Non-Conventional Terrorism and the Use
of Weapons of Mass Destruction
National Policies: India’s Response
by Brahma Chellaney
Professor of Strategic Studies, Centre for Policy
New Delhi Research –
The threat from non-conventional terrorism, especially nuclear terrorism, was brought home starkly to U.S. President George W. Bush in the weeks after the September 11, 2001, terrorist strikes. According to Bob Woodward‟s latest book, Bush was made to believe by U.S. intelligence reports that the Al Qaeda intended to carry out a crude nuclear attack on the U.S. capital in October-November 2001 with radioactive material procured from Pakistan. “We began to get serious indications that nuclear plans, material and know-how were being
moved out of Pakistan,” Bush is quoted in the book as having said in an interview to the 1author. “It was the vibrations coming out of everybody reviewing the evidence”. The evidence of a radiological attack that Bush referred to was presented to him at an intelligence briefing on October 29, 2001. The danger had been codenamed by U.S. intelligence “Threat Matrix” and the evidence included electronic intercepts that revealed discussion of a radiological device in the form of conventional explosives being employed to disperse radioactive material. Other Al Qaeda discussions picked up by U.S. intelligence mentioned “making lots of people sick”, according to the book. Some of the Al Qaeda operatives reportedly said that good news could come within a week and that it could bigger than September 11.
Bush, however, refused to move out of Washington. “Those bastards are going to find me exactly here”, the U.S. President is quoted as saying. “And if they get me, they are going to get me right here”. In the face of Bush‟s insistence to stay put, Vice President Dick Cheney
decided to move to a “secure, undisclosed location” to avert a leadership vacuum. “This isn‟t about you”, Cheney tells Bush. “This is about our Constitution”.
Bush later explained his stand to Woodward this way: “Had the President decided he too is
going, you would have had the Vice President going one direction and the President going another, people are going to say, “What about me?” I wasn‟t going to leave. I guess I could have, but I wasn‟t”.
The U.S. President‟s fear that Pakistan could be the source of nuclear material to Al Qaeda
terrorists was rooted in the failing nature of the Pakistani state and the strong ties between its military and Al Qaeda operatives. According to one Pakistan-born analyst, “Pakistan is on the
1 Bob Woodward, Bush At War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002).
2way to becoming the world's first failed nuclear state”, while an American analyst has 3described Pakistan as a “Colombia with nukes and Islamic fundamentalism”.
While the risks of non-conventional terrorism admittedly may be low in comparison to conventional terrorism, a single successful terrorist act involving the use of weapons of mass destruction would have far-reaching international implications. The increasing levels of technological sophistication manifested by terror groups, coupled with the willingness of their member to sacrifice their lives, have increased the risks of non-conventional terrorism, particularly nuclear terrorism. Add to that the growing availability of portable, shoulder-fired rockets and other lethal “small” arms useful to perpetrate non-conventional terrorist attacks other
than by electronic means.
The emerging patterns of transnational terrorism have rendered some old assumptions invalid. The killings of nearly 3,000 people in the terrorist strikes on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, and the mass terrorist killings in India or Bali, bedly arguments that, “Simply killing a lot of people has seldom been a terrorist objective. Terrorists want a lot of people watching, 4not a lot of people dead”. Few analysts earlier had reckoned with the possibility of terrorists resorting to weapons of mass destruction. Many experts had also disbelieved the possibility of terrorists seizing a commercial nuclear power plant or research reactor to hold a nation hostage in order to get their demands fulfilled. These experts had contended that terrorists would not dare engage in such acts because of the strong public outrage and mass repulsion their actions would trigger. The events since September 11, 2001, have brought home to the international community that terrorists‟ beliefs and actions often seem devoid of any rationality. It is against this background that the risks of non-conventional terrorism related to weapons of mass destruction must be assumed to be real.
