BY ANINDYA BANERJEE
New Delhi, June 26 (IANS) Was the donation from the Chinese Embassy towards the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) just a tip of the iceberg or was it an aberration?
IANS has learnt that between 2004 and 2005, the Foundation, which is now run by Sonia Gandhi, had ran the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies (RGICS), which in turn was linked to a body that the US government in a ‘staff research report’ in 2018 called a “front organisation”, which performed “dual roles of intelligence collection and conducting propaganda and perception management campaigns”.
In other words, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, which is in the eye of a political storm right now, had association with a Chinese body between 2004 and 2005 which the US government alleged in 2018 to be involved in intelligence collection.
The RGF in its website claims that the role of Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies involved primarily research activities, activities with schools and the China Association for International Friendly Contact (CAIFC).
Now the role of CAIFC has become a matter of concern. The US published a report in August 2018 under the name “China’s overseas United Front Work: Background and implications for the United States”.
It was written by Alexander Bowe, who was a policy analyst in security and foreign affairs. The report alleged, “…the China Association for International Friendly Contact (CAIFC), a front organisation for the former General Political Department, performs dual roles of intelligence collection and conducting propaganda and perception management campaigns…”
The report also alleged that CAIFC, along with a host of Chinese organisations, work at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The report further alleged that CAIFC is part of many other organisations which the Liaison Department of the former People’s Liberation Army General Political Department (GPD), “facilitated”.
This new revelation has come in the wake of the BJP citing donations made by the Chinese Embassy and the government of the People’s Republic of China to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, which was also alleged to have received donations from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.
In fact, on Friday, BJP President J.P. Nadda lashed out at the Congress, saying, “PMNRF, meant to help people in distress, was donating money to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in the UPA years. Who sat on the PMNRF board? Sonia Gandhi. Who chairs RGF? Sonia Gandhi. Totally reprehensible, disregarding ethics and processes and not bothering about transparency.”
In the backdrop of rising anti-China sentiments across the country after 20 Indian soldiers were martyred in eastern Ladakh on June 15 following a bloody clash with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops, the association between the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and China has put the grand old party in an uncomfortable position.
Now RGF’s past association with a Chinese front organisation alleged to have intelligence collection background coming to fore has surely complicated the matter for the Congress, whose interim President now heads the Foundation named after her deceased husband.
IANS contacted at least three Congress spokespersons, including its chief spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala. However, no one responded.
Earlier, speaking about the RGF’s donation allegations, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera had termed it as a “diversionary tactic”, while alleging that “the government is fighting the Congress instead of fighting China”.
However, the BJP was unsparing. Reacting to the development, BJP’s social media wing shief Amit Malviya told IANS, “Is this association between the RGF and CAIFC surprising? It is a reassertion of what we have always been claiming.”
(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at Anindya.firstname.lastname@example.org)