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India And The Libyan Cauldron – OpEd


Last Tuesday when the Indian Parliament was busy adopting a unanimous resolution to decry any effort of a regime change in Libya, Muammar Gaddafi’s loyal forces were equally occupied in shelling civilian homes in the western town of Misrata.


As if taking cue from the wholehearted Indian support, Gaddafi’s marauding troops wasted no time in ambushing a car that killed its occupants instantaneously. All of them, including four juveniles were charred to death leaving the entire humanity horrified.

That India is calculating the cost-benefit of keeping Gaddafi in good humor is evident from the foreign office statement of calling for an immediate cessation of air strike on Libyan military bases by allied aircrafts.

Perhaps the Gaddafi regime’s latest offer of exclusive oil contract as an enticement has swayed the Indian political establishment to such an extent that they are ready to abandon the facade of promoting civil liberties, being the largest democracy on earth.

New Delhi is hardly touched by the butchering of a growing number of civilians at the behest of Gaddafi in his frenzied bid to hold on to power. The suddenly hyperactive foreign office remained cool to the killing of civilians and protestors by mercenaries airlifted from Niger, Sudan, Mali and Chad. There was not a single word of condemnation when corpses were dragged away in an effort to conceal the death toll.

And yet, the country of a billion plus has been espousing the cause of ushering democratic values worldwide.


Perhaps the US State Department spokesperson has aptly summed up the dichotomy by asserting that civilized society owes an explanation for the Indian volte-face. There indeed is no readymade answer to this paradox of a nation having openly countenanced the slaughter of innocent civilians in Libya remaining a serious contender for United Nations Security Council permanent membership.


India’s decision to keep out of the Libyan cauldron despite possessing a good leverage to manipulate Gaddafi is highly mysterious. It is an open secret that successive Indian governments have nurtured Muammar Gaddafi ever since the now obsolete non-alignment days.

Even, the Indian security Diaspora has invested heavily in creating asset within the Gaddafi regime. They are known to maintain a workable and cordial relationship with the infamous Libyan security apparatus till date.

The Libyan dictator’s idiosyncratic approach of embracing socialism had mesmerized the Indian political class in such a way that they continue to suffer from sudden bouts of Gaddafi-obsession.

New Delhi never hesitated to pamper this canny political operator in spite of knowing his authoritarian traits. His dexterous exploitation of Libya’s oil wealth to secure absolute power and the tendency to buy out loyalty was intentionally disregarded by New Delhi and many of the world powers. A sense of invincibility encouraged him in resorting to intimidation when voices of dissent were heard. The dictator displayed a sharp tactical acumen in vanquishing his enemies, weakening the military power structure, keeping the tribes divided and instilling fear in the mind of Islamic radicals.

As the exiled Libyan opposition leader Mohamed Ben Ghalbon points out in an exclusive interview to this author, Gaddafi had worked systematically since his early days in power to eliminate any potential alternative. Ben Ghalbon laments that the West accepted this status quo as long as Gaddafi retained his grip over the source of oil.

In the meantime stealthy efforts are on to create a rift within the international community. The sole objective is to blunt the efficacy of Operation Odyssey Dawn. Gaddafi has been apparently advised to dig his heels until the allied forces lose its hunger and momentum in Libya.

Though an air embargo might have provided a level playing field for the conflicting parties to fight it out evenly, there remain serious doubts about the ability of the disorganized rebel group without a proper command structure to confront Gaddafi in his Tripoli den.

The Arab League and Libyan opposition has already voiced their aversion to any western military intervention on the ground and the United States seems to have lost the stomach for lengthening the present military onslaught. In these circumstances a stalemate in Libya might be utilized by Gaddafi followers to trigger a sectarian strife.

As a security expert once told this author, Gaddafi will never miss any opportunity to influence the internal events given his penchant for divide and rule. In fact he expressed no remorse for stoking rivalry between his sons and that defines Muammar Gaddafi – the blue eyed boy of China, Russia, India and some other nations who swear by socialism.

Therefore, the onus lies on the leadership of these countries to use their unique position in nudging Gaddafi into accepting an amicable settlement whereby he will step down in exchange of asylum and immunity from prosecution.

Last but not the least, a broad based transitional council comprising of secularists, monarchists, hardliners and representatives from the disparate tribal community must be set up to guide Libya towards its tryst with representative democracy.

Seema Sengupta

Seema Sengupta is a journalist based in Kolkata, India and a Contributing Writer for The Korea Times, Seoul. Her articles have been published by Asia Times Online, South China Morning Post, The Bengal Post and other newspapers. Recipient of National Award for Excellence in appreciation of excellent services rendered in the field of Freelance Journalism, 1999. She can be reached at [email protected]

2 thoughts on “India And The Libyan Cauldron – OpEd

  • March 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Seema Sengupta should look at the state of democracy in her own home state, West Bengal where poor civilians are caught up in the fight between armed Maoist rebels and the ruling Communist Party (Marxists) goons, instead of worrying about democracy in distant Libya.

    Ms.Sengupta has failed to realize the real intention behind this intervention – oil not democracy. Otherwise the democratic West would have intervened in Bahrain too where the protesters are really unarmed civilians unlike the armed rebels of Libya.

    • March 25, 2011 at 7:20 pm

      I do agree that democracy has been usurped in my home province but a regime change is imminent. The winds of change will surely sweep the incumbent Marxist government out of power in the upcoming elections.

      Regarding Libya – India’s stand is indeed influenced by oil politics. Please do not forget the infamous tête-à-tête between Muammar Gaddafi and Indian Envoy M Manimecklai regarding oil contract and commission. Let me also add that the protestors in Libya taking up arms do not necessarily condone Muammar Gaddafi’s crime. Nobody can deny his role in Lockerbie and Berlin (1986) bombing, shooting of a British police officer in London and carrying out mass murder of 1200 prisoners in Abu Saleem prison in 1996 apart from systematically throttling the democratic structure in the country.

      Seema Sengupta.


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