Originally Published 2013-02-22 00:00:00 Published on Feb 22, 2013
Did Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru fight British colonialism? If they did, is it not ironical that New Delhi should be seen to be supportive of the French neo-colonial effort in Mali?
Anti colonial leader now holds neo colonial coat tails
Did Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru fight British colonialism? If they did, is it not ironical that New Delhi should be seen to be supportive of the French neo-colonial effort in Mali? New Delhi has in hush-hush tones said that it would release $100 million to the government in Bamako, coinciding with the French arrival in that country to protect Africans from Africans.

This maybe a flawed reading of the picture. It is just possible that the funds are part of the Indian effort to make an impression in Africa.

It is the timing which is odd. As in several African countries, India is trying to get into infrastructure developments like laying of power transmission lines. But through whom will this money be disbursed in Bamako, Mali's capital?

After all, the legitimate government of Mali was ousted in a coup d'état in March 2012.

President Toumani Toure was forced into hiding. Harsh sanctions from Mali's neighbours followed the coup. Renegade soldiers who staged the coup, suspended the constitution and left a vacuum in the North. The Tuareg tribes, with reinforcements and arms from a disintegrated Libya, took hold of the North. They announced an independent nation. Clashing with this demand was the call by yet another Islamist cluster, Ansar Dine, demanding Shariah law in North Mali.

This extremist lot set about unspeakable destruction of 15th century shrines and religious texts preserved in the archives in the historic town of Timbuktu. It was desecration every bit as barbarous as the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan. That would have been a wonderful occasion for New Delhi to hold France's hands to help stop the monumental sacrilege. That did not happen.

In any case, the interim government holding onto Bamako by the skin of its teeth, knows nothing about agreements New Delhi may have had with the ousted government. There will hopefully be a legitimate government in Mali after the elections which are due in July. That is when New Delhi's check will be encashed. The announcement of help at this juncture must, therefore, be seen as a morale booster for the French whose President has just been to India.

The real purpose of the Indian gesture maybe something fairly straight forward: to find its feet in a continent rich in minerals (Mali has uranium) and where the Chinese have stolen a considerable march on all other competitors.

It is not generally understood that the streak of extremist Islamism noticed here and there along the Sahel region owes its origin to the same location - Afghanistan. Episodes like the Iraq war, pointless savaging of Libya, externally aided civil war in Syria have only helped in multiplying extremist cells.

Once the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, preparatory to the fall of the Soviet Union, the Wahabized Mujahideen looked for work first in Kashmir and subsequently all along the Middle East, specifically in Egypt and Algeria. There is a tendency not to notice the global media's role in unwittingly promoting terrorism worldwide.

Operation Desert Storm and later the Occupation of Iraq came across as victory to Western audiences but as national humiliation in the Arab street. Indeed, the street in all Muslim enclaves, including the ones in India. Remember George Bush was not allowed to address a joint session of Parliament in New Delhi. Instead he was given a picnic at the old fort.

Operation Desert Storm, the first globally televised war, ended in February 1991. The sense of humiliation resonated elsewhere, including Algeria. By the time General Elections took place in Algeria in December, 1991, the highly motivated Mujahideen from Afghanistan were already multiplying their cells in the former French colony. They must have helped in stoking anti secular sentiment. Little wonder, Islamic Salvation Front won 188 out of 231 seats.

An unnerved West, with the French in the lead, leaned on the Algerian Army to scrap the election results. It is that kind of seething rage which is lurching from state to state and whose anger has been fueled by the West including the French in Algeria, Iraq, Libya and Syria. How they extricate themselves from Mali will be watched by all, including the Indians who have made a modest appearance on their bandwagon.

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