by Vladimir Radyuhin
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The West is using radical Islam as a tool in geopolitical games for dominance, Indian and Russian scholars have said in a unique collaborative project presented in Moscow this week. The project, “Radical Islam”, a 480-page collection of papers prepared by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi, and the Experimental Creative Centre (ECC), Moscow, was unveiled at a press conference in Moscow.
Edited by Sergei Kurginyan, ECC president, and Vikram Sood, vice-president, ORF, Centre for International Studies, it offers a fresh perspective on radicalisation of Islam, placing it in a wider geopolitical and philosophical framework. It examines the roots, the contexts and manifestations of radicalism in Islam, as well as activities of Islamists in South Asia, Central Asia, Iran, the Middle East, Europe and the former Soviet Union. Presenting their joint study, Indian and Russian scholars noted the West’s role in playing the card of radical Islam.
‘A factor since Partition’
“The West has been using religion and religious violence to promote separatism since the partition of India,” said Ambassador M. Rasgotra, President, ORF, Centre for International Relations. “The British were the first to do it in India, then the Americans learnt the trick. They incited jihad in Afghanistan, stirred separatism to break-up the Soviet Union and tried to tear Chechnya from post-Soviet Russia.” Dr. Kurginyan said that Russia still faced the danger of the West trying to re-enact the “Afghan scenario,” when radical Islam was used to provoke instability. He recalled that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had cultivated and financed Islamic radicals in Afghanistan to drag the Soviet Union militarily into civil strife in that country in 1979.
One of the Russian contributions in the book analyses the U.S.’ “deepening alliance with Islamism” along the vast southern “arc of instability” stretching from Northern Africa to the Chinese border. This strategy included the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, the arming of the Afghan Mujahideen, the support of Muslim radicals in former Yugoslavia, cultivation of “moderate” Islamists in the Middle East, and finally, “the new alliance with Pakistan” to reintegrate the Taliban into the political mainstream in Afghanistan. The scholars noted the special importance of the Indian and Russian perspectives on Islam as it differed greatly from the Western perspective. “The West tends to look at Islam in black-and-white, while Indian and Russian researchers look at it in [a] multiplicity of identities, discourses and ideas,” Mr. Sanjoy Joshi, ORF said.
“Islam has been [a] part of life both in India and Russia for centuries, whereas the West in those same centuries was the oppressor of Islam,” Mr. Rasgotra said, adding that India and Russia had much to gain from sharing their experiences in handling the problem of radical Islam. “The nature of the problem is the same, even as its manifestations may be different. Your experience is relevant to us and our experience is relevant to you,” he stressed.
Dr. Kurginyan hailed the project on as a “revival of scholarly cooperation” between the two countries. “I’ve never seen such a meeting of minds between researchers from different countries as in this Indo-Russian project.”
“Radical Islam” has been brought out in Russian and its English edition is to be published in India. The editors said the ORF and ECC, planned to undertake further studies of Islam and other issues of mutual interest.