence spending is that there is a violent threat to us that we need protection from and which justifies these astronomical spendings. Going by the worst-case scenario records, the total (Indian) death toll in last 50 years from wars, armed conflicts, insurgencies and terror attacks is no more than 2 lakh. We have passed this number officially and in reality, we have passed at least 5 times more than this number of deaths in the last year from Covid-19. It is as if we have fought a war each day for the last one year. And we have – it is the toll of the Indian elites class war against the population.

<span;>India was the worlds 3rd largest spender on military last year and ranked 131 on Human Development Index. Putting people over the interests of the State and its regional military dominance is not unique to this regime and will not go away after it.

<span;>Why is there a shortage of vaccines? Short answer is: patent monopoly and monopoly agreements. When a state funded research in collaboration with private pharma company results in a drug or vaccine there are atleast two option. Either the state can take rights over the medicine and pay the private firm for its contribution or, the state can grant the company monopoly rights to produce, set price and sell the product and have nothing to do with it. But the current social ideology of neo-liberalism tells us that we cannot do the former because it will create deficit if the state pays these companies – nevermind the “deficit” and burden inflicted on people in terms of drug costs which on average are 5-10 times higher. So, a single company gets the right over the medicine.

<span;>The rights to <span;>COVISHIELD are owned by AstraZeneca and its manufacturing rights in India have been given to Serum Institute. It is unclear who owns COVAXIN rights which was created under a PPP agreement with Bharat Biotech – the current pricing of the vaccine and tech-trasfer agreement with Haffikine Institute give a mixed impression but it is unlikely that Bharat Biotech doesn’t have a significant say in future manufacturing and pricing decisions.

<span;>The central government can grant compulsory license for both the vaccine and involve more private and crucially public manufacturers. This could have been done months ago. This can be done now. Not only will it ramp up production but also reduce the risk of single or few suppliers suffering accident or logistical issues. Recall that Serum’s production facility experienced a major accident few months ago (result of another neoliberal fetish – deregulation).

<span;>But this discourages “innovation” and alienates corporations. And of course alienating corporations is worse than couple of lakh people dead.

<span;>These policies too have support in all corners of political and elite circles and transcends Modi or BJP. They just represent the extreme wing of the elite consensus.

<span;>It’s because of the neo-liberal dogma that the level of inequality globally and in India is historically high and that jobs have collapsed. The result of which is people with insufficient savings and monthly income to survive economic and social lockdowns for even few days and who lose the last penny on rents, loans and medical bills. Deepening the spiral of poverty.

<span;>While all the work and needs today are understandably, for the most part, are local and hyperlocal the long term solution – which too are urgent must focus also on so-called “defence” eating away social wealth and corporate interest devouring the interest of the people and the planet.

(Dis)Integration At Gunpoint – Aug 5 2019-2020 J&K Report

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

I contributed a chapter on militarism to this very important and comprehensive study of life and politics in J&K in last one year: (Dis)Integration At Gunpoint.

(https://jklpp.org/kashmir-reading-room-report-aug-2019-aug-2020/?fbclid=IwAR1Mf7SUA3z-dlyIpayahPRQrpeVLHAjfsWS1m6UBUDKmm07fXM7CZneC9Q)

Indians who read it with eyes (and mind) open should realize how deep our hands are in blood. And hopefully that should shake off some of the apathy and equanimity that makes this crime and violence possible.

A year ago, Indian state finished the task of completely alienating Kashmir from India and its puppet government in J&K. Ex-RAW chief Dulat and few other army commanders are worried and wonder if New Delhi is actually prepared for what is coming? One can speculate the direction local protests and militancy will take in the valley but one thing is clear that Indian state had once again made Indians insecure in name of “national security”.

One very unfortunate thing we can expect is more attempts and few successful attacks in mainland India in coming years. Indian state has known for years that whenever there are moments of hope for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue militant attacks (and even cross border infiltration) stops almost completely.It shows who and what is the cause of violence. What happened on August 5th was an invitation to a prolonged war of counter-insurgency that will be fought all over India. Who cares if that puts Indians at risk?

This is just one reason why more Indians should be concerned about Kashmir and our State policy there. But basic sense of humanity should be sufficient to see what is happening is grossly unjust, that we should stop the violence and resolve the issue peacefully with Kashmiris. No country, especially not India, can afford militarism and a war economy when almost half of its youth population is unemployed, health care is among the worst performing in Asia and inequality is rising faster than in any other country in the world.

