War on terror crashes into India: the November 2008 Mumbai attack – I
by Come Carpentier de Gourdon on 09 Jan 2009 5 Comments

The tragic terrorist attack which struck Mumbai from 26 to 29 November 2008 evinced in its ruthless efficiency the hand of the Special Forces’ operatives who trained the terrorists for this audacious urban raid.

It is now universally acknowledged that an operation of this scope and complexity, involving many months of preparation and training, international sea transport for the selected commandos, and provision of sophisticated equipment and detailed intelligence, backed by direct overseas electronic communication and supervision, required the institutional support of a government agency, or at least of an equivalent private or privatized organization.

The prime suspect from the outset was the Lashkar e Taiba (LeT), set up and operated under the close supervision of Pakistan’s intelligence community, specifically the ISI, which over the years established or condoned and supported the creation of a number of private guerilla terrorist outfits in order to supplement its own warfare capacities in Afghanistan, Kashmir and anywhere else in India. A Russian KGB Commando veteran of the Afghan war and expert on guerilla warfare, Vladimir Klyukin, said on 30 November 2008 that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai were “probably trained by the special operation forces called the Green Flag groups,” created by US agents in Pakistan in the final year before Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Such training, conducted by American black or green beret instructors, involved the Pakistani elite units and the ISI as well.

Pakistan’s strategic doctrine relies on asymmetric combat abilities to make up for its demographic and conventional inferiority vis-à-vis India and other bigger potentially hostile neighbours such as Iran. To fulfill this agenda, the military leadership in Rawalpindi has sponsored and maintained a succession of semi-private, elusive and religiously motivated guerilla organizations such as the LeT, Harkat ul Mujahideen, Maktab al Khidamat, Jaish i Muhammad, Hizb ul Tahrir, as well as financial support systems such as the Jamaat ul Dawa (JuD), which also have charitable activities that provide an important and often indispensable replacement for the non-existent or sorely deficient public welfare system. This privatized theocratic-military infrastructure affords Pakistani military rulers “plausible deniability” when needed.

The country’s nuclear strike force is the other pillar of its unconventional military strategy, designed to deter India from undertaking air raids over Pakistan or a land invasion of its territory.

It must be kept in mind, when analyzing Pakistan’s military strategy, that its founders did not intend it to stay within the borders they found themselves in 1947 in the wake of the bloody and traumatic partition from India. Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his successors saw Pakistan as the homeland for all South Asian Muslims and, in that capacity, as the true successor to the great Islamic Empires that held sway over the sub-continent from the end of the twelfth century, particularly the Mughal realm. Hence they expected to extend their own rule to the North Indian plains and to all areas where substantial Muslim populations remained.

The newborn state of West and East Pakistan was thus seen as a springboard for the gradual re-conquest of the sub-continent, as well as the domination of Afghanistan and Central Asia. This vision reflected both the age-old Islamic ideal of expansion of “Dar ul Islam” by military means when suitable, and the universal practice of territorial annexation through war that was also quite traditional in the Indian context among both Hindus and Muslims. In that regard, Pakistan offers some grounds for comparison with its contemporary, the state of Israel, which also intended to gather all Jews within its borders and to gradually encompass the historical territories of Israel and Judea in the mythical days of their greatest kings.

Seen in the backdrop of South Asia’s history, Pakistan is only the latest of many states that emerged and declined or broke down in succession, along centuries. More specifically, it is the contemporary version of the Sultanates that held sway over diverse regions of India, from Bengal to the Deccan, in the last eight hundred years. Geographically, Pakistan is poised on the north-west of India and sits astride the Khyber Pass, gateway to the sub-continent, through which all Islamic invasions passed. Thus, the rulers of Islamabad could hope to one day follow their warlike predecessors, from Mahmud of Ghazni to Ahmed Shah Abdali, to restore the hoary imperial order, hopefully with the support of the many co-religionaries left in India.

