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THE DEAFENING SILENCE

by B. Raman


India finds itself a prisoner of its own unwise and unwarranted over-anxiety for a thaw in Indo-Pakistan relations. This over-anxiety has made us mute spectators of continued use of jihadi terrorism by Pakistan



     In an article of November 22, 2004, on Indo-Pakistani relations, I had written as follows:

     The positive factors noticed since the beginning of the year should not be interpreted as indicating the beginning of the end of Pakistani-sponsored terrorism. Musharraf has retained his capability to step on the terrorism accelerator once again, if needed. The terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory in the form of training camps and sanctuaries remains intact and he has not taken any action to arrest the over 20 Indian and Pakistani terrorists, including Dawood Ibrahim, wanted for trial in India and hand them over to the Indian authorities.

     While the US has definitely pressurised him to reduce, if not stop, the infiltrations, its pressure, if there has been any, on him to put an end to the terrorist infrastructure and arrest the Indian terrorists in Pakistani territory and hand them over to India has not produced results.

     Musharraf's calculation is that so long as he keeps the jihadi terrorism confined to J&K and concentrated on the security forces without indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians, the international community in general and the US in particular would remain inclined to agree with his projection of the happenings in J&K as a freedom struggle and not terrorism and would not exercise undue pressure on Pakistan to stop even this. One should not be surprised if his calculation proves right.

    Two subsequent developments should be of great concern to India. The first relates to Gen. Pervez Musharraf's meeting with President George Bush in Washington DC on December 4, 2004, and the second to the casualties suffered by the Indian security forces in J&K in two terrorist strikes coinciding with his visit. The first took place just before his arrival in the US and the second on the day of his talks with Bush.

     Musharraf's visit to the US was preceded by a notification sent by the Bush Administration to the Congress of its intention to give to Pakistan another military package amounting to US $ 1.3 billion. The earlier post-9/11 military lollipops to Musharraf were projected by the Bush Administration to India as counter-terrorism equipment meant for use against the Taliban and Al Qaeda dregs near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The explanation sounded plausible.

     The latest package has no counter-terrorism value. It consists of items such as Orion naval surveillance aircraft, which could be used by Pakistan only against India and not against Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Musharraf has managed to get from the US all that he wanted except the F-16 aircraft. According to him, the F-16 request was discussed by him with Bush, but there was no announcement on this. It is only a question of time before he gets even this.

     Our concerns are going to be of no avail in Washington DC, so long as it continues to look upon Musharraf as one of the main guarantors of homeland security in the US by keeping the Al Qaeda in disarray through his military operations, ostensibly directed against Al Qaeda dregs in Pakistani territory.

     As I had pointed out in a recent paper on terrorism in Afghanistan and Central Asia, Musharraf has once again demonstrated his usefulness to the Bush Administration not only by preventing the Taliban from disrupting the Presidential elections in Afghanistan in October, 2004, but also by ensuring the victory of Hamid Karzai in the first round itself, by mobilising the Pashtun votes in Karzai's favour on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Without the absentee ballots in his favour from Pakistan, Karzai was very unlikely to have won in the first round itself.

     The US has refused to recognise the fairness of the elections in Ukraine, inter alia, on the ground that Moscow manipulated the absentee ballots of the Ukrainians living in Russia to ensure the defeat of a pro-US candidate. But, it had hastened to proclaim the fairness of the elections in Afghanistan despite a similar manipulation of the absentee Pashtun votes by Musharraf's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to ensure the victory of Karzai, who enjoys the US benediction.

     With Musharraf's continuing usefulness for ensuring homeland security in the US and the US strategic interests in Afghanistan thus proved, there ought to be no surprise that the question of the continuing anti-India terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory received no mention, either before, during or after Musharraf's pow-wow with Bush.

     The Washington meeting was preceded by a raid by terrorists into a special operations group's camp in Sopore in J&K in which five para-military personnel were reportedly killed. Coinciding with the Washington meeting, the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), whose leader Syed Salahuddin continues to operate from his sanctuary in Pakistan, blew up with a remote-controlled landmine a military vehicle at village Nain Batapora in south Kashmir's Pulwama district, killing nine military personnel and two civilians.

     What do these terrorist strikes indicate?

     First, they underline once again his confidence that he has nothing to fear from the US so long as he keeps the jihadi terrorist strikes confined to Kashmiri territory and directed against the Indian security forces.

     Second, they are meant to convey a message to public opinion in Pakistan that his close relations with the US and his co-operation with it in the so-called war against Al Qaeda would not come in the way of Pakistan's continuing proxy war against India in J&K.
     India finds itself a prisoner of its own unwise and unwarranted over-anxiety for a thaw in Indo-Pakistan relations. This over-anxiety has made us mute spectators of continued use of jihadi terrorism by Pakistan against India lest any public articulation of our concerns come in the way of this chimera of a thaw and be viewed by the international community negatively.

     Under normal circumstances, India would have been and should have been in the forefront of those drawing the attention of the international community to the over 200 references to Pakistan and terrorism in the report of the US National Commission on 9/11, to the role of Dr. A.Q.Khan, Pakistan's nuclear scientist, with the consent of Gen.Mirza Aslam Beg, Gen. Jehangir Karamat and Gen.Musharraf, in assisting Iran and North Korea in acquiring a military nuclear capability and to the continuing Pakistani sponsorship of jihadi terrorism directed against India and to its repeated violation of the provisions of the UN Security Council Resolution No.1373 relating to sanctuaries to terrorists.

     But, since the meeting between former Prime Minister A.B.Vajpayee and Musharraf in Islamabad in January 2004, we have been observing a strange silence on all these issues . Have our silence and inaction benefited us? No. It has only benefited Pakistan by encouraging it to continue on its present path and by helping it to rehabilitate itself in the eyes of the international community.

     By our silence, we are unwittingly letting ourselves become the objective allies of Musharraf in his efforts to keep us bleeding.


(B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter)

 

 

 

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