2ndlook

Islamic World: Last 100 Years

Posted in History, Pax Americana, politics, Propaganda by Anuraag Sanghi on March 9, 2013

Fundamentalist Islam has, apart from the solitary success of increasing enlistment, delivered nothing on political governance, economic growth, social justice, modernization of education or even military preparedness..

August 1953: Scenes from the coup that Iran will not forget.

August 1953: Scenes from the coup that Iran will not forget.

By the middle of the 19th century (1850), decline of Islamic empires was truly and completely real.

Empires Of Islam

After a 1000 years of expansion and dominance, by 1850 just two declining Islamic powers were left to compete on the world’s imperial stage. One was the Mughal Empire that controlled India. An India, that was: -

The other major Islamic Empire was the Ottoman Empire, centered in modern Turkey, that controlled a geography from the borders of Iran to the outskirts of Europe.

From Western Seas

Opposing these Islamic Empires were the Christian colonial Empires of Spain & Portugal, France and Britain.

The first challenge to the Christian colonial Empires came from India – with the Anglo-Indian War of 1857.

Stretching over a period of nearly two years, the alliance was nominally headed by the Mughal Emperor, and the war was mainly between the Marathas and a mercenary army of Indian soldiers, raised and equipped by the British. The war-chests of Maratha-Mughal alliance were puny compared to the British capital – bolstered by huge capital inflows from slave trade, slave plantations of sugar and tobacco, apart from piracy, loot and plunder.

Within two years, the Mughal Empire was over.

Minor Islamic kingdoms of Egypt and Persia ruled at British sufferance. The Ottoman Empire folded up 60 years later.

In 1920.

Street scenes from August 1953 coup in Iran.

Street scenes from August 1953 coup in Iran.

Under Western Thumbs

Nearly a 100-years after the end of the Ottoman Empire, the Islamic world is still ruled by Western puppets.

In Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt – or a Turkey which is happy being at the periphery of every Western alliance – CENTO, European Union, etc.

Under Nasser or Yasser Arafat, people mobilization was a political movement – the agenda being independence from Western subjugation.

All these movements succumbed to religious obscurantism after the overthrow of Shah Of Iran. Iran’s incendiary mix of religion and anti-American politics found a Sunni resonance in Saudi Arabia with a Wahhabi revival. Pakistan turned from Deobandi to Wahhabi strains of Islam.

Desperate situations call for desperate …

The use of fundamentalist Islam has been successful in increasing citizen enlistment against the West. Apart from the solitary success of increasing enlistment, the Shia-Sunni consensus on fundamentalism has delivered nothing on political governance, economic growth, social justice, modernization of education or even military preparedness. This uni-dimensional agenda of ‘modern’ Islam has many detractors within and outside the Islamic world.

In the last 40-odd years

Recently released classified information and memoirs by retired spies, provide a more complex picture of the CIA, its effectiveness, and its overall power, suggesting that at times Langley was manned not by James Bond clones but by a bunch of keystone cops. My favorite clandestine CIA operation, recounted in Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes, involves its 1994 surveillance of the newly appointed American ambassador to Guatemala, Marilyn McAfee. When the agency bugged her bedroom, it picked up sounds that led agents to conclude that the ambassador was having a lesbian love affair with her secretary. Actually, she was petting her two-year-old black standard poodle.

But the CIA’s history does include efforts to oust unfriendly regimes, to assassinate foreign leaders who didn’t believe that what was good for Washington and Wall Street was good for their people, and to sponsor coups and revolutions. Sometimes the agency succeeded.

Topping the list of those successes—if success is the right word for an operation whose long-term effects were so disastrous—was the August 1953 overthrow of Iran’s elected leader and the installment of the unpopular and authoritarian Shah in his place. Operation Ajax, as it was known, deserves that old cliché: If it didn’t really happen, you’d think that it was a plot imagined by a Hollywood scriptwriter peddling anti-American conspiracies.

Book cover of Ervand Abrahamian's The Coup.

Book cover of Ervand Abrahamian’s The Coup.

