The Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of "Bloom County" on the revival of his beloved comic strip after a 25-year hiatus and a new book about the origins of Bill The Cat.
Guest Host: Tom Gjelten
Miners and steelworkers in East Ukraine quiet unrest caused by separatists. Indian voters elect the Hindu Nationalist BJP party to run the next government. Unions in Turkey demand better safety standards as the death toll rises from the worst mining disaster in the country’s history. Protests against China spread throughout Vietnam…The top UN mediator in Syria resigns. The highest court in the EU issues a privacy ruling on Google. And US drones aid the search for missing Nigerian school girls. A panel of journalists joins guest host Tom Gjelten for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Mark Landler White House correspondent, The New York Times.
- Nadia Bilbassy senior correspondent, Al Arabiya.
- Moises Naim senior associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and chief international columnist, El Pais; author of "The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What It Used to Be," now available in paperback.
MR. TOM GJELTENThanks for joining us. I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR and I'm sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's got a cold, but she'll be back soon. India's decades long ruling party concedes defeat in national elections. In eastern Ukraine, steel workers and miners take control of a city that had been held by pro-Russian separatists, and in Turkey, the worst mining disaster in the nation's history unleashes anger toward the government. Joining me for this week's top international stories on the "Friday News Roundup."
MR. TOM GJELTENWe have Moises Naim of El Pais, Nadia Bilbassy of Al Arabiya and Mark Landler of the New York Times. Great to see you all here. Thanks for coming.
MS. NADIA BILBASSYGood morning, Tom.
MR. MARK LANDLERGood morning, Tom.
MR. MOISES NAIMHi Tom.
GJELTENAnd we're gonna be going over all these stories this hour, and you can join us. 800-433-8850 is our phone number. Our email address is email@example.com, if you want to send us an email. And you can send us comments and questions via Facebook or Twitter. So, we have to begin this momentous election that seems now to be a fact in India. Mark Landler, the largest election ever held in history took place over the last five weeks. It took that long for everybody to vote. Results were released today, and quite a stunning outcome.
LANDLERYeah. Truly a historic outcome. 550 million votes were cast. One of the notable aspects of this election, in addition to the result, was that there were 100 million newly registered voters. And I think that may have been the key to what happened here, which is the stunning defeat of the Indian National Congress, which has ruled India for virtually all of its history, post independence. Is now going to be ousted in favor of the BJP, the Hindu Nationalist Party. And this is a thumping victory for Narendra Modi, the leader of that party, the opposition leader.
LANDLERHe's a very interesting man with a checkered background, certainly from the perspective of the United States. As a state minister in Gujarat 12 years ago, he was harshly criticized for failing to stop sectarian clashes that killed thousands of Muslims. However, he is someone who's effectively channeled a deep seated frustration, particularly on the part of young Indians, with what they perceive as a government rife with corruption. And a lack of economic opportunity. This is an economy that has slowed in the last year from seven percent growth to 4.9 percent growth.
LANDLERAnd when you add one million new employment age people every month, which is what happens in India, the lack of robust growth is viewed as just completely unacceptable. And I think that's ultimately what brought down the Congress Party.
GJELTENNadia Bilbassy, as Mark said, 100 million new voters. What does this say about where India's going and where India's youth want their country to go?
BILBASSYTom, this is the world's largest democracy. And often, actually, I was surprised that there's not much coverage in the US media about it, apart from the print media. I think India's going through change as the whole world is evolving, especially with the young people. As much as we have this -- most of these companies who even outsource from the US to India, and you have these able, young qualified people. But I think they want to have an opportunity in the saying of the country. The contrast between the BJP and the Congress Party is basically because the Congress Party is seen as a party of the elite.
BILBASSYAnd this guy, Narenda Modi, is coming to say, I am your man. He's actually been dubbed as the development man. He wants to build. He wants to build ports and airports and roads and power grids and he wanted to build cities and financial centers, et cetera. And his success in Gujarat, as Mark said, I don't know if he's going to replicate it in the rest of India, because he has challenges. And one of them is a social challenges, apart from he's been accused of being complacent in the strive, I think, strive that happens between Muslims and Hindus.
GJELTENWell, exactly. And as Mark said, Moises, the United States has not necessarily viewed Narendra Modi in the most favorable light. Explain what's behind that, and what else can you tell us about this guy? And what are some of the concerns about him that are reflected in that US view?
NAIMIn fact, Modi's request for an official U.S. visa, was turned down in 2005. And his business, through his visa, was cancelled and that time, too. As Mark said, these was on the wake of the 2002 Gujarat riots, When he was the Chief Minister of the region. The Gujarat riots was a three day period of under communal violence that was followed by mass killings against the minority Muslim population.
GJELTENA thousand people died.
