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Pakistan won't change a bit even after Osama

Last updated on: May 05, 2011 13:29 IST
Osama or no Osama, Obama or no Obama, US-Pakistan relations will remain robust, says T P Sreenivasan.

Children say the damnedest of things. They also make the wisest of statements. A Malayalam poet wrote, 'Children, who cannot put words together, you are the ones, who have the vision and the knowledge of God's will.'

This has been proved once again, when my granddaughter Durga's response to the news of Osama bin Laden's death was, "Oh! I thought he was dead long ago!" Apparently,other children reacted similarly, according to Facebook entries from around the globe.

Then why are the adults so excited? Why are they over analysing the impact of a death that occurred, at least figuratively, quite some time ago? Are we not exaggerating the importance of Osama's death to the US, to President Obama, to Pakistan, to international terrorism, and most of all, to India?

I do not dispute President Obama's claim that Osama was found hiding under the nose of the Pakistanis and that, in a swift and efficient operation, US soldiers killed him in a firefight, with no losses to American lives.

I do not also dispute the claim that Osama was given a decent burial, with Islamic funeral rites in the deep sea. I am sure the DNA has been preserved before the body was disposed off. But this was clearly the whirlwind which came after the wind was sewn decades ago.

The world will move on, more or less in the same wayward way as before, even after his death. Osama could well have lived on without making much of a difference to the world.

There was only one logic in the timing. President Obama's re-election campaign had begun and it was time that he justified his Nobel Prize for Peace by getting out of at least one of his wars. The timing of the killing was chosen by him to register a victory and to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan after installing a hotch-potch government which would not threaten his homeland security.

He may well win his second term on account of bringing Osama to justice, though public memory may not outlast any other event that may affect the verdict. Osama had become irrelevant to Al Qaeda except as a symbol of jihad. The terrorist outfit will survive and regroup itself to give cause for concern to the West and others, but this was inevitable whether Osama died in his bed or killed in battle.

As for the war on terror, this is a milestone, but the road extends beyond the horizon. There are enough individuals, organisations and States which believe in terrorism as a justifiable way of gaining the advantages that cannot be obtained by legitimate means. No reason exists for jubilation, as was seen in the streets of the US.

The US and the world cannot afford to bring their guard down. The massive investments made for security around the world will still be justified as terrorists look for new and innovative methods to beat the system.

In fact, one of the legacies of Osama is the suffering undergone by ordinary people at the airports and elsewhere. As someone observed rightly, the best punishment for Osama would have been to make him go through airport security day in and day out for the rest of his life.

Pakistan will not change a bit even after Osama. Someone said Pakistan has not yet decided whether it should take cash or credit for Osama's killing. They are inclined to claim cash from the US rather than deny the US the credit for the masterly operation. It suits them to protest about violation of sovereignty and appear disgruntled, having done nothing to protect their prized possession.

The whole point of protecting him was to fatten him and to hand him over to the US at the most opportune moment as Pakistan had no use for him. No one believes that Pakistan was unaware of Osama's whereabouts or the timing of the US operations.

More information will become available about Pakistan's complicity and duplicity, but that will not add anything to the information the world already has, if it wants to punish Pakistan.

Pakistan's friends, particularly China, will continue to nurse it as a potential guarantee against India's unbridled rise politically and economically. Nothing will change even in the US position that Pakistan should not be allowed to fail.

The US does not want Pakistan either to break up or fall into the hands of fundamentalists. The US has been saying for long that India should work with those in power in Pakistan, because those who came after them would have longer beards!

Osama or no Osama, Obama or no Obama, the US-Pakistan relations will remain robust. Tensions and differences of opinion will persist between them, but, in the ultimate analysis, the big brother will prevail.

India has no reason to rejoice in Osama's exit from the scene. Laskar-e-Tayiba and the other outfits are nurtured not by Al Qaeda, but by the Pakistani intelligence and State. They will not change their spots. The hope that the world will be convinced that Pakistan was culpable for 26/11, now that it has been caught cheating the US is far-fetched.

Nobody is looking for new evidence. Whether we begin the dialogue or not, the perpetrators of 26/11, including Kasab will survive one way or another.

Brave words have been spoken by our hawks that we should follow the US example and take out the criminals ourselves, but there are more who say we do not have either the will or the capability to do that. Even nuclear war is considered a possibility in the event of any dirty trick.

We have no lesson to learn from the Osama killing. Our enemies are better protected than the hapless, sick (and reportedly phoneless and internetless) and fragile Osama, who found his watery grave. They do not face the wrath of a superpower as Osama did.

India has to muddle its way through the perfidy of Pakistan, blowing hot and cold, using the carrot and the stick. The dead Osama will not influence war or peace with Pakistan, just as the living Osama did not.

Elimination of Osama was a declared objective of the war on terror. His killing was essential for the US to declare victory before beginning its withdrawal from Afghanistan. An Afghan dispensation friendly to Pakistan will more than compensate for the present loss of face for Pakistan. Sacrificing Osama is a small price to pay for such a long term gain for Pakistan.

The timing of the killing of Osama may have suited the US strategy in the Afpak region and it may have executed it on its own, but Pakistan may well stand to gain by the action, whether there is already a deal or not. On previous occasions, reports on Osama's death were exaggerated, but this time the implications of his death are unduly exaggerated.

T P Sreenivasan is a former ambassador of India to the United Nations, Vienna, and a former Governor for India at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.

He is currently the Director General, Kerala International Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, and a Member of the National Security Advisory Board.

For more articles by Ambassador Sreenivasan, please click here.

T P Sreenivasan