Osama's removal would not help India. Osama's powerful patron, China, remains hyperactive. While discussing peace with Pakistan India therefore should be doubly cautious. Consider some facts and connect the dots.
Last week Abu Jandal, a former bodyguard of Osama, described events during 1999 in Kandahar, immediately after the hijacked Indian Airlines plane landed. Hostage passengers were exchanged for terrorists released from Indian jails. The most important among the terrorists was Masood Azhar. Subsequently, he founded the Jaish-e-Mohammed. From Abu Jandal's account, aired by Al Jazeera, two facts emerged. Osama had prior knowledge of the hijacking and was probably responsible for it. Osama had earlier acquaintance with Masood Azhar whose release he celebrated with a party. It seems reasonable to infer therefore that Jaish-e-Mohammed and other Pakistan-based groups targeting India and Kashmir are an extension of Al Qaeda.
After the IA plane was hijacked, the then Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh was the first to know. He did not get his information from any Indian source. China informed him. Jaswant Singh stated this twice. How did China know? The Chinese claimed that a passenger using a laptop computer informed them. Is it credible that a passenger in a plane controlled by armed terrorists could use the computer undetected?
Therefore, from Jaswant Singh's disclosure and Abu Jandal's revelation, it appears that both the Chinese and Osama bin Laden had fore-knowledge of the Kandahar hijacking. Links between China and Osama go back a long way. In 1985 when the US created Afghanistan's mujahideen to expel the Soviets, Osama was its integral part. Three hundred Chinese military officers trained the mujahideen. At that time America and China were united against the Soviets. China allowed Uighur Muslims from Xingjian to join the mujahideen. After achieving their objective against the Soviets the Americans departed, leaving Afghanistan in the lurch. Osama, with money and with fellow Arabs, successfully forged deep ties with the Taliban. Osama even married the daughter of the Taliban chief, Mullah Omar. Osama and the Taliban were now firmly against America. Meanwhile, China had strengthened ties with them. In 1998 America fired missiles against Osama in Afghanistan. Two missiles did not detonate. The Taliban handed them over to China.
During the Kargil war in mid-1999 both China and Osama helped Pakistan against India. According to official Indian intelligence sources seven Chinese military officers in Skardu, part of Pakistan occupied Kashmir, monitored military supplies from China to the Pakistan army. During the Kargil fighting China even encroached into India across the Ladakh border in an effort to divert the Indian army. The man in charge of Pakistan's Kargil operation, which was beyond the control of its democratically elected PM Nawaz Sharif, was General Musharraf.
In early January 2001 China refused to support UN sanctions against the Taliban. Osama publicly named America, Russia and India as the three main enemies of Islam. China, significantly, was not named, even though the Uighurs were making demands in Xingjian which appeared similar to the demands of the Chechens in Chechnya. But the real Osama-Taliban-China link surfaced on 9/11 itself.
Consider the background. Former Chinese premier Li Peng was a strong opponent of China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Membership of WTO entailed monitoring by international agencies, and subjection to international norms. China, unfettered by international norms, had forged deep commercial ties with the US, approved by corrupt American politicians. Most of the firms selling low-tech goods to the US were owned by the Peoples' Liberation Army (PLA). Part of the profits was used by PLA to enhance China's military capability.
Astonishingly, the US allowed a five-to-one trade deficit with China. This situation, created by Chinese subversion and American corruption, was lamented by the late Abe Rosenthal in 1996-97 through articles published in the New York Times. China's top leadership therefore was divided over entry to WTO. China was due to sign agreement with WTO on 9/17, 2001. Six days before that the WTO towers were bombed. On that very same day, the PLA signed an agreement with Taliban in Afghanistan. China would set up Afghanistan's communication network. In return, Osama would restrain the Uighurs from revolting in Xingjian. Are these dates coincidental? Or do they signify some kind of Chinese complicity in 9/11, to sabotage China's entry into WTO? If so, the exercise failed.
There is additional evidence of Chinese backing for Islamist terrorism. Such as, for example, the official research paper prepared by Yossef Bodansky for the US Congress. According to Bodansky's researched findings, China utilized Pakistan and Iran to spread Islamist terrorism for furthering its own strategic interests. And there are the NYT reports by William Broad and David Sanger, quoting a declassified US State Department memo to reveal that Pakistan obtained technology for 'fissile material production and also possibly nuclear device design' from China. The CIA monitored Pakistan's Dr AQ Khan, who headed global nuclear proliferation, receiving nuclear help from China in Beijing. In short, known Chinese links with jihadi terrorism are as deep, and perhaps more fundamental, than those of Pakistan. All this may sound repetitive. But it needs recalling to perceive fully the context in which the Indian government seeks with Pakistan a joint mechanism to counter terrorism.
Readers might recall that I was one of the earliest advocates of a confederal arrangement with Pakistan in the belief that it would facilitate settlement of Kashmir and other disputes. The current talk of a joint mechanism against terrorism which might lead to joint management of Kashmir by India and Pakistan is certainly not a step in that direction.
The earlier proposed arrangement presupposed joint defence, including nuclear defence. In other words, that arrangement would have cut Pakistan's umbilical cord to China. South Asia could then have developed into a cohesive global power. What General Musharraf seeks is to settle Kashmir, part of which is also illegally occupied by China, and to legitimize the status quo. China would continue its defence treaties with Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Against which nation are these treaties directed?
As long as these hostile treaties exist can India welcome Pakistan?
It matters little if Osama is dead. The dragon is alive.