NAIMExactly. Modi was accused of initiating even the riots, and if not initiating them, of condoning, of being too passive in dealing with them. But, in 2012, he was cleared of complicity by the Supreme Court of India. So, I am sure that the United States will grant the new President of India a visa, that he will gladly come here. In his plans for modernizing India, the United States is a very important player. He is -- India is looking carefully and with great attention to China. Remember, we are watching these two giants competing for who is going to be the dominant economic superpower of the 21st century?
NAIMAnd the size matters, you know? And it's reflected, even, in the election. The costs of these elections are, in India, have been staggering. It has been the longest and most expensive general election in the history of India. It was estimated almost 600 million dollars without counting costs of security and what individual political parties spent. It's expected to have costs five billion dollars in such a poor country. This is three times the amount that was spent in a previous election, and is the world's second most expensive, after United States, of course.
GJELTENWell, Mark Landler, as Moises says, the United States probably has no choice but to give India's Prime Minister a visa, to come to the United States. Nevertheless, this issue of tensions between Hindus and Muslims, in India, is a very dangerous issue. And behind that, of course, the issue of cashmere and relations between India and Pakistan. So, you know, how concerned should people be that on these issues, you know, we might see some trouble ahead?
LANDLERWell, as you say, there's a broader pattern here. And over the last several years, you've seen growing religious intolerance throughout south Asia. There's the case of Buddhist monks, in both Myanmar and Sri Lanka, attacking Muslims in their mosques. There were a series of deadly protests and strikes, lead by an Islamic fundamentalist party in Bangladesh. As you say, issues and strains of this kind in Pakistan. So, I think, for the United States, it's probably viewed as problematic. It's the sort of a new, potential source of instability, or it fits into a narrative of instability.
LANDLERI mean, it's interesting to point out, at the same time, that in India itself, and particularly among these younger voters we were talking about, the memories of Gujarat have largely receded. Among these hundred million newly registered voters, overwhelmingly Hindu newly registered voters, this was not a huge dominant theme in this election. This election was about the economy and economic opportunity. And it was also about the receding legacy of the Ghandis in India. So, while this is a very big topic for the United States and for those watching India from the outside, it oddly may not be nearly as resonant an issue inside India.
GJELTENWell, what about young Muslim voters? You said most of those new voters are Hindu. How important is the Muslim population in India, and how do they -- how are they likely to see this election?
BILBASSYIt's very important to them, because India has the second largest Muslim population in the world. So, if you talk about the size of India, and you think of Muslims there, I think, their votes matter. And I think, in Gujarat itself, they're gonna vote against him. Because he's been promoted an ultra-nationalist Hindu agenda. So, but, in the larger scale of things, this communal strife has been happening over decades. I don't think it's gonna be to the degree that it will affect his governing, should he become the next Prime Minister, because I think the economic issues is vital for India.
BILBASSYAnd I think he's been seen as the man who's gonna lift India and take it to the position where he wants it to be. He's a big admirer of China and he's been in and out of China. And he wants to remodel certain things to bring India back. But I think he also has social issues that he ignores two important issues. He ignores things to do with maternal health, for example. Child mortality and malnutrition. He also has a problem with environmentalist.
GJELTENDid you say he ignores those issues?
BILBASSYWell, he hasn't been forthcoming about it, even when he -- he wants to build and build and build on the aspect of -- rather, on the expense of social issues that India has been suffering from. Women's issues, environmental issues, all these kinds of things, so for him, it just, the economy is about building.
NAIMTom, high expectations breed high frustrations. Modi is coming to power with a huge level of expectations among the young, among the people. People want him to fight corruption, people, as Nadia said, he's called the development man. People expect him to engender, in India, the kind of growth and modernization of industry and business as he did in his state. But, at the same time, these very high expectations are going to clash with the realities of India. And so, yes. He has a very strong mandate, and the strongest mandate that any Prime -- any President has had in India, since 1984.
NAIMBut, that's very strong mandate. Very soon, he's gonna clash with the realities of a country that has all kinds of obstacles for reforms, difficulties in dealing with a deep, deep poverty and inequality there.
GJELTENWell, it may be a time of change for the Congress Party. We should point out, at this point, that Moises Naim's latest book is "The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What It Used to Be." And it seems, Moises, you're gonna need a little post script on the Congress Party in India, because they're not in charge anymore, are they?
NAIMRight. And what we're gonna see in India is how the -- still, power is gonna be fragmented and the regions -- and the region of ministers are still very powerful and quite autonomous.
GJELTENWell, we also have big developments coming up, to talk about, in Ukraine, in China, in Vietnam where there have been riots against Chinese ownership. In Turkey, where there are demonstrations against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In Syria, in Nigeria, hot spots all over the world. We also, this hour, are gonna talk about a new court ruling Europe that is going to force Google to let you be forgotten on the web. Those are some of the stories we're gonna be talking about after a break. Our phone number is 1-800-433-8850. Stay tuned. We'll be right back.
GJELTENWelcome back. I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR sitting in for Diane Rehm today for this discussion of international news with my panelists, Moises Naim who's a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and chief international columnist for the newspaper El Pais. Also Nadia Bilbassy, senior correspondent for Al Arabiya and Mark Landler, White House correspondent at the New York Times.