Of Petals and Pellets: Perception Management of Violence

Sunday, May 3rd, 2020

The institution that in rest of the world is known for pelleting hospitals and civilians in Kashmir today dropped petals over hospital in India. Militarism’s direct and indirect toll on health of the people in parts of North East and Red Corridor but most significantly in Kashmir is massive. From instances of attacking hospital ambulances to torturing and maiming civilians. The regular curfews but, more sharply since the August last year combined with the internet shutdown create an unprecedented health crisis in the valley.

Today’s military operation is part of a long history of military propaganda campaigns. This one being particularly milder and weaker. The goal of these operations is to project the military as a strong and powerful force that not only crushes the “enemies” but also supports the civilian population in time of calamities.  As explained below, well planned propaganda operations rely on hiding facts and even fabrications and lies to consciously shape the population’s perception and behavior. What is achieved is war mongering society that  sees war crimes and occupation as necessary and forgets their own economic concerns in fight against “the enemies.”

During the second world war when the so-called “Japanese inspired fifth column” of Indian soldiers, who became part of nationalist military groups and were fighting the Allies, the British Indian Army formed “Josh Groups”. In the meetings of the Josh Groups stories were circulated within the British Indian troops of Japanese atrocities on Prisoners of War and the occupied countries, as well as associate the INA troops to these atrocities.

“Josh is the strongest and most effective counter-propaganda method yet involved to combat the Japanese Intelligence offensive… it is the morale counter-offensive weapon against these dangerous activities”
(Indian National Army and Free Burma Army, Vol. 1.)

It is helpful to quote in full what the General Headquarters said it entails:

“Josh Groups are intended to:
(a) build in every Indian soldier the knowledge and firm faith that the Japanese and everyone who represents the Japanese are his own personal enemies;
(b) introduce stories of our victories against the Japanese and so turn the conversation around to the topic of why the Japanese are India’s enemies and why and how they will be defeated;
(c) introduce stories of the bravery of Indian soldiers in action and his comradeship-in-arms with his Allies;
(d) utilize entertainment, radios, dramas, information rooms, picture layouts etc., to bring home to the sepoy, through every medium that strikes his imagination, the existence of his chief enemy – the Japanese;
(e) inoculate the Indian soldier with a sound factual basis of true knowledge so that false rumours and brazen lies spread by Japanese, Jifs and Japanese agents can be easily shown as such.”
(Ibid.)

The INA is now celebrated for its heroism in the struggle against the British. So, it isn’t as much about the moral content of who is being demonized but whether it is in our interest to do so? And the lessons of containing these “dangerous activities” (i.e. questioning if our killing of thousands makes any sense or, are we actually the good guys after all) have always stayed in the Indian armed forces. But after the transfer of power, when the offensive that needed combating was no longer from the Japanese but from its own population, which might get involved in these “dangerous activities” of questioning the defense budget, the arms buildup, war mongering to sideline economic issues. So, we became a Josh Nation.

And its effectiveness can be tested by asking a simple question: whether people of this country have a “firm faith that the Pakistan and everyone who represents the Pakistanis are their own personal enemies”?

It’s not just the responsibility of the armed forces, any more, to maintain the Josh Nation but the mass media and political discourse in general is a means of maintaining it.

But within the armed forces it takes the formal form of Joint Doctrine for Perception Management and Psychological Operations of the Headquarters of Integrated Defense Staff. It starts with noting that “conflict is a struggle of wills, which takes place in peoples’ minds.” It says, “it is necessary to understand the motivation of… populations in order to shape their perceptions, affect their will to continue the conflict.” It also concedes that “the ingredients that are untrue are brought out in a manner so as to nullify element of doubt that has been knowingly / unknowingly crept into the information” – in other words, lies and fabrications. (All quotes are from 2010 Doctrine.)

Military Psychological Operations in India need a more detailed study but returning to today’s operation the Doctrine note that “image of Armed Forces for the internal audience is required to be subtly projected as a tough, focused force, offering swift and firm action not only to the enemies of the nation but also for care and protection of our countrymen when no other system can provide succour.”

