By Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake, In Depth News, February 28, 2021
The writer is a cultural anthropologist with research expertise in international political economy, peace, and development studies in South and South East Asia.
COLOMBO (IDN) – India’s capital New Delhi burned in the last week of February 2020 as US President Donald Trump pivoted to India. Visiting the world’s largest and increasingly tattered ‘democracy’, Trump sold among other things, over USD 3 billion worth of weaponry to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The ‘partnership of the century’ between India and the US announced by Modi seemed designed to put China and its Belt and Road initiative (BRI), already besieged by the mysterious Novel Corona virus, on notice.
During Trump’s two-day visit to India, 43 people were killed and many more injured as Hindu-Muslim riots rocked northeast New Delhi with protests against the Indian Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), widely perceived to be discriminatory to Muslims escalated.
The US president’s visit to India, came exactly a year after Hindu-Muslim tensions in India were stoked by mysterious external parties with the near-war between nuclear armed rivals, India and Pakistan, staged in Pulwama District, Jammu and Kashmir in February 2019, just before General Elections in India
Events in Pulwama stoked Hindu nationalism and ensured return of saffron tinted Narendra Modi, President Trump’s preferred partner and buddy, to power with a large majority.
Tensions had been simmering since last October’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) came into effect amidst heightened national security consciousness in the Indian intelligence establishment that appears to be in thrall of the US military business industrial, intelligence complex which has 800 military and ‘lily pad’ bases all over the world after events in Pulwama.
Prashant Bhushan’s 12 questions on the Pulwama near-war raise questions about the role of external parties, outside South Asia, in staging this near-war.
Two months before passage of CAA in August 2019, Kashmir was stripped of its Special Status after revoking Article 370, and divided it into Buddhist Ladakh, Hindu Jammu and Muslim Kashmir with the state in virtual lock down for months.
These acts by the saffron tinged Modi government was justified in the name of “national security” and in the aftermath of events in Pulwama at a time when Muslims within and outside India are increasingly constructed as a threat by many western intelligence agencies.
Religious identity politics in South Asia is increasingly weaponized with narratives about Islamist terrorism being unleashed now against Buddhists and Hindus in a region of the world with long-standing and complex patterns of religious diversity and co-existence.
Two months after India and Pakistan teetered on the brink of war in Pulwama, mysterious Easter Sunday attacks were staged against sea-front Churches and luxury tourist hotels on April 21, 2019 in Buddhist dominated Sri Lanka, which were even more mysteriously claimed by the Islamic State (IS), while various intelligence experts claimed that ISIS planned to set up its Caliphate in the Eastern Province of strategically located Sri Lanka where the coveted deep sea port Trincomalee Harbour is located 
Saeed Naqvi, a well-known scholar and journalist based in Delhi, has termed Islamic terror, a “diplomatic asset”, while Sri Lanka’s Cardinal Malcom Ranjith noted that powerful nations sell arms after such attacks.
Days later, post-election riots erupted in Indonesia, Asia’s third most populous country and the largest economy of Southeast Asia, after President Joko Widodo’s comprehensive election victory. Riots in Jakarta targeted ethnic minority, mainly Buddhist, Chinese in multi-religious, Muslim-majority Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, which burned for two nights.
Shifting Centre of Global Power and how the Indian Ocean was Lost
Over the past decade the centre of world power and wealth has been quietly shifting away from Euro-America and the Trans-Atlantic, back to Asia and the Indian Ocean region led by the rise of China and other East and Southeast Asia countries.
Thus, in a sweeping diplomatic speech in August 2019 French President, Macron said “we are living the end of Western hegemony” in the world, in part as a result of Western “errors” over past centuries.
Asia has historically been the centre of global wealth power and innovation except for the 2.5 centuries of Western hegemony due to European maritime empires and the transfer of resources out of the global South to the Euro-American world that continued in the post/colonial period of the post-war peace, as ‘development’ and aid increasingly morphed into a debt trap and a form of ‘colonialism by other means’ any many parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
China then a developing country followed its own trajectory, succeeded in raising half a billion people out of poverty and benefited from globalization to become a global Superpower.
In response to the rise of China and its belt and road initiative the Indian Ocean has been re-constituted and re-named as the “Indo-Pacific” under a US initiative named the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) concept, ironically, without a murmur of protest from India and its military intelligence establishment.
Also, in response to China’s silk road initiative, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which includes Paciﬁc-rim countries, has been extending militarization of the Indian Ocean under its cooperative security relationships with its four Asia-Paciﬁc Partners ‒ Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. France’s Macron recently stated that NATO was facing an “identity crisis” as it moves into the Indian Ocean.
