Politics is all about power and the lust for power is immense because it is the ultimate route to riches in quick time for most – not only for oneself but their generations to follow. So, ‘politics’ is added to the old maxim of ‘everything is fair in love and war’. Morality is passé and akin to asymmetric war, there are no rules and no regulations. Some two decades ago, an article in the West read that politicians world over were available for sale but became loyal once sold. But the article went on to say that Indian politicians are of a different breed, in that, once sold they were immediately available for re-sale. Perhaps to tide over this stigma, India passed the anti-defection law contained in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution during the Rajiv Gandhi government, which came into effect on March 1, 1985.
With announcement of the anti-defection law public was euphoric that days of ‘horse-trading’ in politics were over. But closer examination of the law revealed that it allows a party to merge with or into another party provided that at least two-thirds of its legislators are in favour of the merger. In such a scenario, neither the members who decide to merge, nor the ones who stay with the original party will face disqualification. The merit in this is to avoid frequent elections but then ‘horse-trading’ actually graduated from individuals to groups with two-third becoming the magical figure. Handling ‘group horse-trading’ needed finesse and finances but then the Foreign Currency Regulations Act was amended with retrospect from 1973 without discussion in Parliament, opening floodgates for political parties receiving funding, which was also taken out from purview of the RTI Act 2005.
Political parties became slush with funds and lust for power shot up; one fallout of which is recent Maharashtra elections ending up in imposition of President’s rule. Whether and when re-election will be ordered aside, tax-payers money is down the drain with loss of public faith in the democratic process. Incidentally, only 56.5 million Indians filed their IT returns in 2019 – mere four percent of India’s 1.37 billion population.
Asymmetric war is without borders and mostly covert but Indian politicians are officially taking the war between Indian political parties beyond Indian borders. The Indian National Congress (INC) announced on November 11, 2019, opening of an overseas office in Istanbul, Turkey. The INC’s Indian Overseas Congress (IOC) department issued a statement to this effect. This has given a new twist to IOC, which till now was thought to signify only the Indian Oil Corporation.
The Sam Pitroda-led IOC of INC has identified Congress member Mohammad Yusuf Khan to preside over the IOC in Turkey, saying that in this capacity Mohammad Yusuf Khan will identify and work with qualifies, capable, committed and concerned people to lead our various initiatives. What these initiatives are, and whether they include acts like Mani Shankar Aiyar begging Pakistan to help bring his party to power are not amplified, but Mohammad Yusuf Khan has said his priority would be to polish bilateral relations between India and Turkey with emphasis on politics, culture, trade, tourism, education and health. This being Khan’s charter, what is Indian Ambassador to Turkey Sanjay Bhattacharyya and the Indian Embassy under him meant to do?
Questions are being raised when will INC open an IOC office in Pakistan and whether it would be headed by Mani Shankar Aiyar or whom Imran Khan refers to as “hamara Sidhu”; blue-eyed boy of Pakistani army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa – Navjot Singh Sidhu. But humour apart, opening of the Congress’s IOC office in Turkey needs closer examination. One does not like commenting on the ills of Indian politics but this particular case appears to have security implications of serious nature. There doesn’t seem to be any record of this type of IOC office opened by Congress in any other – at least the internet has no such details. So why has this new initiative been taken?
Most significant is the timing of establishing the IOC office in Turkey, when Turkey has openly sided with Pakistan at international forums, Turkey-Pakistan military cooperation has risen exponentially, there is speculation over Pakistan passing nuclear technology to Turkey, the radical in Recep Tayyip Erdo?an indicates he wants to establish his own caliphate, and India is reportedly taking punitive action against Turkish firm Anadolu Shipyard, banning it from doing defence-related business in India, since it launched first of the four anti-submarine corvettes for the Pakistan Navy. This leads to the interpretation that INC is seeking Turkey’s help, as sought in Pakistan through emissary Aiyar, to consolidate power in India.
It is no secret that Turkey was the conduit through which radicals and terrorists were fueled into Iraq-Syria to assist the ISIS for years while US- NATO looked the other way or connived. The ISIS was selling oil to the tune of $3 million daily through Turkey under the so-called watchful eyes of the US-led coalition till Russia started bombing the tanker convoys and Putin made the videos public. Erdogan crushed the military coup which actually wanted to restore true democracy and secularism in Turkey. This notwithstanding, INC appears to be seeking Turkey’s assistance in destabilizing India through Turkey’s expertise in radicalization and terrorism. In August this year, Shah Faesal from J&K who resigned from IAS and joined politics was stopped from boarding a flight to Istanbul. His mission obviously was to seek Turkish support for stoking the fires in the Valley. INC officials have been interacting with Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi and also meeting unofficial Pakistani delegations.
How government views INC’s act of opening an IOC office in Turkey, if at all, is not known given India’s focus on the cycle of elections – next one being Jharkhand. But opening an IOC office in Turkey certainly is a dangerous precedent with security implications for India. More such offices nay be opened in countries opposing India and other opposition parties may follow suit. The public too needs to speak discounting their political allegiances, Congress, BJP or whatever. Ironically, it is only security forces and common people who get killed in terror attacks, and both are considered expendable categories.
Prakash Katoch is third generation army officer hailing from Himachal Pradesh. He is former Lieutenant General from Special Forces and post-retirement has published over 2100 articles on international affairs, geopolitics, military, security, technical and topical issues besides authoring two books. He is active in seminars at both national and international levels.