Today’s “morale counter-offensive” of Josh Nation is in line with building support for state policies at large and image management for the armed forces. The whole activity is more ironic and saddening because it is precisely because of the MiGs and Sukhois that are showering petals over the hospitals the nurses and doctors inside these hospitals do not have protective gears and ventilators. Because a Josh Nation spends 4 times higher on military than it does on health. And because a similar exercise happened in USA few days ago all the bastion of Indian liberal media can tell the PM is that “a little originality would be appreciated.”

Climate Crisis: Some Relevant Graphs for India

Friday, October 11th, 2019

India’s Role in Myanmar’s Crimes Against Humanity

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

(First posted on Stoke.)

In 2015, Myanmar had its first competitive and relatively free elections after 25 years. The election results gave the National League for Democracy party majority in the assembly and help make Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, the State Counselor of Myanmar. The constitution adopted in 2008 instituted a form of government with a mix of military and civilian components in which the military establishment still holds a dominant role. The Tatmadaw, the main armed force in the country, appoints 25% of the seats in both legislative houses, three candidates in ministerial posts and two Vice-Presidents.

Through much of its post-colonial history Myanmar did not recognize the ethnic minorities, especially the Rohingya Muslim community, as natural citizen. The Rohingya people remained the victim of sectarian violence from Buddhist majority backed by military leaders. Starting in 2016, many reports have repeatedly confirmed violations amounting to crimes against humanity and included murder; imprisonment; enforced disappearance; torture; rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence; persecution and enslavement against Rohingya Muslims in the Rankin region by the Tatmadaw.

On August 5th 2019, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar made public its report on “The economic interests of the Myanmar military”. It establishes in detail the degree to which Myanmar’s military, especially the Tatmadaw, has used its own businesses, foreign companies and arms deals to support its brutal operations against the ethnic minority groups that amounts to serious crimes under international law. Four Indian firms (two private and two State-owned) have financially assisted or have armed the Myanmar armed forces that contributed to crimes against humanity.

Tatmadaw’s two holding companies, Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) are major conglomerates running operations in every sector from mining to finance through, around, 120 subsidiaries. Profits from these establishments help fund Tatmadaw operations outside the state budget. There are 15 international companies that have formed Joint Venture ties with Tatmadaw, MEHL or MEC. Another 44 international firms have different forms of ties with these military owned and controlled enterprises.

In May of 2018, Indian firm Infosys became a contractor for MEHL owned Myawaddy Bank. Salil Parekh’s multinational corporation provides Myawaddy Bank digital banking software. The relation of Myawaddy and Tatmadaw are public knowledge and that its shares are held by serving and retired military personnel and related organizations such as the Veterans’ Associations. The economic tie was made in 2018, around two years after the human rights violations by the Myanmar armed forces became internationally known.

Adani Group engaged with Tatmadaw conglomerates more directly by paying MEC Rs. 20,000-cr (USD 290 million) for leasing land in Yangon for 50 years. The report notes that both, the Infosys’ and the Adani Group’s ties with enterprises controlled by Myanmar armed forces amount to financially assisting the operations that have lead to gross human rights violations and activities that have violated international humanitarian laws.

India’s State-owned defense manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) delivered second-hand trainer aircraft to the Tatmadaw, again, in 2018. Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), also, provided anti-submarine torpedoes to the Myanmar Navy. The report does not say that HAL and BDL arms trade amounts to an illegal act under international law but it repeatedly says that India “should not have permitted the transfer of arms and related items to the Tatmadaw.”

One thing the report does not mention, because it was not part of its official mandate, is that at least some of the helicopters used in military operations in Rakhine State might have been supplied by India during the military dictatorship.

It must be noted that Indian media, to a significant extent, remained supportive of these “military aids” and uncritically accepted the “containing the Chinese clout” and “suppressing the counter insurgency” narrative of the Indian State.

In addition to these business ties that amount to financial aid and direct military support in the human rights violations, Indian government (through the Delhi-based private firm C&C Constructions) has undertaken the construction of Rs.1,600-cr Mizoram-Myanmar Kaladan road which ties Mizoram with seaport in conflict stricken Rakhine State – a project that passes through dense forests and in which “a substantial number of project workers died due to malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases. Such infrastructure projects might amount to what the report calls “consolidating the consequences of war crimes”.

Earlier this year, the UN human rights experts condemned India’s deportation of Rohingya as it violated the principle of non-refoulement. They said that, “the deportation of Rohingya to Myanmar speaks to a system of refugee status determination that fails to account for the ongoing, credible reports of ethnic and religious minority persecution in that country,”