The US and NATO need another base in the Indian Ocean since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled last year in February that the United Kingdom (UK) occupation of the Chagos Islands that houses the Diego Garcia military base – is illegal under international law and should be returned to the Chagossian people who were forcibly evicted to build the base in the 1960s. Anthropologist David Vine has termed Diego Garcia an “Island of Shame” in his book on the “Secret History of the U.S. Military Base”.
India is the only country in the world that shares the name of an ocean, testifying to its civilizational clout and strategic location on global trade routes. The Indian Sub-Continent is at the centre of the Indian Ocean that touches Africa on the West and China on the east.
Asia, from Iran to China via India, has for most of human history led the world in economic, civilizational and technological innovation and growth. Asia and the Indian Ocean region are now once again the world’s growth centre, as the US and its trans-Atlantic partners whose maritime empires declined after 200 years of flourishing with declining global power and influence at this time.
Hence, Donald Trump’s election slogan to “Make America Great Again” also by promoting US weapons sales in Asia to boost the economy on the one hand, and de-globalization on the other with the Corona virus being the latest spoke in the wheel of globalization that enabled China become the world’s Superpower, with its billion people, ancient history and lead in technology and innovation at this time.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a tour of Sri Lanka and India in January 2020, pointed out that the ‘free and open Indo Pacific’ idea is nothing but a strategy aimed at containing China.
Meanwhile, India has been working on acquiring more bases in the Indian Ocean and signing base sharking agreements with France which loots Indian Ocean fisheries while EU demands 90 percent quotas of fish caught in the Indian Ocean, and never mind the impoverished artisanal fishers on Indian Ocean littoral states.
Attacking Cultural sites: Hybrid War with love from America
In the aftermath of the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleiman in January 2020 after which the Corona Virus was un-corked on China, Donald Trump threatened to attack “cultural sites” in Iran (ancient Persia with a remarkable cosmopolitan civilization) – home to Zoroastrianism, and the regions from which the great world religions evolved – if Iran retaliated against US military personnel in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
In Sri Lanka, we are now familiar with how a Saudi funded Wahabi-Salafi project used a network of young Muslim men for the Easter Sunday attacks on Cultural Sites like the iconic St. Anthony’s Church where people of all faiths, Buddhist, Hindu and the occasional Muslim congregate. More than 250 people including 50 foreigners died that day.
Churches and luxury hotels were attacked in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, to destabilize the country – with the intention of forcing the government to sign the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) land-grab compact and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
Then US military bases would be set up, using the IS story as an alibi to claim that US troops are fighting Islamic State terrorist and protecting Christians in multi-religious Sri Lanka, which has a Buddhist majority with a nationalist fringe.
Since the Easter Bombings the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) project has been linked to the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks that were mysteriously claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
ISIS was set up by the CIA after the US invaded Iraq, toppled and disbanded Saddam Hussein’s Sunni army with dual purposes: to effect regime change in Syria by toppling Russian-backed Assad and attack Iran and Shiaa Muslims and expand a split in the Middle East Countries.
Iranian General Soleiman was leading the fight against the ISIS in Iraq and the MENA region and Sadaam Hussein’s was widely popular in both Iran and Iraq when he was killed in a US drone attack near Bagdad airport in Iraq.
People of Lanka know that there was no reason for Muslims to attack Christians in Sri Lanka as both these communities have good relations being both minorities.
Weaponizing Religions: Cold War Redux
The fact that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) set up and used Islamist groups in Central Asia and ran an operation with the Asia Foundation to use Buddhism against socialist and communist movements in Southeast Asian countries, like Thailand and Indonesia, is well established and revealed in Yale University historian, Eugene Ford’s path breaking book “Cold War Monks: Buddhism and America’s Secret Strategy in Southeast Asia“, published by Yale University Press in 2017.
Strategic targeting of cultural sites to divide, distract, colonize and set up military bases by weaponizing inter-religious relations to destabilize the complexly diverse and multicultural countries and economies of Asia, with ‘Hybrid maritime Warfare’ to sell arms appear to characterize the 2020 “Pivot to Asia” policy that was first articulated during the Obama regime.
There is a whole global and local social science research industry on inter-religious and ethnic relations with US and EU funds, many with links to military think tanks like RAND Corporation, that hire anthropologists like Jonah Blank who authored ‘Mullahs on the Mainframe’ and ‘Arrow of the Blue skinned God’ to assist this process.
After the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, Rand’s Blank claimed in Jakarta that the Islamic State (IS) was a “franchise” revealing its corporate model — like Burger King of Mac Donald’s of the golden arches?
As 2020 unfolds, it is increasingly clear that religion/s are being weaponized in Asian countries, the Indian Ocean region and beyond by mysterious external parties and global forces that harness the IS narrative as at Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.