Ervand Abrahamian isn’t a Hollywood scriptwriter but a renowned Iranian-American scholar who teaches history at the City University of New York. With The Coup, he has authored a concise yet detailed and somewhat provocative history of the 1953 regime change, which the CIA conducted with the British MI6. If you don’t know anything about the story, The Coup is a good place to start. If you’ve already read a lot about Ajax and the events that led to it, the book still offers new insights into this history-shattering event.

Abrahamian constructed his narrative by analyzing documents in the archives of British Petroleum, the British Foreign Office, and the State Department as well as the memoirs of the main characters in the drama. These characters—British spies and business executives, American diplomats and journalists, Soviet agents, Communist activists, Nazi propagandists, Shiite mullahs, Iranian crime bosses—have double or even triple agendas to advance as they jump from one political bed to another and back, lying, cheating, stealing, and killing. It all makes the CIA-led extraction of the American hostages in Iran, depicted in the film Argo, look kind of, well, boring.

On one side there was Muhammad Mossadeq, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran from 1951 to 1953, a secular, liberal, and nationalist leader who wanted to join the “neutralist” camp that disavowed commitment to either of the superpowers during the Cold War. An aristocratic and eccentric figure who welcomed foreign officials into his house wearing pajamas, Mossadeq introduced many progressive social and economic reforms into the traditionally Shiite society, and sent shock waves across the world when he moved to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913 through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.

On the other side there was Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt, Jr., Teddy’s grandson, a legendary spymaster, a self-promoter who dined with major world leaders and business executives but also befriended power-hungry Iranian military generals, corrupt politicians, merchants in the bazzar, and quite a few thugs, who helped him achieve what became Washington’s goal: to remove Mossadeq and his political allies, which included liberals, social democrats, and Communists, from power; to return the oil industry into British hands (with more American presence in Iran’s oil business); and to place reliable pro-western politicians in power.

It seemed to work beautifully. The United States gained a key strategic ally in the Middle East. American companies received a considerable share of Iran’s enormous oil wealth. Other oil-producing Middle Eastern nations got a lesson in what might happen if they nationalized. At a time when the Americans were facing challenges from nationalists such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and were trying to contain the so-called Soviet threat in the Middle East, Our Man in Tehran welcomed American soldiers and investors (and purchased a lot of American weapons). It all looked good until it didn’t.

While the coup did set back the nationalization of the oil resources in the Middle East, the delay ended in the 1970s. In that decade, Abrahamian writes, one country after another—not just radical states such as Libya, Iraq, and Algeria, but conservative monarchies such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia—“took over their oil resources, and, having learned from the past, took precautions to make sure that their oil companies would not return victorious.”

At the same time, the coup decimated the secular opposition, leaving Shiite clerics as the most viable political force when the Iranian Revolution deposed the Shah in 1979. The pro-American puppet gave way to a radical and anti-American Islamic Republic where the secular and liberal opposition remains weak and leaderless. That, as they say in Langley, is blowback.

The coup also intensified what Abrahamian calls the “intense paranoid style prevalent throughout Iranian politics.” While the Iranian clerics worry that Washington wants to do a rerun of the 1953 regime change, many members of the opposition are counting on that to happen. In Tehran, they still think the CIA makes the world turn around.

via Our Man in Iran – Reason.com.


India: Mangled by Western Historians

Posted in British Raj, European History, Feminist Issues, History, India by Anuraag Sanghi on May 4, 2012

How the myth of courtesans and nautch girls has persisted in Indian history?

Ochterlony, like many Britishers of his age, lived a double life. By night,he lived in Mughal style with his Mughal wives, as seen in his celebrated image on view here, dressed in turban and kurta pajamas watching his dancing girls. By day he promoted the interests of the Company. He also fought in the Anglo-Maratha war of 1803–5, and the 1815 Nepal War of 1815, and was a prominent person in the Company’s political service.

