Don’t bemoan American duplicity, strike and avenge 26/11
by Hari Om on 11 May 2011 19 Comments

The elimination of Al-Qaeda chief and the world’s most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden by the United States on May 2 has created a splendid situation for India. This, notwithstanding the fact that there is the possibility of Al-Qaeda operatives and Pakistan-based terrorist organizations like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) launching revenge attacks on the United States, Germany, France, England and other western countries, and on India, which was also on Osama’s hit list.


Al Qaeda would surely try to avenge the liquidation of bin Laden. The United States Special Forces liquidated Osama deep inside Pakistan to bring justice to the bereaved families of 3000-odd Americans, a few Indians and others who lost their lives on 9/11/2001. The American administration executed its liquidate-Osama-mission without informing Islamabad, as it believed that keeping the latter into loop might culminate in the mission’s failure. Not a misguided notion.


Since 9/11, the Americans had been trying to trace, catch and kill Osama and his dreaded accomplishes, but all efforts failed due to the double game Islamabad played all these years. It blackmailed and fleeced the United States in the name of the war against terror and shielded and helped Osama and his accomplishes, providing all kinds of logistical support to them in Afghanistan and India.


The United States, which had used Osama and Al-Qaeda against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, had reposed faith in a country which was using terror tactics to promote its geo-political interests in the region, from restive Afghanistan to Jammu and Kashmir and the precious Indus waters. (Islamabad wants to end Indian influence in Afghanistan and establish her hegemony over this war-ravaged country; it needs Indus waters to meet its water requirements and keep Pakistan intact. Islamabad has been facing serious water scarcity, with Sindh province even threatening secession.) That Islamabad has been using jihadi terrorism as an instrument of its foreign policy is not a secret. 


That Islamabad would ditch Washington and not help catch and kill Osama and his accomplices was a foregone conclusion considering its doubtful credentials and politics of deceit. That Islamabad would enrich its economy and strengthen its war machine at the cost of the Americans and would not lend any material support to the American resolve to eradicate Osama and others of his ilk was also a foregone conclusion considering the fact that the Pakistani Army and Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) were hand-in-glove with Osama and his Al-Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban (good Taliban, according to Pakistan), the LeT, the JeM and the HM. The Americans knew all this and yet they went on hobnobbing with Islamabad, helping it financially and strengthening its patently anti-India and anti-Afghanistan war machine. The United States has also been overlooking Pakistani flirtations with Beijing.


It is no secret that Islamabad used the bulk of American aid against India and to strengthen her position on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and inside Afghanistan. There were elements in the American establishment who consistently questioned the US policy towards Pakistan, but with no result. Washington continued to support and pamper Pakistan on the misguided notion that Islamabad would one day fall in line and do the needful. As it did not happen and as the American intelligence agencies finally traced Osama and his hideout with the help of one of Osama’s couriers, the US thought it prudent not to take the undependable and deceitful Islamabad into confidence before launching the final assault.


It is, however, a different story that the Obama administration has overruled the American think tanks and held out a commitment that it would continue to give financial and military aid to Islamabad. Besides, the Obama administration has advised New Delhi to exercise restraint and not follow its example. So much so, the United States has advised India not to compare 9/11 with 26/11.


It would not be out of place to mention that the United States has warned Pakistan of more Abbottabad-like overt operations in the event of Islamabad not taking action against terrorists roaming in Pakistan and inciting Muslims against Americans. The US has coupled this warning with a suggestion that international rules do permit overt attacks in other countries.


It does not matter if the US bails out Pakistan in coming days to facilitate its task in Afghanistan, and helps Islamabad deflect the attention of the international community away from the real issue, or advises India to show restraint with Pakistan. The fact of the matter is that the killing of Osama has changed the situation and showed India and the international community the path which New Delhi must tread to bring the culprits of 26/11 to justice and to avenge umpteen similar terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the country, including the December 13, 2001 Parliament attack. New Delhi must ensure that Islamabad doesn’t dare again use terror tactics against India to push forward her pernicious break-India agenda. The US has no right to dictate terms to India or advise her to exercise restraint.


The most striking aspect of the situation is that the trust deficit between the United States and Pakistan has increased. There are signs that the Obama administration is finding it extremely difficult to bail out Islamabad, which provided shelter to Osama for years and allowed him to occupy a palatial building at Abbottabad, reportedly constructed by the Inter-Service Intelligence for the Hizbul Mujahideen. Powerful elements in the American administration are not pleased over the manner in which Mr Barack Obama has sought to save Islamabad against mounting international pressure to take action against Pakistan and isolate it.


Countries like England want definite action against Pakistan. They feel Islamabad dodged and hoodwinked the international community and played a dubious game to protect Osama. England and certain powerful elements within the American administration have expressed the view that the cult of terror has not ended with the killing of Osama and that dreaded terrorists like Hafiz Saeed, Syed Salah-ud-Din and Dawood Ibrahim continue to operate in Pakistan under the very nose of the Pakistani Army, the ISI and other elements in the establishment. London has accused the Army and the ISI of hobnobbing with and funding terrorists like Hafiz Saeed of Lashkar-e-Taiba/ Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Pakistan Taliban, Hizbul Mujahideen, etc., and sheltering Dawood Ibrahim, mastermind of the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts.


