Friday, June 26, 2015

BBC’s Fantasy on India-MQM Nexus

Sushant Sareen, 
Senior Fellow, VIF

For over a year and a half now, the signals emerging from London are extremely negative. On the surface, the British appear to be very keen to engage India, in particular the Modi government, and leave no opportunity to pay lip-service to the ostensibly close and friendly relations between India and the UK. They are also very eager to tap into the business opportunities that are opening up in India. But behind the scenes, on the security front, the British have been doing a lot that directly impinges on and has serious implications for India’s security. The scandalous report – not so much on account of its laughable content but more because of its shockingly shoddy journalism which even tabloids would be embarrassed to own up to – alleging that the Pakistani political party, MQM, was being funded by India is yet another indication of the sinister game that is being played by the British against India, and in favour of Pakistan.

Quite aside the fact that BBC’s reportage is no divine text cast in stone and therefore unchallengeable, the myth of BBC’s independence and the unimpeachable integrity of its journalism has been badly exposed over the last couple of decades. The Iraq war and the Musharraf referendum are just two instances when the BBC tweaked its reports to suit the interests of the British government. Had the Musharraf referendum taken place before 9/11, the BBC would have probably reported that it was a farce. But post 9/11, after Musharraf had become an ‘ally’ of the West in the War on Terror – we know more than a decade later what sort of an ally Pakistan was and what sort of a war it fought against terror – and therefore anything he did to cement his position – including an utterly rigged referendum – was kosher. So much for BBC’s claims of unbiased news and its independent journalism!

The malicious BBC report has basically two sentences that seek to drag India and implicate it in Pakistan's political slugfest between the MQM and the real rulers of that country – the military establishment. The first sentence quotes an “authoritative Pakistani source” who in turn claims that the British officials have told him that some unnamed MQM official admitted that the party received Indian funding. Is this the kind of drivel that passes for investigative reporting in the BBC? Will such a serious allegation be made inside Britain on such a flimsy ground? Unlikely. The second sentence is even more laughable. It again quotes a Pakistani official to allege that “India has trained hundreds of MQM militants over the past 10 years”. Since when has any canard spread about India become news for BBC? What is the credibility of anything that the Pakistanis say from India, which includes India supporting the Taliban and even the Al Qaeda and the latest being that the Indian NSA is in close contact with the IS leadership and since ridiculousness knows no bounds, Pakistani ‘analysts’ have even claimed that the heat wave and floods in Pakistan are part of an Indian plot against Pakistan. Perhaps, the next article in BBC will be tailored to give credence to this sort of nonsense.

Clearly, the spin-masters of BBC are slipping up. Their entire argument runs contrary to facts and raises questions which not just the BBC but also their Pakistani partners will find somewhat difficult to answer. For instance, the bit about India training the MQM cadres. This was a charge that the journalist who filed this latest ‘story’ also included in his report in Guardian two years back. Much to his disappointment, no one bothered much about this at that time. So, he tried to peddle the same nonsense again. But here’s the problem. Ten years back, the Pakistani military dictator, Gen Pervez Musharraf, was at the peak of his power in Pakistan. He was also a close ally of the MQM. Now if the MQM was sending people for training to India at that time, was the Pakistan army part of this conspiracy? Given that the MQM was firmly ensconced with the military establishment at that time, would they have jeopardised their relationship with the army by sending people to India for training? Would the Pakistan army and its infamous intelligence agencies have kept quiet just for reasons of political expediency? If so, then surely the problem lies in Islamabad and Rawalpindi and not in New Delhi.

As regards money, the BBC and their Pakistani partners need to reconcile the narrative of the last 25 odd years with the charge they have levied now. For all this time, the MQM has been accused of being the largest, most powerful and most ruthless criminal mafia in Karachi. It is alleged to run extortion rackets, indulge in contract killed and run all sorts of mafia-type operations, from land grabbing to whatever else one can think off. Pakistani officials themselves claim that the criminal economy of Karachi is around $2.5 billion. If even 40% of this is controlled by MQM, that makes it $1 billion. Given that MQM has for long been accused of transferring money from Karachi to run its operations in London, surely $ 1 billion or even a quarter of that should be more than sufficient for this purpose, with the rest being used to fund the party’s operations in Karachi. Surely with this sort of money floating around, MQM didn’t need funding from India, unless of course all the stories about MQM’s criminal empire are completely false. Perhaps BBC needs to rework its sums, not to mention its ‘story’, more so because much of it is based on the presser of a mid-level Karachi cop who enjoys a most unsavoury reputation and is considered an epitome of corruption and a political hit-man.

The real purpose of the BBC story has been revealed, perhaps inadvertently, in its concluding paragraphs. The BBC journalist writes: “India has long accused Pakistani officials of involvement in attacks in India….The latest developments in the MQM case suggest that Pakistan will now counter such complaints with demands that India stop sponsoring violent forces in Karachi.” This is clearly an attempt to draw some sort of moral equivalence between India and Pakistan and give the Pakistan something to throw back at India even if this throwback is a litany of lies.

The real important question is what is making the BBC, and by extension the British government, indulge in this sort of an activity. The British have any ways been working overtime against Indian interests. They are the movers and shakers (staying all the time in the shadows) behind the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s capitulation before the Pakistanis. They are actively working to get the Taliban into some sort of driving seat in Afghanistan. They are the ones who have been actively supporting Pakistani game in Afghanistan and the Americans have been going along with them. It is also no coincidence that the Khalistani and Kashmiri groups have also become active once again in the UK. Even as the British tighten the noose on the Baloch asylum seekers to appease the Pakistanis, they have been allowing anti-India actions by the Khalistani and Kashmiri groups which are being propped up and funded by Pakistan. In classic British double-speak, cases are instituted against MQM for inciting violence in Pakistan, but there is no action against the Khalistani and Kashmiri groups which incite hatred and violence in India. There are even reasons to believe that the sensitive information that India has shared with the British has been passed on to Pakistan.

The British are no longer in a position to do anything positive in India, but they are still in a position to cause harm to India, which is precisely what they are doing. While India can and should contemptuously reject the drivel being dished out by the BBC, there is a need to sit up and re-evaluate the relationship with the British government. Instead of being swept by the nostalgia of the Raj, India should worry more about the negativity of the nostalgia of power that the British exude. India would do well to remember how in previous conflicts with Pakistan, which side the British tilted. Before Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes on a visit to the UK, his government must reassess the state of relations with the British. And if this happens, India should send a Thank You card to BBC for shaking us from our complacency about Britain’s benign intentions.

Published Date: 26th June 2015, Image Source:
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Vivekananda International Foundation)

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