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We Are Also Victims of Terror

“We’re also victims of terror”.  This phrase has come to be used quite liberally by Pakistani leaders (civilian and military), usually in response to an incident on foreign soil that invariably involves their citizens.  It has always surprised me that our leaders and media have never called them out on this bogus statement.  At best, the statement is an unintentional gaffe.  At worst, it’s a calculated oversimplification, regurgitated with the intention to mislead.

Terrorism is a very broad term, and one that has been made popular by the Bush Administration to almost always mean Islamic terrorism, perpetrated against the West or Western targets.  Therefore, the 9/11 and 7/7 attackers in New York City and London were “terrorists”, while those that attacked Mumbai last month, were merely “gunmen” or “militants”.  Theoneste Bagosora’s people, who butchered 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in the worst genocide the world has seen in decades, were Hutu “militia”.

“The Mumbai attacks were directed not only at India but also at Pakistan’s new democratic government and the peace process with India that we have initiated. Supporters of authoritarianism in Pakistan and non-state actors with a vested interest in perpetuating conflict do not want change in Pakistan to take root.”

— Asif Ali Zardari, “The Terrorists Want to Destroy Pakistan, Too“, New York Times (12/8/2008)

Even the term “Islamic terrorism” is a very broad generalization.  It is precisely the obscurity of this term that allows Pakistan the convenience of hiding their incompetence and/or connivance with the ruse that they are victimized by the same groups.  This, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth.  In terms of pan-Islamic interests, Al Qaeda is the most significant organization that Pakistan today battles in NWFP.  Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar were trained and equipped by the CIA and the ISI to fight against the “Godless” Soviets.  When the Soviets withdrew, they turned around and bit the hands that fed, as it were.  Pakistan today fights the Taleban and Al Qaeda, not because they have ideological differences with them, but because they were forcefully dragged into the “War on Terror”.    It is interesting though that in the many tapes that he has released to Al Jazeera, bin Laden has rarely ever mentioned Kashmir or India.  This isn’t because he doesn’t have anything against India (he clearly does) , but because his immediate priorities are different.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Bacha Khan, aka Frontier Gandhi

Khan Abdul Ghaffar "Bacha" Khan, aka "Frontier Gandhi"

In Baluchistan, FATA, and NWFP, a region that boasts of colonial-era heroes such as Bacha Khan (“Frontier Gandhi”), the theater of violence is limited in scope to the aspirations of the tribes and ethnicities in the region. They do not think of themselves in being part of a pan-Islamic struggle against the “infidels”, but as good Waziris and Baluchis fighting for autonomy to preserve their way of life.   For them, the tribe is more important than the concept of the nation, which they dismiss as a western concoction.  Therefore, those suspected of masterminding the assassination of Benazir Bhutto (e.g., Baitullah Mehsud) were motivated by a perceived threat to their way of life by a liberal, decidedly pro-western politician.  Despite the gradual radical Islamization of these regions, there is no direct threat to India emanating from the various tribes and groups.

However, there are two types of terror groups in heartland Pakistan — those who seek to act in Pakistan, and those who seek to use Pakistan as a base to act elsewhere. The fight to act in the heartland is along inter-ethnic (Shias vs. Sunnis, Pashtuns vs. Sindhis, Sindhis vs. Mohajirs, etc.) and anti-government lines, and includes terror organizations such as Lashkar-e-Omar and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.  The Mariott bombings in Islamabad in September 2008, were, by many accounts, perpetrated by terrorists opposed to the political process of Pakistan.  Other radical actors, such as the Ghazi brothers who held out in the Lal Masjid in 2007, fought for a more fundamental implementation of Islam in Pakistan, and were against Parvez Musharraf’s quasi-western “enlightened moderation” policies.  Although JeM’s Maulana Masood Azhar is said to have delivered speeches at the Lal Masjid, the interests of Pakistan’s new adversaries in the heartland, again, are confined to the politics of Pakistan.

Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) are different.  That they enjoy the protection of the ISI and elements of the Pakistani army highlights the impotence of the country’s civilian leadership.  JeM’s objectives include the liberation of Kashmir and its subsequent incorporation into the dominion of Pakistan.  Its leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, was languishing in an Indian jail before he was set free by India in exchange for the lives of Indian civilians aboard Indian Airlines flight 814, which was hijacked to Kandahar by JeM in 1999.  To show gratitude for his release, Azhar sent his thugs around in 2001 to attack the Indian Parliament.  Similarly, LeT’s objectives are clear — the liberation of Kashmir (a goal closely aligned to Pakistan’s own objectives), and the Islamization of South Asia (i.e., wiping out Hinduism).  Indeed, the group’s founder, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, appears to have no quarrels with the State of Pakistan, and considers himself a patriotic Pakistani — a very different view indeed from the other terror groups that denounce political division as a western idea, and see themselves as warriors of the Muslim brotherhood.