Ochterlony, like many Britishers of his age, lived a double life. By night,he lived in Mughal style with his Mughal wives, as seen in his celebrated image on view here, dressed in turban and kurta pajamas watching his dancing girls. By day he promoted the interests of the Company. He also fought in the Anglo-Maratha war of 1803–5, and the 1815 Nepal War of 1815, and was a prominent person in the Company’s political service.

Patrick French recently claimed in a rather prolix manner that India is xenophobic and gives little place to foreign writers on India.

Aatish Taseer made short work of French by saying that since foreigners have done such a shoddy job on Indian history, a little xenophobia is not bad.

Especially in India.

Foreigners tend to distort India. Some deliberately – like creators of the Aryan Invasion Theory, or the Caste-System Theory.

Some other foreigners were simply ignorant.

A case in point is Fernão Nunes. A Portuguese writer, he created the myth around Indian military and soldiers.

Nunez, the Portuguese chronicler, who was contemporary with Krishna Deva, the Raja of Vijayanagar, in the sixteenth century (1509–30), affirms that that prince led against Raichur an army consisting of 703,000 foot, 32,600 horse, and 551 elephants, besides camp-followers.

Did Fernão Nunes go and count the 551st elephant?

Another Portuguese writer, Faria y Souza mentions 586 elephants. These numbers apart, Fernão Nunes also made a very important contribution to Indian history.

An Indian soldier with the Madras Native Infantry and his wife, circa 1810. Watercolour on Oriental paper, by a EEIC artist, at Tanjore, 1810 (circa)  |  Source - national-army-museum.ac.uk  |  Click for image.

An Indian soldier with the Madras Native Infantry and his wife, circa 1810. Watercolour on Oriental paper, by a EEIC artist, at Tanjore, 1810 (circa) | Source – national-army-museum.ac.uk | Click for image.

Nautch girls of Indian armies

Nunes wrote of courtesans, nautch girls who travelled with Indian armies, soldiers, generals and kings.

Dissolute Indian military that was defeated  by every invader.

Many in modern history think that the Third Battle of Panipat was lost due to the ‘encumbrance’ of women in Maratha forces.

A modern general, Jagjit Singh Arora who obtained the surrender from ‘Tiger’ Niazi in Bangladesh also subscribed to this view.

At one stroke, the equation in the entire game was inverted.

Shop till you drop

What of British ‘traders’ who built harems in India like Ochterloy? See first image.

Islamic trade in Indian women slaves drove the practice of sati and jouhar. Indian women rather than taken captive as slaves, committed self-immolation. For instance after the Third Battle of Panipat, a reported 22,000 Maratha women and boys were captured as slaves by the Islamic army of Durrani.

Wrong turn, Nunez

Now how did Nunes know that these 20,000 were courtesans? A couple of factors that would go against Nunez: -

1. Indian women in 17th century did not wear a top garment – but saree of varying lengths. See image no.2 of the Indian soldier with the Madras Native Infantry and his topless-wife.

2. Compared to near-universal marriage in India, marriage in the Desert Bloc was a upper-class phenomenon till about a few hundred years ago. Stable marriages in the West, that will celebrate shashthipoorthi are still a very low figure – probably single digits. Only the rich could marry their daughters.

3. Remember, Alexander’s Indian wife, Roxanne, from modern Afghanistan, then a part of Bharat-ah travelled with her husband on battles and wars.

4. Is it a simple case of brave Indian wives travelling with their soldier husbands – taking care of injured soldiers?

To a European Nunes,

1. 20,000 of these women (so many married men?)
2. Without a top garment (shameless women!)
3. Accompanying the men to battle (which woman would be stupid to go to battle unless paid handsomely!).

would seem, most likely to be courtesans.

At least, on a per capita basis, modern India has lesser prostitutes than modern Europe. Patronage of courtesans by common soldiers is also not a common practice. Everything, I know about Indians goes against this ‘observation’. However, when you take the context into account, the picture would be different.

But can a foreigner understand this? Unlikely. Many Indians don’t.

And that bring me back to Taseer.

When you don’t study your past, you expose yourself to people distorting it. It was like Churchill said: “India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the equator.”

Such an offensive thing to say! A near complete dismissal of India’s classical past. And so untrue. I grew up around many such distortions.

