[Reader-list] 'Terrorism': India's New 'Strategic' Chance?

Henk henk at waag.org
Fri Sep 14 21:52:56 IST 2001

The following article is from the Transnational Institute website:
http://www.tni.org/. All articles mentioned below are accesible from our
home page at http://www.tni.org. Please check our website for additional
links and  statements. 

Henk (besides sysadmin at the Society for old and new media also sysadmin at
TNI Amsterdam office).


- TNI fellow Mariano Aguirre:
In his article "An Attack Against Politics and Democracy" Aguirre writes on
the consequences that terrorism brings to politics and democracy. Available
in English and Spanish.

- TNI fellow Praful Bidwai:
Two of Praful Bidwai's articles have been reproduced for this edition of
TNI- News. The first, "Counter-terror Won't Work" is a plea for the United
States to practice restraint and avoid unilateral retaliation; the second,
"'Terrorism': India's New 'Strategic' Chance?" encourages India to condemn
all types of terrorism.

- TNI Senior Fellow Saul Landau:
Writing from inside the United States, Saul Landau offers in "The day after"
some critical comments on the issues of terrorism and US policy.

- Also, a transcription of an ZNet interview with TNI Fellow Phyllis Bennis
is available through our website. 

- Some reflections from TNI Communications Officer, Antonio Carmona Baez.


'Terrorism': India's New 'Strategic' Chance?
Praful Bidwai - TNI Fellow
InterPress Service, 13 September 2001

The terrible tragedy that struck the United States with attacks on the World
Trade Centre and the Pentagon has evoked a rush of genuine popular sympathy
and heartfelt concern in India.

Ordinary citizens with no special connection to the US are as horrified at
the awesome magnitude of the violence and loss of innocent lives as the 1.5
million middle and upper class Indian families who have close relatives
settled in America, some of whom are bound to be among the victims of the

This sentiment finds resonance in the stances and attitudes of Indian
policy-makers as these are emerging now. But many policy-makers and -shapers
also see in the unfolding tragedy a chance to advance their own agenda: of
winning support for the special and long-standing Indian preoccupation with
"terrorism", and on that basis, forging a special relationship of proximity
and "partnership" with the US, to the exclusion of (and at the expense of)

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee met within a few hours of
the New York attacks. Vajpayee has since despatched a letter to President
Bush, expressing horror at the New York and Washington attacks. This is
noteworthy for its emphasis on the "terrible reminder" of the "destructive
power of terrorism" globally, and of the need to combat it in all its forms.
Equally significant is India's offer of full cooperation in identifying,
tracking down and bringing to book the concerned terrorists.

Home Minister Advani, known for his hardline Right-wing views, says the US
attacks "vindicate" his government's stand that "terrorism" is the
"greatest" and "biggest" problem facing many countries, in particular India.
In a television interview, Advani dropped enough hints about special or
unique "threats" from "Islamic terrorism".

Equally important is the tone adopted by influential Indian policy-makers
and-shapers outside, but close to, the government. In informal and
off-the-record conversations, they openly espouse anti- or
counter-"terrorism" as the logical plank of a whole new policy approach to
"security". In particular, they specifically advocate a "strategic alliance"
between India and the US, along with Israel.

New Delhi has already resumed its strategic "dialogue" with Washington,
which was interrupted by the May 1998 nuclear tests. Last month, chairman of
the US joint chiefs of staff Sheldon visited India.

And, at this very moment, India's National Security Adviser and Vajpayee
confidant Brajesh Mishra is on an official visit to Israel to meet his
counterpart, Major General Uzi Dayan.

This visit may only be a coincidence. But what is not coincidental is
Israel's emergence as the Vajpayee government's major partner and adviser in
training personnel for "counter-insurgency" operations in Kashmir and in
supplying a range of military equipment. It is believed that Israel is
already the second largest source of weapons for India. India is now on a
buying spree and has doubled its defence spending over the past five years.

Just as India attributes the Kashmir crisis largely to "cross- border
terrorism" sponsored by Pakistan through support to secessionist militants,
Israel too characterises the 11 months-old second intifadah as a revolt by
Palestinian "terrorists". Both see their common interest in fighting
"Islamic terrorists" and "fundamentalists", although some of the forces
behind the insurgency they confront are secular and far from Islamicist,
leave alone fundamentalist.

However, it is the US that India has been energetically courting in recent
years. Once non-aligned, and in fact a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement,
New Delhi since the mid-1990s has moved towards a close strategic-diplomatic
relationship with Washington in keeping with a major change in its economic
policy towards neo-liberalism and globalisation.

The shift became especially apparent after President Clinton's visit to
India in March 2000, and the lifting of most US sanctions imposed after the
nuclear blasts.

Since then, the two governments have moved closer towards a "strategic
partnership", a process that received a big boost when George Bush took over
as US president.

New Delhi, capitalising on the Republicans' allergy to the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty (which it itself opposes), sought to introduce a special
nuclear aspect into the Indo- US relationship by becoming the first nation
to welcome Bush's May 1 speech where he outlined his new strategic plans
based on Missile Defence, or a version of "Star Wars".

India views the "strategic partnership" as valuable in its own terms: the US
is now the world's sole superpower, and faces very little resistance in
laying down the line whether as a global gendarme or the world's economic
hegemon; India sees alignment with it as a guarantee of success of its own
Right-leaning economic policy and strategic orientation.

However, India also views this "partnership" through the Pakistan prism--a
relationship that will help it isolate its long-standing rival in South Asia
and ward off pressure on Kashmir, leaving it free to pursue its strategy of
putting down the militancy with a heavy hand.

Ever since the militancy erupted 12 years ago, India has been pleading with
the US to recognise "terrorism" as a major global menace and as a common
platform for a special alliance of "democracies".

This is New Delhi's best chance to push that proposal. Or so a number of
India's largely hawkish strategic "experts" and policy-makers believe. What
they might not reckon with is the long- or middle-term consequences of such
an approach, especially if the US links Osama bin Laden and the Taliban to
the latest terrorist attacks, and targets Southwest and South Asia as the
focus of an interventionist policy to counter and "hunt down" terrorists.

Any further proximity between the US and India, with Israel thrown in, is
likely to further embitter Pakistan which is an alienated former ally of
Washington. Pakistan, used as a "frontline state" during the Soviet
intervention in Afghanistan, is deeply embroiled in the present mess in that
failing state, with enormous costs to itself in the form of three million
refugees and narcotics trafficking. Pakistan's economy is in deep trouble
and its society in the grip of sectarian strife.

It could hardly be in India's interest to have an embittered, sullen,
disoriented, but nuclearly armed, Pakistan right on its borders. Taunting
and humiliating the neighbour, rather than build a healthy, cooperative,
confidence-enhancing relationship with it, could prove a highly myopic
policy, especially under the tutelage of the US. The US is far from popular
in this part of the world because of its past conduct and its present
overwhelming clout which is not exercised subtly.

New Delhi, then, could come a cropper by pursuing the strategic
"partnership" on the basis of a common platform against "terrorism".

Copyright 2001 InterPress Service

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