Hindu Vivek Kendra
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America's double standard on terror

America's double standard on terror

Author: Michael Moran
Publication: MSNBC
Date: December 14, 2001
URL: http://www.msnbc.com/news/672181.asp

Two nations, two democracies: both key American allies, both nuclear powers plagued by Muslim extremists and instability on their borders. Israel just got a green light from America to turn its guns on Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority, if not the source of the terrorism, certainly the source of instability. But what about India? An Islamic suicide squad believed to be from Pakistan mounted a deadly attack on the parliament in New Delhi Thursday. What wise counsel does Washington have for India now that we've cozied up to their enemy?

ATTACKS on symbols of democracy should raise anger and concern in the United States, particularly after Sept. 11. Yet America appears strangely detached when Islamic suicide bombers storm into the parliament of the world's largest democracy and try to blow it up. India's government says Thursday's attack is the work of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, a Pakistani group tolerated by Pakistan. It has previously taken credit, gleefully, for suicide bombings and a blood-soaked attack last year in New Delhi's ancient "Red Fort."

Today, many Indians have good reason to ask how they are supposed to react to attacks apparently mounted from Pakistani territory, which is also being used as a base for American special forces pursuing Osama bin Laden.

Of course, the United States condemned the attack in New Delhi, as did Pakistan's military ruler, Pervez Musharraf. Similarly, the United States condemned the attacks over the past week in Israel. However, Washington privately told Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that he should feel free do to what is necessary to make sure they don't happen again. But if Arafat is now being held responsible for the horrors that emanate from his territory, should not Washington start demanding the same of Musharraf?

The United States knew very well the viper's nest it was entering when it bullied Musharraf into accepting his uncomfortable role as "anti-terrorism coalition member."

It was no coincidence that the first offer of airfields and logistical support for America's war in Afghanistan came from India. For most of the cold war, the world's two largest democracies mismanaged their relations so badly that they were on different sides. Since 1990, this has changed, and with so many mutual interests - countering Islamic extremism and Chinese expansion, for instance - ties were warming quickly before Sept. 11. Now, all of that big-picture thinking is at risk.

"It's not too different from asking Stalin to fight Hitler with you," said an Indian diplomat in New York. "We know why you did it, and we understand. But that didn't make Stalin any less evil."

Musharaff is no more a Stalin than Dan Quayle was a Jack Kennedy. But Indian views of Pakistan - and Pakistani views of India - rarely betray any colors outside of black and white. Each sees the other as the embodiment of evil, partly a reflection of hatreds that pre-date independence in 1947, and partly because since then, every Indian and Pakistani has been schooled to believe that every waking hour of their rival's days are spent trying to come up with ways to wipe their enemy from the earth.

Much of this enmity focuses on Kashmir, the disputed northern region ruled by India and claimed by Pakistan. It is one of a long list of time bombs the British left ticking when they abandoned their empire after World War II (Palestine, by the way, is another).


Kashmir could be a career in itself. In a nutshell, however, here is the issue:

When Britain split India into separate Muslim- and Hindu-dominated states upon independence in 1947, each prince, nabob and emir of territory within India was asked to declare allegiance to Pakistan or India. The leader of Kashmir prevaricated past the deadline, prompting Pakistani guerrillas and Indian troops to move. India's troops won the day, seizing Kashmir and "encouraging" the Kashmiri ruler to sign for India, which he did. India then pledged to hold a referendum on the future of the region, which is the only Muslim-majority state in India, but this has never happened.

In the late 1980s, an Islamic insurgency developed inside India-ruled Kashmir that took tens of thousands of lives, with abuses on both sides. Pakistan stepped up its pressure in the 1990s, using Afghan camps to train insurgents for the fight in Kashmir, and in 1999, inserting troops and guerrillas in a move that nearly brought the two nuclear powers to war. After Pakistan's President Nawaz Sharif agreed to withdraw his forces under American pressure, the humilitated army reacted with a coup.
Enter America's new champion, Gen. Musharraf.

If the terrorism that had thrived under Sharif and his predecessor, Benazir Bhutto, had suddenly stopped, the change might have been welcomed in New Delhi. But it has not stopped. Besides Thursday's attack in New Delhi, on Oct. 1, a group based in Pakistan launched a very similar assault on the regional parliament in Kashmir. The group, Jaish-e-Muhammad, brazenly claimed credit. It later disavowed the claim, but the very existence of the group is enough for India.

So far, the United States has failed to look this issue squarely in the eye. Soon after the Oct. 1 attack, the United States made it clear that it regarded any such attacks as terrorism. Behind the scenes, U.S. diplomats have sought to assure India that the new, close relationship with Musharaff is a good thing, not a setback to the U.S.-Indian rapproachment, but rather a welcome new influence on Pakistan.

America's ambassador in New Delhi, Robert Blackwill, paid a condolence visit to the site of the attack on Friday and said, "The events that occurred yesterday were perpetrated by terrorists no different in their objectives from those who attacked America on Sept. 11."

The analogy to Israel is, of course, imperfect. The "green light" supposedly given to Sharon may turn out to be a disaster, too, and certainly India won't bother asking for one if it ever comes to that. But the United States would be well-advised to stand by its words with regard to India and Pakistan. India appears desperately to want American influence in Pakistan to translate into an opening for real negotiations and an end to terrorism. But like any country, India's patience is finite. And if Indians ultimately choose the Israeli path, it won't be a matter of bulldozers, bus bombs and tank shells. It will be nuclear war.

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