GJELTENMark, the situation in Ukraine has been so discouraging for so long with these violent standoffs between separatists -- pro-Russian separatists and a somewhat ineffectual Ukrainian government. We had a new development yesterday which your paper highlighted on the front page and was actually kind of encouraging. It was workers and union members saying, enough of this. We're going to take charge. Tell us what happened.
LANDLERYeah, I mean, basically over the day on Thursday you had thousands of steel workers fanning out, particularly in the City of Mariupol, basically taking back the city from these pro-Kremlin militants and pro-Russian militias. And it wasn't limited just to this city. They fanned out over at least five other cities including Donetsk, which is the key regional capitol in Eastern Ukraine.
LANDLERAnd while, you know, we were careful to say that it's far too early to call a turn in what's happened in Eastern Ukraine, this is sort of the first evidence of a more pro-Ukrainian element trying to seize back the -- seize the initiative back from the pro-Russian elements. So it injects a very kind of unpredictable new element.
LANDLERThese are people -- and it's worth remembering, the economy of this part of Ukraine is dominated by the mining and steel business. These are very large almost Soviet-style companies that are run by oligarchs. The oligarchs have, up until now, not really injected themselves heavily into the debate, perhaps hedging their bets. But now you see a couple of key figures, including one of the key steel-working oligarchs who've now come out and said, no we really have to fight to maintain the unity of Ukraine.
LANDLERYou know, this comes obviously in the aftermath of these referenda which have led Donetsk and other places to claim that they want to separate from Ukraine and go with Russia.
GJELTENAnd in advance of a presidential election.
LANDLERAnd in advance of the key May 25 election, an election that the West has sort of set as a benchmark warning Vladimir Putin and others that if it doesn't go ahead on schedule and isn't allowed to proceed undisrupted that it'll lead to a new round of sanctions against Russia. So this is sort of an unpredictable but interesting element that maybe suggests that we're seeing a change in the pattern somewhat.
GJELTENWell, Nadia Bilbassy, as Mark said, this in part indicates apparently a decision by this particular oligarch in charge of this union that he's going to get involved. But were these workers just doing this under the instruction of their boss or does this in fact represent sort of a new surge of popular sentiment? And could it sort of presage something about this election on Sunday?
BILBASSYIt sure might because the situation is very volatile, as we speak now. And this is why all eyes are set on May 25. And hence the warning from John Kerry when he spoke with Lavrov, saying basically, I don't want Russia to interfere in this election. And if you do, we are going to go ahead with economic and trade sanction. So -- and also the organization of security and cooperation in Europe who is going to oversee this election has been visiting and been on the ground, the same as for the German foreign minister, who's saying to the people in Ukraine, you have to show in mass. Because if you want to have a stake in your country you have to come along.
BILBASSYWhat's interesting I think, Tom, is after these two provinces in Eastern Ukraine has declared after the referendum, they said they want to be independent from Kiev. The Russians did not jump on immediately just like they did in Crimea within almost hours to say they don't want to take them.
BILBASSYSo -- and Lavrov was saying basically...
GJELTENSergey Lavrov the foreign minister.
BILBASSY...the foreign minister of Russia saying, let's have a national dialogue. Let's -- you guys in the east part and Kiev can talk together. And this is really interesting showing that, you know, the Russians are kind of -- this claim. They didn't even recognize the vote as legitimate or not legitimate but the -- and seeing what's happening on the ground.
GJELTENWell, Moises, the Russians do have a very important weapon that they can play here which is gas. Tell us what happened with the supply of Russian gas to Ukraine this week in a potentially important development.
NAIMVery upfront and pay what you owe us. That was the central message of Gasprom...
GJELTENAnd they recalculated what Ukraine owes them.
NAIMAnd -- exactly. So historically Russia was subsidizing a lot of the gas that went to Ukraine. And from there was sold elsewhere in Europe. Now as a result of the tensions and everything else, Russia and Gasprom, the Russian oil company, and provides as the main supplier of gas to Ukraine has said, you pay us what you owe us. And we're talking billions and billions of dollars. And from now we're not going to deliver any gas to you unless you pay us up front. So that is a way of upping the ante and is a reaction to the sanctions.
NAIMWhat's very interesting, Tom, in this -- everything that's going on with Ukraine and before that with Crimea, is that everyone is using a civil society and NGOs as a disguise for their operations. It was very interesting to watch how the Russians invaded Crimea to cover. That was a land grab. They didn't send troops. They didn't send the Russian army. They sent nationalist militants without any kind of identification in their uniforms.
GJELTENSome people have said this is 21st century work here.
NAIMAnd people said, these are militias. These are nationalists. This is not the army. And so they were disguising their invasion, you know, with active citizens who were activists. The same is happening now with the workers. You were asking if these workers that are taking to the streets and patrolling and getting out the Russian nationalists, are they spontaneous Ukrainian nationalists or were they sent by Rinat Akhmetov who is this oligarch we're all talking about who employees 280,000 people.
