This essay is dedicated to the victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings staged in Sri Lanka and claimed by the Islamic State (ISIL), and also explores religious tensions being stoked by the Covid 19 narrative.
India’s capital New Delhi burned in the last week of February 2020 as US President Donald Trump pivoted to India. Visiting the world’s largest and increasingly tattered ‘democracy’, Trump sold among other things, over USD 3 billion worth of weaponry to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The ‘partnership of the century’ between India and the US announced by Modi seemed designed to put China and its Belt and Road initiative (BRI), already besieged by the mysterious Novel Corona virus on notice.
During Mr. Trump’s two-day visit to India, 43 people were killed and many more injured as Hindu-Muslim riots rocked northeast New Delhi with protests against the Indian Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), widely perceived to be discriminatory to Muslims escalated.
The week after Trump departed India, South Asia was hit by the Covid-19 bug. The Indian sub-continent lies between China and Iran, which were besieged months earlier by the coronavirus but had escaped the virus up to the time of Mr. Trump’s visit.
Religious tensions in South Asia stoked by external parties?
The US president’s visit to India, come exactly a year after Hindu-Muslim tensions in India were stoked by mysterious external parties with the near-war between nuclear armed rivals, India and Pakistan, staged in Pulwama District, Jammu and Kashmir in February 2019, just before General Elections in India
Events in Pulwama stoked Hindu nationalism and ensured return of saffron tinted Narendra Modi, President Trump’s preferred partner and buddy, to power with a large majority. Tensions had been simmering since last October’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) came into effect amidst heightened national security consciousness in the Indian intelligence establishment that appears to be in thrall of the US military business industrial, intelligence complex, which has 800 military and ‘lily pad’ bases all over the world after events in Pulwama.
Prashant Bhusan’s 12 questions on the Pulwama near-war raise questions about the role of external parties, outside South Asia, in staging this near-war. Two months before passage of CAA in August 2019, Kashmir was stripped of its Special Status after revoking Article 370, and divided it into Buddhist Ladakh, Hindu Jammu and Muslim Kashmir with the state in virtual lock down for months.
These acts by the saffron tinged Modi government was justified in the name of “national security” and in the aftermath of events in Pulwama at a time when Muslims within and outside India are increasingly constructed as a threat by many western intelligence agencies.
Religious identity politics in South Asia is increasingly weaponized with narratives about Islamist terrorism being unleashed now against Buddhists and Hindus in a region of the world with long-standing and complex patterns of religious diversity and co-existence.
Two months after India and Pakistan teetered on the brink of war, mysterious Easter Sunday attacks were staged against sea-front Churches and luxury tourist hotels on April 21, 2019 in Buddhist dominated Sri Lanka., which were even more mysteriously claimed by the Islamic State (IS), while various intelligence experts claimed that ISIS planned to set up its Caliphate in the Eastern Province of strategically located Sri Lanka where the coveted deep sea Indian Ocean port Trincomalee Habour is located
Saeed Naqvi, a well-known scholar and journalist based in Delhi, has termed Islamic terror, a “diplomatic asset”, while Sri Lanka’s Cardinal Malcom Ranjith noted that powerful nations sell arms after such attacks.
Days after the Easter Sunday carnage in Sri Lanka, post-election riots erupted in Indonesia, Asia’s third most populous country and the largest economy of Southeast Asia, after President Joko Widodo’s comprehensive election victory. Riots in Jakarta targeted ethnic minority, mainly Buddhist, Chinese in multi-religious, Muslim-majority Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, which burned for two nights.
Covid 19 and Religious Tension
More recently, as the Covid 19 narrative has unfolded a remarkably curious spread pattern has emerged in many countries in South and East Asia, with religious networks and conferences emerging as coronavirus dissemination networks and venues: Muslim and Christian minority religious communities appear to have been particularly targeted by Covid 19 narrative in South and East Asia. While in the US and EU the virus spread initially though celebrity networks, Hollywood stars, Ministers and heads of states and even Prince Charles with lots of media hype, in Asia, the Covid 19 narrative spread pattern seemed designed for other purposes – to elicit a backlash from religious majorities and to sow inter-religious conflict during a period of intense social and economic disruption and Corona virus fear and panic in Buddhist and Hindu majority countries in Asia – from Korea, to India and Sri Lanka.
