September 18, 2001


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Arvind Lavakare

Irony or retribution?

It would be utterly hypocritical of a true Indian not to blame American policy makers for that dark day in its history. Remember, today's generation of highly educated Indians are just not hypocritical the way their elders have long been.

If facts be therefore faced, let it be admitted straight away that the USA has, for incomprehensible reasons, always been pro-Pakistan and lukewarm towards India.

In the matter of Jammu and Kashmir in the United Nations 53 years ago, the US recognised the state's accession to India as legal, but, toeing the British line, it did not condemn Pakistan's blatant invasion of the state, did not uphold India's position, and refused to wield its clout in the Security Council to mete justice to India. And today that same Pakistan has turned out to be the breeding ground ally of those evil destroyers of New York's skyline. Is that irony or retribution?

From the fifties right till the collapse of the Soviet Union, America saw India's non-alignment and socialist policies as an affront to its capitalistic march to superpower status. During all those years, America turned a blind eye towards Pakistan's communal and military dictatorships, its revengeful wars against a truly democratic, secular India whose only fault was that, unlike Britain or Canada or Australia or Japan, it refused to act as a submissive protectorate of Uncle Sam. Why, during our war with China in 1962, the USA even linked its arms aid to us with our gifting Pakistan the Kashmir Valley. And that very same Pakistan, which cosied up with the CIA in training bin Laden and others against the Soviets, has turned out to be the breeding ground ally of those evil destroyers of America's military might symbolised by the Pentagon. Is that irony or retribution?

Having nothing to do after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the terrorists trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan's Islamic factories turned toward Jammu and Kashmir. Between, January 1, 1988 and the end of December 1999, terrorists killed 11, 814 human beings in J&K. Included among them were Kashmiri Pandit women. Some 350,000 of these Pandits were hounded out from their homes in the Kashmir Valley, to become refugees in their own country. Marriage parties were dragged out of buses and shot dead on the road. Arms and ammunition recovered from the terrorists were sufficient to equip at least one army division while the floating stock probably equals that number. America stood unmoved by all this and instead financed think tanks to come up with 'solutions' that flagrantly violated our constitutional and moral position on J&K. In these last 12 years, we have been pressurised to smoke the peace pipe with Pakistan. Today, it is America that is hounded by Pakistan's support to bin Laden. Is that irony or retribution?

Even when President Clinton belatedly realised it was India that was America's natural ally and that Pakistan was the rogue, he did not put the terrorist tag on Pakistan, he didn't lift the sanctions on India. Even the Bush administration has deliberated for over eight months as to how to remove the sanctions on India without offending Pakistan, and, therefore, whether lifting the sanctions on both the countries simultaneously might not better serve the interests of 'justice.' Today, angry America wants to mete "justice" to the bin Laden patronised by Pakistan. Is that irony or retribution?

So blind has America generally been to India's viewpoint that it has ignored not only our considerable evidence on Pakistan's terrorism of all these years, but even our caution of the same fate befalling them. V Balachandran, former special secretary of our external intelligence agency, RAW, has gone on record on this. As reported in The Asian Age of September 13, Balachandran points out that though India had, since the early nineties, been warning the USA -- and other Western countries -- that terrorism would strike them too unless they thwarted that evil plaguing India, the USA -- and other Western countries -- failed to appreciate our stand. Now, hopefully, America has finally woken up to jehad and all that.

Truly does America have a lot to set right after the wake-up alarm of that tragic, traumatic Tuesday in its history.

See the security lapse at Boston's Logan airport from which suicide groups hijacked two departing flights that day. It's only very recently that Federal Aviation Authority had heavily fined Boston because its security was rated as being very poor. Clearly, the fine had not worked till that disastrous day. And it will not work as long as American airports are, according to Balachandran, satisfied only with a metal detector check as against the x-ray check for luggage as well as cabin baggage and a body search additionally resorted to at Indian airports.

Consider the laggard air traffic control on that fateful day of America. The flight from Boston on the east coast to Los Angeles on the southwest coast went southwards to New York instead and hit one of the two Trade Center towers. The other flight also Boston to Los Angeles destroyed the second tower. Now what in the blue skies were America's concerned AT controllers doing when these two civilian aircraft strayed from their mandated flight paths for as much as half an hour? A retired Indian Airlines captain who commanded Airbus 300 flights says on the few times he deviated ever so little from his flight path from Bombay to Calcutta, both the civilian as well as the Indian Air Force radars would warn him; he says that every Indian Air Force station always has two fighters ready for scrambling precisely for such warnings that are ignored by the pilot in the cockpit. Though this is said to be a standard international aviation practice, the ATCs concerned in America were apparently engrossed in something else on that tragic Tuesday.

Lastly, as yet not even whispered about after that terrible Tuesday, there is the existence of the the Redstone Arsenal Hazardous Devices School.

Based at Huntsville, Alabama, the school has, for the last 20 years, been providing 'explosive ordinance disposal training' not only to employees of various American organisations such as the armed forces and the FBI, but also to foreign army and intelligence personnel. Sponsored by the US state department, the curious part of this most exclusive explosives school is that it has reportedly been training even those individuals and foreign military personnel who are hostile to the US. Thus, it is reported that Palestinians have been trained in the garb of being from the Taiwan army and an Afghan has wound up being a colonel of the Swedish army. Readers interested in details should log on to for an article by Al Martin posted on September 7, 2001 in order to grasp why all Americans need to examine it since it explores a vital root of their nation's latest trauma.

The American tragedy of today has, nevertheless, some lessons for Indians to learn.

  • Look at the US secretary of state's double quick pronouncement 'The American people made a judgement: we are at war, and they want a comprehensive response.' No American has questioned whether that really reflects the national sentiment. Contrast that with the tepid Indian reaction whenever Home Minister Advani announces that what we have been suffering in J&K for years is a proxy war.
  • Look at how the guests on American television simply refuse to play the blame game even when asked provocative questions regarding intelligence and security lapses by anchors who themselves offer news reports, not opinions, who put out questions, not answers.
  • Look how not a single American soul has used the word 'militants' to denote 'terrorists.' Our pseudo-secular media should should note that and if not convinced about the right word to describe those perpetrators of evil in J&K, let them be informed that our President's Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, explains 'terrorist act' to mean 'any act or thing by using bombs, dynamite or other explosive substances or inflammable substances or firearms or other lethal weapons or poisons or noxious gases or chemicals or any other substances (whether biological or otherwise) of a hazardous nature.'

    Yes, whether irony or retribution, America's trauma and tragedy of that Tuesday has lessons for all.

    The Attack on America: The Complete Coverage

    Arvind Lavakare

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