Larger international context
Ideas and ideologies serve as a powerful catalyst in shaping international relations. They are the galvanizing element, providing the moral veneer to the assertiveness and ruthlessness often involved in the pursuit of a particular ideological cause. The Cold War was won by the West, for example, not so much by military means as by spreading market capitalism to other regions that helped suck the lifeblood out of Communism's international appeal, making it incapable of meeting the widespread yearning for a better life.
The last century saw the rise and fall of two powerful ideologies: Nazism and Communism. stThe 21 century has begun with a global war on terrorism. Although not an ideology by itself, terrorism is the preferred instrument for achieving political objectives for those state and non-state actors who believe that they are too weak against their perceived adversaries to fight by conventional means.
Not only is terrorism asymmetrical warfare against more powerful foes, its attraction for those waging it also flows from growing asymmetries between the powerful and the weak in the world. The revolution in military affairs (RMA) has contributed to making the powerful more powerful, increasing the perceived vulnerabilities of the weak. Add to that the fact that the most powerful states are also armed with nuclear weapons. This reality has enhanced the attraction of terrorism for those determined to achieve their objectives by whatever means, including suicide attacks. Often the key objective behind terrorist attacks is not the
2 Mansoor Ijaz, “Stop Pakistan‟s Fall into Nuclear-Armed Failure,” International Herald Tribune, May 4, 2000,
p. 8. 3 Sebastian Mallaby, “Pakistan‟s Palaver Turns Democracy on Its Head,” International Herald Tribune, April 28,
2000, p. 6. 4 Brian Jenkins, "The Future Course of Terrorism," The Futurist, (July/August 1987), p.8.
furtherance of one‟s political beliefs and aims, but the inflicting of humiliation and the wreaking of revenge on a foe.
In a world of rapid change, the rise of transnational terrorism has become a central issue in international relations. Terrorism challenges the role of technology in development and security in a world in which technological forces are playing a greater role in shaping geopolitics than at any time in history. In the same way that textiles, railways and coal built the power and wealth of some countries after the advent of the Industrial Revolution, 5information technology is at the centre of power and force today. The RMA, ensuing from
the Information Age, provides the sort of edge in military power that European colonial powers derived from industrial technologies. Due to the unwillingness of some powers to bear casualties, the RMA process is being harnessed in a manner to allow the powerful to wage war without bearing fatalities on its side.
The world of today is the result of the swift advances in technology, which ha been progressing at a remarkable rate especially since the 1980s, with scientific information now increasing two-fold about every five years. Since the advent of the post-World War II electronics age, the world has amassed more scientific knowledge than was generated in the previous 5,000 years. The rising tide of new knowledge has increasingly shrunk the shelf-life of most technologies and technological products, which tend to become obsolete in just a few years.
The world has changed radically since Edison's incandescent light and Bell's telephone arrived by 1900 and Marconi's radio telegraph came a year later. These inventions set the stage for building a modern world and for the evolution from a rural agricultural society, to an industrial economy, and to a service economy. Scientific discoveries that seemed improbable at a given moment became a reality within years. Albert Einstein in 1932 judged that the potential of nuclear energy would remain a mirage. But 13 years later, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki lay in nuclear ruins.
Average life expectancy in North America and West Europe has gone from about 45 years to about 80 in the past century. Technology also has revolutionised agriculture: A century ago, almost 40% of Americans worked on farms to feed some 76 million U.S. citizens, but now just over 2% of Americans grow the food to feed 270 million people in the United States and export large surpluses to other countries.
But it was the last quarter-century that heralded revolutionary technological changes that have facilitated the rise of the post-industrial, information-based economy. The close relationship between information technology and military power can be seen from the fact that the United States‟ unmatched conventional force power projection capability is based on the exploitation of commercial advances in the processing and transmission of information. Those with the most powerful scientific and technological capabilities are also the most powerful econo-mically and militarily in the world.
The advance of technology, however, has also made it possible to conjure up deadly scenarios of information warfare in the future unless adequate safeguards and regimes are erected. A cyber-attack on a transportation or electrical grid could potentially have the same destructive effect as a nuclear strike. A renegade state could disrupt international financial markets, triggering chaos. Non-state actors could also conduct information warfare on states.