For instance, the Tablighi Jamaat event became India’s worst coronavirus vector in the first week of April 2020, when a brutal country-wide lockdown crippled the India economy was imposed by Prime Minister Modi with 4 hours-notice. Nearly a third of cases in India were linked to its New Delhi gathering.
Meanwhile in Sri Lanka after an economically destructive curfew was imposed on the urging and “advice” of the World Health Organization (WHO) also with 4 hours-notice, police said that they had arrested thousands, including many who were praying in a mosque, for violating a countrywide curfew imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus. Media attention also fell on a Switzerland-based Christian Pastor who conducted a service at the Philadelphia Church in Sri Lanka’s the Jaffna District.In South Korea, attention fell on new Christian church networks as vectors of Coronvirus when health officials confirmed more than 1,000 cases with about half those cases linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a group the government describes as a cult, prompting officials to test all 200,000 of its followers. Authorities linked another cluster of cases to a church in the southern city of Busan, and yet another to a group of Catholic pilgrims returning from Israel. The virus also infected a number of people at the Myeongseong megachurch in Seoul, which has 80,000 congregants. Curiously there have been few reports of Buddhist or Hindu religious gatherings spreading Covid 19.
Shifting Center of Global Power and how the Indian Ocean was Lost
Over the past decade the centre of world power and wealth has been quietly shifting away from Euro-America and the Trans-Atlantic, back to Asia and the Indian Ocean region led by the rise of China and other East and Southeast Asia countries. Thus in a sweeping diplomatic speech in August 2019 French President, Macron said “we are living the end of Western hegemony” in the world, in part as a result of Western “errors” over past centuries.
Asia has historically been the center of global wealth power and innovation except for the past three centuries of Western hegemony due to the rise of European maritime empires and the transfer of resources out of the global South to the Euro-American world. This great resource transfer from the global south to the global north continued in the post/colonial period of the post-war peace, as ‘development’ and ‘aid’ increasingly morphed into a form of ‘colonialism by other means’ in many parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, now highly debt trapped. China then a developing country followed its own trajectory, succeeded in raising half a billion people out of poverty and benefited from globalization to become a global Superpower.
In response to the rise of China and its belt and road initiative the Indian Ocean has been re-constituted and re-named as the “Indo-Pacific” under a US initiative named the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) concept, ironically, without a murmur of protest from India and its military intelligence establishment at the re-naming of the Ocean that bears its name. India, after all is the only country in the world that shares the name of an ocean, a fact that testifies to its ancient civilizational clout and strategic location on global trade routes. The Indian Sub-Continent is at the Center of the Indian Ocean that touches Africa on the West and China and Australia on the east.
Also, in response to China’s silk road initiative, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which includes Paciﬁc-rim countries, has been extending militarization of the Indian Ocean under its cooperative security relationships with its four Asia-Paciﬁc Partners ‒ Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. France’s Macron recently stated that NATO was facing an “identity crisis”, for several reasons, also, as it moves into the Indian Ocean.
The US and NATO need another base in the Indian Ocean since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled last year in February that the United Kingdom (UK) occupation of the Chagos Islands that houses the Diego Garcia military base– is illegal under international law and should be returned to the Chagossian people who were forcibly evicted to build the base in the 1960s. Anthropologist David Vine has termed Diego Garcia an “Island of Shame” in his book on the “Secret History of the U.S. Military Base”.
Asia, from Iran to China via India, has for most of human history led the world in economic, civilizational, and technological innovation and growth. Asia and the Indian Ocean region are now once again the world’s growth center as the US and its trans-Atlantic partners whose maritime empires declined after 300 years of flourishing continue to decline in global power and influence at this time.
