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Muslim ban represents US’ darkest era: Indian-American philanthropist

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New Delhi, March 27 : As a teenager when Fakhrul Islam, now Frank F. Islam, crossed the Atlantic in 1970 to realise his American dream, the “shining city upon a hill” opened all its doors for him, helping him become one of the most-celebrated Indian-American businessmen in the US.

But today Islam, 53, fears that the country may be heading to its “darkest” era with President Donald Trump’s alleged discriminatory ban on immigrants and travellers from six Muslim-majority countries to protect the US from terrorist attacks.

The man from Azamgarh — the Uttar Pradesh district with a large Muslim population that had once earned the the disreputable moniker of “Aatankgarh”, the hub of terror in India — still feels that America continues to be an inclusive society despite President Trump’s efforts to stop immigrants from entering the US.

“Muslim ban was a wrong, shameful and unconstitutional move. This is not who we are. These are not the values of America. And this kind of ban represents (the) darkest and ugliest past of America. We don’t want to go back to that past. We have entered into a dark chapter of America,” Islam told IANS in a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to India.

He said Trump has to realise that “35 per cent of the business in America, especially in the Silicon Valley, is from immigrants” who not only create wealth and also generate jobs for others.

“I still look at the brighter horizon. I have the sense of optimism and hope. We have to make sure that we can still create hopes, inspirations, and dreams in people, not anxiety, anger, and fear,” the businessman-turned-philanthropist said, quoting English Puritan lawyer John Winthrop, who described the America he imagined as a “shining city upon a hill” when he founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in New England.

Notwithstanding the efforts of Trump, “who doesn’t represent what America stands for”, Islam said India needed to learn from the US how to give “opportunity to all to succeed”.

“There are lots of tools and mechanisms available in America for entrepreneurs to succeed, realise their dreams. That is something India needs to (do) and incubate the new generation of entrepreneurs,” he said, speaking about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Start Up India, Stand Up India” scheme to boost entrepreneurship and encourage start-ups with jobs creation.

Islam’s is an inspiring rags-to-riches story. A son of a peasant family, he got his education at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) before he moved to the US where he built a multi-million dollar IT empire. But he has not forgotten his “humble roots”.

“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, a business owner. Entrepreneurs are made not born. Look at me, my own personal journey of humble beginning, from humble roots in Azamgarh, I became one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the US.

“I started my own business, the QSS Group, in 1994. I was able to build the group from one employee to 3,000 employees with revenue of $300 million in 12 years,” said Islam, who serves on a number boards and advisory councils, including the John F. Kennedy Center Board of Trustees, the US Institute of Peace, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the Brookings Institution.

He also serves on various boards at more than half a dozen universities including Johns Hopkins, University, American University, and George Mason University.

Islam sold his business in 2007 for $700 million to start with his American wife The Frank Islam and Debbie Driesman Foundation that provides targeted financial assistance to civic, educational and artistic causes and groups.

The foundation built a $2 million management school at Islam’s alma mater AMU that he inaugurated in February. The school, he hopes, “will create more Frank Islams, more entrepreneurs who can make differences to people’s lives”.

He said being a philanthropic and sharing what he got from the society “is the part of my life that is much more enjoyable than making any money that I have made all my life”.

Sharing wealth is multiplying joy, he said about the culture that is still not in vogue in India.

“Americans have been very generous in helping humanity. I am guided by the words of President John F. Kennedy that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’. It is a part of American DNA. People like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have given billions of dollars to serve humanity.

“In India, it is a work in progress. It is good to build mosques, temples, and churches, but I should also say it is also important to invest in people. It is not (happening) in India as yet. You should build the same culture in India,” said the author of “Working the Pivot Points: To Make America Work Again” (2013) and “Renewing the American Dream” (2010).

By : Sarwar Kashani

(Sarwar Kashani can be conacted at [email protected])

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Netanyahu threatens ‘to act’ against Iran

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Benjamin Netanyahu-wefornews-min

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has warned  Iran saying he was ready to go to war if Tehran continued to entrench itself in Syria.Netanyahu addressed the Munich Security Conference which was attended by  International leaders.

Directly addressing Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif and holding a piece of an Iranian drone shot down by  Israel  last week after it infiltrated its territory,Netanyahu during his speech said: “Do you recognize this? You should. It’s yours. You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran: Do not test Israel’s resolve.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif dismissed Israeli premier’s remarks and called them ‘a cartoonish circus.’