While destabilizing and creating chaos in highly multicultural and multi-faith Asian countries, the weaponization of religions by external parties would interrupt the inexorable “Rise of Asia” predicted by world systems theorists like Immanuel Wallenstein, and help to “Make America Great Again”, also by selling weapons to boost the US economy, a major share of which is the military/business-intelligence/entertainment industrial complex.
Weaponization of religion by mysterious external parties appears to be aimed to prime the region for a new “Clash of Civilizations”; this time between Buddhists and Muslims – the major “great world religions” of Asian countries, and between Hindus and Muslims in India where Hindus are a majority.
Asia has a history of over 3,000 years, while the USA has a history and civilization of a mere 300 years, after destruction of original American peoples and their civilization in the “new world”. Is this why Donald Trump is so envious of Asia, and even threatened to attack Iran’s ancient cultural sites – a war crime under international law?
Of course, Trump’s threat against Iran’s “cultural sites” made evident what is already standard practice in the CIA playbook on weaponizing religion and destroying multi-religious societies, to divide and rule, by attacking cultural sites, like St. Anthony’s Church, Mutwal, on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.
During fieldwork on multi-religion in Sri Lanka in 2018, when interviewing members of a Mosque near Kattankuddi we were informed that funds and competition from Saudi Arabia and Iran were one of the reasons for greater conservatism among Sri Lanka’s Muslim communities and women increasingly wearing the hijab.
The Turkish Embassy had warned Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry that they had information suggesting that 50 members of Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETO) whose leader, Fetullah Gulan is based in the US (and considered by Middle East intel. experts as a CIA sponsored Imam), were in Sri Lanka. The State Foreign Minister at the time, Wasantha Senanayake, told the media that the Turkish Ambassador had followed up this warning on two occasions in 2017 and 2018 and he had faxed the relevant details to the Defence Ministry on two occasions.
As 2020 advances, the contours of Donald Trump or perhaps the US Deep State’s military business industrial complex “Pivot to Asia” and the Indian Ocean region to “Make America Great Again” are becoming clearer:
- Assassinating Iran’s General Soleiman (who was leading the fight against the Islamic State and ISIL), in Iraq in January; and new Coronavirus hitting Iran in February (for the recently affected MENA countries close to Iran, see aje.io/tmuur).
- Economic and hybrid war, including suspected biological warfare against China.
- Weaponizing Hindu-Muslim tensions in India, after the Pulwama operation to re-elect Modi, and selling weapons to India.
- All kinds of unusual garbage imported from Britain and forest fires burning after which US helicopters with their cute bambi buckets are deployed to douse the flames, and drugs floating in the Indian Ocean offshore in a new “Opium War” on Sri Lanka and South Asia?
- In Somalia, the IS-linked Al-Shabaab attack on Mogadishu, on the Indian Ocean coast of Africa, in January 2020, enabled the US to bring in troops. Meanwhile, Somali intelligence stated, there were external hands involved in the Mogadishu attack.
Finally, despite the statement of Narendra Modi on the “partnership of the century” between US and India during Trump’s stormy visit to India, it is clear that India and its security establishment is being played by its former colonial masters their Trans-Atlantic friends, which then as now pursue when necessary a divide-rule-and-loot ‘great game’ for the Indian Ocean region; ironically, just as India played its own neighbourhood to ‘divide & rule’ in South Asia during the Cold War years – when RAW and IB (Intelligence Bureau) set up the LTTE in Sri Lanka, while the US weaponized Islam and Buddhism against postcolonial socialist and communist movements’ attempts to nationalize national resources in West and Southeast Asia.
It is also clear that blowback from and against Donald Trump’s bellicose pivot to Asia, unlike the Ballyhoo of Obama’s pivot east, is inevitable. It would only hasten the decline and fall of the American empire despite its 800 military bases worldwide, and widen inequality in an already deeply divided country at this time unless the American people are able to dislodge the current occupants of the White House and roll back the Deep State and its military-business complex.
* Dr Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake‘s research spans issues in gender and women’s empowerment, migration and multiculturalism, ethno-religious identity politics, new and old Diasporas and global religion, particularly, transnational Theravada Buddhist networks in the Asia-Pacific region. She was a Senior Lecturer at the Open University of Sri Lanka. Her Bachelor’s degree is from Brandeis University and MA and Ph. D are from Princeton University. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 April 2020]
Photo: President Trump’s visit to India on end of February 2020 came exactly a year after Hindu-Muslim tensions in India were stoked by mysterious external parties with the near-war between nuclear armed rivals, India and Pakistan, staged in Pulwama District, Jammu and Kashmir in February 2019, just before General Elections in India. Source: YouTube.
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Take care. Stay safe in time of Corona.
 Cf. Prashant Bhushan’s 12 questions on Pulwama: greatgameindia.com/12-unanswered-questions-on-pulwama-attack/)