Propaganda against India and Indian diaspora detrimental for Australia’s national security

Each of us who deeply cares about Australia, must remember, that sometimes it just takes a few Trojan horses to bring down an empire.

Not too long ago reports in the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, The Global Times, suggested that Australia was America’s dog. This enraged me as a proud Indian-Australian. I had felt then that given the brazenness of Chinese insults, Australia would undertake serious course correction and reduce its enormous economic exposure to China given the national security and economic risks.

In terms of numbers, in 2020, before Covid 19 shook the world, 39% of all Australian goods were exported to China and 27% of all goods imported were from China. Now to have this level of exposure even with a friendly country with a shared value system could be concerning enough but to have it with a country that is a potential threat to your national security was alarming.

In order to reduce its dependency on China, Australia would have to slowly but steadily expand its trade relations with other countries and obviously one of the first countries that would come to anyone’s mind would be India. The one country which could enable Australia to tangibly hedge its risks.

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Image source: Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese – Twitter.

However, it seems that instead of weaning off from China, there are allegedly vested interests within Australia who are hell bent on derailing Australia’s relationship with India, a fellow democracy and the fastest growing major economy in the world.

One glaring example of this is the escalating propaganda against India and more recently the brazen demonising of the Indian diaspora in Australia by some sections of the mainstream media.

A recent report by the ABC was so preposterous that two notable political figures commented on it. Former High Commissioner of Australia to India, Barry O’Farrell while speaking to local media suggested that the report was one-sided while Labour MP from Parramatta, Dr Andrew Charlton, issued a statement saying that media coverage should be balanced.

The media in Australia, left or right leaning, rarely publicises positive news on India and has mostly covered India through the stereotypical western colonial lens. However, the kind of blatant propaganda that one has seen post Covid seems unlikely to be a coincidence.

It has now reached a point where alleged extremist sympathisers are being condoned putting the security of all Australians at risk. Some sections of the mainstream media in Australia are condoning Khalistan extremism, a movement with a known history of unlawful violence including the assassination of India’s former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 and the worst aviation terror attack before 9/11, the bombing of Air India Flight 182 in 1985.

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Khalistan Terrorism

India was rocked by Khalistan terrorism through the 1980s. Thousands of Hindus and Sikhs were killed in the Indian state of Punjab by terrorists who were supported by Pakistan’s intelligence agency the ISI. The Khalistani terrorists fought against India for a separate state for the Sikhs carved out only from Indian Punjab, not from the large region of Punjab that remains in Pakistan.

When India was partitioned based on the communal agenda of leaders like Mohammed Ali Jinnah who believed that Muslims can’t live with Hindus, Punjab was partitioned too. Given the communal nature of the new state carved out of India, not just the Hindus but all other minorities in these areas suffered a huge blow (the very few left continue to do so).

Before the partition of India, it is estimated that over 2 million Sikhs lived in what is now the territory of Pakistan, especially in Pakistan’s Punjab region. Today that figure ranges between 10,000 to 50,000 approximately around 0.01% of Pakistan’s population.

On the other hand in India the Sikh population has grown by over 200% during the corresponding period to over 20 million. Sikhs are involved in every sphere of activity in India with two of the past ten Army Chiefs in India belonging to the Sikh faith. India had a Sikh Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, for ten years (2004-2014).

Former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh (Government of India – PIB)

The birthplace of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Devji, is located in Nankana Sahib, Pakistan. The Pakistani city of Lahore was the capital of the Sikh King Ranjit Singh (popularly known as Sher-e-Punjab or the ‘Lion of Punjab’) who ruled in the early half of the 19th century. Given the near ethnic cleansing of the Sikhs from Pakistan in spite of the rich Sikh history of the region, the agenda of the Khalistani separatists has been a matter of grave concern for Sikhs in India and around the world.

While Khalistan terrorism was brought to an end by India within its territory almost thirty years ago, some groups of Khalistani separatists and their supporters have remained active in some western countries allegedly with support from Pakistan’s ISI.