Equating Iran with Nazi Germany,Israeli PM drew many comparisons. “Let me be clear, Iran is not Nazi Germany,” he said. “There are many differences between the two,” he said, but, he noted, “there are also some striking similarities.”

He drew a parallel between the 1938 Munich Agreement, seen as a failed attempt to appease Nazi Germany, and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that has “unleashed a dangerous Iranian tiger in our region and beyond.”

The tensions between Israel and Syria escalated after an Iranian drone that crossed into Israeli airspace was shot down by the Israel Air Force on February 10.

Bolstered by the support US President Donald Trump,the prime minister reiterated he does not support a full Palestinian state, but a “state minus.” Netanyahu said the Palestinians should have self-rule, but not the “freedom to threaten our security.” Netanyahu indicated that he has been discussing legislation with the United States that would effectively annex settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Condemning the remarks,Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation termed it as “land theft” with US complicity.While Israeli police recommended the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery,fraud and breach of trust.

Accusing Tehran of seeking a permanent military foothold in Syria by supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in civil war entering its eighth year,Netanyahu said Israel could act against Iran itself — not just its allies — after border incidents in Syria brought the Middle East foes closer to direct confrontation.

Worried over the increase of Iranian influence in Iraq, Syria  and Yemen, Netanyahu stated that Israel would not allow Iran to establish  military bases in Syria.

At a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of a major security conference in Munich, Netanyahu declared that the Golan Heights would “remain in Israel’s hands forever.”

The Syrian Golan Heights has been under Israeli occupation since 1967.

 

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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Analysis

Air war in 1971: A view from the other side

Where does one seek authentic information about India’s contemporary military history?

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The Air and Naval War 1971

Disregarding the counsel of wise men, from Herodotus to George Santayana, Indians have consistently ignored the importance of reading, writing and learning from history. So, when retired US Air Force Brigadier “Chuck” Yeager, head of the US Military Assistance Advisory Group in Islamabad during the 1971 War, says, in his autobiography that the “Pakistanis whipped the Indians’ asses in the sky… the Pakistanis scored a three-to-one kill ratio, knocking out 102 Russian-made Indian jets and losing 34 airplanes of their own…”, we are left fumbling for a response. Other Western “experts” have alleged that, in 1971, the IAF was supported by Tupolev-126 early warning aircraft flown by Soviet crews, who supposedly jammed PAF radars and homed-in Indian aircraft.

Where does one seek authentic information about India’s contemporary military history? The Ministry of Defence (MoD) website mentions a History Division, but the output of this organisation is not displayed, and it seems to have gone into hibernation after a brief spell of activity. A Google search reveals copies of two typed documents, circa 1984, on the Internet, titled “History of the 1965 War” and “History of the 1971 War” — neither of which is designated as “official history”.

A chapter of the latter document deals with the air-war in the Western theatre, and opens with a comparison of the opposing air forces. The 1971 inventory of the IAF is assessed at 625 combat aircraft, while the PAF strength is estimated at about 275. After providing day-by-day accounts of air-defence, counter-air close-support and maritime air-operations, the “History of the 1971 War” (or HoW) compares aircraft losses, on both sides, and attempts a cursory analysis of the air war.

The IAF is declared as having utilised its forces “four times as well as the PAF” and being “definitely on the way to victory” at the time of ceasefire. Commending the PAF for having managed to survive in a war against an “enemy double its strength”, it uses a boxing metaphor, to add a (left-handed) compliment: “…by its refusal to close with its stronger enemy, it at least remained on its feet, and in the ring, when the bell sounded…”

This is the phrase that Pakistani Air Commodore M. Kaiser Tufail (retd) has picked up for the title of his very recent book: “In the Ring and on its Feet” (Ferozsons Pvt Ltd., Lahore, 2017) about the PAF’s role in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Commissioned in 1975, this former Pakistani fighter-pilot is a historian and bold commentator on strategic affairs. Currently unavailable in India, the book may, prima facie, be accepted as authentic, because the author asserts that in two of his appointments, he was the “custodian of PAF’s war records”, which he was, officially, permitted to access in writing the book.

Tufail starts with an attempt to dispel the “ludicrous Indian fabrication about Pakistan having initiated the war”, and offers the thesis that since war was already in progress, the ineffective 3rd December PAF pre-emptive attacks were merely “first strikes” meant to overburden the IAF’s retaliatory capability. Apart from this half-hearted attempt at obfuscation, the rest of Tufail’s narrative is refreshingly candid, free of hyperbole and — one hopes — reliable. Having served in an IAF fighter squadron during the 1971 war, I was fascinated by Tufail’s account, and share a few of his frank insights into wartime events in this article.

