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Israel answers terror as India holds back

Israel answers terror as India holds back

Author: Chidanand Rajghatta, Times News Network
Publication: The Times of India
Date: December 5, 2001

The US war on terrorism in Afghanistan has been temporarily eclipsed by the turbulent events in the Middle-East where Israeli forces struck back violently against the Palestinian establishment on Monday following a series of terrorist attacks on Israeli territory over the weekend.

Israeli helicopter gunships fired several missiles near Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's headquarters, destroying his helicopter and sending a powerful message that it will not tolerate terrorism against its people. Arafat, who Israel accuses of not doing enough to stop the terrorism, was not at his Gaza headquarters when the attack occurred.

It could not have escaped Indian policy makers that the suicide bombings in Israel that killed some 35 people occurred the same weekend that a similar number of people were killed by terrorists in Kashmir, in incidents that included the ethnic targeting of minorities. But the deaths in India hardly created a ripple here, while both the US establishment and the media were in overdrive on the incidents in Israel.

The Bush administration, which till recently was critical of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's hardline methods, fully backed Israel's views that Arafat had not done enough to contain the terrorists and issued strongly worded statements calling for action. While Washington had counselled restraint on India's part in responding to the provocations in Kashmir in view of its priority and pre-occupation with the war in Afghanistan, no such moderation was called for in Israel's case.

In any case, it is unlikely that a strong-willed Israel would have listened to Washington. Prime Minister Sharon was in the US and scheduled to meet President Bush on Monday, but that meeting was advanced to Sunday and he left for home soon after. Israeli officials and leaders also launched a full scale media blitz arguing that the Palestinian Authority and its affiliates needed to be punished for the provocation.

On its part, India has not only failed to forcefully present its case on Kashmir, but according to critics, it has been lax in informing the world of the terrorist atrocities, including the ethnic cleansing that has depopulated the Kashmir Valley of minorities. As a result, the Bush administration has temporised and dissembled over terrorism in Kashmir, even going to the extent of rewarding Pakistan without seeking adequate guarantees that it will stop backing the violence there.

"Pakistan has taken this US double dealing as a signal that it can continue its sponsorship of terrorism," says Lalit Kaul of the Kashmiri New Network, a newly established front representing the interest of Kashmiri Pandits who have been totally marginalised in the debate.

US officials say the Israel and India cases are different, and the presence of nuclear weapons in the sub-continent complicates matters.

But Indian analysts say such an argument has dangerous implications. It suggests that countries can use the nuclear cover to indulge in terrorism and it could also embolden other countries to seek nuclear weapons to further a terrorist agenda.

They also argue that Washington is missing the woods for the trees in targeting other countries like Sudan and Somalia for terrorism while ignoring the fact that Pakistan is the critical swamp and promotes terrorism as a state policy.

"As the US chases red herrings in Iraq and elsewhere, Pakistan continues with its sham participation in the anti-terror war at the same time it is continuing to shelter and sponsor international terrorists," says Kaul.

Top Indian officials, including Lalit Mansingh, the Indian ambassador in Washington, have said "Pakistan cannot be a policeman by day and a thief at night," but the argument has had little impact in Washington, where there is considerable residual institutional sympathy for its Cold War ally.

Agencies add:

NABLUS: Israeli F-16 fighter bombers launched air raids on the West Bank town of Jenin Monday, scarcely an hour after Israeli helicopters blasted Yasser Arafat's personal heliport in Gaza City, witnesses told AFP.

Witnesses said more than three missiles had slammed into targets in the town, apparently hitting the police headquarters and the governor's building. The Israeli army confirmed it had hit the targets but refused to say whether war planes or combat helicopters had been used.

Israeli helicopters also attacked the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Palestinian security and hospital sources said.

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