5st Curt Gasteyger, Security in the 21 Century: Trends and Perspectives, PSIS Occasional Paper Number 1
(Geneva: Programme for Strategic and International Security Studies, 1999), pp. 15-16.
Given the unparalleled pace of technological change, the international geostrategic landscape, too, continues to change rapidly. At the beginning of the new millennium, the global strategic environment is more competitive and risky than in the previous era. The cessation of the cold war did not lead to the promised “new world order,” the “end of history” or the “clash of civilisations”. Nor did it bring disarmament or usher in the widely expected era of stability, cooperative security and wider prosperity. Yet it engendered fresh political, technological and economic rivalries and unveiled new destructive capacities.
In the past century, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and missiles came to occupy a central military role. That is likely to remain the case in the foreseeable future. The central attraction of missiles – which are much cheaper and easier to operate and maintain than
manned bomber aircraft – flows from the fact that the attacking nation does not have to bring its forces in harm's way. Remotely-fired “smart” weapons – products of the Information Age
– are any military‟s choice.
Geopolitically, the international scene today is characterised by conflicting trends. Internationalism and nationalism, economic liberalisation and protectionism, and multi-lateralism and unilateralism go hand-in-hand. In an interdependent world, the increasing incidence of „internal war‟ carries implications that go beyond national boundaries. Internal conflicts raise the possibility that some modern states created by European colonial powers through fusion of ethnic and tribal entities could unravel in the years ahead. This raises the spectre of bloody ethnic violence and collapsing states, especially in the developing world. Globalisation has so far not changed the nature of international relations or the make-up of the international system, even as it is changing our daily life. The 1997-98 financial crisis in Asia brought home the truth that globalisation entails greater (not lesser) state responsibility. This is particularly true in relation to terrorism, whose rise challenges the international community to harness technology and globalisation for fostering cooperation and security, not discord and conflict.
Conflict remains endemic in the world. What the world is witnessing is the changing form and 6dimension of conflict, as evidenced by the rise of both intra-state strife and unconventional aggression in the form of terrorism. Inter-state war, however, is unlikely to disappear as a feature of international relations. In fact, “the only thing more common than predictions about 7the end of war has been war itself.” Equally significant is the manner momentous interna-
tional events continue to be shaped by changes in political geography. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the crumbling of Yugoslavia and the separation of East Timor from Indonesia have had far-reaching ramifications. Despite the sanctity attached to existing interstate frontiers and the prevailing international norms against redrawing borders in blood, the desire of some states to extend their frontiers to territories they covet is a major cause of regional tensions. Export of terror as an instrument of state policy is also tied to regional ambitions. Patterns of global terrorism
The growth of transnational terrorism has occurred at a time of greater international fluidity and uncertainty. The world is in transition from the Cold War security order to a post-Cold 8War order whose contours are not clearly visible as yet. The rise of religious orthodoxy,
ethnic or local affiliation, jingoism and even xenophobia in some societies in an era of supposed internationalism and a single „global village‟ raises troubling questions about
6 Lawrence Freedman, “The Changing Forms of Military Conflict,” Survival, Vol. 40, No. 4 (Winter 1998-99),
pp. 39-56. 7 Donald Kagan, On the Origins of War (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1998). 8 Christoph Bertram, “Interregnum,” Foreign Policy, No. 119 (Summer 2000), pp. 44-46.
international peace and stability. So does the location of four-fifths of the world‟s oil
resources in politically troubled areas when international competition for oil and other natural 9resources is sharpening.