Tufail suggests that the wartime PAF Chief, Air Marshal Rahim Khan, was an inarticulate, short-tempered and lacklustre personality, who, at this crucial juncture, chose his two most important advisers — the ACAS (Operations) and the Deputy Chief — from the ranks of transport pilots. His problems were compounded by low service morale, due to the massacre of 30 airmen in East Pakistan and defections by Bengali PAF personnel.

As far as the two orders-of-battle are concerned, it is interesting to note that the HoW figures of 625 combat aircraft for the IAF and 273 for the PAF are pretty close to Tufail’s estimates of 640 and 290 respectively. A fact not commonly known, in 1971, was that while the IAF’s work-horses, Sukhoi-7s, Hunters, Gnats, HF-24s, Mysteres and Vampires were armed only with 30/20 mm guns, the opposition had the advantage of air-to-air missiles. While all PAF western-origin fighters carried Sidewinders or R-530s, Yeager tells us, “One of my first jobs (in Pakistan) was to help them put US Sidewinders on their Chinese MiGs… I also worked with their squadrons and helped them develop combat tactics.”

Tufail provides a tabular account of both IAF and PAF aircraft losses, with pilots’ names, squadron numbers and (for PAF) aircraft tail numbers. To my mind, one particular statistic alone confirms Tufail’s objectivity. As the squadron diarist of IAF’s No. 20 Squadron, I recall recording the result of a Hunter raid on PAF base Murid, on December 8,1971, as “one transport, two fighters (probable) and vehicles destroyed on ground.” In his book, Tufail confirms that 20 Squadron actually destroyed five F-86 fighters in this mission — making it the most spectacular IAF raid of the war!

Particularly gratifying to read are Tufail’s reconstructions, of many combat missions, which have remained shrouded in doubt and ambiguity for 47 years. Personally, I experienced a sense of closure after reading his accounts of the final heroic moments of 20 Squadron comrades — Jal Mistry and K.P. Muralidharan — as well as fellow naval aviators — Roy, Sirohi and Vijayan — shot down at sea. Tufail also nails the canard about Soviet Tupolev-126 support to IAF, and describes how it was the clever employment of IAF MiG-21s to act as “radio-relay posts” that fooled the PAF.

Coming to the “final reckoning”, there is only a small difference between the figures given in the HoW and those provided by Tufail for IAF losses; both of which make nonsense of Yeager’s pompous declarations. According to the tabulated Pakistani account (giving names of Indian aircrew), the IAF lost 60 aircraft. The HoW records the IAF’s losses in action as 56 aircraft (43 in the west and 13 in the east). However, a dichotomy surfaces when it comes to PAF losses. While Tufail lists the tail numbers of only 27 aircraft destroyed, the HoW mentions IAF claims of 75 PAF aircraft destroyed, but credits only 46 (27 in the west and 19 in the east).

Using the “utilisation rate” per aircraft and “attrition rate”, as a percentage of (only) the offensive missions flown by both air forces, the HoW declares that the IAF’s utilisation rate being almost double, and its attrition rate being half that of the PAF, “…had the war continued, the IAF would certainly have inflicted a decisive defeat on the PAF”.

Adopting a different approach, Tufail concludes that the overall “attrition rate” (loss per 100 sorties) for each air force as well as aircraft losses, as percentage of both IAF and PAF inventories, are numerically equal. Thus, according to him, “…both air forces were on par… though the IAF flew many more ground-attack sorties in a vulnerable air and ground environment”.

He ends his narrative on a sanguine note, remarking: “The PAF denied a much stronger IAF… the possibility of delivering a knock-out punch to it.”

Air Commodore Tufail’s book clearly demonstrates that there are at least two good reasons for writing war histories: Lessons are learnt about the political sagacity underpinning employment of state military power, and militaries can test the validity of the Principles of War. Sensible nations, therefore, ensure that history is not replaced by mythology. There is a whole new crop of young scholar-warriors, like Kaiser Tufail, emerging in India, eager to record its rich military history. But as long as our obdurate bureaucracy maintains the inexplicable “omerta” vis-a-vis official records, this deplorable historical vacuum will persist.

By : Admiral Arun Prakash

(Admiral Arun Prakash is a former chief of the Indian Navy. He can be contacted at [email protected] )

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Analysis

Kashmir’s laugh doctor: He wants to bring mirth back to Kashmir’s depressed lives

There is no source of entertainment in Kashmir. Cinema halls have been closed. There is no local film industry as many other Indian states have.

