Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh to Strengthen Ties

Discussion in 'Subcontinent & Central Asia' started by Ray, Apr 17, 2011.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    While it is laudable that ties are being enforced, yet Saudis have only one aim in mind and that is spreading the aggressive Wahabi form of Islam.

    This form is basically the engine which powers terrorism around the world since the Wahabis are Muslims who follow a very stringent form of Islam that brooks no deviations like praying at shrines, or listening to music etc.

    The only aspect is that this type of virulent people are coming next door to India and this could lead to problems more than what India can accommodate.

    One wonders why the US is so keen to sort out Pakistan and the not the source of terrorism - Saudi Arabia.

    How will the aid and strengthening of ties affect Indian and the neighbourhood?
  3. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

    Oct 8, 2009
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    Hyderabad and Sydney
    IMHO, it is a bit over-rated when we think about spread of Wahabism/Salafism as the only aim of Saudi strategic policy. I want to explain this in taking into accounts two points: (1) The role of Salafism as a sect / school of thought in terrorism and terrorism in India in particular and (2) The role of Saudi government in fighting and/or promoting terrorism/ terrorist groups.

    1) The role of Salafism as a sect / school of thought in terrorism and terrorism in India
    As I have mentioned in other places, Wahabism is a school of thought and by itself is not a sole source of terrorism. Its a very conservative school of thought of course, but just because they are conservative, or oppose shrine worship does not automatically imply that they support suicide bombings and killing of innocents. And infact, Salafis(Saudis in the Najd region to be precise) do have their own singing and dancing as well. Only its music with only drumbeats and a traditional sword dance that is popular in the Najd region - the heartland of Saudi salafism. If you search youtube on Saudi traditional dance you would probably get a couple of videos depicting this.

    As I keep mentioning, terrorism that is religiously inspired comes about with a politically radicalized ideology of religion - radicalized political Islam or militant political Islam if you will. And in almost all cases, this idea and its applications (like suicide bombings e.g.)goes against established traditional religious scholars. So while Sheikh Bin Baaz, one of the leading salafi scholars of his time back in the 1980s gave a clear cut fatwa declaring suicide bombing haram, even if it was to be used to fight against Israeli occupiers because suicide is explicitly forbidden in Islam. On the other hand, OBL and Zawahiri tried to justify the same, even though one of was a businessman and the other a medical doctor by profession.

    And there are plenty of examples within Islam and in other religions where a radicalized political ideology infused with religious rhetoric has led to justification and killing of innocents. Hizbullah is a shia organizations but it justifies suicide bombing and has led a major suicide bombing campaign against Israel. Similarly, radicalization among the Barelvi groups in Pakistan led to the situation where Salman Taseer was shot dead for just speaking out on Blasphemy law. You can find similar examples in religious other than Islam where extreme religious nationalism leads to justification of killing of innocents to establish a political religious entity.

    Now coming to India, I would be hard pressed to find any direct Saudi nationals involvement in terrorism in India. In almost all video statements of Al Qaeda for example which is basically filled with Saudi and Egyptian cadres, there is hardly any mention of India. When in 1998 OBL actually declared his infamous "Jihad" he called his organization the International Front against Jews and Crusaders and names the US and Israel as its main opponents. While Pakistani intelligence have tries their utmost to link India into the narrative (the Hindu-Zionist-Crusader Alliance), it has just failed to take off. This is despite the agencies backed Hafez Saeed taking his anti-India rants to a fever pitch. In short, "Arab terrorists" to call them loosely just don't see India as a threat. Pakistan based terrorists are of course a separate matter and THIS is what should be the main area of our concern because this affects us directly. The common factor in these groups is not Wahabbism/Salafism/Jamiat Ahle-e-Hadees but the Pakistan govt. pushing a radicalized political religious ideology to establish a so called "Islamic state" no matter what school of thought is being followed..

    Almost all cases of home grown terrorism in India among Muslims is a result of political grievance related terrorism mostly exploited or supported by Pakistan. The Karachi project for example which is alleged to be the biggest recruitment program having between 40-50 individuals basically were recruited in two lots from Mumbai and Gujarat. After the riots in Mumbai in 1992 and riots in Gujarat in 2002. Most of these were not even religious to begin with. Again, any GCC links with the home grown terrorists are linked back to Pakistani based organisations in the GCC as well, not Arab. And GCC governments have been one of the first to sign extradition and co-operation treaties with India.