stIt should not be forgotten that terrorism, in the 21 century context, typically springs from
religious extremism, which in turn flows from the rejection of secularism and abrogation of human rights. Democratic societies in general do not breed and shelter international terrorists. It is not a coincidence that the main victims of international terrorism are democratic societies and the main sanctuaries or sponsors of terrorism are totalitarian or authoritarian regimes. Yet another aspect, even if an unfortunate one, is that the various terror groups waging transnational campaigns currently are of Islamic origin. Militant Islam has emerged as an ideological foe of free, democratic societies. Islamic terrorists, such as of the Al Qaeda variety, seek to get round the military-deterrent capability of their target-states by employing unconventional means. The rise of extremism in totalitarian Arab states is linked not only to the lack of avenues for expression and debate but also to the sense of disillusionment over the widening technology and power gap between Islamic states and the rest of the world. The oil 10boom of the 1970s created an “illusion that power had come to the Islamic world.”
Subsequent events have shown that despite their inflows of oil revenues, the oil-rich Muslim states from the Middle East to Southeast Asia face an increasing „knowledge gap‟ with the 11West.
Present trends suggest terrorism could become a bigger international problem in the coming years without greater inter-state cooperation and sustained anti-terror operations. The diffusion of advanced technology is facilitating acts of terror and rearing new forms of terrorism. Additionally, some renegade states continue to believe in covertly exporting terror, even if they pretend to be observing global norms. They also give encouragement and sustenance to sub-state actors, many of whom operate with the connivance of elements within the national military, intelligence or government. A global anti-terror campaign was long overdue before the terrorist strikes in September 11, 2001, prompted the United States to declare a war on terrorism. But just as a strong police and a strong military do not stop crime and aggression, an anti-terror campaign cannot stop every act of terrorism.
It is revealing that the centre of terrorist violence is Asia, the world‟s largest continent and the 12hotbed of regional tensions. Asia accounts for 75% of all terrorism casualties worldwide.
Asia is already troubled by major territorial disputes, nuclear rivalries and growing military capabilities. Now it also has to cope with terrorism, extremism and subversion, not to mention resilient nationalism and illegal migration. A continent that produced two Koreas, two Chinas and two Vietnams during the Cold War has emerged as the main battleground in the global war on terror. It is home to the Al Qaeda, Kashmiri and Southeast Asian terrorists, many of whom are linked with each other.
Before the terrorist strikes on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon deepened American involvement in Asia, a Rand study had suggested that the United States focus on Asia and widen its strategic alliances there, setting up new military bases in vantage locations like
9 Michael T. Klare, “The New Geography of Conflict,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 80, No. 3 (May/June 2001), pp. 49-
61. 10 Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul in interview with Adam Shatz, “Questions for V.S. Naipaul on His Contentious Relationship to Islam,” New York Times, October 28, 2001. 11 While the knowledge gap often translates into an income gap, this is not the case with the oil-exporting Muslim states. For a discussion of the knowledge gap, see Avinash Persaud, “The Knowledge Gap,” Foreign
Affairs, Vol. 80, No. 2 (March/April 2001), pp. 107-117. 12 U.S. Department of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism – 2000 (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Coordinator
for Counterterrorism, Department of State, April 2001).
13Oman and Gaum. It seems inevitable now that U.S. policy will increasingly focus on Asia. In fact, President George W. Bush‟s missile-defence plans have already served as an
important element in crystallizing strategic alignments in Asia.
Asia‟s ability to make or unmake the future world order is also evident from the war on international terrorism, whose epicentre is located in the Afghanistan-Pakistan belt. Much of Asia‟s terrorist violence is concentrated in its southern belt, which in the past decade emerged
as the international hub of terrorism. This southern part of Asia encompassing Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Chinese-ruled Xinjiang, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar, is plagued by terrorist, insurgent and separatist violence in a manner unmatched elsewhere in the world. The number of annual fatalities in terrorist-related violence in southern Asia far exceeds the death toll in the Middle East, the traditional cradle of terrorism. To be sure, the entire expanse from the Middle East to Southeast Asia is home to militant groups and wracked by terrorist violence, posing a serious challenge to international and regional security. The Bali bombings have underscored the spread of militant Islam to Southeast Asia.