NAIMSo are they taking to the streets to protect the cities from the Russians out of sudden impulse of nationalism or are they being organized?
GJELTENThat's what I'm wondering.
NAIMIn any case, they're acting as, again, a civil society.
GJELTENWell, as you said, Moises, every side seems to be using these nongovernment organizations and civil society to further their own ends. Pete in Virginia has asked us to talk about the U.S. role in this regard. He wants to know "what was the $5 billion the U.S. spent in Ukraine for? How does Arseny Yatseniuk, handpicked by the U.S. as Ukraine's interim prime minister, have any legitimacy? I don't know if he was -- if it's fair to say he was handpicked by the United States. And former government, odious as it was, at least was democratic-elected." Mark Landler, what do we know about the U.S. role sort of over the last several weeks here and going forward?
LANDLERWell, I mean, the 5 billion is obviously part of this broader IMF effort to stabilize the economy of the country. And that's viewed as important because unless you can stabilize the economy and give people in the country a sense of hope, it continues to sort of reinforce the instability.
LANDLERI mean, the U.S. role has been, in the last few weeks, largely about trying to rally the Europeans around sanctions. And there's a sort of belief that perhaps we've, for the time being, reached the end of the road on that. In fact...
GJELTENYou mean, we...
LANDLER...by which I mean the following. In order for these May 25 elections to come off with any semblance of success, you actually need the Russians to play some sort of at least not-obstructionist role. And there have been a number of analysts who've said, we really need to actually probably lay off the sanctions until after May 25, not impose a new set of sanctions on the Russians before this election.
LANDLERThat's what President Obama has actually put most of his effort into. There are people who argue that really what we should be thinking about now is less what Vladimir Putin's agenda is and his plan is, since his plan appears to be something he makes up as he goes along, and more on stabilizing Ukraine. Which would imply a lot more discussion of where the $5 billion goes, specifically what we're pouring it into, ensuring that it doesn't merely get skimmed off through corruption or put into wasteful enterprises.
LANDLERAnd so I wonder whether over the next few weeks we will maybe see a little less emphasis on Russia and the predations of the Russian government and a little more on stabilizing Ukraine itself.
GJELTENNadia, let's turn our attention to Vietnam where we've seen some very disturbing protests over the last few days, some reporting has as many as 21 people killed and 100 people injured in riots there against -- largely against Chinese industrial facilities, but not only Chinese. What's going on? What do you make of what's going on in Vietnam?
BILBASSYThat's correct. Actually it's very disturbing because it all started because a Chinese company wanted to have an oil rig in disputed waters near islands called Paracel. And it brings back to the fold this old dispute between China and Vietnam, that they went into a border dispute in '79 and they have some kind of normalization of relationship in '91.
BILBASSYBut basically, the Vietnamese went into a supposedly peaceful protest, but it turned violent. And now it's completely out of control, that they've been attacking factories owned by, as you said, Chinese nationals but not limited to Chinese, Taiwanese, Singaporeans. And now their country's trying to get them out of safety through numerous flights out of Vietnam.
BILBASSYAnd this is -- actually it underlines distention but also it's going to affect Vietnam because it's always considered as a safe haven for foreign investors, especially in garment and plastic industries and shoes and all this kind of things. And this is the very companies that bring foreign revenue and investment to Vietnam that are being attacked.
GJELTENWell, Moises Naim, Vietnam is not a democracy. It's an authoritarian country. What's the political significance -- again, I go to the subtitle of your book "Why Being in Charge Isn't What it Used to Be." What's the political significance here? What does -- does this mean that the Vietnamese government is sort of losing control of its population? Do you see any sort of meaning to be taken in that regard?
NAIMIt's hard to imagine that the scale of riots are taking place without the government support. And so they think that...
GJELTENYou think the government's turning a blind eye to this.
NAIMNot only turning a blind eye but it's perfectly possible and imaginable that the government is somehow using this to send a very strong signal to the Chinese. The larger question, the broader question is, is this further evidence that China has abandoned the peaceful rise doctrine. For many years China had asserted that they -- their main priority was, you know, boosting -- increasing the living standards of the Chinese population, and that they did not harbor any international expansionist goals. They wanted -- they were going to concentrate on more employment and better living standards. And they were not going to expand internationally or seek territorial advantages.
NAIMBut now in recent months we have seen them -- you know, we have seen the heightened frictions with the Senkaku Islands with Japan. We have seen tensions with South Korea. And now we have seen tensions and even frictions with Vietnam. So China is asserting its presence and its power in its -- against its neighbors.
GJELTENMark Landler, now that's an important comment that Moises Naim just made. And you were just traveling with President Obama on his recent Asia trip. How does this administration view these developments?