    If you look at the statements of organizations like Jamiat Ahle-Hadees in India(the school of thought that is the closest to Salafi thought) they are all loyalists statements, condemn terrorism and give no indication of being against democracy. The recent case of Jamiat Ahle-Hadees head in Kashmir Maulana Showkat being murdered by pro-Pakistani militants is another example where those following the Wahabbi school of thought were seen to be pro-India. At the same time, you have LeT and Hizb which are also Ahle-Hadees affiliated apparently, but are ferociously anti-Indian and are involved in some of the worst terrorist attacks like Mumbai and various bombings in Kashmir as well as political killings. Something which would be completely out of bounds if looked at with traditional Salafi Islamic principles on killing innocents or suicide bombings. While traditional Salafis are quite apolitical, the section of Saudi salafis radicalized from the mid 1990s formed the core of the Jihadist political salafi ideology that formed the core of Al Qaeda, but even they did not target India. Radicalized Salafi Pakistanis supported by the ISI/Army formed the LeT which were primarily anti-India.

    Bottom line is that as a state, the GoI should not be in the business of supporting or opposing religions or schools of thoughts within religions. Saudi Arabia learnt this the hard way when they supported Salafi groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan for their political purposes of containing Iran and have turned a page. Pakistan is still suffering from the backlash, but the ISI/Army establishment still haven't turned a page seeing with their tacit support to the Afghan Taliban and active support to groups like LeT and JuD. But if any group preaches violence, killing of innocents or justifies suicide bombings, the GoI should act on it and arrest and prosecute even if necessary.

    Some more background on the origins of political Islamic movements and their perversion and radicalisation to militant Islam can be see in this documentary that I posted earlier.
    Common history of the neo-con and the Islamists movement-Documentary

    2) The role of Saudi government in fighting and promoting terrorism/ terrorist groups.
    Here again, lets look at the historical context. In 1979, Iran had its Islamic revolution where the first and currently only political Islamic government which has a cleric as head of state came to power under the Shia led Ayatollah Khomenei. There was also the secular socialist Arab nationalism of Gamal Abdel Nasser and other Egyptians which was also a powerful ideology tacitly backed by the USSR . The Saudis and GCC states were buffeted between these two revolutionaries so to speak. So while the new Islamic Republic of Iran supported their own shia proxies for political purposes like Hizbullah in Lebanon or in other places, the Saudis countered this by funding their own religious group but for political purposes. The Afghan war again helped in radicalizing most of the Arabs who went there believing that it was a "Jihad". This again was the example of the Saudi government using religion for political purposes where the government backed Salafi scholars and got them to promote this idea of "Jihad" against the USSR with damning consequences. It was also at this time where charities were setup in consultations with western powers like the US, UK and France where private donations would be sent to the "Mujahideen" in Afghanistan. If you have seen Charlie Wilson's War the movie, you would probably remember how a Christian Evangelist(Julia Roberts) was running a fund raiser for private contributions for them as well.

    Now 1990s and the governments want to turn this tap off. The US basically left the theater. The Saudis on the other hand had their eye on Iran and this began their covert support to anti-Iranian/Shia groups in Pakistan and Taliban in Afghanistan to keep Iran in check. Iran did the opposite by supporting shia militant groups within Pakistan and supporting the Northern Alliance against the Taliban.

    But by late 1990s, the Saudis were already getting nervous with OBLs rhetoric and other radicalized Saudis speaking out against the regime primarily because of the continued presence of US soldiers in Saudi Arabia post Gulf War - I. OBL was always on the Saudi radar and a wanted man after his anti-Saudi regime rhetoric. He was in Sudan first and then because of Saudi pressure ran away to Afghanistan. The Saudi intelligence chief visited the Taliban to hand over OBL, when they refused, the Saudis actually cut of diplomatic relations with the Taliban back in 1999 itself. So OBL was already on the Saudi hit list, but of course post-2001 it was a whole new ball game. But obviously 15-20 years of radicalization with the Afghan war and the Saudi govt. backing militant salafi groups for their own political goals created a reservoir of extremism that would take some time to fight. The charity networks created to support the Afghan Mujahideen in the 80s would take some time to be turned off.

