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January 5, 2000

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US in no hurry to brand Pak a terrorist state

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Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi

The chances of the United States of America heeding India's appeal to declare Pakistan a rogue state sponsoring international terrorism are remote because such a course of action does not suit Washington's foreign policy in South Asia, government officials and specialists on American studies have pointed out.

Referring to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's appeal on Monday to the US in this context, senior officials of the external affairs ministry underscored that it was part of India's strategy to apprise the international community of Islamabad's dubious role in the recent hijack of an Indian Airlines plane.

"We know that Washington has its own interests in South Asia and it will not declare Pakistan a terrorist state in a hurry. But this does not prevent us from making such an attempt because, after all, Islamabad is the lynchpin in the drama," the officials pointed out.

They indicated that New Delhi is preparing voluminous documentary evidence underlining Pakistan's role in aiding and abetting terrorism in India, especially in Kashmir, with the hijacking as the latest example.

But New Delhi had provided similar evidence over the last decade and a half, only to be asked by the Americans for "more solid proof." So India will continue to strive to expose Pakistan "and its penchant for spawning international terrorism, especially against India," the officials emphasised.

Chintamani Mahapatra, associate professor in the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a specialist in international security, said that while he supported the government's action in releasing three terrorists for the 150-odd Indian hostages, the government had not learnt from past experience. He said that successive Indian governments had appealed to the US to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. "My point is, why should we appeal to the US for this? India should first declare Pakistan a terrorist state before asking the international community, including the US, to do so. The ball is in India's court," Mahapatra contended.

He said it would be unfair on the Indian government's part to ask the US to "give a certificate" about Pakistan being a terrorist state. This was because in the past, when Washington issued various statements pertaining to India, Indian officials and analysts criticised the US, thereby signalling that New Delhi did not need a certificate from the Americans.

Mahapatra said that what needed to be clearly understood was the US policy towards terrorism. Unlike other countries, Washington had very clearly differentiated between terrorism and international terrorism, saying that it is more concerned with international terrorism than the domestic variety in other countries. Thus, Washington virtually dissociated itself from terrorism in other countries by branding them under the domestic variety and taking cognisance only when such terrorism affected it directly.

He, however, pointed out that in today's world there is no such thing as domestic terrorism and acts of extremists all over the world have an inevitable international impact because terrorists acquire weapons, money and technology from beyond national boundaries. This selective approach by Washington is geared towards its self-interest, thereby making it ignore acts of terrorism in countries like India. ''This is an unpleasant fact, but India can overcome it by not looking for scapegoats to apportion blame, but critical self-analysis which will help it to come out with the pertinent solution," Mahapatra pointed out.

Professor Kanti Bajpai, specialist on international relations in the JNU, endorsed the view that Washington would examine the question of declaring Pakistan a terrorist state "depending on its own interests and proclivities." At the moment, the indications from the US are that it is not in a hurry to collar Islamabad in this context." He said India would have to provide "hard evidence of Pakistan's acts of terrorism to Washington very quickly and unambiguously because once time is given for this incident (the hijack) to fade from memory, it will be very difficult for New Delhi to convince the Americans."

According to Professor Bajpai, Indian attempts to provide information to the US about acts of terrorism by Pakistan have been "of a very private nature." Referring to India's publishing of the Kargil transcripts, he said this was the kind of information that would put Islamabad on the mat and cause Washington to put pressure on it.

He said the US policy in South Asia wanted Pakistan as a counter-balance to Iran, apart from the fact that the Americans regarded Pakistan as one of "relative stability" compared to the Gulf and Afghanistan. Besides, the Americans envisaged some sort of role for Pakistan vis--vis Central Asia. Therefore, getting the US to recognise Pakistan as a terrorist state was indeed a tough proposition, he pointed out.

Another major worry for the Americans was Pakistan becoming a failed or collapsed state, in which case it could have serious implications for India and the entire South Asian region, considering that Islamabad, like New Delhi, has nuclear weapons. Cornering Pakistan thus is apparently undesirable for Washington, which wants to sort out problems with Islamabad through, dialogue, Prof Bajpai emphasised.

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