LANDLERWith a great deal of concern. I mean, it was the kind of major theme of the trip in some ways. He -- President Obama had to reassure the Japanese that their territorial dispute with China would be defended under the -- you know, the terms of the Mutual Defense Treaty. He went to the Philippines and announced a base access deal that will bring large numbers of ships and troops back to the Philippines for the first time since 1992.
LANDLERYou remember the deployment of U.S. Marines in Darwin, Australia which was also part of a strategy of reasserting America's presence in the region. And this comes again, as Moises said, a more muscular, more expansionist foreign policy on the part of the Chinese. I mean, what's interesting about China and difficult to know at this point, is whether Xi Jinping, the new president of China -- fairly new president of China, is doing this in a way to placate his right and the PLA and the generals, or whether he, in fact, is calling a major turn in China.
LANDLERAnd I think that the important thing that the Vietnamese episode shows, as does the Japanese episode, as does a confrontation the Philippines is having with China is that this arena of the East and South China Sea is going to be a major geopolitical battleground for the United States for the next decade or so.
GJELTENMark Landler is White House correspondent for the New York Times. I'm Tom Gjelten. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And as you say, Mark, we try to figure out here what China's message here is. And there seem to be some mixed signals in that regard. I mean, President Xi focused yesterday on how China still is a nation of peace and harmony.
GJELTENOn the other hand, the military's -- the Chinese military's chief of staff General Fang Fenghui, who was at the Pentagon yesterday, Moises, said in response to a question, and he was speaking at a news conference with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we do not create trouble but we are not afraid of trouble in matters that -- issues that relate to sovereignty, territorial integrity. Our attitude has been firm. So signaling a pretty tough line there.
NAIMAnd the question is, why now? Why suddenly these become such a hot-button issue for them and not ten years ago. And again, it is perhaps the fact that economic prosperity, that they are becoming the largest economy in the world, that feeds ambitions. And that -- you know, economic success feeds the political ambitions. And perhaps that is what we're seeing.
GJELTENMoises Naim is chief international columnist for El Pais. We're talking about international news. Remember our phone number here is 1-800-433-8850. You can join our conversation. But first let's talk, Nadia Bilbassy, about the situation in Turkey. A tragic mining disaster there. The death count is edging towards...
GJELTEN...towards 300, right? And many people, many mine operators still work. And it's turning into, you know, as you can predict -- as you can imagine, it's turning into a crisis for the government.
BILBASSYAbsolutely. This is the worst crisis in Turkey's history when it comes to mines. But I think it is, of course, tragedy as it stands with the high number of people who were killed or injured, but it -- when Prime Minister Erdogan visited the site, he was greeted with angry protestors. And there is one particular actually picture that features on the social media on Twitter and Facebook of his aide kicking one of the protestors. And it's...
GJELTENPeople actually thought it was Prime Minister Erdogan himself at first, right?
BILBASSYRight, right. But it's really fueled the angry towards him for two reasons. I think when he gave that speech, he was insensitive to the feeling of the people. He evokes, like, he said, what's the big deal about Turkey? I mean, this also has happened everywhere in the United States and China. He even talked about 19th century Britain. So he didn't really show much empathy with the people.
BILBASSYPlus the opposition has been raising the safety in the mines issues for a while. Actually even in April they're trying to raise this issue in the parliament. And his own party, the AKP, has blocked it.
GJELTENAnd there's a policy issue here because a lot of these mines have been privatized. And people don't...
BILBASSYAbsolutely. And some saying actually that the company that owns this mine in the western part of Turkey has link to a company that's close to Prime Minister Erdogan. So there is also some kind of insinuation that there's corruption involved here. But for him I think it comes on the issues of the park in Istanbul that raised riots about him.
BILBASSYAnd it's this autocratic style of governing that he dismisses everything. And he comes with this big speech and, you know, telling people, you know, okay we're going to have an investigation, but calm down. This is not the -- just unique to Turkey. It happens everywhere, et cetera, I think it raises more question and more anger about his style of government.
GJELTENWell, if those questions are being raised right now, that can't be promising for the upcoming August election when Prime Minister Erdogan would like to run for being president.
GJELTENAnd this is not the kind of stuff you want to see on TV when you're getting ready to run a presidential campaign.
GJELTENNadia Bilbassy is senior correspondent for Al Arabiya. I'm also joined by Mark Landler from the New York Times and Moises Naim from El Pais. We're going to take a short break right now. Stay tuned.
GJELTENAnd welcome back, I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR, sitting in for Diane Rehm today, for this discussion of international news, with my guests, Moises Naim from the distinguished Spanish newspaper, El Pais. Nadia Bilbassy from Al Arabiya and Mark Landler from The New York Times. We have a number of emails here and many people want to talk about the elections in India.
GJELTENAnd I should point out, at this point, that if you don't get your questions answered, tune in next week because we are going to be having -- Diane will be focusing on the Indian elections, in a show, next week. So we're going to get into this issue later. Anania (sp?) wants to say, one thing is that, "Indian religious violence is a case by case basis. Each city has different views on it, much like the Evangelical Christians in the U.S. South do not represent all of America. Please be mindful of that."
