London: New forms of racketeering have been institutionalised by India’s political elite, with a huge proliferation of the disturbing phenomena during United Progressive Alliance rule. As India’s economy has grown, the greed of its political and bureaucratic elites has ascended new heights. They are compromising India’s well-being and security on a scale that will lead to easily foreseeable devastating consequences. Bureaucrats and politicians have taken to extorting payments from businesses by ruthlessly wielding state power. One major industry that has become a conduit for laundering the proceeds of high crime is India’s airline sector. The ownership of some airlines is unclear, as Arun Shourie’s bombshell statement in the Lok Sabha revealed in August 2001. It is suspected they are being fronted on behalf of Indian politicians and international terrorists engaged in war against India and its people. Some of these people live in security and comfort in Pakistan and their dual operational headquarters is the United Arab Emirates, most particularly Dubai. This is the city whose privileged Arab denizens espouse shameless racial contempt towards South Asians and justify, according to the London Guardian, the appalling treatment of migrant labour that created the glitz and prosperity of Dubai by asserting, "We need slaves to build monuments. Look who built the pyramids -- they were slaves."

A stratagem to launder and bring black money back into India is through investments by beneficiaries of corrupt favours in shell companies owned by nominees of senior politicians or via donations to fictitious charitable activities of their relatives. The Aircel Maxis scandal has blown this type of criminal activity wide open but the scale is truly staggering. Almost all business deals, unfailingly subject to regulatory approval, oblige payments to key political families, whether they are for contracts to provide seats on Air India’s Boeing fleet, from a firm deemed unsuitable by Boeing itself, or for the entry of foreign direct investment into India in retail. Scams and outright robbery have become so brazen that exempting members of Indian political families from airport security and customs’ scrutiny is leading to extraordinary malfeasance, from importing foreign and counterfeit currency to exporting stolen heritage artefacts. It is pertinent that knowledgeable insiders indicate it is not Switzerland where the proceeds of Indian crime, including extortion by politicians, are concealed. Contrary to the mystifying obsessions of some, who rail against black money, it is Hong Kong, Singapore and, most of all, Dubai where the proceeds of global crime are secreted. Indian businessmen in Hong Kong express exasperation at the regularity with which they are approached by Indian politicians to invest sums in excess of £5 million.

All the evidence suggests that bribery was the catalyst that allowed FDI into Indian retail, permitting entry to players whose known behaviour suggests they are latter day counterparts of the marauding East India Company. Numerous legal disputes and instances of political protest against them can be discovered from a cursory scan of the Internet. The stipulations and provisions that will supposedly regulate their conduct and obligations do not matter one whit because once established within India they will buy the legislation necessary for a malleable political environment and illegitimate profiteering. It might be noted that the moment the prime minister and a totally untrustworthy Central Bureau of Investigation fail to find evidence of corruption in a particular instance, it points to the involvement of the most powerful in the land. More to the point in the case of the proposed Etihad purchase of equity in Jet Airways is the UAE’s reputation as the financial counterpart to the operational terror hub that is Pakistan, with which it enjoys the most intimate ties. Significantly, like another organisation, popular in Pakistan for charitable work, which has promised a war of annihilation against India, Etihad Airways is also involved in good works in Pakistan.

The UAE origin of Etihad Airways exhorts urgent and searching scrutiny of its proposed acquisition of equity in Jet Airways to enter the Indian market. Unfortunately, investigation of the Jet Airways-Etihad deal by official agencies, particularly the Central Bureau of Investigation, suggests that political families, who will be the key beneficiaries of the purchase, are covertly organizing the basis for a clean chit to it. The long-term profitability of the Indian airline market is guaranteed since air travel within the country will grow by leaps and bounds in coming decades. The resulting huge proceeds may well accrue to hostile agencies that will use them to continue waging war against India. One negative outcome will be to further undermine Air India, which has already led to huge costs for the taxpayer, because politicians have interfered wilfully with its operations to make it less and less attractive to customers. Yet, in its unseemly haste to plug the balance of payments deficit, the United Progressive Alliance is rushing headlong into an array of murky international financial deals that will do untold long-term harm to the Indian economy though the corrupt will of course benefit.

Perhaps calling an election soon will be prudent since so much worse is in prospect for the Indian economy and its people by the time of its scheduled final date. A regime in disarray and fearful of the exposure of its serial acts of illegality and constitutional improprieties is capable of making arbitrary compromises to save itself. Foreign agencies known to collect evidence of such misconduct assiduously are likely pressing India to make concessions on a number of critical issues and effectively surrender national interests. In the meantime, Mumbai is becoming a mere outpost of Dubai’s criminal reach rather than dominating the ocean rim that separates them, as it should by virtue of sheer size. Its starlets rush there to entertain and Indian politicians to hide ill- gotten riches, betraying vital national interests to the very people waging war against their own country, in a form of sell-out with few historical parallels.