But there have been many: old and new, they range from mangoes and slum dogs to apologising histories of the Mutiny; there are the correspondents with their povertarianism and exaggerated fears of Hindu fascist take-overs; and there are the orientalists, who would turn hard gritty India into a fantasy of sweetmeats and fakirs. All problematic, all irritating enough.

Patrick French is right: there is defensiveness these days, there is over-sensitivity and perhaps a degree of xenophobia too. But in a country which has bended so easily to the will of foreigners in the past, and where foreigners are still invisibly able to occupy positions of great power, both politically and intellectually, a little xenophobia is not such a bad thing. (via A vibrant entity – Hindustan Times).


Death of Indian Shipbuilding

Posted in British Raj, European History, Gold Reserves, History, India by Anuraag Sanghi on April 14, 2012

Bengal, which Mughal rulers described as paradise on earth, became a hell on earth during the British Raj. Right from the Famine of 1765 to the 1943 Great Bengal Famine which killed at least 3-4 million..

Note: Read 'f' as 's', where needed.  |  From: The ... report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Affairs of the East India Company (Google eBook) | Published in Great Britain | Author: Select Committee on the Affairs of the East India Company, East India Company (London) | Publisher: Cambray | Year: 1810

Note: Read 'f' as 's', where needed. | From: The ... report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Affairs of the East India Company (Google eBook) | Published in Great Britain | Author: Select Committee on the Affairs of the East India Company, East India Company (London) | Publisher: Cambray | Year: 1810

Gunpowder capital of the world

After the Battle of Plassey (1757), the British gained control of Bengal – which was India’s major industrial centre. For the British, the most valuable product from Bengal was saltpetre – nitrate, the essential ingredient in gunpowder.

In 1757, right up to WWI, India manufactured more nitrate (essential for gunpowder manufacture) than the rest of the world put together. An intricate technology, no other country in the world manufactured gunpowder products, as much as India, of such good quality. For the British, Bengal’s gunpowder production was the passport to a world empire.

Gunpowder apart, Bengal was a major textile centre, famous for shipbuilding and a significant agricultural centre.

Lockstep in Bengal

Between 1757 and the Battle of Buxar (1765), the British moved step at a time, to tighten their grip on Bengal.

One of the first steps was to create a famine. After Buxar for the next two hundred years, the Bengal region started witnessing famines that continued upto 1943, when some 30-40 lakhs Indians died in Bengal (3-4 million).

Bengal which was intricately connected by thousands of kilometres of waterways and canals, had lakhs of boats plying up and down the region. In 1788 came the order that killed shipbuilding in Bengal. Today it may seem fantastic, but more than 20 different types of boats, were used. Each of them built for different use.

Chronicles of India

In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, wonder-stuck Europeans spent years making etching and woodcuts, that are today the main surviving record of that age gone by.

The Mughals built the world’s largest treasury of the world – and even after that, India was a major economic power. After the end of Mughal power in 1857, in the next 100 years of the British Raj, we see India become a starving, naked and homeless population.

And in the last 65 years, India has again become the fourth largest economy in the world.


Debt situation – A representative sample

Posted in Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on November 19, 2010
INDIA'S FINANCIAL SITUATION 1600 AD (FROM A free nation deep in debt: the financial roots of democracy  By James MacDonald. PAGE 131). Click to read more at Gogle Books.

INDIA'S FINANCIAL SITUATION 1600 AD (FROM A free nation deep in debt: the financial roots of democracy By James MacDonald. PAGE 131). Click to read more at Google Books.

Spain, which became a significant power in the world between 1500-1800 AD was deep in debt. On the other hand, Moghul India, which controlled about three-fourths of modern India, most of Pakistan and Afghanistan was seriously in surplus – and had deep reserves.

To become a super-power, money ain’t everything. A deep desire to loot, pillage, slaughter, kill possibly is more important. Has the desert Bloc changed? Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan seem to suggest that the Desert Bloc remains just as willing to loot, pillage, slaughter, kill as they were in the past.

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