America's Selective War - by Tavleen Singh Back   Home  
If America is serious about this "new war", then it must keep on its side countries that have been fighting terrorism a lot longer than America has. There can be no duplicity either. Terrorism must be viewed as barbaric whether it takes place in America or in India.
America's war against terrorism has acquired a surreal quality. On the one hand, we have George W. Bush telling us on a daily basis that states harbouring terrorists will be held as responsible as the evil-doers themselves, and on the other, we have America turning to Pakistan for support in fighting its new war. Does America know what it's doing? Is it aware that Pakistan's foreign policy in recent times has been based almost entirely on supporting militant Islam? The "jehad" in Kashmir, the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the countless acts of terrorism on Indian soil are all part of this foreign policy. So, is it possible to take America's war against terrorism seriously when it seeks Pakistan's help to wage it? Is it not a bit like employing Osama bin Laden to catch Osama bin Laden?

Pakistan, of course, is delighted with this turn of events. Its military dictator and his foreign minister have lost no chance to appear on CNN and BBC and hold forth on how Pakistan has always supported the global war against terrorism while we in India rub our eyes in amazement. Was it not just the other day in Agra that General Musharraf justified terrorism on the ground that innocent people sometimes got killed when freedom movements take place? Was it not just the other day that he refused to discuss cross-border terrorism on the ground that what was happening in Kashmir was a freedom movement? From Pakistan's point of view, the routine massacres of innocent Hindu villagers in Jammu, the barbaric beheading of Hindu priests and brutal killings of Sikhs in Kashmir Valley are all part of a "freedom movement". It would be interesting to know if Bush and General Colin Powell share this perception.

It would be equally interesting to know how they view the fact that the men who hijacked IC-814 two years ago sought refuge in Pakistan. The terrorists released in exchange for the passengers on that unfortunate flight have also taken refuge in Pakistan, not to mention Dawood Ibrahim and the Memon brothers. Does this or doesn't it qualify Pakistan as a state that harbours terrorists?

There is no question that what happened in New York and Washington on September 11 was the worst act of terrorism ever. The whole world -- with the exception of a handful of Islamic fundamentalists -- felt America's pain and understood its horror and rage. We in India were so eager to be in the vanguard of the new, global war against terrorism that we were among the first to offer unconditional support. The prime minister, who has shied away from addressing the nation in most moments of domestic crisis, felt compelled by the events of September 11 to make one of his rare nationwide addresses on television. The minister of external affairs talked in grandiose language of "a concert of democracies" against terrorism. It must, then, have come as something of a shock when America ignored our effusive gestures of support and turned, instead, to Pakistan for help.

To some extent, this is understandable. If Afghanistan is to be the main theatre of this new war -- at least in its initial stages -- then Pakistan becomes an important frontline state. But America needs to keep in mind that there may not have been a Taliban government in Kabul if Pakistan had not just helped it seize power but provided for most of its financial, defence and other needs thereafter. Pakistan's jehadi foreign policy has brought it to the verge of bankruptcy, so it needs America more than America needs it. The Americans should be in a position then to warn Pakistan that it will need to alter its own sponsorship of terrorism if it is to be considered a serious ally in this new war which, at the best of times, is extremely hard to fight.

Even if Osama bin Laden is killed or brought to justice, it will only be the beginning. Militant Islam is an ideology that has spread its tentacles right into the heart of western democracies as we can see from the fact that the plot to destroy the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was hatched in Miami and Hamburg. Many of the Islamic militants we seek take refuge in western capitals like London and are financed by countries whom America counts as its friends, like Saudi Arabia. We can only hope that President Bush has some ideas on how to deal with this. So far, all we have heard is a lot of bluster and bombast of the "wanted dead or alive" kind. This kind of talk might satisfy his domestic constituency but just sounds foolish on an international scale.

If America is serious about this "new war", then it needs to keep on its side those countries that have been fighting terrorism a lot longer than America has. There can be no duplicity either. If terrorism on American soil is a barbaric act against America, then terrorism in Kashmir or Mumbai must also be viewed as a barbaric act against India. These are some of the things Bush needs to discuss with its current favourite ally Pakistan.
This article was published in TheNewsPaperToday. Author Tavleen Singh is a well-known journalist, columnist, and television personality based in New Delhi.