The larger battle against terrorism, however, is being complicated by U.S. President George W. Bush‟s single-minded mission to get rid of a toothless but unsavoury dictator, Saddam Hussein, who, far from being a menace to U.S. security, is not a direct threat even to his neighbours. Bush, who accuses the Iraqi strongman of being “a homicidal dictator addicted to weapons of mass destruction”, has raised the war rhetoric to such a level that he has left himself with little choice but to effect a regime change in Baghdad through the application of military force.
The looming attack on Iraq, coupled with Washington's unveiling of a new doctrine of pre-emption against future threats, raises troubling questions relating to international law and the future of the war on terror. While retaliation is recognized by international law as part of the sovereign right of self-defence, pre-emption seeks to turn international law on its head. The attraction of a "winnable" war against Saddam versus an interminable, unwinnable war against terrorism is such that the more difficult that Osama bin Laden, Mullah Mohammad Omar and other Al Qaeda-Taliban leaders have become to trace, the more dangerous and larger than life Saddam has emerged in Bush's portrayal. America's current policies, however, threaten to deepen the Muslim sense of humiliation and carry ominous implications for the future.
It was known from the beginning that the war on terror would succeed only if it was sustained on the basis of international consensus and long-term operations. It was also understood that if attempts were made to draw political mileage and distinctions between good and bad terrorists, the war would not yield enduring results. Furthermore, there was recognition that democratic values are the best antidote to terrorism and that their inculcation in societies steeped in religious and political bigotry would be a necessary but slow process.
Yet a year later, after forging an unprecedented international consensus against transnational terrorism, the Bush administration is getting carried away by political expediency and narrow military and energy objectives. It was the focus on such short-term objectives in past U.S. policy that helped create the monsters that Washington now confronts, be it Saddam or bin Laden. In the past year, the Bush administration has befriended a number of dictatorial regimes, such as those in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, and even improved ties with China. But it
13 Zalmay Khalilzad, David Orletsky, Jonathan Pollack, Kevin Pollpeter, Angel Rabasa, David Shlapak, Abram Shulsky and Ashley Tellis, The United States and Asia: Toward a New U.S. Strategy and Force Posture (Santa
Monica, CA: Rand, 2001).
has allowed its relations with democratic allies and friends, including the European Union, Japan and India, to wane.
The war on terror now is going off its original course, on to a new target whose links with international terrorism are tenuous. It is for that reason that the Bush team, while continuing to search for Saddam's links with Al Qaeda and other terrorist elements, has publicly arraigned him on charges related to weapons of mass destruction because it knows that such weapons evoke popular revulsion across the world. Yet Bush, in his October 7, 2002, address to the American people, had to admit that the nuclear threat from Iraq was a futuristic one –
“it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year”.
If allowed to stay in power, Saddam, as a wounded tiger that can occasionally roar but not kill or maul, would serve U.S. interests, as he has done for the past decade and more. The United States needs "rogue" emblems to rationalize its military presence in regions of concern, its nonproliferation and export-control policies, and its sanctions approach. And Saddam is the best-known symbol of a "rogues' gallery" whose other figures have either been defanged by U.S. policy (including Libya's Moammar Gadhafi) or been rendered tame (like Cuban President Fidel Castro). So much so that the United States has officially dropped the term "rogue state."
With such success, Bush ought to have kept his attention on the real rogues -- Al Qaeda members still holed up in the Pakistan-Afghanistan countryside, and stepped up pressure on Pakistan and Saudi Arabia for having contributed the most to the rise of fundamentalism and terrorism. But Bush's past seems to be guiding his present thinking. Bush and his No. 2, Dick Cheney, have old ties with the energy industry, and they are eyeing the 10 per cent of the world's oil on which Iraq sits. Their apparent goal is to install a Hamid Karzai in Baghdad. Bush's bellicose stance on Iraq, in fact, is driven by his successful blending of the war on terror with U.S. energy-security strategy. That has already led the United States to build military presence in the oil-exporting Caspian Sea basin and Central Asia and strengthen safeguards on its access to Persian Gulf oil. In the name of fighting terror, the United States has set up a network of forward bases stretching from the Red Sea to the Pacific, making its forces active in the largest array of countries since World War II. With America expected to increase its oil imports from the current rate of 10.4 million barrels a day to 16.7 million barrels per day by 2020, according to the "Cheney report" released in May 2001, Bush has quietly fused the war on terror with U.S. needs to boost and diversify its access to foreign 14oil. This is evident from the location of new American military bases.
