LAHORE - Indians are always very slow moving almost like an elephant. Things move very slowly. It means Delhi as a decision making place is so full of internal politics with local elections going on all the time that they do not concentrate on how the world is changing, author and renowned American journalist Max Rodenbeck told The Nation.

Rodenbeck stated this in an interview with The Nation held during the Lahore Literary Festival 2017.

He was answering a query about how he felt the region is changing with new mega projects like CPEC and possibility of realignments among States.

“India has had obviously difficult relationship with China and Pakistan. India has finally realised that is nowhere in the changing game. This is the reason India has opened strategic dialogue with China. They don’t know the motivation of China behind economic corridor policy this but they are trying to figure it out,” Rodenbeck, who is these days working in New Delhi said.

Rodenbeck has been writing for the Economist magazine on Middle Eastern affairs for more than 20 years.

He was in Lahore recently to speak in a session ‘Fake news’ at the LLF.

“It varies from country to country, and there are two kind of fake news, one is generated unintentionally and other is generated with intention. In Middle East the governments put in news to distort the real picture in front of people to accomplish their agenda.

“The Syrian regime was accusing Al-Jazeera Channel for building fake television studios and uploading fake images which was not true. In the end, people were not sure who was speaking the truth.

“It is not always the case that resources are involved to spread fake news. Some people have resources but they don’t intend to spread fake news. Perhaps, they believe in more freedom of Press. But in the context, where government controls the Press a lot, there the intent could have been much more than other scenarios.

“On the other hand, there is another truth that of silencing Opposition through imprisonment and attacking the Opposition. There is whole range of different tools to snub the Opposition voices. Fake news is only one of them.

“Fake news came into limelight and world’s consciousness because of Donald Trump phenomenon, the so called leader of the free world. Trump is doing exactly what is done by dictators,” Rodenbeck said.

“In Egypt for the first time in 30 years there was a moment when people rejoiced in the real freedom. This went on for couple of years. When there were real questions being raised, when real investigative works was being done that raise human rights issues. And then it all was closed. Now you have a sad situation where journalists are depressed and fearful because they may end up in prison. There are news organisations which came under squeeze. People don’t believe in the news anymore because of government control. The government is squeezing on both sides.

“This is period of transition. Social media or you can state a new media has become an active player. The transition is going to be painful,” he said.

Answering question on the situation in Libya and Syria affecting Egypt, he said that it’s a quagmire. “Egyptian government is already taking sides in both countries. They are trying to pick winners.

“Moreover, there is an obsession and hate against Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan al-Muslimeen). They are trying to back any force which is against the Muslim Brotherhood. At the same time in Syria the Egyptian government has chosen to back Syrian regime of Basharul Assad,” he said.

“Liberal Egyptians and minorities are trying to leave the country. It just a sad situation as economy is not doing well.

“It’s been a pattern in the Middle East for last 40 years that Christians are just leaving in bigger numbers,” Rodenbeck said.

“There is polarisation but in actual position the average Egyptian is somewhere in the middle. They feel themselves trapped between two sides. So there are a lot of people in Egypt who don’t like the regime but they hate the Muslim Brotherhood as well.

“There is little room for working of NGOs, because of government’s crackdown,” he said.

Answering on the realignment of countries in the region, Rodenbeck said that things are happening at a rapid pace.

“One of them is China is becoming more prominent these days and US is under irrational leadership. There is a growing bond in local and regional powers like Iran has more power than before. It’s become a multi polar world already.

“American withdrawal in the Middle East has created a vacuum due to which terrible things are happening. Russia and Iran are jumping to fill the vacuum and that has led to more destabilisation,” he was of the view.

Rodenbeck said that the disintegration of some of the Middle East has left Israel as a very strong power.

“Israel has no challenge anymore,” he maintained.

“Israelis are getting away with whatever they want. Nobody talks about Palestine anymore. After Arab spring, each country is more focused on its regional interests and securing its own survival,” Rodenbeck said.