ARTICLES FROM THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN
Copyright. All rights reserved. Ram Jethmalani. 2019.
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The Middle East cauldron continues to boil, with copious bloodshed and unprecedented barbarism of the ISIS in its spheres of occupation or influence. The Great Game is being revisited, and in this context, I am particularly concerned about another spot that can become a nuclear flashpoint and spin completely out of control. The latest confabulations between Iran and the US are deeply disturbing. I fully sympathise with the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu and the wisdom of what he told the American leaders, both Republicans and Democrats in his address to the US Congress on 9 March: "one potential deal being discussed between Iran and world powers would pave the way for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, and would destabilise not just the Middle East, but the entire world." The Israeli Prime Minister categorically warned the US President about the extreme danger of his move to revoke the sanctions imposed against Iran that prevent it from becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.
Yes, Netanyahu's speech does make the world wonder how and why the US is turning lenient towards a militant Islamic regime that has labelled it as the "Great Satan" and chants "Death to America". And clearly, if the US is fishing in troubled waters of the Iran-ISIS competition for militant Islamic domination, where no other religion or creed has a right to live, where women have no rights, then yes, certainly the world and Israel should be extremely worried. And judging from the fate of all Islamic nations that the US has tried to "help", the most worried should be the Iranians themselves.
Netanyahu makes an extremely basic, impassioned plea that cannot be faulted by anyone, that Iran must do three things: Stop aggression against its neighbours; stop supporting terrorism around the world; stop threatening "to annihilate my country — Israel, the one and only Jewish state ... and if Iran changes its behaviour, the restrictions would be lifted. If Iran doesn't change its behaviour, the restrictions should not be lifted."
I am firmly of the opinion that India must support the Israeli Prime Minister in the demands that he has made.
Even when I was young, my familiarity with the tragic story of the Jews of the world since ancient times had made me their friend and admirer. I have myself been a refugee after I was compelled to migrate from Sind, where I practised as a lawyer for nearly six years, and start an unenviable existence in a refugee camp in Bombay. My sympathy for the Jews of the world increased immensely after that experience, and I always believed that only non-human monsters could bear ill-will towards the Jews after the cruellest holocaust perpetrated by Hitler.
In 1962, Israel did for India what no other nation other than the United States did for it. The Chinese Premier Chou En Lai had already convinced Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that he was the undisputed leader of the non-aligned world. In his utter complacency, Nehru completely shut his eyes to the aggressive plans of the Chinese, and the nation paid a heavy price for his folly, suffering the most humiliating defeat in independent India's history. I don't know if the young people of India are aware that the only two nations that came to our rescue during that time were the US and Israel, for which every Indian should be grateful.
I am extremely happy that the cooperation of our two governments, India and Israel, is increasing with every passing day, for building avenues for security and development. But while I am a great friend of Israel, I am also a genuine supporter of all legitimate demands of the Palestinians. I believe that all the war and violence that has taken place involving Israel and its neighbours, causing enormous destruction and misery, has been totally senseless and wholly avoidable.
But it remains a civilisational travesty that in this day and age, the Arabs and Iranians still persist with their ambition to wipe Israel off the map of the world. I have ceaselessly preached a prescription, that all states surrounding Israel must accord Israel recognition, both de facto and de jure. All these states must be bound by treaties of perpetual peace and economic cooperation. The international borders of Israel must provide it complete security to the satisfaction of the Security Council, and the United Nations must guarantee the immunity of Israel from any external aggression. Israel will necessarily withdraw from almost all the areas that have come into its possession as a result of the aggressors' defeat in the wars started to wipe out Israel from the world's map. If these conditions are fulfilled, I have no doubt that Israel in response will reconcile to the sharing of Jerusalem, perhaps on the lines of the United Nations Resolution of 1948. It has pained me that in pursuit of vote bank politics, India has not used this prescription.
I always thought that it was only the Wahhabis who are possessed by a destructive enmity against the Jewish state. It pained me greatly when I found that ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after becoming President of Iran, instead of dealing with the great abuse of human rights and rights of women, left no one in doubt that he was worse than the PLO with his ambition that Israel must no longer exist. Of course after a short while, he became somewhat kinder and suggested that Israel should be shifted to Alaska, Siberia or some other country in Europe.
I realise that the ruling mullahs of Iran and the Wahhabis are in tough competition for establishing a more militant version of Islam. Under the circumstances, it is absolutely legitimate for Israel to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Israel understands perfectly that through Obama's proposed action, "the foremost sponsor of global terrorism could be weeks away from having enough enriched uranium for an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons and this with full international legitimacy... that this deal has two major concessions: one, leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program and two, lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade. That's why this deal is so bad. It doesn't block Iran's path to the bomb; it paves Iran's path to the bomb."
Israel's objection that Iran cannot be trusted with enriched uranium is genuine. I believe that the Republican leaders are absolutely on the right track by opposing President Obama's moves, and that without congressional approval, the proposed deal would be merely an agreement with President Barack Obama, which could be reversed by his successor. John Bolton, a former US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, is right in calling Obama's action "the fatal myth of appeasement".
Our new dispensation must not do anything which endangers the very existence of the gallant state of Israel, or betray it in any form. We must not forget their support to us during one of our most difficult times after Independence.
Before I close, I must make a short reference to the release of Masarat Alam, something that has generated a good deal of misplaced hype among analysts, commentators and news channels against the recently installed government of Jammu and Kashmir, accusing it of being anti national and trifling with India's security. I would like my readers to differentiate between the "principle" of preventive detention in a democracy and the populism of it. Alam has been in Baramulla jail since 2010 after he was arrested for organising anti-India protests across the Kashmir valley. However, no criminal charges have been filed against him despite his detention under PSA for the last over four years, and despite the fact that he is accused of leading several anti-India agitations. It is reported that BJP president Amit Shah after a meeting with the J&K Deputy Chief Minister, Nirmal Singh and other BJP legislators, pretty much issued a threat of quitting the government if the Chief Minister continues releasing prisoners detained under the Public Safety Act.
I would like to remind the BJP that the law of preventive detention should never be used except in time of war and nobody should be jailed merely at the whim of the executive. I have consistently stood against the detention of any person in custody without a regular open trial and conviction by the appropriate court. The BJP could not have forgotten that all its senior leaders were jailed during Indira Gandhi's infamous emergency under the Preventive Detention Act, something I, as chairman of the Bar Council of India at the time, criticised continuously as a fraud on the Constitution of India. In fact, there was a warrant out for my arrest too. If Government of India even today has evidence to get Masarat Alam convicted in a regular trial, then the Central government should undertake such prosecution.
The people are also entitled to know the great games going on — whether under the J&K Rules of Business, release of political prisoners requires a Cabinet decision or merely the whim of a single minister or a bureaucrat; what role was played by the BJP ministers of the J&K government in this episode until they met Amit Shah, and whether it is true, as suggested by responsible newspapers that the BJP ministers protested only after meeting the party president, and that Government of India had itself arrived at the same decision for release.