GJELTEN"I visited Gujarat a few years ago and saw first-hand how Narendra Modi, who's now going to be the Prime Minister of India and was leader of Gujarat, how Modi attracted investment to his state by giving business incentives and so forth." On the other hand, David writes, "Very recently, reports of brutal violent attacks by Hindu extremists against Indian Christians, with local police complacency have been frequent. Will this type of violence against Indian Christians increase in frequency and intensity?" So, Nadia Bilbassy, we can look at this election either with, sort of, a hopeful outlook or a worrisome outlook.
BILBASSYI would like to look at it in a hopeful outlook. And I'm glad that the listeners are raising the question about India because, as I said, it's one of the largest democracy in the world. It has geopolitical interests in terms of economy. It's one of the BRIC countries. It has significant influence in Afghanistan, it alone -- the standoff with Pakistan, even for the United States. So it's not just for the world. But also, yes, it will shed lies about this strife because, as I said, it has the second largest Muslims in the world.
BILBASSYAnd just slightly to contrast what the -- one of the listeners said, I think, as much as he might now change his appeal to try and to wider Muslim population, but also in Gujarat itself, Muslims were not able. Even young, qualified, Muslims were not able to buy or purchase land in Hindu dominated areas. So it's almost like a segregated state. And I think, yes, absolutely, we cannot generalize and say this is the situation. But the BGP is known for being an ultra naturalist Hindu party that...
BILBASSY...promotes Hindu values. So it does not -- it has not been seen as extending hand to minorities, the largest minorities, obviously being Muslims.
GJELTENWell, now he's going to be leader of the whole country. So we'll see...
BILBASSYAbsolutely. Not just the party.
GJELTEN...if he -- we will see if he rules differently. Nondonie (sp?) is on a line from Houston, Texas. Hello, Nondonie, thanks for calling "The Diane Rehm Show."
NONDONIEHi, thank you for taking my call. I just want to say, today, that I cannot be prouder to be Indian-American today. I was born in the U.S., my parents came here in 1970. And at that time, people pretty much thought of India as just a land of, you know, snake charmers and sacred cows. Today, in my opinion, the Indian electorate has finally matured. For the past 60 years, the electorate, which is by the way, about two-thirds rural, had, you know, had traditionally been bought out by free food, by free power, by lots of freebies.
NONDONIEThis time, they said, no, we don't want free rice, we want opportunity and we'll buy our own rice. So I hope -- my real hope for this, is that -- and this changes not only India but this changes Americans and America medias view of India. I disagree that this is a religious platform. As far as I could see, the BGP did not run this election on the basis of religion. Yes, there are elements of the party that tried to drive a religious agenda. But Modi has been known to side line the people, even in his own state.
NONDONIEAnd it's like saying, that he Republican party is, you know, is basically a bunch of Evangelicals, just because there are Evangelical to support the Republican. So I just want to say...
GJELTENWell then, Danny (sic) , I mean, he was -- he was at one point, you know, held responsible for some of those -- those tensions but then he was, if I'm not mistaken, exonerated. And you think it was unfair to, sort of, hold him responsible for that intercommunal violence?
NONDONIEI -- yeah, I don't know. I don't know if he was or he wasn't. Clearly the Supreme Court did exonerate him but I don't know. I mean, of course, that he was a -- the judiciary can be bought. And, again, I think people know that. But I think my overall point here, is that this, you know, I'm hoping that the changes, the view of India, from just being some, you know, a place where people talk about, you know, just gang rape and the caste system and instability of Pakistan.
NONDONIEI mean, yes, those are very big issues and they have to be addressed, but I think today, the Indian electorate has said, we are going to take responsibility. We want to work hard. We want to create opportunities for ourself and we can think for ourselves. So that is a huge opportunity, not only for...
NONDONIE...for India, but also for the world and for, you know, economic development and economic opportunity.
GJELTENThank you, Nondonie. Moises Naim, we were talking during the break about how these elections really deserve more attention in America, then they've gotten.
NAIMExactly and as Nadia has pointed out, there has been very superficial, very limited coverage, both by the networks and by the mainstream media, in the United States. And it's interesting, Tom, how the two recent questions by the listeners, a point to the hopeful India and frustrating India. There is -- the frustrating India is this India that is -- has tensions between religions and ethnicities and casts and is a fragmented society that needs a lot of unity. It needs to be better integrated.
NAIMAnd then there is the hopeful India, the India that has ambitions and aspires to become an economic super power and has the talent and the drive and the ambition to be that. And has -- and as Nondanie said, these recent vote, that's point to a more mature electorate and that's point to a lot of potential for progress. But again, as I said before, high expectations breed -- are bound to breed frustrations. That always happens in politics. I hope it doesn't in this time. But again, this is a country with high expectations, with -- but -- with a lot of obstacles for reform.