Bush also realises he cannot win his war on terror before seeking re-election as president because terrorism, like poverty, is as old as humankind and will remain prevalent. But he can win a war against Iraq by deposing Saddam. Bush no longer feels the need to "rally the world" because America's strategic expansion gives it unparalleled reach. He is not unduly bothered by either the international criticism of his increasingly unilateralist, uncompromising approach to global issues or by the double standards he flaunts on the key issues of democracy, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. The international sympathy and open-ended licence to respond that the United States won after September 11, 2001, have largely been squandered. As Salman Rushdie wrote in the New York Times: “America finds itself
facing a broader ideological adversary that may turn out to be as hard to defeat as militant Islam: anti-Americanism … More than ever, we need the United States to exercise its power
14 Michael T. Klare, “Three Strands, One Campaign: The War for American Diplomacy,” Paper presented at the Conference on Technology of Anti/Counter Terror, Watson Institute, Brown University, June 7-8, 2001.
and economic might responsibly. This is not the time to ignore the rest of the world and decide to go it alone. To do so would be to risk losing after you‟ve won”.
Terrorism in southern Asia
It should not be forgotten that the rise of Islamic militancy and terrorism in southern Asia is linked to the Afghan war of the 1980s and the U.S. and Saudi funnelling of arms to the anti-Soviet guerrillas through Pakistan‟s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Southern Asia
had experienced very low levels of organised terrorism until the early 1980s before the Afghan war transformed the situation. The Afghan war veterans have come to haunt the security of India, the United States and several Muslim states. Many members of the Afghan war alumni returned to their homelands to wage terror campaigns against governments they viewed as tainted by Western influence. Large portions of the multibillion-dollar military aid to the anti-Soviet Afghan rebels by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was siphoned off by the 15conduit – the ISI – to ignite a bloody insurgency in Indian Kashmir after the agency failed to trigger an uprising in India‟s Punjab state despite arming Sikh dissidents.
Substantial quantities of U.S.-supplied weapons, in what was the largest covert operation in CIA‟s history, also found their way into the Pakistani black market, promoting a jihad culture 16within Pakistan and spreading illicit arms and militancy in a vast region stretching from Egypt to the Philippines. Afghan war veterans, or elements associated with them, were held responsible for terrorist attacks on several U.S. targets in the 1990s, including the 1998 bombings outside the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar-e-Salam, the 1996 truck bombing of the Khobar Towers, a high-rise compound that housed the 2,000 American military personnel assigned to the King Abdul Aziz Airbase in Saudi Arabia, the 1995 bombing of an American-run military compound in Riyadh, the first World Trade Centre bombing in 1993, and the ambush-killing of two CIA officials outside the agency‟s
headquarters, also in 1993.
But the greatest impact of the cross-border movement of Afghan war veterans and illegal arms was felt in southern Asia, with India bearing the brunt of the unintended consequences of the foreign interventions in Afghanistan between 1979-89. The only thriving democracy in this vast region is India, wedged in an arc of authoritarian or totalitarian regimes engaged in covert actions in breach of international law. These regimes either export narcotics and 17terrorism (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Burma) or make illicit transfers of nuclear and missile technologies (China). Pakistan indeed has been “waging a war by proxy in Indian-held 18Kashmir through Islamic militants.”