Hence, Donald Trump’s election slogan to “Make America Great Again” also by staging a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ among Asian religious communities, centered on so called IS terrorism, while promoting US weapons sales to boost the economy on the one hand, and de-globalization on the other, with the Corona virus being the latest spoke in the wheel of globalization that enabled China become the world’s number one Superpower, with its billion people, ancient history and lead in technology and innovation at this time.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a tour of Sri Lanka and India in January 2020, pointed out that the ‘free and open Indo Pacific’ idea is nothing but a strategy aimed at containing China. Meanwhile, India has been working on acquiring more bases in the Indian Ocean and signing base sharking agreements with France which loots Indian Ocean fisheries while EU demands 90 percent quotas of fish caught in the Indian Ocean, and never mind the impoverished artisanal fishers on Indian Ocean littoral states.
Attacking Cultural sites: Hybrid War with love from America
After the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in January 2020, Donald Trump threatened to attack “cultural sites” in Iran (ancient Persia with a remarkable cosmopolitan civilization and history), home to Zoroastrianism, and the regions from which the great world religions evolved– if Iran retaliated against US military personnel in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
In Sri Lanka, we are now familiar with how US ally, Saudi Arabia, funded Wahabi-Salafi organizations and a network of young Muslim youth for the Easter Sunday attacks on Cultural Sites like the iconic St. Anthony’s Church where people of all faiths, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and the occasional Muslim congregate. More than 250 people including 50 foreigners died that day.
Churches and luxury hotels were attacked in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, to destabilize the country – seemingly with the intention of enabling the government to sign the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) land-grab compact and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), that would enable US military boots on the ground in strategically located Sri Lanka which sits on top of major Indian Ocean trade and Undersea Data Cable routes (UDCs). The IS story may serve as an alibi to set up ‘lily pad” bases so that foreign troops may fight ISIL terrorists and protect Christians in multi-religious Sri Lanka, which has a Buddhist majority with a nationalist fringe.
Since the Easter Bombings that were mysteriously claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) project has been vehemently opposed by civil society groups and trade unions. Tony Cartalucci, of Global Research has traced how ISIS was set up by the CIA after the US invaded Iraq, toppled and disbanded Sadaam Hussein’s Sunni army with dual purposes: to effect regime change in Syria by toppling Russian-backed Assad, as well as, Shiaa Iran and expand a split among MENA Countries.
The Iranian General Solaimani was leading the fight against the ISIS in Iraq and the MENA region and was widely popular in both Iran and Iraq when he was killed in a US drone attack near Bagdad airport in Iraq in January 2020.
People of Lanka know that there was no reason for Muslims to attack Christians in Sri Lanka as both these communities have good relations being both minority religious groups in a Buddhist Hindu dominated country.
Weaponizing Religions: Cold War Redux:
The fact that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) set up and used Islamist groups in Central Asia and ran an operation with the Asia Foundation to use Buddhism against socialist and communist movements in Southeast Asian countries, like Thailand and Indonesia, was clearly revealed in Yale University historian, Eugene Ford’s path breaking book ‘Cold War Monks: Buddhism and America’s Secret Strategy in Southeast Asia”, published by Yale University Press in 2017. Burma and Sri Lanka were included in that project.
Strategic use of religions and targeting of cultural sites to divide, distract, colonize and set up military bases by weaponizing inter-religious relations to destabilize the complexly diverse and multicultural countries and economies of Asia, with ‘Hybrid maritime Warfare’ to sell arms appear to characterize the 2020 “Pivot to Asia”. The Pivot policy was first articulated during the Obama regime and was more ballyhoo then belligerent.
There is a whole global and local social science research industry on inter-religious and ethnic relations with US and EU funds, with links to Cold War military think tanks like RAND Corporation, that hire anthropologists like Jonah Blank who authored ‘Mullahs on the Mainframe’ and ‘Arrow of the Blue skinned God’ to assist this process.
After the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, Rand’s Blank claimed in Jakarta that the Islamic State (IS) was a “franchise” revealing its corporate model – like Burger King of Mac Donald’s of the golden arches?
As 2020 unfolds it is increasingly clear that religion/s are being weaponized in Asian countries, the Indian Ocean region and beyond by mysterious external parties and global forces that harness the IS narrative as at Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.
While destabilizing and creating chaos in highly multicultural and multi-faith Asian countries, the weaponization of religions by external parties would interrupt the inexorable “Rise of Asia” predicted by world systems theorists like Emmanuel Wallestine, and help to “Make America Great Again”, also by selling weapons to boost the US economy, a major share of which is the military/business-intelligence/entertainment industrial complex.
