NATO air strikes across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. There is outrage in Pakistan. Relations between Islamabad and Washington have never been worse. NATO commanders ordered the strike after Afghan military alleged that there was firing from across the Pakistan border. Pakistan denies this. The Afghans insist. There is speculation that militants based in Pakistan could have fired. Pakistan denies the possibility because of its heavy troop presence in the area. Pakistan has threatened a rupture of relations with the US. The Americans are bending over backward trying to placate Islamabad. Army Chief General Kayani has promised reprisal. He ordered the closure of the US air base which is used for American drone attacks. He has closed the supply routes for NATO to Afghanistan.
Meanwhile Pakistan has officially complained to the UN. It has boycotted the international meeting to discuss Afghanistan to be held in Germany. It has turned to China for support. The Chinese are responding handsomely. They have expressed shock over the attack and demanded an international investigation. The Russians have expressed similar shock. How should India respond?
It is of course tragic that 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in the NATO air strike. But given the complex self contradictory agendas pursued by competing sections within America and within Pakistan this was bound to happen. It should have happened earlier. It can happen again. As for the international reaction to the event, Indians can only respond with cynicism. International powers are not displaying any high principles by expressing shock and anger over the incident. It is simple partisan politics in pursuance of the respective advantages that China and Russia seek from the incident. Indians need to take a new hard look at the convoluted agendas and the cross purposes that impel policy makers in Washington and Islamabad.
For a start India needs to remind itself of the atrocities committed by the Pakistan army and the ISI through proxy terrorists against India which far outweigh the unfortunate tragedy caused by the NATO strike. Thousands including Indian army personnel have been killed by cross border terrorists in J&K. In several cases the terrorists confessed acting under orders of the Pakistan army. There was the attack against the Indian Parliament. It was followed by the 26/11 attack in Mumbai. One of its perpetrators trained by the Pakistan army continues to languish in an Indian jail. What measure of sympathy for India and condemnation of Pakistan was forthcoming from either China or Russia? Therefore New Delhi should not kid itself. India cannot rely on America, China or Russia. To stabilize South Asia it will have to act on its own.
To do that New Delhi first must take a holistic view of terrorism emanating from the Af-Pak region and the steps required to ensure national security. It must note that General Kayani allows jailed terrorists to use their cell phones in order to direct operations from prison. It must note that Hafiz Saeed roams free in the streets of Lahore spewing venom against India . It must note that China blocked the UN from imposing sanctions against Hafiz Saeed for heading a terrorist outfit. It must recall the enormous critical support given militarily to Pakistan by China which can be used only against India. It must note the material aid, arms and sanctuary given on its soil by China to various Indian insurgent groups that has been adequately documented.
New Delhi must also note the muddle headed, subverted and self contradictory policies pursued by America in the Af-Pak region. If Washington is trapped by its financial debt to Beijing to become paralyzed in Pakistan which acts as the Chinese Army’s proxy, that is America’s problem. It is not India’s problem. It should not inhibit New Delhi from devising its own independent strategy to deal with terrorism. I have earlier pointed out the circumstantial evidence to suggest the presence of a powerful pro-Sino-Pak lobby subverting the US establishment. The fog of suspicion surrounding the mysteriously inhibited role of the US in the Af-Pak theatre became evident immediately after the 9/11 terror in New York.
It should be recalled that Pakistan's ISI Chief Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad arrived in America on the 4th of September 2001, just one week before the 9/11 attacks. He met with State Department officials after 9/11. He also met CIA and Pentagon counterparts. Two days before 9/11 during the ISI Chief’s presence in the US, Ahmad Shah Masood, the all powerful Tajik leader of the Northern Alliance, was assassinated in Afghanistan. Two days later on 9/11 itself the PLA signed a Memorandum of Understanding to set up a communication network with the Taliban government heavily influenced at that time by Mullah Omar’s son-in-law, Osama bin Laden. The Northern Alliance informed the Bush Administration that the ISI had masterminded Masood’s assassination.
Yet the Bush Administration decided with Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad to cooperate with Pakistan 's ISI despite its links to Osama and the Taliban and its alleged role in killing Masood. It must also be recalled that immediately after 9/11 sections of the US establishment prevailed upon President Bush to wrongly persuade him that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attack. So, was the Bush administration complicit or subverted? Probably it was subverted.
Otherwise why should Washington have pressured Islamabad to sack ISI Chief Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad almost immediately after starting to cooperate with it in the war on terror? After Mahmoud Ahmed’s removal the Times of India quoted Indian intelligence sources to report that New Delhi had received information from official channels in Washington about Mahmoud Ahmed’s links with the 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta. Indian intelligence advised Washington that apart from Mahmoud Ahmed there were other ISI officials having similar links.
From this murky background has evolved the current situation. The US State Department seeks a dialogue with the Taliban. The Pentagon seeks an outright military victory against the Taliban. Pakistan’s Prime Minister claims to encourage the peace process with India. Pakistan’s Army Chief General Kayani is encouraging terrorists to destabilize India. America wants to withdraw troops from Afghanistan after stabilizing the Hamid Karzai government. Pakistan wants strategic depth by replacing the Karzai government with the Taliban. Clearly, these cross currents preclude any solution emerging from America in the Af-Pak theatre. That is why New Delhi must think for itself. * (1)
New Delhi must take a long term view based on history and culture to conclude that a lasting solution will only be achieved through recreating ancient Hindustan in the new avatar of a South Asian Union having joint defence, common market and no visas among its sovereign member nations. To achieve this will require considerable patience and resolve. To realize it there can be a hard line or a soft line. How Pakistan and China react to New Delhi’s initiatives related to this goal should determine which line to adopt. The measures related to achieving this goal have been outlined earlier by this scribe in an open letter written to our Prime Minister through these columns. *(2)
These do not bear repetition. The moot point is that unless New Delhi can summon the will and vision to strike out on its own India will continue to suffer. India must cease seeking cooperation with America, China or Pakistan. It must act in order to force America, China and Pakistan to seek cooperation with India.
* (1) India's future role in Afghanistan
* (2) Combating terror: Open Letter to PM