September 11, 2002


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The Rediff Special/Claude Arpi

Recently, I wrote about the dichotomies in Chinese policies, but Beijing is not alone to suffer from this syndrome. The United States of America, the lone world super-cop since the end of the Cold War, also often demonstrates a split persona, at least in its foreign policy. The dictionary definition of 'dichotomy' is a division into two parts when they are sharply distinguished or opposed: a perfect description of the difference between what the US preaches and does.

During a briefing prepared by a Rand Corporation analyst highlighted to a Pentagon advisory board, this aspect of American policy was highlighted: 'Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies.' It is 'the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent' of the United States in the Middle East. The Saudis are, nonetheless, a senior partner of the US.

The analyst's view was echoed by many of the Board members present at the meeting although it goes in the opposite direction to the one held by the Bush Administration. While the US Government continues to keep its theory of an 'axis of evil' centred on Iraq and North Korea, with the Saudis being the best US supporters in the Arab world, many American policymakers and thinkers feel that 'the Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader.'

The contradiction does not lie in the difference of opinion amongst members of the US administration, but in the fact that since the end of World War II, the Americans have always projected themselves as the defenders of a free world and democracy. The lovers of liberty allied with one of the most backward regimes on the planet!

The irony goes further as the State Department bureaucrats rationalize thus their policy: the proposed attack on Saddam Hussein is only a way to bring democracy back to Iraq, so that pipelines can be reopened and Iraqi oil can compete with that of the Saudis, thereby destabilizing the regime in Riyadh and bringing an opportunity to bring more democracy to the kingdom.

This convoluted theory sounds like another one, propounded a decade ago, that the best way to chase the Soviets out from Afghanistan was to train and arm religious extremists in Pakistan, who would infiltrate back into Afghanistan. We have seen the results on September 11 and after.

This brings us to our own region, where the leaders of the Free World are supporting a self-appointed military dictator who is trying to make sure that the day he introduces a semblance of democracy in his country, nobody will be able to remove him except God. This Pakistan policy is not a new development. In the 50's, the United States had only one obsession: the communist inroads into Asia and Africa. Their foreign policy, especially from the time of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, was designed to check Communist advances in Asia.

For that purpose, they built up military alliances such as the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) and the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO). India, which believed in the principle of non-alignment, especially vis-ŕ-vis the Western powers, refused to participate in these groupings while her neighbour was only too willing to become the recipient of generous US donations for military equipment as well as development. As a counterpart, Pakistan was supposed to be the last rampart against a Soviet or Chinese invasion.

Nehru himself was not very clear about the use of such a defensive system provided to Pakistan. In March 1954, he declared in Parliament: "I am unable to see any danger of aggression on Pakistan from any quarter". The Pakistani representative in the UN had earlier justified the military build up, saying: 'We want the guarantee that the two biggest countries in Asia will leave us alone.'

At that time, Eisenhower immediately clarified to Nehru: 'I can say that if our aid to any country, including Pakistan, is misused and directed against another in aggression, I will undertake immediately, in accordance with my constitutional authority, appropriate action both within and without the UN.'

A few years later, military dictator Ayub Khan began drifting towards China. In December 1962, soon after China had humiliated India, he announced that he had concluded talks with Beijing to settle 'his' Kashmir border with China. It was the surest way to sabotage the just opened negotiations between India and Pakistan, initiated under American and British aegis.

Do you think that this new move provoked a change in the American policy?

Not at all! Through passing years, the Americans continued to supply arms, tanks and planes to Pakistan, though the Kennedy administration was one of the most sympathetic to India and the President was worried by the Chinese 'flirt'.

In early 1965 when border clashes began in Kutch and later when Pakistani infiltrations started in Kashmir, Ayub Khan's troops were far better equipped than their Indian counterparts.

A recently declassified Chinese document gives the details of a meeting between Zhou Enlai and Ayub Khan in Karachi in April 1965. The minutes of this meeting show how close the Chinese and Pakistani were. The Chinese were delighted to have found a friend in the Western alliance. It helped them to weaken the Western block and opened the possibility of passing on messages to Washington.

