War On Terror

War On Terror : India- Pakistan Factors

Henry Kissinger once wrote in ‘The White House Years’ “History knows no resting places and no plateaus.” And on September 11 2001 as world watched in horror, consternation and disbelief, a bunch of barbarians hiding in remote caves in an impoverished country, dared to outrage the might of the citadel of West’s democracy. The clinical precision of the daring air strikes is now being followed up by equally lethal doses of bio-terror. For once the civilized world has woken up to the grim reality of its vulnerability that democratic values coupled with political hypocrisy and pseudo-strategic competition has brought about by an uncontrolled proliferation of knowledge and lack of will to check a parallel economy fuelled by drugs and illegal arms. “God can’t do this to America” was how the Americans expressed the shock and outrage with President Bush promising to deliver Osama bin Laden “dead or alive.” This formalized what now appears to be a long war against terror. (Editorial The Times of India 2 October 2001) The American determination was given a stamp of approval by the international community with Security Council adopting a resolution on counter terrorism. The resolution ( No 1373) provided a framework for collective action as it sought to deny funds, recruitment, weapon supplies and safe havens for terrorists. India welcomed the new resolution that translated the resolve of the international community into “concrete action through effective implementation and monitoring by the Security Council” but sought for a mechanism to ensure that individual countries curb extremist activity on their soil. (The Hindu 2 October 2001) At the UN General Assembly debate to discuss measures needed to combat terrorism, India’s proposal for a global convention on terrorism drew favorable responses from several countries, including Britain and France Echoing the concern, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the member states to ratify the convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings, and the 1999 convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism and drew attention to the fact that the negotiators on the comprehensive convention against terrorism were facing a difficult time especially on the definition of ‘terrorism’, and how to differentiate between ‘terrorism’ and ‘liberation movements’. It is on this issue that India stands hopelessly alone an issue which has the potential to unmask the hypocrisy of the current international effort to eliminate terrorism root and branch and has become an issue of convenience to justify innocent killings in the name of jehad.

The period witnessed intense diplomatic parleys with different countries going into an overdrive to explain stands taken or need to be taken in “war against terror.” Predictably, the center of focus remain on the countries in South Asia, mainly India and Pakistan besides Afghanistan. For Islamabad, ironic though it meant, the Washington predicament put the military administration in the midst of a “Hobson’s choice”- to be or not to be a part of the coalition against terror. It was Islamabad which played the role of the benefactor for Taliban propping it up with weapons, military training and logistics. Any support to US, passive or otherwise would mean a complete role reversal at much emotional and political costs. But Musharraf did not have much choice. He saw reason in transforming an inevitability into an opportunity that will get him access to doors in Washington closed down on his face when he staged the coup. There were also possibilities of bargaining a stand against Pakistan’s betenoire- India on Kashmir issue.

For New Delhi, this came as an opportunity to expose Pakistan as a sponsorer of international terrorism. What India wanted from US that the war on terrorism must truly be global. The terrorist outrage in Srinagar, which killed 38 people came just in time for New Delhi to convey its feelings that India has a right to act in its national interest. The visiting Indian External Affairs and Defence Minister, Mr. Jaswant Singh, during his talks with the U.S. President and the National Security Advisor, put forth the depth and width of India’s understanding of terrorism, especially as it pertains to the subcontinent; and is said to have rather forcefully argued that no distinction can be made in the fight against the global scourge. (Target all outfits like Al-Qaeda: The Hindu 3 October 2001) In this war of wits India got its concerns endorsed by the British Premier. London expressed its solidarity with India’s desire to tackle terrorism on a global scale and concurred that terrorism could not be dealt with in compartments and had to be “viewed globally and tackled globally.” (The Hindu 4 October 2001)

Pakistan’s emergence as a frontline state in the global war against terrorism was quickly perceived as detrimental to Indo-U.S. relations though in official circles the perception was otherwise. “I see no reason why it should harm our ties with the U.S. as India’s relations with America are based on some strong fundamentals. The U.S. sees India as a strategic partner in the region, and both nations have a shared commitment to democracy. There is no change in these fundamentals,” said the Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr. Omar Abdullah. (The Hindu 4 October 2001) But in all appearance, India now has come to find that its courtship with the United States is almost as good as being over. India got to see the developments as contrary to its interests. The turn around has been quite dramatic. Three weeks ago, India was the apple of the American eye, a favorite of its high-tech industry, a soft spot to the media, and a darling of Washington’s army of lawmakers and lobbyists. Praises were sung of its democracy and diversity, its vibrant info-tech industry, its colorful cinema and classy cuisine, and its lively literary flourishes. A single event marked an end to all this and more. (The Times of India 6 October 2001) India is rapidly being relegated to the backwoods in the selective struggle against terrorism orchestrated by the United States.