After September 11, 2001, the U.S. military has returned to southern Asia to deal with the various elements created by past U.S. policy mistakes. Terrorism and Frankensteins like Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar are the haunting by-products of the war against communism and atheism that the West was supposed to have won. Southern Asia illustrates that the war on terrorism will be a long-lasting affair because difficult goals need to be accomplished – to militarily root out the vestiges of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and to politically deracinate the pernicious culture they represent. It is this culture – mirrored in the
15 According to one account, barely 30% of the military aid reached the Afghan guerrillas. Anthony Cordesman and Abraham Wagner, The Lessons of Modern War, Volume 3 (Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1991), p. 20. 16 Jessica Stern, “Pakistan‟s Jihad Culture”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 79, No. 6 (November-December 2000). 17 For a discussion of the link between narcotics and terrorism, see Rachel Ehrenfeld, Narco-Terrorism: How
Governments Around the World Have Used the Drug Trade to Finance and Further Terrorist Activities (New
York: Basic Books, 1990). 18 Olivier Roy, “Why the War is Going on in Afghanistan: The Afghan Crisis in Perspective,” Journal of
International Affairs, Vol. V, No. 4 (December 2000-February 2001).
spread of the Taliban-like mindset in Pakistan and elsewhere, including among top political, military and intelligence echelons – that threatens secular, democratic, pluralistic nations.
Today, U.S. forces are positioned in five nations adjacent to India – Afghanistan, Pakistan,
Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – even as Washington enters into strategic tie-ups of
varying types with India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. Given present trends, the U.S. military presence in Pakistan and Afghanistan appears for the long haul.
India has an important stake in the future of the U.S. war on terror. With many terrorist nests in Afghanistan destroyed, FBI raids on suspected terrorist hideouts in Pakistan recurring, and the jihadis on the run, Indian security has benefited. Indian security, unlike U.S. security, is imperilled not so much by non-state terrorist cells as by state-cultivated and state-protected terrorist bands. But when non-state terrorist actors are in retreat, the Pakistani state would be harder pressed to export terror to India at the same level. It thus follows logically that Indian security interests are linked to how the U.S. war against terror carries on. Although Pakistan was forced virtually at gun point to join the U.S.-led war on terror, it remains Problemistan, the main sanctuary of the Al Qaeda, Taliban and Kashmiri terrorists. According to Woodward‟s new book, it took only one telephone call from Secretary of State Colin Powell to Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf for Islamabad to fall in line behind Washington. Powell, conveying Bush‟s line that “either you are with us or against us”, got Musharraf to accept seven demands, including grant of basing facilities to the U.S. military, a cut-off of all fuel supplies to Afghanistan and the stopping of Al Qaeda operatives 19at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. U.S. officials now admit that Pakistan‟s “intelligence
service even used Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan to train covert operatives for use in a war 20of terror against India”.
However, Washington‟s re-embrace of Pakistan not only revived Cold War memories in New
Delhi but also threatened to derail the warming U.S.-Indian relationship. Despite lingering problems over America‟s handling of Pakistan and its support and sustenance to the military
junta led by General Musharraf, India has managed to keep the development of its relationship with Washington on track. Nonetheless, it is galling for New Delhi to see the country it blames for continuing terrorist attacks in India being hailed by the United States (and other Western states) as “an ally against terrorism”.
By objective criteria, Pakistan, and not Iraq, represents a compelling threat to international security as regards terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Yet the Bush administration, through politically expedient calculations, has cornered Iraq in the international dog-house and threatens to unleash war on Baghdad while it mollycoddles and provides respectability to the military junta in Islamabad. Nothing can better illustrate its double standards than the way it has downplayed the Pakistani nukes-for-missiles swap with North Korea and allowed General Musharraf to consolidate his dictatorship and renege on his January 12, 2002, and June 6, 2002, anti-terror pledges. While Iraq‟s links with Al Qaeda are
not known or proven, “the Pakistani-Al Qaeda connection is visible to all but the
geopolitically challenged”, in the words of one American analyst. Yet Bush contends that Iraq, a starving, humbled nation whose WMD infrastructure was systematically ripped to pieces by UN inspectors over seven-and-half years, poses such a pressing threat as to warrant a U.S. military invasion. Bush, in contrast, is silent on Pakistan‟s covert nuclear and missile collaboration with the communist regimes in Beijing and Pyongyang that his own intelligence continues to track.