Until war broke out between India and Pakistan in September 1965, the United States continued to supply Pakistan with the latest tanks and arms, despite the daily closer relations between Pakistan and China. It is even said that during the war, the CIA managed to supply 90 planes to Pakistan, through a German firm dealing with Iran.

By that time, it was no more a 'flirtation': Ayub and Zhou had a full-fledged 'love affair'. The American equipment created a lot of difficulties for India during the two-week war. In the end, Chinese threats on India's borders, adding to the pressure exerted by the United Nations, made Lal Bahadur Shastri accept a ceasefire and proceed to Tashkent for negotiations.

The policy dichotomies continued during the following years and took a turn for the worse during the Nixon administration. Henry Kissinger wanted to leave his name in history as the one who would open Communist China to America. A series of very secret meetings between Nixon's assistant and the Chinese leaders was held first in Beijing in July and October 1971 and later in New York in November and December, in the midst of the Bangladesh War.

The talks were organized in some New York remote flats specially chosen for the absence of a chowkidar [watchman], so that the news of the meetings between Kissinger and the Chinese ambassador to the UN could be kept totally confidential. Kissinger had with him his two closest assistants, General Alexander Haig and Winston Lord, and the US Representative to the UN, a certain George Bush. Most of these long meetings were to coordinate the American and Chinese action against India. Several times, Kissinger made it clear that "we don't tell our own colleagues that I see you. George Bush [Sr] is the only person outside the White House who knows I come here."

Here again we can notice the split personality of the American administration.

Kissinger even warned his Chinese interlocutor not to be worried in case the position of the State Department differed from the discussed White House position. The poor Secretary of State William P Rogers was furious with the White House policy towards Pakistan but could not control Kissinger. Rogers could not understand what was going on: while the rest of the world was siding with Bangladesh and was thankful to India, and while political leaders of the calibre of French Minister André Malraux were declaring themselves ready to go fight on the side of the people of Bangladesh, Kissinger continued to support Yahya Khan's war crimes.

Has the situation changed today in the region?

Though the United States is fighting a war against terrorism, a war supposedly for freedom and democracy, the same United States continues to back a military dictator as it has supported a long string of generals from Ayub Khan to Zia ul-Haq. At the same time, the Administration is speaking of taking punitive action against Saddam Hussain because he is a dictator!

The US government persists in providing arms to Pakistan. How can it continue to fool itself that it is combating terrorism and fighting for freedom, when its support only perpetuates terrorism in Kashmir?

Last month, the military self-styled president and chief of the army of Pakistan reappointed himself for five years and vested himself with powers to dismiss the National Assembly and appoint chiefs of the three services. No condemnation came from Washington.

Soon after, the United States signed an agreement with the Pakistan government for re-scheduling its $3 billion debt. Some $2.3 billion was designated as Official Development Assistance to be repaid in 38 years, which in practical terms means 'never'.

In the meantime, ex-Special Forces officer and trouble shooter, now Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, comes and goes to the subcontinent, promising something in Delhi and something else in Islamabad, though he candidly admitted recently in an NBC interview: 'The question whether he [Musharraf] has control of all of the people who would wish India ill and would want to cause mischief is an open one. I think no one believes he actually controls all of it.'

Prime Minister A B Vajpayee is in the US where he is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly. He will also meet President George Bush Jr. There is no reason today to believe that the United States will in the months to come have a different attitude than it has had in the past decades. In all probability, they will continue to play on two counts: first to keep the Pakistan friendship intact by pumping in cash, arms, and ammunition in order to keep the US strategic bases in Pakistan, which are not only useful for the US operations in Afghanistan but also to keep a watch on oil-rich Central Asia.

And second, the American leaders will assure Vajpayee that the United States stands for freedom, non-interference, and democracy.

It would be good if the Indian Prime Minister, could frankly tell the US President: "Yes, Mr Bush, we respect and will always support the nation which prides herself to fight for Liberty, but we will not able to follow the America of shadowy deals, of covert operations patronizing totalitarian regimes for the sake of a few more drops of petrol or some fighter planes. Just as you swear by God, in our country we swear by the Truth, which for us means what is right and just. For this, we shall collaborate."

Also see:

America's war against terrorism

Attack on America

Design: Rajesh Karkera

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