By M Shamsur Rabb Khan
The David Headley saga put a big question mark over the US policy for tackling terror due to the inability of the FBI to inform their Indian counterparts about 26/11. New Delhi learnt the big lesson that it had to deal with Pakistan-sponsored terrorists on its own, while the rhetoric from Washington was only a diplomatic red herring. Now the Wikileaks disclosure is another setback for Indo-US relations. According to a leaked cable, the US suppressed information related to the involvement of the ISI in the Mumbai attacks, but also defended it. They vindicate India’s firm stand that the ISI was behind the Mumbai terror attack, but paint the US government in very poor light, especially its intention to proceed seriously in the war on terror.
The relevant cable from the US embassy in Pakistan to the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in January 2009 says, “We are concerned that India’s premature public dissemination of this information will undermine essential law enforcement efforts and forestall further Indo-Pakistan cooperation. Our goal is not only to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice, but also to begin a dialogue that will reduce tensions between India and Pakistan.” The use of phrases like “premature public dissemination” and “forestall further Indo-Pakistan cooperation” are objectionable since New Delhi has every right to pursue and bring to justice those who are behind these ghastly attacks. In view of the dubious role played by David Headley, it is undeniable that the US was also a major player in 26/11.
This is not all. On the issue of investigations into the Mumbai attacks, the US Embassy described the “Million Dollar Question” as the role played by the ISI. The US also tried to protect ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha from the investigations into 26/11 by India even though the findings clearly indicated the ISI’s involvement as led by him. In its further double-standard policy to save Pasha, the cable from the US embassy in Islamabad revealed that the US was keen on urging India to delay the release of their findings since they could undermine Pasha. Washington thus showed little concern for the victims of 26/11 and their families.
In this confidential exchange of diplomatic messages, the US is clearly seen to be supporting the Pakistan Army and not the democratically elected President, Asif Ali Zardari, who was ready to send the ISI chief to New Delhi after the attacks. However, the Pakistani army led by General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the cable said, overruled Zardari. And it seems the US, in turn, played a major role in influencing the decision of the Pakistan Army. It is high time the Government of India readjusts its policies in view of the differentiated American perceptions of the war on terror: the US considers 9/11 to be its watershed, but has shown indifference to India’s 26/11. For New Delhi, the US is a party to the delay that Pakistan maintains in prosecuting the perpetrators of 26/11.
Another WikiLeaks cable which will act as an impediment to close ties with the US reveals American perceptions about the Indian Army and its war preparedness. In a cable dated 16 February 2010, the US Ambassador to India, Tim Roemer, described the “Cold Start Doctrine” as a mixture of myth and reality. Roemer says, “It’s never been and may never be put to use on a battlefield because of substantial and serious resource constraints.” For Roemer, the Indian Army is “slow and lumbering, and unable to attack with an element of surprise.”
New Delhi has placed too much reliance on support from the US regarding its crucial security concerns, including fighting the terror infrastructure across the border. Washington’s apprehension about escalating tensions between India and Pakistan has not yielded any worthwhile results either in restraining Pakistan from exporting terror or appreciating India’s forbearance in not snapping diplomatic ties. Given the US interest in tackling the Mumbai terror attacks, it is imperative for New Delhi to reveal its seriousness in single-handedly pursuing the perpetrators of 26/11 without much consideration for US concerns. Only then would India, as a sovereign state, restore the faith of its people in its strength and ability to take decisive action.
M Shamsur Rabb Khan, Freelancer may be reached at [email protected]