A striking fallout of Osama’s death is the no-holds-barred propaganda blitz unleashed by Pakistan to convert the ongoing debate on Pakistani involvement in international terrorism into India-bashing. Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, who was asked by the crestfallen establishment, Army and disgraced ISI to explain the Pakistani position on Abbottabad, has given a clean chit to his country and defended the ISI to the hilt. He asserted on May 5 during a press conference at Islamabad that Pakistani intelligence agencies were not aware of the whereabouts of Osama and that it would be an injustice if Islamabad is held responsible for the presence of Osama in the Abbottabad’s high security zone for years. He termed the failure to locate Osama a “failure of international intelligence agencies.” (Meanwhile, there are reports that ISI chief Shuja Pasha may put in his papers taking moral responsibility.) 


Bashir’s argument was that Pakistan's relationship with America has not nose-dived after the US operation to eliminate Osama and that “cooperation in the fight against terrorism is important and will continue.” Bashir sought to convince the international community that whatever happened on May 2 is “now history” and that the “matter has ended.”


Bashir contemptuously dismissed the Indian demand for action against the perpetrators of 26/11 as “outdated” and warned India against “believing that they can conduct surgical strikes in Pakistan (like US did).” Bashir said: “Any such attempt by a foreign country (read India) would have catastrophic results.” Remember, Bashir is not a political leader; he is a serving diplomat. The same day, Pakistani Army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani made an identical statement, in response to Indian Army chief General V.K. Singh’s response to a media query, that, “The Indian armed forces are capable of carrying out surgical operations against terrorists similar to the one conducted by the US in Pakistan to kill Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden” and that it was for the political leadership to take a decision to that effect.


The truth is that both the United States and Pakistan stand totally exposed in the eyes of the international community and it would be suicidal for New Delhi if it fails to take advantage of the situation that has arisen in the aftermath of Osama’s death. Both the United States and Pakistan believe in hypocrisy and double standards.


This is an opportune moment to strike and avenge 26/11. Obama, or for that matter any other leader, can’t meddle in our affairs. How can those who kill their enemies in other countries, without taking the rulers into confidence, ask India to show restraint and not eliminate those who have killed hundreds of innocent Indians in cold blood and attacked our Parliament and several sacred places? They cannot. No nation worth its salt can tolerate any interference in matters relating to national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity.  


Our problem is our own leadership which has abdicated its authority and allowed the United States to influence our foreign policy and Pakistan to bleed us on a daily basis. So meek is our leadership and so weak those charged with the responsibility of defending our paramount national interests. The Congress-led UPA Government has underplayed what Bashir and General Kayani said, terming the Pakistani response as “over reaction” and reiterated that the dialogue process with Pakistan would continue, come what may.


External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on May 6 disfavoured the idea of not engaging Pakistan in talks because Al-Qaeda leader Osama was found and killed in that country. Speaking to The Hindu prior to his departure from Singapore after a visit to Malaysia and Singapore, he said: “Disengaging Pakistan, because of bin Laden's episode in Pakistan, certainly would not be a very wise move.” Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao echoed this the same day in Paris. “Engagement with Pakistan ‘is not a signal of helplessness but a very rational decision and that's the best way forward for our people,” she said in a speech at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI). The attitude of the Congress has been no different; it has accused those asking the UPA Government to discontinue the dialogue process with Pakistan of “politicizing the Osama’s killing.” 


Here lies India’s real problem, which needs to be surmounted. International opinion is with us, as it is no longer prepared to condone heinous crimes by fanatics and regressive forces against humanity and against secular and democratic nations.


Apart from the favourable international opinion, there are other factors that suit India and require New Delhi to act in the national interest. The relations between the United States and Pakistan are far from normal and there is a gnawing trust deficit. Leave alone Obama whose popularity graph is dwindling by the day. Those who opine that the May 2 operation in Abbottabad would go a long way in ensuring another term for Obama in the White House are exaggerating; this may not happen.


Factors favouring India include political instability in Pakistan and the failure of its political establishment to sit in the driver’s seat; bungling instinct of the Pakistani Army and the ISI; dissensions within the Obama administration; the extremely hostile attitude of Afghanistan towards Pakistan; crisis in the Middle East; sectarian conflicts in the Muslim world; resolve of several European countries to defeat the ideology that Osama preached and the likes of Hafiz Saeed, Dawood Ibrahim and Syed Salah-ud-Din advocate; and, last but not the least, the national mood. The national mood requires our rulers to recognise that the sovereignty of India and its territorial integrity are non-negotiable.


The nation has already paid a very heavy price for pursuing a policy with Pakistan that has only strengthened subversives and terrorist regimes in India and accorded international legitimacy to Pakistan’s patently communal stand on Jammu and Kashmir. The decision of the authorities in New Delhi to continue dialogue with Islamabad will further strengthen radical forces in India and embolden Pakistan to become more aggressive. It appears that New Delhi wants to toe a line that only furthers the interests of the United States in the region and motivates India to surrender before a hostile Pakistan. This is utterly unacceptable.


India is not a surrogate state. It must demonstrate its resolve to exist as a sovereign state. In other words, the powers-that-be in New Delhi must make a beginning. The first two steps they should take forthwith include (1) an unambiguous declaration that India will have no ties with Pakistan unless the latter reforms and behaves and vacates Pakistan-occupied-Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan and (2) a clear warning to Pakistan that India would replicate Abbottabad in the event of Islamabad not handing over to New Delhi those involved in heinous crimes against India. Our clear stand should be: No one can browbeat and defeat India and we will retaliate in case of need; we are not afraid of the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear state.                   


The author is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research

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