India’s late Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, belonged to the Congress party which is currently in opposition in India. She was shot dead by her own Sikh bodyguards during the height of Khalistan terrorism in 1980s. Her assassination was tragically followed by mass murders of Sikhs (the official death count is over 3000 in New Delhi and over 8000 across India) allegedly by members of Mrs. Gandhi’s political party. The BJP led NDA government in India is pursuing some cases related to those killings and was thanked by Sikh leaders in India for doing so.

But the one-sided reporting on this issue in some sections of Western media including Australia inaccurately seem to suggest that this issue is driven by tensions between Hindus and Sikhs in the diaspora predominantly because of the current government in India. Not only is this intentional propaganda against India but it is also racial and religious vilification of the hugely successful Indian diaspora and the Hindu and Sikh communities.

Most Sikhs are proud Indians. According to a Pew Research in (2021) 98% of Sikhs said that respecting India was important to them while 97% of Sikhs said that they are proud to be Indian. The same survey also says that 70% of Sikhs say that you cannot be a Sikh if you disrespect India.

Some sections in the media here repeatedly call Khalistani extremists ‘Sikh activists or Sikh separatists’ (which is like calling Neo-Nazis ‘Christian activists’ or members of IRA ‘Catholic separatists’). This is to give an extremist movement a false veneer of legitimacy. They cherry pick information in order to paint a fake narrative. For instance while reporting on Hardip Singh Nijjar, a Khalistani extremist, who was shot in Canada, the reporting will intentionally omit the fact that he was on a US and Canadian no-fly list and had an interpol red-corner notice against him. According to the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) “The No Fly List” is a small subset of the U.S. government Terrorist Screening Database (also known as the terrorist watchlist).

The reporting also fails to mention that before Mr Nijjar was murdered there was another high profile figure related to Khalistan who was murdered in Canada in July 2022. Ripudaman Singh Malik was a former Khalistan extremist but had more recently thanked the Indian PM Modi for taking positive steps for Sikhs. He was shot dead outside his family business in Surrey B.C. in Canada. Information like this is intentionally omitted in reports by western media to give the impression that only anti-India Sikhs are getting targeted in Canada. The Indian government has provided several dossiers to the Canadian government for several years now warning them of the dangers of harbouring Khalistani extremists and criminals and how it could result in gang wars between different factions on Canadian soil. Omissions like these are deliberate as mentioning them would validate India’s position.

In one of the deadliest terror attacks in aviation history before 9/11, 329 people were killed by Khalistani terrorists on Air India flight 182 which was flying from Montreal to Mumbai via London and New Delhi on 23 June 1985.

Newspaper clippings related to the bombing of Air India flight 182: Supplied

The Khalistani terrorists planted a bomb on the flight which blew up mid-air while flying from Montreal to London killing everyone on board. Among those killed were 268 Canadian citizens, 27 British citizens and 24 Indian citizens.

Khalistan extremists are known to viciously attack people who are opposed to their ideology. A glimpse of this violence was visible when Khalistan supporters were caught on camera attacking Indian-Australians who were peacefully protesting against their propaganda at Melbourne’s Federation Square in January last year. Shockingly though no charges have been filed against anyone so far. The attackers endangered public safety in Australia but have not been held accountable by law enforcement or the media in Australia.

Warning: Disturbing visuals of vicious attack by Khalistan supporters in Federation Square Melbourne

The mainstream media here, perhaps intentionally, also did not cover the brutal attack on Harnek Singh in Auckland, a Sikh broadcaster who challenged Khalistani extremism. He was stabbed over 40 times outside his house. One of the people convicted for his attempted murder was Gurinderpal Brar, a known religious leader, who had established Gurudwaras (Sikh Temples) in New Zealand.