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Hazaar Dastaan

Srinagar, Feb 18 : Long before it was infected by violence and its streets reverberated with sounds of slogans and gunfire, Kashmir was a place where one could hear laughter in every household in the evenings when Nazir Josh, Kashmir’s very own “Charlie Chaplin”, used to come on Doordarshan (DD), the national broadcaster, with his facial expressions of total bewilderment, the street impressions of a joker and strong Chaplinesque elements in his walking style.

In this conflict-ridden region where young people have grown up witnessing violence erupting in their public spaces on a regular basis, the 67-year-old comedy king of Kashmir says that revival of humour is the only way to bring back smiles and laughter to the stoic faces of Kashmiris deprived of a normal existence.

A local poet, script writer, director and actor, Josh is known to every household here just as “Jum German”, “Ahead Raza” and half a dozen other names based on the lead roles he has played in TV serials.

He ran regular comedy serials on the local DD which were very well received by every Kashmiri. But it was all brought to a halt when separatist violence broke out in Kashmir in the late 1990s. While he was never directly at the receiving end of the violence, in the grim, strife-torn Valley there was little space left for humour and satire, and he was left without any sponsors.

Josh believes that Kashmiris are facing many social and psychological problems which cannot be addressed by medication alone.

“People here need to unwind, and for that, humour and satire are the best avenues,” Josh told IANS.

He recalled how a local family had come to thank him for helping cure their mother of depression.

“The son of the lady being treated for depression told me his mother had laughed after a long time when she saw an episode of my comedy serial ‘Hazaar Dastaan’.

“The boy said when the family told the psychiatrist about his mother’s laughter, which came after long months of depression, the psychiatrist advised them to show her more episodes of the comedy serial. It completely cured the lady.”

Josh feels that in a place where curfews, shutdowns and street violence are a norm rather than an aberration, there is a genuine need for some laughter in people’s lives to sustain their sanity.

But as violence took centrestage in the Valley, Nazir Josh and his TV serials, which were based on social and political satire, had to take backstage.

The last TV serial based on social satire produced by him was “Jum German” in 1989. But it could not go beyond 25 episodes as the situation took a violent turn in Kashmir, Josh said, as he fixed his gaze at the clouds outside his central Kashmir Badgam district home.

A feeble winter sun was trying to make its way through the heavy clouds that preventing its rays from reaching the earth.
“This is the present situation. Heavy and dark clouds of gloom everywhere you go. Seventy per cent patients who visit various hospitals in the Valley are suffering from depression.

“There is no source of entertainment in Kashmir. Cinema halls have been closed. There is no local film industry as many other Indian states have.

“There is only one TV station in Kashmir and that too has not been doing anything to revive entertainment so that people are able to laugh tensions out of their lives,” Josh said.

He still remembers the good old days when Kashmiris would eagerly wait for humorous weekly TV dramas.

“I know of some local homes where womenfolk sold ornaments to buy TV sets so that they could watch my serial titled ‘Hazaar Dastaan’ which ran 52 episodes on the local DD channel between 1985 and 1987.

“The serial was a political satire on people in power in the state — their callous and casual approach to people’s problems was depicted through the serial.

“Some local politicians were disturbed by the popularity of the serial. They went to Delhi and complained to the central leadership that their position was becoming awkward because of this serial.

“After that complaint, each episode was first taken for a preview in Delhi with a Kashmiri translator. The preview committee said it was genuine political and social satire that needed to be encouraged,” Josh recalled.

Josh had started his career in the local theatre. In the beginning, we would stage plays at the village and district levels. In 1968, he staged a play at the Tagore Hall in Srinagar where a drama festival was organised by the state cultural academy.

He then wrote a play in 1973 for the television titled ‘Haier Kkr’. Its success encouraged him to write humorous serials regularly till 1989 — when violence brought down the curtains on entertainment and laughter in Kashmir.

He is not completely discouraged and says humour and satire can still be revived in Kashmir, provided the state and central governments support his work.

“We need at least production cost so that the past glory is regained. I am hopeful that, in the near future, better sense will prevail so I am again able to make Kashmiris laugh away their daily tensions through my TV serials,” Josh said.

He believes there is immense talent among local youth. “These young boys and girls need to be rigorously trained in acting and directing productions to ensure that theatre and TV serials do not die an unsung death here,” he said hopefully.

And he wants to re-create the past rather than merely become a wistful memory of the halcyon days of Kashmir.

(The weekly feature series is part of a positive-journalism project of IANS and the Frank Islam Foundation. Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected] )

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