It is impossible to understand the rationale of the Pakistani armed forces and their security and Intelligence appendages, without taking into account the dream of Mughal restoration. The country’s civilian elected authorities have been and are only a temporary, unessential façade to lend legitimacy to the real military rulers. In the eyes of the latter, the sole “raison d’etre” of Pakistan is to provide the support and logistical platform for carrying out their grand scheme. While India is a geographical whole that over the millennia became a nation through a combination of cultural and political factors, Pakistan is a military state dedicated to expanding its influence in the wider region, inevitably at the expense of its neighbours. In the traditional perspective adopted by almost all regional states in the history of the sub-continent, the conquest of greater India was a goal pursued by all sufficiently powerful kings, Hindus, Muslims, Rajputs, Mahrattas and Afghans alike, but the Islamic factor added an essential religious and cultural parameter that transformed inter-state battles for supremacy into a strategic Jihad for lasting conquest and conversion.

Further, like all Muslim polities in north-western India that preceded it, Pakistan seeks to extend its control over Afghanistan and Kashmir in order to secure strategic depth and command the heights of the Hindukush and the Himalayas.

The British and US role

There is substantial evidence, some provided in Ambassador Narendra Singh Sarila’s book “The Shadow of the Great Game” (Constable, 2006), to support the belief that British policy encouraged and supported the partition of India between Hindus and Muslims and the establishment of Pakistan, viewed in London as a prospective bulwark for the protection of its Imperial interests in the Gulf and against the threat of Soviet-Communist influence in the sub-continent.

Sir Muhammad Aga Khan III recalls in his memoirs, “World Enough and Time” (1954), how HM’s Government invited him to coordinate and lead a unified Muslim response to the programme of the Indian National Congress that advocated national independence. The Aga Khan was unapologetic about his loyalty to the British King-Emperor and campaigned against Muslim support for Britain’s enemies, such as the Ottoman Empire, during the First World War. His role was subsequently assumed by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who was also culturally and ideologically close to the British rulers.

In due course, many statesmen in London came to believe that in view of the inevitability of India’s freedom, the country might break up into several parts since many “native” states would not agree to accede to the Republic. Hyderabad, Jammu and Kashmir, Travancore and certain kingdoms in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Central India and the North East (Tripura and Manipur) were regarded as possible future independent nations over which British influence would remain strong because of historic, economic and cultural factors. At the very least, it was likely that, given its bewildering diversity, independent India would become a federation with a weak central government.

Generally US policies under Roosevelt were at variance with those of their British allies, as Washington was opposed to perpetuation of European colonial empires and had no interest in the division of India or preservation of its monarchic states, preferring instead to see India and other formerly colonized lands emerge as pro-Western democracies loosely patterned on the Anglo-Saxon model.

However, the American attitude seems to have changed on President Truman’s watch when, faced with the peril of Communism worldwide and the rise of the USSR as a global power, the US decided to support a “continuation of the British empire by other means” whenever possible as a strategy to fight the Cold War. The perceived leftward shift in India under Pandit Nehru’s leadership and its championship of “Non Alignment” (seen as an anti-Atlantic ideology) induced Washington to form strong strategic and economic bonds with Pakistan as the stalwart of anti-Soviet-ism in the region and a reliable ally in the new Great Game.

Pakistan was firmly entrenched in the western camp by the early fifties as a member of the Baghdad Pact or CENTO, and SEATO, and could benefit from virtual assurances of Western support in its chronic dispute with India over Kashmir. That promoted its transformation into a more or less permanent conservative military dictatorship, like several other US client states in South East Asia, Africa, the Near East and Latin America, not to omit certain European nations like Spain and Greece, which also enjoyed “special relationships” with Washington.

Britain thus successfully co-opted the US into supporting its own traditional policies and interests in its historic overseas empire.