19 Woodward, Bush At War. 20 James Risen and Judith Miller, “Pakistani Intelligence Had Links to Al Qaeda, U.S. Officials Say,” New York
Times, October 29, 2001, p. A1.
The fact is that no ruler in the world has benefited more from the September 11, 2001, strikes than Musharraf. Musharraf now oils his dictatorship with U.S. aid, as did the previous Pakistani military ruler, General Zia ul-Haq, who spurred on the rise of the forces of jihad.
Bush, like his predecessors, has been unable to distinguish between alliances of convenience 21 The monsters that the U.S. now fights, be it Saddam or and uncritically embracing tyrants.
bin Laden, were created by it. Whenever America has made major mistakes relating to Pakistan and Afghanistan, however, it is India that has borne the brunt. Today, as he seeks to install a Hamid Karzai in Baghdad, Bush is building his own Saddam in Pakistan, Musharraf, and asking India to bear the consequences.
The Bush administration has repeatedly assured New Delhi since autumn 2001 that it is not ignoring India‟s terrorism problem and that it is doing what it can to stop Pakistan from
continuing to infiltrate terrorists across the line of control in disputed Kashmir. Terror attacks, however, continue to occur in India. Such attacks have twice brought India to the brink of war with Pakistan in the past 12 months, the first time when terrorists stormed the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, and the second time when 37 people, many of them women and children, were killed in a terrorist strike on an Indian army residential area in May 2002. India mounted a 10-month-long mobilisation of its forces – its longest ever – to compel
Pakistan to take its U.S.-forced, 90-degree turn (the desertion of the Taliban) into a full 180-degree turn by abandoning cross-border terrorism against India. India, however, has so far failed to achieve its objective. This failure has happened despite the United States extracting a renewed pledge from Musharraf on June 6, 2002, that Pakistan would “permanently” end “cross-border infiltrations” into India – a promise that “led India to take steps to ease 22tensions”.
There has been sustained international pressure on Pakistan to reform. At the G-8 summit in Canada in the summer of 2002, a statement released through the summit host said: “We agreed that Pakistan must put a permanent stop to terrorist activity originating from territory under its control”. The European Union also chipped in with a statement it adopted at its meeting in Seville, Spain, that stated: “It welcomed the steps recently taken by Pakistan to begin clamping down on cross-border terrorism… [It] called on Pakistan to take further
concrete action in accordance with the assurances it has already given and with its international obligations, including UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001), to stop infiltration across the Line of Control and to prevent terrorist groups from operating from territory under its control, also through closing of training camps”.
These statements illustrated how the international discourse has changed in India‟s favour. India had been fighting cross-border terrorism for years but only in 2002 was the international community speaking the same language as New Delhi. Equally significant is the fact that major nations are now openly identifying Pakistan with terrorism and demanding that it dismantle its terrorist infrastructure. The continuing terrorist attacks in India, however, have drawn attention to the limits of a changed international discourse.
India and the United States want to see a moderate Pakistan, where fundamentalism and militarism have traditionally fed on each other. Both also seek the reform of Pakistan‟s Islamic schools that are producing tomorrow‟s jihadis. But they differ markedly on how to
achieve those goals. While Washington needs the Pakistani military, the true reform of Pakistan demands the loosening of the military‟s iron grip there. Pakistan, however, has been
21 “Dancing With Dictators,” Editorial, New York Times, September 1, 2002. 22 Glenn Kessler, “A Defining Moment in Islamabad: U.S.-Brokered 'Yes' Pulled India, Pakistan From Brink of
War,” Washington Post, June 22, 2002, p. A1.