September 15, 2001


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The Rediff Special/ Arvind Deo

A wake up call for America
A wake up call for America

Until now the Americans thought terrorism happens to other people. They accepted that isolated incidents could take place in the US or may affect US interests abroad as it happened in the 1998 bombing of America's embassies in East Africa.

India has been saying all along that this is a proxy war. We have been a victim of terrorism for the last 12 years. It is being sponsored by a country with its own agenda. Most times, the world did not understand what we were trying to say. Now, it has acquired different dimensions. It is a very sad day but, nevertheless, it is a wake up call for America.

The Afghan war and its domino effect

American foreign policy has been somewhat confused. The Americans were trying to undo the Soviet Union and the system it represented. In the process, they launched a course of action in Afghanistan through Pakistan which allowed the infiltration of arms and drug money. What they didn't realise is there are no quick-fix solutions. The US wanted to complete in four years what would normally have taken 50 years to evolve in the 19th century,

A numbers of weapons were inducted in the Afghan war, a number of normal considerations were bypassed. As a fall-out of the Afghan war, Pakistan was allowed to conduct its nuclear programme. In the process, the US has created monsters like Osama bin Laden and Pakistan's nuclear programme that will consume them.

Pakistan: Headquarters of terrorism

In the past, serving Pakistan armed forces officers have been caught smuggling drugs on PIA flights to New York. What is there to prevent somebody from packing a suitcase of nuclear weapons and flying to the US?

That was the beginning, but the Americans didn't notice.

Americans, as a matter of policy, turned a blind eye to Pakistan's nuclear efforts because that was one of the conditions imposed by President Zia-ul Haq in return for Islamabad's cooperation. China has been supporting Pakistan's nuclear plans because they always believed America would tolerate it. We hope America will change its stand now.

In Afghanistan, the system changed when the so-called democratic government was overthrown. Foolishly, the Soviet Union intervened and triggered off the Afghan resistance movement fuelled by money and weapons. The latter, in their thousands, were pilfered by Pakistan's Inter-State Intelligence. According to an estimate, Pakistan now has over one million Kalashnikovs. This is a formula for spawning terrorism.

America's four year pulses

America's major failure is that it has not realised the world does not operate in four year pulses, when American presidential elections are held. If you undertake a foreign policy posture, it must span two or three administrations.

All American foreign policy efforts has been pulsated. The Vietnam war went in four year pulses. The Kennedy pulse, the Johnson pulse, part one of the Nixon pulse when he wanted to withdraw from Vietnam, part two of the Nixon pulse when he ended up withdrawing from Indo-China. It took Carter in his last phase, the Reagan pulse and the Bush pulse in the 1980s to sort out the Iraq problem. You cannot conduct historical operations in four years. It takes 10 to 20 years.

Strike down terrorism

Never mind the root cause of the September 11 event. This is not the time to discuss how America contracted the disease. It is time to treat it. Justice can wait. America must strike at the roots of the problem.

Strike down terrorism. Period.

The terrorism in New York and Washington is the result of the fundamentalists's belief that they are being persecuted because of their faith. They add they are weak and cannot fight back in the legitimate and customary manner, so they resort to non-conventional means.

Americans will now have to think in terms of non-conventional responses to terrorism. If they don't, America's fate will be like the Greeks and Romans. It could also happen to India. In order to meet barbaric threats, one has to adopt hard means.

There are no simple solutions to terrorism. Any country which takes a threat to its vital concerns seriously must learn to hit hard and have no regrets. Otherwise, it means you have not been hit hard enough. Both Washington and New Delhi need to realise this.

India's worry, post September 11, 2001

This has been discussed many times by experts, but let me discuss this again. When America sought Pakistan's support to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Zia extracted two major promises from America. One, as I said above, was to ask America to turn a blind eye to Pakistan's nuclear programme. Second, Zia asked the US to not press for democracy in Pakistan. So, on one hand, Pakistan had the nuclear bomb and, on the other, Zia was assured of the stability of his rule. The confident Zia then waged a proxy war against India.

India's security apparatus has a new worry. In the last 48 hours, General Musharraf has repeatedly told the US and the world that Pakistan will support America in its war against terrorism. Musharraf can't make such an offer without repercussions within his country unless he has the support of the maulvis and fundamentalists. If he has sincerely made this offer, it must mean he must have, or will extract in the near future, some promise from America. What could that promise be?

America's support for Kashmir?

We don't know. But we must start worrying. Our security apparatus should debate this. If America is not ready to address Pakistan's quid pro quo demands in the near future, the maulvis will not share Musharraf's enthusiasm in helping America hit out against the jehadis. This means Musharraf's support to America would, sooner than later, Talebanise Pakistan. Again, that situation would not help India.

What do the jehadis believe in?

Let us understand one thing very clearly, Osama bin Laden is not an entity living on a branch of a tree like a parrot. He is being bolstered, financed and supported by the ISI. There is enough evidence to prove this. Add to this Dawood Ibrahim, who is hiding in Karachi, and you realise the international mafia link.

What are the Americans waiting for? Do they want an attack on the White House before they are convinced?

America should strike at the roots. When the WTC was attacked in 1993, Ramzi Yousuf was arrested. How did this help? There is greater gain in hitting the corporate headquarters of terror; I am referring to Pakistan. Pakistan-based jehadis believe they have a God-given mandate to carry on the jehad against the rest of the world.

There are no limits to this madness.

There are so many Pakistani jehadi groups taking about finishing their agenda with India and then moving to convert the rest of the world, including the US and China, to the 'true faith.' Even China faces a threat from jehadi groups in its Muslim-dominated Xinjiang province.

A study of Pakistan-based jehadi groups suggests there are as many versions of what true jehad means as there are believers.

According to some Pakistani scholars, jehad is the struggle against the evil within oneself. For others, there is just one version of truth and, if you don't believe in it, he must persuade you to do so by force (jehad) if necessary. For them, caste and race comes later. There is a saying in Sanskrit that there are various ways to approach the truth. Wise people say there is no one way to reach the truth. But the jehadis don't accept that.

It is never too late. The time is ripe for a major operation. The Americans have India's sympathy and India will certainly cooperate.

India has yet another lesson to learn from September 11. All sensitive departments should not be located on Raisina Hill. Why are North and South Blocks clustered together? Why are the naval headquarters located in Delhi and not in Mumbai or Kochi?

The message is clear: Those who want to hurt you will not issue a warning. They have shown their might. No advance notice. No calls. No threats. Just strikes.

We have known for a long time that Pakistan harbours terrorist training camps. Yet, we have done nothing about it.

Running the State is an a ruthless affair. The State has to survive to serve the people's interest. Right?

Arvind Deo, a retired Indian Foreign Service officer and former ambassador to Nepal, is now editor of the daily Public Opinion And Trends that focuses on the Indian subcontinent and Pakistan in particular. He spoke to Senior Editor Sheela Bhatt.

Also see:
Terrorism in America: The complete coverage

Design: Uttam Ghosh

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