Thus there was ample apprehensions of Pakistan having “scored” over India in the post-September 11 global “war against terror” and that India has “lost out.” Though this perception is largely an outcome of reading the situation on an “innings to innings basis” without considering the stakes at the long run, the concerns are not entirely unfounded in the context of regional geo-politics (The Pioneer 10 October 2001) and the possibility of the US extending economic assistance to arms supply. “India understands that in the present context the US has to use the facilities Pakistan provides for the war against the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden but if the US goes beyond economic aid to the supply of arms to Pakistan, India will be concerned because the only use Pakistan has made of American-supplied arms in the past is against India,” Lalit Mansingh Indian ambassador to US. (The Times of India 12 October 2001)

India sought to remind the British Premier that September 11 cannot be treated as an isolated issue of terrorism. “We are fighting a global war and there has to be a global solution,” Citing the suicide bomb attack in Srinagar, the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, today urged the world community to restrain individual countries from pursuing their own terrorist agenda in the name of counter-terrorism campaign ‘‘Even while extending our support to the pursuit of the guilty terrorists of September 11, we should not let countries pursue their own terrorist agenda under cover of this action.’’ Condoning a terrorist in one place, he said. ‘‘may lay the foundation for a far more virulent act elsewhere.’’ (The Hindu 7 October 2001) It is in this context that India’s veiled threats for hot pursuit may been seen as an act of desperation to be taken seriously. “Hot pursuit is very much on the agenda, but the option does not necessarily have to be solely military” The Minister of State for External Affairs. (The Hindu 8 October 2001) Outside the government, the mood was reflective of a growing impatience with the president of the leading political party asserting that the BJP-led NDA Government had been guided by its national interest in takings steps to wage its battle against terrorism on its own and not be dependent on the U.S. for it. (The Hindu 9 October 2001)

For much of this predicament, New Delhi has only itself to blame. “If anything, by treating America as the final arbiter, we have quietly and unselfconsciously undermined our own pretensions of being a regional power, of de-hyphenating ourselves from Pakistan in the context of American foreign policy, and, finally, of treating Kashmir as a bilateral issue.” (Edit: The Times of India 8 October 2001)

It therefore made sense for New Delhi to take a diplomatic route to stay involved by announcing its interest to send humanitarian relief to Afghanistan on its own. We are working on plans to increase aid of this type than giving military aid (The Indian Defence Ministry The Hindu 10 October 2001) India also played host to a series of visitors from countries which will have a major say in the formation of the future dispensation of Afghanistan

What are the lessons then for India? For one India must learn to extend the contours of national interest beyond parochial and sectarian issues. By organizing an international coalition against terror Washington could demonstrate that having world visions can have satisfying consequences. It could project an otherwise isolated attack as a threat to all countries requiring a strong multi-national global response. (The Times of India 16 October 2001) It is a measure of its clout as well as diplomatic persuasiveness that US has never been required to face a challenge alone. This has been made possible by making an effort to align its own national interest with larger concerns of humanity. New Delhi, unfortunately has to go a long way beyond its myopic policies of putting all issues involving national interest through Islamabad test.

Second, the country of such size and technological potential need not get uncomfortable with changes in global power equations if it manages to present a coherent and determined policy initiative. It was argued that India did not exercise the option of hot pursuit or striking identified terrorist training camps for fear of nuclear retaliation. Even as the argument falls on its face to the extent that it takes a naïve to use nuclear weapons under such circumstances, there are other options as well. Strengthening its intelligence network, and addressing the local issues on which terrorists thrive can be such options.

Compiled from media sources


Arabinda Acharya