Pegasus

Whatever has happened to Pegasus,the winged horse? The SC had put a simple question to the government’s counsel if it used it on certain citizens who can by no means be considered security threats.The government just refused to respond any way,leaving everybody on tenterhooks. Nothing has since been heard about it.

Meanwhile reports say the Israeli government is in secret talks with French government about banning NSO from selling the spyware for use on civilians.One wonders how much protection such a promise will yield.There are such ruses as secret codicils to fox the public.

In India the matter may be even more complicated.The BJP as a party is not only enamoured of Israel,but just enthralled by its kind of politics,esp.the throttling of minorities as a goal of the state.

Time was when Indian politicians shied away from Israel as if it was dynamite. But already in the nineties international politics tottered to a point when Arab countries were no longer committed to the cause of Palestinian Arabs.The stigma of being America’s cat’s paw no longer deterred countries from establishing cozy relations with Israel.The Israeli Foreign Minister Moshé Dayan paid a secret visit to Delhi,but when someone broke the news the suave Vajpayee dismissed it as a private visit of no political influence.But soon after Israel was allowed to set up its embassy in Delhi for the first time without much fuss.

The trend picked up soon and relations with that new pal became warmer every passing year.The pretence of equal friendship was no longer thought worth the candle.

Defence deals underlined the new depth of relations.As well as military and strategic confabs.The dreaded Israeli secret service Moshad, notorious for its cruelty and cunning,for several intrigues and assassinations found a ready welcome on the ground of combatting Islamic terrorism.The shadowy comradeship just made it hard to guess from outside as to who were to be regarded as such terrorists.Perhaps citizens who had approached the SC were on the black list!

This brings us to several other aspects.First the increasingly public utterances of senior army generals,which is contrary to practice and traditions of established democratic states where top generals speak only during war-time or when specific questions of security become urgent.It is the political leaders of the government who take the decisions and address the public on them.The point here is the military character of Israel as a state.Not only have many generals played stellar political roles but the siege mentality prevailing in Israel makes it lean towards the military for key decisions.Under the two terms of Benjamin Netanyuhu the link became stronger,pushing the country towards a condition of a security state.It was during the bonhomie between him and Indian leaders that Pegasus flew and watered in India.

General opinion in established democratic countries is that the military should be seen,not heard. Even in the US,the most heavily armed and militarily capable country in the world, generals come on air only during wartime,and when there are specific issues relating to the army,whereas in our country army generals hold press conferences and voice their opinion on security -related and other issues every now and then.There is an uneasy impression gaining ground that it is the military heads who take decisions,whereas the truth is that in democracy it is the government run by civilians that takes the final decision to go to war or seek peaceful resolution of conflicts.The damage done by predominance of the military is seen at its worst in a neighbouring country.This trend is significant because Israel has been for the longest period of its history been a state dominated by military thinking.Any civilian leader thinking out of line gets marginalized or simply done away with.High time things here are restored to their proper norm here.

The last bit to fall into this jigsaw pattern seems to be the growing friendship between the acknowledged mentor of the BJP,the RSS, and Israeli diplomatic missions.The media cover repeated visits of Israeli diplomats to the RSS headquarters and conclaves,though not much is known about the discussions,and concrete results if any.The one thing that is likely to bring them together is the unilateral and sectarian idea of nationhood.The Israeli ‘law of return’, rather like CAA here by and large, stresses an homogenous concept of nation and by definition leads to exclusion and domination of minorities rather than conciliation.

There are also sundry attempts to invent historical affinities as in the recent explanation of similarities between Israeli kibbutzim or communes and Vinoba Bhabe’s now-forgotten Bhoodan movement by External Affairs minister S.Jaishankar.The catch is that Bhoodan had been a land-gift movement for free donation of land by the landed classes to the landless farmers,the Kibbutz is a co-operative collective farm that strives to be self-subsistent.

The question as to who or what holds the key to this growing bond is legitimate. Considering that Joe Biden had smilingly congratulated Netanyuhu,the most war-like of Israel’s leaders, for pulverizing Hamas settlements leaving more than a hundred dead including children and elderly folk in a revenge attack against a barrage of rockets that mostly missed targets,should suggest an answer.There is a skilled strategic rider handling the run-away horses following a course close to his chest.

So Pegasus trajectory is moving towards comprehensive security of Indian rulers,at a cost in civil liberties that has upset conscious liberal opinion.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator


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