    Beginning with 2002-2003, when there were a number of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia from Al Qaeda affiliated groups, there was a complete turnaround in Saudi thinking. Fighting Terrorism was the top priority. Charity networks were shutdown, crackdowns on extremist preachers was done and there was a pretty bitter war on terror inside the Saudi Kingdom during this time. There was no "India threat" to distract the Saudis and they were going to take this to the logical conclusion. More importantly, they were fighting the political Islamic ideology as well. The ideological battle included renunciation of the philosophies of Syed Qutb and Maududi. Repudiation of religious sanctions given by Zawahiri and OBL by religious scholars themselves by attacking their scriptural basis and even scouring the Internet to crack down on Arabic language websites or forums to tackle extremists. Finally, King Abdullah who actually became the King in 2005 moved towards a new strategic paradigm which among many things included developing a strategic partnership with India. And when it comes to terrorism, they have signed intelligence co-operation pacts, extradition treaties and anti-money laundering treaties. Although the credit would probably go to the NDA led govt. to actually initiating the change around when Advani as Deputy PM sent Civil Aviation minister Hussain to Saudi Arabia to becoming the first Indian minister after 16 years to visit the country in 2003 to get Naif (the interior minster) to come to India and also sing an MoU on counter-terrorism.

    The discussion on Saudi involvement in terrorism or counter-terrorism needs to make the distinction between SA government (SAG) and the Saudi nationals who are involved in terrorism, or more important to India--Pakistani and/or Indian nationals using Saudi soil for terrorism. The SAG is actively involved in supporting International efforts in countering terrorism, both ideologically as well as through military/policing efforts. And by supporting India's stand on the counter-terrorism convention at the UN, signing counter-terrorism pacts and upgrading intelligence sharing ties, there is a broad based agreement in preventing Saudi soil to be used against terrorism as well. Because of this, it is western countries, that are much more liable to be base for future terrorist attacks on India. For example the Mumbai attacks had a very clear US link where Headley and Rana were both based. A number of alleged criminals/terrorists who are Indian nationals have also been extradited from the UAE and Saudi Arabia as well to India.

    To wrap up I think there are some common misconceptions that if looked at the past 10 years would be seen as such
    (1) Saudi govt. supports terrorism / Al Qaeda: Granted that a number of Saudis were involved in 9/11 attacks and formed the majority of the foot soldiers in Alqaeda, but these organizations were anti-Saudi and actually launched attacks against the Saudi regime. While individuals may be involved, the government itself is fighting these groups not only militarily but also ideologically and these efforts should be welcomed. However, the lack of democracy and because of this a lack of opportunity to articulate political demands freely, it leads to radicalized groups emerging when a political vent is not available.

    (2) Af-Pak vs Saudi - where is the center of "Jihadi" terrorism?: I think there is no doubt that the Af-Pak region or the FATA region is the main problem here. While Saudis have cracked down on the virulent political Islamic ideology that have promoted terrorism both militarily and ideologically, Pakistan either couldn't or wouldn't tackle the political Islamic ideology or the militants associated with it be they the Afghan Taliban or the LeT.

    Basically, for the Saudi's and broader GCC states, their objective is to continue their undemocratic regime and oppose Iranian supremacy in the gulf region. And to do this, they make many rational choices instead of ideological ones. For example, the US-Saudi special relationship. Just recently there is news of $60 Billion of military hardware being brought by the Saudis. And one of the factors in increasing close co-operation between India and GCC states like UAE and SA at the military and naval level is the US encouragement as well. The Iranian regime on the other hand is the only Muslim country headed by a cleric and is basically ideological in nature. While there have been rational leaders like Khatami in the past. Ahmedinijad is very ideological and one of the reasons why everyone is nervous at Iran getting nuclear weapons. Probably one of the reasons why Indo-Saudi/GCC relations are at present the best they have ever been while Indo-Iranian relations which picked up in the 1990s has been in a neutral state since Ahmadinejad came to power.

    I've just done a quick brain dump here so if anyone wants to pick a particular issue for clarification or debate, feel free to do so.
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2011

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