By Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao
Havana syndrome which was hitherto restricted to Cuba and USA and the covert intelligence operations of CIA has suddenly dragged the name of India and it’s capital New Delhi and the Indian media splashed the news, first floated by CNN, without making any cross checking on the veracity of the claims made by that channel. The term Havana syndrome named by American Intelligence Agencies has surfaced five years back but was never established by any credible agency or through evidence. Even BBC in its news spoke about the alleged Havana syndrome being something connected to the mind rather than any new kind of surveillance. Internal records of US intelligence have reportedly noted that some of its agents and diplomatic staff posted in Cuba inflicted with peculiar disease with undefined symptoms which they wanted to name and spread as Havana syndrome.
Now CNN claims that such syndrome is witnessed in one of the American staff which visited New Delhi in the first week of September as a part of CIA delegation led by its own Chief Bill Burns. Now there are two questions one posed by the Americans and other posed by other countries. While Americans accuse the other nations targeting its staff with mental destruction the other nations question the very existence of Havana syndrome and say that the said syndrome may be the creation of the American diplomatic staff to cover its own failures in reporting on vital matters of American interests to their bosses in New York.
Havana syndrome, as coined by CIA, is now into its fifth year. It all started from the complaints received from the American diplomats posted in Cuba of with some peculiar symptoms. The symptoms include hearing buzzing sounds of piercing sequels that didn’t go away even when they covered their ears. Others have reported hearing a low hum and feeling intense pressure on their skulls. Those affected by the syndrome experienced dizziness and fatigue for months and as per American media reports some of those staff suffering from Havana syndrome were asked to retire as they failed to respond to the medical treatment and their condition worsened. However none of them were reported die because of this Havana syndrome.
Despite all this talk of new syndrome in the media not much was placeed in the public domain by USA despite wide ranging investigations undertook by its intelligence agencies, barring that the symptoms could have resulted because of the microwave effect from unspecified source. This is despite the 100 day investigation and study into probable cause for such ill health of CIA staff. American’s themselves admit privately that Havana syndrome is yet to be established and uncovering of the truth of Havana syndrome is a national security priority. One of the officials as reported by BBC has described this investigation as the most difficult intelligence challenge they have ever faced. Ignoring all the available material the news hungry, sensational mongering and anti-India media has raked up the Havana syndrome issue linking to Indian soil indirectly alleging that India is doing what Cubans has done to the American staff earlier.
The CNN reported that one of the member of the American CIA delegation led by Bill Burns which recently visited India and Pakistan to discuss about the Afghanistan issue complained about the symptoms of Havana syndrome. However there was no official complaint or comment on that CNN report. The CNN story gave a slant of failure of American intelligence agency as it claimed that CIA Chief Burns trip was highly secretive yet the ‘enemy’ could identify, locate and inflict the target with those ‘micro waves’ causing the dizziness. CNN also linked the same Havana syndrome effect on some of the staff accompanying the Ms. Kamala Harris which delayed the tour of the Vice-President’s tour to Vietnam. The CNN story further quotes an unnamed official of CIA of its chief Bill Burns ‘fuming with anger’ on knowing this. It further quotes that the episode which has happened is a newly taken over US administration that “no one is safe from us including your own intelligence agency director”.
The CNN story till now has no official response either from America or India. However this CNN report can’t be ignored from the Indian point of view as that media is known to build an anti-Indian narrative to suit the known enemies of India. This CNN report needs to be analyzed and challenged as it is obviously a motivated propagandist report intended to damage the image and interests of India.
The CIA team visited not only Delhi but also Islamabad and the official complained of symptoms not while in Delhi but after completing Pakistan leg of tour and after reaching the US. For those believers of Havana syndrome and the microwave attack on the CIA staff two kinds of doubts should have come to mind. First, whether one particular staff can specifically be targeted in a delegation with microwaves and with a single exposure to those alleged microwave exposure can develop symptoms. Agreed that CIA staff are targeted by some external agency can a friendly country like India chose to attack a team coming especially for the discussion on all important Afghan crisis.
While Indian image with the friendly nations was never in question Pakistan never enjoys such a good reputations. More over Islamabad is fully infested with the presence of Chines personal of all wings including its intelligence wing. Attempt by the Chinese, which has similar single party dictatorship like Cuba, is possibility which can’t be ignored. CNN by not mentioning the possible suspicion on Islamabad stop of CIA team and naming only New Delhi in its report makes the intentions of the media hose more suspect. Is CNN telecasting a China planted story? Or is that agency trying to do its typical anti-Indian stories for a fee sponsored by a Chinese funded organizations. Such organizations, too many, are known to exist on US soil.
The reasons in spreading a motivated news may not be known but the way reporting was made is certainly alarming and India needs to decode that CNN syndrome along with the alleged Havana syndrome origin from Indian soil.
(Author is retired professor and occasional contributor for dailies and magazines on politics and environmental issues. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)