GJELTENLet's turn our attention, now, to the ongoing hunt for those 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria who were kidnapped by the militant group, Boko Haram. The United States is now saying, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is now saying that the United States has deployed drones, unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, to help look for them. Phil writes us an email from Indianapolis, he says, "If -- " but on the other hand the United States is saying we're nuts sending U.S. troops in there to help look for them.
GJELTENPhil writes, "If Nigeria is unwilling to have foreign troops on its soil, to find the missing girls, what prevents them from hiring mercenaries, like Black Water, the former -- the group formerly known as Black Water, to find these girls and take out Boko Haram?" Mark Landler.
LANDLERWell, I mean, one of the hurdles here is not -- there's a very simple hurdle, which is that there is a fear that these girls are being held in widely dispersed -- over a widely dispersed area. And that just sending in some certain number of troops to find them in an area that is the size of West Virginia, is going to be extremely difficult. Add to that, the fact that the Nigerian military is rife with corruption and itself suspected of some, you know, fairly violent acts.
LANDLERAnd, so you hardly have a good partner to work with. So, I guess, the answer to the listeners question is that, there's nothing to stop the Nigerians, I suppose, except the question is, how much does it actually help? The reason that the United States, among other things, is so reluctant to do this, has to do with whether it would really have any value. And, indeed, yesterday there was some testimony by Pentagon officials on the Hill, expressing deep reservations about the capacity of the Nigerians to actually conduct this search in any competent way.
GJELTENYou know, Nadia Bilbassy, one of the things that has caught my attention here, as kind of a silver lining, is that this incident has precipitated more discussion about what Islam allows and what Islam does not...
GJELTEN...allow. We haven't seen so much discussion about Islamic law, Sharia and so forth. And putting Boko Haram in an Islamist context, we've seen a lot of talk about that in the last week or so.
BILBASSYAbsolutely. And this really interesting point, as you said, let's start by saying that Boko Haram, it translate as, what's a indication is a sin.
BILBASSYIt's a group that was established in 2002. Some say that, actually although it has an Islamic identity over Jihadist, according to some intelligence services, they have no link to al-Qaida in the Maghreb. And some actually say in that, it's more of an intra-ethnic problems in Nigeria. It's a vast country, the most populated country in Africa, between the Xhosa and the Fulani tribes, there's always been marginalized. But the fact that it's been put in into Islamic context is really interesting because, for decades, we have an equivalent to that in Uganda. Where the Lord resistant are...
GJELTENWhich was Christian.
BILBASSY...with the Christian with this crazy leader, Joseph Kony. And he's been doing exactly the same.
BILBASSYHe's been taking these women into slavery, into sex slaves, some even have babies out of -- in captivity, et cetera. And not many people talked about it. But the fact that now we talk about Sharia law, et cetera. Let me tell you something, that in Islam and the Koran, it is prohibited to take women and children as captives. It is -- in every single verses of the Koran and in the teaching of the Prophet himself. So these people do not present, even the most extremist of Islamic ideologies, that sometimes these people identify or trying to portray that they are Muslims.
BILBASSYAnd it's a very strange way of just going to take -- and I mean, basically, what they were doing now, is they're using it as a tactic of war. Just like they using rape in Congo, now that you go to a school and they took this 200 girls and they took them to an area by the Boko Haram operated in the Northeastern part of Nigeria, which is closer to the Cameroon area. So they hide in forests, as Mark said, it's very difficult to track and in caves.
BILBASSYBut on top of that, just one more point about the U.S. The U.S. cannot even send troops if they wanted to because there is a law. In 1997, it's called the Leahy law, that prohibit the U.S. of cooperating with military that's been accused of human rights violation.
GJELTENRight. Good point.
BILBASSYAnd the Nigerians has been even particularly with Boko Haram, on the human rights said that 900 died in custody under torture by the Nigerian authority.
GJELTENWell, Moises Naim, what the Lord's Resistance Army in Boko Haram may have in common is -- has nothing to do with religion but a type of warfare that actually goes back to mid-evil times, right?
NAIMYes, exactly. And these are highly primitive groups with very primitive ideas. And somehow getting a hold of advanced technologies. They have GPS...
NAIM...satellite phones and all kinds of modern technology. And Boko Haram, now, has become far more identified because of the kidnapping of the girls. But Boko Haram has assassinated 750 people in Nigeria since the beginning of the year. So, this is something that has also to do with the inability of the Nigerian government, to be effective in dealing with this threat.
GJELTENLet's go -- including Muslims, right.
GJELTENLet's go now to Chris who's on the line, from Hollywood, Fla. Hello, Chris, thanks for calling "The Diane Rehm Show."
CHRISYeah, hi. Thanks for having me. I just wanted to comment on or -- and ask a question. Where does America have the moral high ground to dictate to other countries what their policies should be, like, with Putin? And this isn't a far out question because we just had a legitimate presidential candidate, Rand Paul, state that Dick Cheney started a war to enrich himself. And this guy may be president of the United States. It's just come to light, that in Vietnam, and there was a book called, "Shoot Anything That Moved," that we establish free fire zones and we just kill anything in our path.
