Identifying the Terrorists

Originally published in Satyam Online, 9 January 2000.


Several days ago, the headlines of our major national papers showed Home Minister L K Advani announcing to the world “damning evidence” to prove the Pakistan Government’s direct role in the recent hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight in Kandahar. The purpose of this press conference, it appeared, was to beseech the so-called “international community” — a convenient nickname for the U.S. Government — to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. The Government claimed a victory in the “war against terrorism” when, in a passing remark to a reporter at the White House, Bill Clinton’s spokesman agreed that the hijackers should be brought to book for their actions.

Dismantling India’s Independent Foreign Policy

This is but the latest instance in a recent trend, initiated under the previous BJP Government, which sees India’s diplomatic and military victories scored not by the strength of decisions taken in South Block, or by its armed forces on the battlefield, but through the intervention of the U.S. The much-trumpeted victory in Kargil earlier this year, on which the BJP-led coalition rode to power in the latest election, would have been less certain, more prolonged and bloody, had Bill Clinton not instructed Nawaz Sharif to withdraw his forces or face cancellation of international loans and other punishments by the world’s last superpower.

That the BJP or Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh — who all along have maintained that the Kashmir imbroglio should be resolved bilaterally, as per the Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration — could acquiesce in this obvious third-party mediation, and moreover sell this as a victory to the electorate, was a dangerous precedent in India’s foreign policy whose implications are now becoming clearer in the wake of the recent hijacking.

Since the nuclear tests at Pokharan in May 1998 which blasted India and Pakistan back onto the radar screens of foreign policy planners and strategists in Washington, the BJP has been slowly and happily surrendering India’s sovereignty in international affairs — a legacy of non-alignment and Nehru’s nationalist vision of keeping India free of domination by the world’s great powers — to the designs of United States.

Washington’s New Frontline State

This is the same United States which, in its Cold War strategy of bolstering “frontline states”, gave birth to the Afghani mujahadeen and their leader Osama Bin-Laden to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan by pumping money into Pakistan, channeling arms through the ISI and Pakistani military. Only to find that those “freedom fighters” turn into “terrorists” when they no longer served the U.S.’s imperial designs in the region. In the meanwhile those hundred of thousands of Kalashnikov and AK47 rifles, Stinger missiles and hand-held grenades provided to Pakistan found their way into Kashmir, Punjab, and the North East and spawned the insurgencies of the eighties and nineties, whose massive repression continues to drain the public exchequer, sow violence and instability, and embolden communal politicians like Advani to scapegoat Muslims and other “anti-national” elements.

From the time he flagged off the Rath Yatra for the liberation of the Ramjanambhumi in Ayodhya, to the present day when he is appealing to the moral authority of a country responsible for financing and arming groups across the world to serve its global strategies, Mr Advani and his cohorts have continuously spoken in the name of Indian national pride and national security. Behind this hollow rhetoric lies a failure of his party and Government to identify the real culprits responsible for sowing violence and division inside India and in its neighbourhood, through their communal politics and global arms networks. The BJP and their supporters, elated at the crummy recognition finally offered by the U.S. since the nuclear tests — which makes great power intervention in the region more urgent as it is a nuclear flashpoint —  now are martialling evidence against Pakistan in the distant hope that these impartial arbiters of global morality will save India from its enemies within and abroad. Indeed, if we go by recent history, the evidence against the terrorists is damning.