The Alleged Pakistan Connection

Pakistan, which allegedly has been a supporter of Khalistani extremists, is the same country where the world’s most notorious terrorist Osama Bin Laden was found living in a garrison city (Abbottabad) right next to a military cantonment, in a big house in a sprawling compound. It is the same country that took money from the West as it was supposedly an ally in the ‘war on terror’ but then gave money to terrorists like the Taliban to murder innocent Afghans and Western soldiers. “We fooled them” said the former chief of ISI, General (Retd) Asad Durrani, in a televised interview. Thousands of Afghans and 41 Australian soldiers were killed and innumerable wounded by terrorists aided by Pakistan. Not surprisingly then, the Taliban overran Afghanistan in 2021. The horrors that have followed in Afghanistan which was once the land of Bamiyan Buddhas are well documented.

But besides Pakistan’s links to international terrorism (it was also on FATF’s grey list from 2018 to 2022), it has a special doctrine called ‘bleed India by a thousand cuts‘ which involves using non-state actors like terrorists against India as it cannot win against India in a conventional war.

Not surprisingly then the one politician in Australia who routinely indulges in anti-India rhetoric and anti-Hindu bigotry is also the one who received the Tamgha-e-Quaid-I-Azam (‘Medal of the Great Leader’), one of the highest civilian awards, from the President of Pakistan.

While Mr Shoebridge never seems to miss an opportunity screeching against India, he seemingly doesn’t have time to speak up against the horrific crimes happening in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan even as he is fine receiving awards from them. That list is pretty long but most recently a man was burnt alive in Pakistan for allegedly committing blasphemy. This was not the first such case but in any case blasphemy and apostacy are punishable by death in Pakistan. Yes, such a thing does exist is some countries in the 21st century! While most sane people in the world would consider laws like this horrific, subhuman and belonging to the dark ages, Mr Shoebridge seems to be completely comfortable with it given that he has never once spoken about it.

In between all of this it has been reported that fake China based social media networks that were encouraging Australian Sikhs to protest were identified and shut down by Meta.

Not surprising is also the fact that China and Pakistan are the best of friends. Their friendship in their own words is higher than the mountains and deeper than the seas.

Lindt Cafe Terror Attack

This brings me to the Lindt Cafe terror attack that shook Australia in 2014. The terrorist in question Man Haron Monis was a fugitive who had an arrest warrant against him in Iran. He sought political asylum in 1996 in Australia which was granted in 2001. Requests for his extradition by Iran were repeatedly rejected by Australia. He was also interviewed by ABC Radio National in 2001, who called him Ayatollah Manteghi Boroujerdi then, for their ‘The Religion Report’ program (audio is not available anymore but here is the link confirming the same). At the time of the attack in 2014 he was on bail for 40 sexual assault charges and accessory to murder.

The point being that if the authorities had been more careful about who they were giving political asylum to or if the ABC had been more diligent about who they were platforming perhaps Australia’s worst terror attack could have been prevented, perhaps.

“Field of Flowers” Martin Place on 19 December 2014 (By Kel O’Shea -https://www.flickr.com/photos/patchesonfire/16077508912/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38343378)

One must also always remember Hillary Clinton’s words about snakes in your backyard that she used in reference to Pakistan. If any country shelters terrorists, fugitives and criminals from other countries, it is bound to have repurcussions for their own security.

The Lindt Cafe terror attack was a blaring example where government security agencies, in spite of red flags, gave political asylum to a man who clearly had a problematic history to put it mildly. Ofcourse the Islamic Republic of Iran is a religious theocracy ruled by a ‘Supreme Leader’ committing horrific crimes against its own people, so one can give some degree of latitude to the authorities for giving an Iranian fugitive political asylum.

But it is simply shocking that in spite of the violence on January 2023 in the heart of Melbourne and the history of terrorism associated with Khalistani extremists, the Government and security establishment in Australia seem to have done nothing against those who seek to attack the sovereignty of a fellow democracy by any means possible, including violence.