CHRISAnd this was kept quiet for 30 and 40 years. And just was released because the Freedom of Information Act. So, you know, we're torturing, we're extra judicial assassinating and one of your panelists is saying that we're not covering -- there's just superficial coverage of Indian elections. Well, it's just superficial coverage of American elections, so where do we have the moral high ground, I guess...
GJELTENOkay, let me ask you this, Chris. What do you think should be the U.S. response to Boko Haram in Nigeria to the killing in Syria to the violence in Ukraine? Should -- are you suggesting that the United States should just sit back and stay out of it these issues?
CHRISI am suggesting that. I think that the United States has David Shoup, the former commandant of the Marine Corp, said that these people have to sort out their own problems where the haves will not share with the have-nots. And we're very much on the road to that in the United States. I mean, the polarization and the income inequality. People are going to rise up. So, yes, it's tragic. What can we do though? And we have no moral, no moral authority to do anything. I mean...
GJELTENOkay. Sorry, Chris. Well, Mark Landler, that's certainly a point of view that is going to be well represented. I mean, we're not talking here about presidential elections. But it's fair to say that that's a point of view that is going to be well represented in the political debate.
LANDLERNo, there's no question about it. I mean, that is -- I mean, he's expressing it in a different way but the sentiment is very much what Rand Paul talks about and what makes Rand Paul attractive. And, frankly, it's what President Obama has struggled with over the past several years, as he's tried to, sort of, set out a new philosophy for when the U.S. should intervene, how it should intervene. And, you know, he finds himself often, in a fairly tough spot. In the case of Syria, you know, he's been attacked and I think with some justification for standing by while 150,000 people have been killed in the Civil War.
LANDLEROn the other hand, were he to go in, in any more aggressive way then he has, he would no doubt be crucified by many folks for that as well. So I think the listener may not of said it in my words but certainly those are ideas that are going to -- we're going to hear a lot about in the next few years.
GJELTENLet's talk for a moment about the European Union court ruling, saying subjects have the right to be forgotten. And this is with respect to Google, its respect -- with respect to searches that are done on the internet. And apparently, Nadia, this court is saying that people have the right not to have their name come up in an internet search.
BILBASSYThat's a verdict in the European Court of Justice, brought by a Spanish man who basically said that, he did a Google search of himself and it came up with some financial records, that it went to a decade before. And he said, it's not fair because it will jeopardize his future dealing. And he went to the court and demanded that Google should delete or not publish this information. And he won. And it became a rallying point for people who wanted free speech, saying, how could that happen?
BILBASSYYou know, maybe the government, next time will go to a court and say, I wanted this request to be deleted here and there. And people who regard privacy, saying, well, yes, we don't want too much of our information. What about teenagers whose been involved in drinking when they're 15, they don't want this to drag on for 20 years later and affect their future. So there is a debate on both sides, both are valid. And it's just interesting because it will put, again, the whole idea of search engines and Google's and Yahoo and public privacy into the debate.
GJELTENWell, Moises, we talked in the first hour about the issue of a free and open internet. Does this raise those issues of what kind of internet we're going to have, going forward?
NAIMSure. And we -- in the first hour, you talked about net neutrality...
NAIM...and about the need to regulate it. But also there is the other aspect of the internet, which our governments are censoring internet. So it's -- one is a matter of political, you know, calculations and censoring, it's truly part of that. The other is economic regulation of dominate players and monopoly behavior and exclusionary behavior on the part of some company. And here, what we have, is regulating, you know -- trying to help consumers. This is kind of consumer protection angled to this. The problem is, that we are facing a situation in which the technology must -- probably has moved farther ahead then society.
NAIMGoogle has said, for example, that it will need to build a, quote-unquote, "An Army of removal experts," in each of the 28 European union countries to deal with this. And they will have to have -- make their own judgments. I thought, what deserves to be taken out and what is there? So it's very complicated.
GJELTENMoises Naim is Chief International Columnist for El Pais. I've also been joined this hour by Nadia Bilbassy, senior correspondent for Al Arabiya and Mark Landler, White House correspondent for The New York Times. Thank you folks for coming in.
LANDLERThank you, Tom.
GJELTENAnd thanks for listening, I'm Tom Gjelten.
Most Recent Shows
Yahoo says information from 500 million users was stolen by hackers. This comes amid growing concern over intrusions into U.S. election systems. In an era of increasing state-sponsored cyber threats, protecting our personal data and the integrity of U.S. voting.
Charlotte police release video of the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott — but questions and doubts remain. The Washington Post's Wesley Lowery brings us the latest from Charlotte, North Carolina.
A fragile truce in Syria appears to be crumbling after new airstrikes in Aleppo. More than 100 migrants are reported drowned after a boat capsizes off the Egyptian coast. And the U.S. allows Boeing to sell passenger planes to Iran. A panel of journalists joins guest host Amy Walter for analysis of the week's top international news stories.