By Bhaskar Roy
Most Indians will be closely watching the outcome of US Secretary of State Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s second visit to India in her current capacity. As she arrives in New Delhi on July 19, it is all too obvious that the bilateral talks will exceed the already prepared agenda, thanks to the triple explosion in Mumbai on July 13 that killed 17 and injured more than one hundred.
The US-India strategic co-operation dialogue was put into effect during Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna’s visit to Washington in March. On the table for Ms. Clinton’s visit are reported to be 18 sectors, a wide array on which the ground work has been done already. They range from some rather routine issues like education to highly important subjects like nuclear cooperation and efforts to block India’s access to high end nuclear technology including enrichment technology at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) unless India signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a highly discriminating regime. While there are other very important issues under discussion, the most important is co-operation in counter-terrorism including intelligence sharing, Pakistan’s spoiler role, and Afghanistan.
The July 13 or “13/7” terrorist attacks have been condemned worldwide, including by President Barack Obama and Ms. Clinton herself, and also by Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. Words are cheap, it is action that is required.
The Indian government’s response has been very mature, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh standing firm on continuing talks with Pakistan. The Indian authorities including the intelligence agencies have not cast any suspicion on Pakistan, publicly. This is a consensus decision to continue efforts to make Pakistan understand that terrorism will not serve interests of either country. India and most of the world are aware that the Pakistani government leaders are ventriloquist’s doll, the ventriloquist being the Pakistani army and its intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
It is well known that the Pak army has not moved an inch away from its policy of using terrorists to serve its foreign policy goals, including seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan. The US would certainly be cognizant of the fact that the bigger beneficiary of the assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the head of the Political Council of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province on July 10, is not the Taliban but Pakistan. Wali Karzai cleared Kandahar and parts of South Afghanistan of Pakistan’s spear head in Afghanistan, the Taliban. Several times, Pakistan had warned that there can be no resolution of the Afghan problem without Pakistan, and Islamabad or the Rawalpindi General Headquarters (GHQ) must retain a dominating say in Afghanistan – the strategic depth theory.
If the US and Ms. Clinton included, is really serious about strategic co-operation and shared interests with India, she has to explain to her Indian counterparts how Washington views India’s presence in Afghanistan. India has not participated in ISAF in Afghanistan, and should not. It will only create more problems. But India has historical and strategic interests in Afghanistan.
It is no secret that in May this year, Pakistan’s army Chief Gen. Kayani and ISI Chief Lt.Gen. Pasha, demanded of President Hamid Karzai to close down Indian Consulates in Afghanistan, and advised him to discard the USA and bring in China. Of course, President Karzai would do neither, but at the same time Kayani Associates will spare no efforts to pursue their agenda.
Returning to the “13/7” Mumbai terror attacks, there has been more criticism of Pakistan from the international press than from their Indian counterparts. In an editorial (July 15) Pakistan’s Daily News wrote “Pakistanis policy of nurturing jihadist groups and using its terrorist proxies in the region has damaged Pakistan’s image, status and position in the world. There is little credibility left for Pakistan and the world increasingly treats us as a pariah State”. Sections of Pakistani media and civil society have been exasperated in the last year or so and increasingly after Osama bin Laden was found hiding in the military town of Abbottabad. Yet, they are a small minority. Large sections of the Pakistani media have been bought by the ISI, which has no financial constraints though the country lives on foreign aid.
The Daily Times, Pakistan, however, made a very succinct comment: “Whenever relations between India and Pakistan start to normalize, spoilers try to sabotage the process. Examples like the Kargil misadventure, and “26/11” (Mumbai attack) are no secret”. This short observation speaks a whole history. The Kargil misadventure refers to 1999 when Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came close to stabilizing bilateral relations, but the then Pakistani army Chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf, later President Musharraf launched a clandestine attack on India. The complicity of the ISI in the “26/11” Mumbai attack or rather carnage is also well known.
Even Arab media like the Al Arabia and the Gulf News expressed outrage over the recent Mumbai terrorism, pointing fingers at Pakistan and urging India for “Coordinated ruthless action” against the terrorists. Most of the world including China are awakening to the reality that Pakistan has become the epicenter of international terrorism blessed by the Pakistani state – that is the military intelligence establishment.
Certainly, in the last few months USA has put tremendous pressure on Pakistan and called Gen. Kayani’s bluff that they could very well do without US military assistance. Pakistan finally buckled and sent the ISI Chief Shuja Pasha to Washington on July 13, to beg forgiveness. And it did not need a rocket scientist to tell US that the USA would resume its military assistance to Pakistan as their demands were met.
It is well understood that the US needs Pakistan to pursue its anti-terror agenda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But despite their unrivalled military and intelligence collection power, the Americans have failed to read the minds of Asians, which have undergone evolution through centuries.
The US perceives that more indepth co-operation with India to persecute Pakistan’s anti-Indian terrorist agenda will diminish their influence with Rawalpindi’s GHQ. The trial of David Headley, an American of Pakistani origin, and a crucial ISI agent in reconnoitering Indian targets which resulted in the devastating “26/11” Mumbai carnage is a case in point. Headley was almost let off the hook in the Mumbai case, and the intelligence sharing left much to be desired.
It is understood that the US has a larger geopolitical agenda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But selective approach towards terrorism will neither help the US nor the rest of the world. This is an issue that should top the agenda during Secretary Clinton’s interaction with her Indian counterparts.