Weaponization of religion by mysterious external parties appears to be aimed to prime the region for a new “Clash of Civilizations”; this time between Buddhists and Muslims – the major “great world religions” of Asian countries, and between Hindus and Muslims in India where Hindus are a majority.
Asia has a history of over 3,000 years, while the US ‘new world’ has a history and civilization of a mere 300 years, after destruction of original American peoples and their civilization. Perhaps, this is why Trump even threatened to attack Iran’s ancient cultural sites – a war crime under international law?
Of course, Trump’s threat against Iran’s “cultural sites” made evident what is already standard practice in the CIA playbook on weaponizing religion and destroying multi-religious societies, to divide and rule, by attacking cultural sites, like St. Anthony’s Church, Mutwal, on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.
During fieldwork on multi-religion in Sri Lanka in 2018, when interviewing members of a Mosque near Kattankuddi we were informed that funds and competition from Saudi Arabia and Iran were one of the reasons for greater conservatism among Sri Lanka’s Muslim communities and women increasingly wearing the hijab.
The Turkish Embassy had warned Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry that they had information suggesting that 50 members of Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETO) whose leader, Fettulah Gulan is based in the US (and consider by Middle East intel. experts as a CIA sponsored Imam) were in Sri Lanka according to State Foreign Minister at the time Wasantha Senanayake. told the media that the Turkish Ambassador had followed up this warning on two occasions in 2017 and 2018 and he had faxed the relevant details to the Defence Ministry on two occasions.
As 2020 advances, the contours of the US Deep State’s military business industrial complex “Pivot to Asia” and the Indian Ocean region to “Make America Great Again” are becoming clearer:
1. Assassinating Iran’s General Soleimani (who was leading the fight against the Islamic State and ISIL), in Iraq in January; and new Coronavirus hitting Iran in February (for the recently affected MENA countries close to Iran, see aje.io/tmuur).
2. Economic and hybrid war, including suspected biological warfare against China while using minority religious networks to spread the Covid virus narrative and stoke inter-religious tension and conflict at a time of intense social and economic crisis.
3. Weaponizing Hindu-Muslim tensions in India, after the Pulwama operation to re-elect Modi, and selling weapons to India.
4. All kinds of unusual garbage imported from Britain and forest fires burning after which US helicopters with their cute bamby buckets are deployed to douse the flames, and drugs floating in the Indian Ocean offshore in a new “Opium War” on Sri Lanka and South Asia?
5. In Somalia, the IS-linked Al Shabaab attack on Mogadishu, on the Indian Ocean coast of Africa, in January 2020, enabled the US to bring in troops. Meanwhile, Somali intelligence stated, there were external hands involved in the Mogadishu attack.
Despite the statement of Narendra Modi on the “partnership of the century” between US and India during Trump’s stormy visit to India, it is clear that India and its security establishment are being played by former colonial masters, particularly France and UK and their Trans Atlantics friends, which then as now pursue when necessary a divide-rule-and-loot ‘great game’ for the Indian Ocean region; ironically, just as India played its own neighbourhood to ‘divide & rule’ in South Asia during the Cold War years – when RAW and IB (Intelligence Bureau) set up the LTTE and other militant groups in Sri Lanka, while the US weaponized Islam and Buddhism against postcolonial socialist and communist movements’ attempts to nationalize national resources in West and Southeast Asia.
Finally, it is clear that blowback from and against Donald Trump’s bellicose pivot to Asia, unlike the ballyhoo of Obama’s pivot east is inevitable. It would only hasten the decline and fall of the American empire despite its 800 military bases worldwide, and widen inequality in an already deeply divided country at this time unless the American people are able to dislodge the current occupants of the White House and more importantly roll back the Deep State and its military-business-intelligence –entertainment complex.
Cf. Prashant Bushan’s 12 questions on Pulwama: greatgameindia.com/12-unanswered-questions-on-pulwama-attack/)
 Nilantha Illangamuwa Isis didn’t choose Sri lanka, but Sri Lankan Groups chose ISIS: RAND http://nilangamuwa.blogspot.com/2019/08/isis-didnt-choose-sri-lanka-but-sri.html