The attitude of the US in particular and the NATO powers in general to Pakistan’s offensive infrastructure could thus only be described as benign, when not decidedly favourable. The Iranian revolution of 1979 and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan immensely increased Pakistan’s importance in the eyes of the Anglo-Americans on the Middle Eastern strategic map. The Pentagon and the CIA undertook to boost and retool at great costs the Pakistani military-security complex, to turn it into a state-of-the-art war machine for subversive and guerilla warfare against the Red Army, at a time when India was seen as an ally of Moscow in the latter’s advance towards the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. Earlier in the decade, China also became an objective US ally against USSR, just like Beijing’s old friend Pakistan.

Therefore, America had no qualms if Pakistan’s improved offensive abilities were to be used sooner or later against its big neighbour to the East. It has remained a desideratum of Anglo-American or Atlantic policy to keep India and Pakistan in a position to neutralize each other mutually, under a local version of the old balance-of-terror system between the USA and the USSR. This kept India locked in its region and held in check its economic and strategic growth until such time when the USA decided it could facilitate a détente between the two inimical neighbours.

In keeping with that logic, Washington firmly turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s long standing nuclear military armament and proliferation programme, knowing full well that Islamabad had set up a semi-private espionage, procurement and construction network under A.Q. Khan, also ensuring plausible deniability with the complicity of the US Intelligence community.

In April 1999, General Pervez Musharraf, then chief of staff, already known for his closeness to the American military leadership, set up the National Command Authority (NCA) to control the nuclear arsenal, shortly before staging a coup and taking over the government. In practice, direct authority over the atomic weapons belongs to the Director General of the NCA’s Strategic Planning Division, a general. The army chief of staff is the real ultimate controller of the strike force and that, according to several hints from the US Administration, provides the Pentagon with effective vetting power over the nukes, which is the only reason why Islamabad was allowed to build up and keep an atomic stockpile, despite being an Islamic nation.

Ironically, according to D. Frantz and C. Collins’ “The Man from Pakistan,” various scientists working within the A.Q. Khan network collaborated with Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaida colleagues as late as August 2001 when they went to meet with him in Kandahar, a visit obviously approved by the Pakistani military command (then headed by Musharraf). This could not have escaped detection by US Intelligence which was present throughout the area, but seemingly did nothing to stop those contacts though Osama bin Laden was already accused of ordering various major terrorist attacks against American interests.

Given the inability of the US to prevent India from acquiring the know-how to make nuclear weapons, despite the alleged assassination of  Dr. Homi Bhabha, father of India’s atomic programme, by the CIA in 1966, according to the confession provided to veteran journalist Gregory Douglas in 1997 by CIA agent  Robert T. Crowley  (in Truthseeker, available at TBRnews.org, 11 July 2008), the White House and Pentagon saw advantage in letting Pakistan go nuclear too in order to checkmate India and keep a minimal balance of force on the sub-continent.

Just as it condoned Pakistan’s acquisition of an Islamic Bomb, the USA also supported the development of the Islamic Republic’s paramilitary and clandestine “Jihadi” outfits, drafted to serve the radical “Takfiri’ or “Tablighi” ideology of Sunni conquest. That affiliation enjoyed the sympathy of the US military and political establishment because of its ability to train fanatical warriors and build visceral hatred against Communism and also against Shiite Islam, seen as the major threat to Anglo-Saxon imperial interests in the Middle East from 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution took over Iran.

The Takfiri or Salafist creed was also theologically kindred with Wahabi Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, the Anglo-Americans’ main protégé in the Gulf region and the world’s largest oil producer. The marriage between the US foreign policy establishment and the Jihadi leadership was thus consummated, and though there may be a separation, divorce papers have not yet been filed.

It is fascinating to note that US and Pakistani policies have in some ways been on parallel tracks as both countries have been taken over more or less overtly by the military-industrial complex and the Intelligence community which exercise extra-constitutional, unchecked power under the excuse of protecting national security, while siphoning off an ever-growing share of the national budget and generating massive unreported and un-audited revenues. The ISI and its CIA godfather function in similar ways and the post-9/11 reforms carried out at Vice-President Dick Cheney’s initiative according to the parameters of Rand Corporation’s ANSER report, made the two governments strangely convergent.

To be continued...


The author is Convener, Editorial Board, World Affairs Journal


User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top