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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 48 New Delhi, November 21, 2015

Paris and Burma: Complex Global Reality

Saturday 21 November 2015


The entire West, led by the United States, has vowed to wage a ‘fight-to-the-finish’ battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Terrorists of the ISIS made a bloodbath of the innocent in a series of acts of butchery in Paris on November 14, killing 129 persons and wounding several hundred. French President Francois Hollande has called it ‘an act of war’ and declared a state of emergency in his country following the attack.

The ISIS today controls a vast swathe of land across Iraq and Syria, larger than England. Its activists brutally behead people, not only of other religions and Shias of their own religion but do not hesitate to put to the sword even the Sunnis who dare to oppose them. The ISIS has brought Russia also into the Western alliance against itself. After it claimed to have downed a Russian civilian flight, killing all its passengers and crew, Putin has joined hands with the rest of Europe.

No doubt the ISIS, like the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda, has to be fought, disarmed and disabled, and their insane killings put an end to. These fanatics have brought a bad name to Islam by massacring people in its name. But condemning the fanatics is not enough—one has to trace the origins of jihadi Islam. Way back in 1979, when Soviet troops went to Afghanistan at the request of the legally constituted Afghan Government at that time, the United States decided to launch a proxy war against the Soviet Union by recruiting, training and arming hundreds of Pakistani and African Muslims to fight the Soviet troops.

In a well-documented paper published recently, Paul L. Williams of Global Research has exposed that by 1980, the CIA realised that

considerable expense could be saved by setting up paramilitary camps under the supervision of Sheikh Gilani in a rural area of the country. An ideal location was located near Hancock, New York, at the base of Point Mountain, where the east and west branches of the Delaware river converge to form the backwaters that flow through Pennsylvania and New Jersey to the Atlantic Ocean..... Islamberg, a seventy acre complex, came into existence.

Thus were the seeds of jihadi terrorism sown by the US. Today the whole world is being forced to reap the whirlwind.

While the fight to end jihadi terrorism has to be conducted, the US cannot absolve itself from the responsibility of bringing into being jihadi militancy as a result of its anti-Soviet policy.

Nearer home, in neighbouring Myanmar, the battle to restore full democracy has got a tremendous fillip in the recently held general elections—the second to be held after the Army Generals, who had ruled the country with an iron hand for half-a-century, decided to doff their uniform and don the civilian garb to float a political party named Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in 2010. But many restrictions on democracy were retained. Some of these are still there even now.

The National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, the unquestioned leader of the democratic Opposition, has swept the polls. But the Constitution framed by the Army has a provision that disqualifies a Myanmar citizen who has a foreign spouse or children of foreign nationality from standing for the presidency. Suu Kyi’s late husband was British, so are her two sons. So, till the Constitution is amended, she cannot contest the elections. This provision was inserted in the Constitution with the specific aim of permanently disqualifying Suu Kyi from running for the presidency. The Army has also inserted another constitutional provision to keep 25 per cent of seats in the Myanmar parliament reserved for the Army.

There are other restrictions, too. During the poll campaign, political parties were not allowed to criticise the Army in the official media. Party leaders, who were allowed to take part in radio broadcasts, were asked to have their speeches vetted by the Election Commission.

Despite these restrictions and limitations, the NLD has swept the polls and won a thumping majority in parliament. The people of Myanmar have made their choice clear: they want to see an end to Army rule in civilian garb and taste the full freedom of democracy. The people’s mandate is clear. It is hoped that the Army as an institution will cooperate with Suu Ky and her party in a speedy transition to full democracy. The process that has been set in motion cannot be reversed.

If the bloodbath in Paris mirrors the brutal face of jihadi terrorismwhich enjoyed US backing in the not-too-distant past, the results of the elections in Myanmar (or rather Burma) unmistakably point to the extension of the frontiers of democracy in our neighbourhood that constitutes South Asia as a whole. Both together reflect the complex reality in the present global scenario.

November 19 B.D.G.

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