Warning: Disturbing visuals of vicious attack by Khalistan supporters in Federation Square Melbourne

As journalists one can interview anyone but it is unethical to publish interviews of members of extremist groups without including the context of their activities. One can also have opinion pieces and debates on media outlets as to how far a country should go for national security. For instance, was it correct for the US to kill Osama or Baghdadi on foreign soil. Or was it ok for the US to drop nuclear bombs on Japan? These can be valid arguments. But what is not ok is to call Osama Bin Laden a ‘Muslim activist’ and make it seem that President Obama was a far-right Christian fanatic turning US into a fascist state and hence gunning for Osama. What is not ok is to do a one-sided propaganda which endangers the people of Australia.

‘Electoral autocracy’

India has one of the most dynamic and vibrant press in the world with over 146,000 newspapers and periodicals in over 200 languages. India also has over 350 News and Current Affairs TV channels and innumerable news websites in various languages. The daily readership of Newspapers in India is around 400 million. Hence, when the so called ‘World Press Freedom Index’ ranked India below Taliban ruled Afghanistan in 2023 in its rankings it made a mockery of itself. It can be argued whether press freedom in India has increased or decreased or remained the same under the current government but you would have to be living on another planet to take these rankings seriously.

The recent results of the Indian General Election hopefully will also put the fake news of India turning into an ‘electoral autocracy’ to rest. Prime Minister Modi has returned to power for a third time in India as the BJP led NDA (National Democratic Alliance) got a majority. However, unlike the previous two elections his party the BJP has not secured a simple majority on its own, a result that surprised many as most opinion and exit polls were giving it a clear majority. This proved to the world just how democratic India is.

The Indian Opposition fared way better than perhaps even they expected so fortunately one has been spared of the relentless propaganda about India’s Election Commission (and other institutions) being compromised or EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) being tampered with which happens after every election cycle where BJP wins. But neither of the above seem to be an issue when BJP loses and other parties win like in regional elections where the Trinamool Congress won in Bengal or DMK in Tamil Nadu, Congress in Telangana or the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab. Hence it is difficult for any neutral person to take these allegations seriously.

But even if PM Modi had won with a thumping majority it would still in no way mean that India has become an ‘electoral autocracy’. People who use words like fascism, dictatorship, autocracy etc for the world’s biggest democracy do not seem to have a conscience as they are insulting the people who have lived through horrors (and millions still do) under those kind of regimes.

India is not perfect and it has many big and serious challenges. Mr Modi is also not a perfect Prime Minister, no Prime Minister is. But democracy means that you accept the verdict of the people whether you like or dislike the leaders that people elect. And India has had an impeccable history of peaceful transfer of power since its Independence. Almost a billion people were eligible to vote in the recently held Indian General elections and over 640 million people voted in the biggest democratic elections in the history of humankind. In India the election commission is required to set up a booth no more than 2kms away from every voter. This included a booth set up for just one voter.

In a world where one can see a real erosion of the values of enlightenment in the West like freedom of speech and where less then half of the countries in the world are liberal, secular, democracies, the western media’s demonisation of India in recent years does not appear above board.

India is the world’s largest secular, liberal, democracy. It is also the world’s most populous country and among the oldest surviving urban civilisations of the world. It inherited several socio-economic faultlines given the baggage of history but it has proved to the world that democracy can thrive even in the most challenging circumstances and countries can make social and economic progress even if they have suffered deep civilisational trauma.

So it does not matter whether you like or dislike the current Indian Government. The continous propaganda against India by some sections of the western establishment, which by the way did not start with PM Modi, should end. For those who don’t know, America’s former President Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger once used abusive language to describe Mrs Gandhi (Grandmother of Rahul Gandhi who is currently the Leader of Opposition in India) and Indians.

Equally dangerous are the vicious lies and racial and religious vilification of the Indian diaspora that is among the most educated, wealthiest, law-abiding and highest tax paying in Australia.

The attacks on India and particularly the Indian diaspora by some sections of the Australian media (as opposed to fair criticism and balanced reporting) don’t seem just that. In a chaotic world with unreliable partners, who would want to derail Australia’s relationship with India (a fellow secular democracy and an economic powerhouse)?

Each of us who deeply cares about Australia, must remember, that sometimes it just takes a few Trojan horses to bring down an empire.

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