In summary, yes, Pakistan, you are a victim of terror, but, no, it isn’t the same kind of terror, and it isn’t being perpetrated by the same terrorists. Seven years ago, you called the people who attacked India “freedom fighters”.  You offered them “diplomatic” and “moral” support.  So let’s be clear: the people that attacked Mumbai, attacked Mumbai — not Karachi.  They attacked India, not Pakistan.  And while Asif Ali Zardari paints his nation as a victim on the international stage, Lashkar’s aiders and abettors, citizens of his country, under the protection of the very agencies that he supposedly oversees,  are busy plotting their next big bloody assault on India.

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November 25th Mumbai Terror Attacks

The Taj Hotel in South Mumbai was the scene of the attack

The Taj Hotel in South Mumbai was the scene of the attack

Another day and another terror attack in another Indian city has left almost 100 people dead and hundreds injured.  The scale of the attack — spread across two five-star hotels, a hospital, the Victoria Terminus, and other parts of South Mumbai — is stunning.  Quite obviously, this can’t be the work of an impromptu assemblage of disgruntled extremists.  The planning, the weaponry used, and the coordinated execution points to a very well planned attack, executed by very well trained, possibly even professionally trained, attackers.  A group that I’ve never heard of before, the Deccan Mujaheddin, claimed responsibility for the attack.  It would be premature to dismiss this as an attempt to divert attention from the real terrorist group, just because this is a name that we’re not familiar with.  This group, if in fact it exists, could be an alliance of sorts between foreign terror groups and intelligence services, such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which provided the ammunition and/or the money, and Indian terror groups and their backers such as the Indian Mujaheddin (IM) and SIMI, which provided the logistics and the plan. That the terrorists were apparently looking for civilians with American or British passports leads me to believe that this couldn’t entirely be the handiwork of Indian terror groups, if at all they were involved at any level.  Terrorism in India is very localized and it isn’t the M.O. of local terror groups to target foreigners.  The objectives of terror groups in India fall into two broad categories — (a) to seek retribution (against Hindus, law enforcement agencies, the State, etc.) for what they see as injustices, or (b) to inflict damages so unbearable that it would demoralize India into conceding independence to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

While it’s quite clear that these local terror groups wouldn’t’ be fans of the United States or of the United Kingdom, I don’t believe that their objectives would be pan-Islamic.  If it does turn out to be true that they were targeting Western interest in the city, then this would be the first such incident, and one that adds a dimension that draws India into the fold of “mainstream” terrorism.

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Cry, the Beloved Country

Bomb blasts wrecked havoc in Indian cities in '08

India’s three year honeymoon is over. Terrorism is back in the spotlight, as is communalism. These two elements of violence are interlinked in a vicious circle.  Communal violence unleashed by the BJP’s dogsbodies alienates an already alienated minority.  The sense of alienation, rightly breeds resentment. Resentment breeds vindictiveness, which in turn could manifest itself in the form of terrorism. BJP’s venomous agenda is clear, both at the state and central levels. They live to insight communal tensions in the country, even in places where such things have been unheard of, such as Karnataka. I have always maintained that Bangalore is the most liberal metropolitan city in India, even more so than Mumbai, where nutjobs like Raj and Bal Thackeray appeal to the mob mentality to attack anything un-Marathi. Yet, the recent attacks on churches in Bangalore, not coincidentally under the watch of Karnataka’s first ever BJP administration is very concerning.

That all of this is happening while Kashmir is burning and bombs are exploding everywhere, shows the signs of a cauldron that has long been simmering, going unnoticed by the beneficiaries of the Brave New Economy. It took a seemingly minor incident (the Amarnath board issue) to trigger off massive demonstrations, riots, and renewed calls for azadi in Kashmir. In the midst of all this, that hideous serpent Arundathi Roy, decided to chime in by calling for the independence of Kashmir. She needs to explain what plans she has to save the Hindus in Jammu or the Buddhists in Ladakh from impending slaughter following the independence that she’s fighting for.  I’m yet to see what she has to say about PoK. Does it merge with J&K, thereby creating a seamless state where terrorists west of the LoC can socialize and exchange notes with those east of the LoC on how best to blow up the Parliament? I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any debate over Kashmir’s independence – that’s an issue for another day. I’m questioning, as I always do, her sanity, for adding fuel to the ongoing fire.

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All Karat, no stick policy seldom ever works

Prakash Karat

Prakash Karat

The inevitable has happened. Prakash Karat and his red army have stormed out of the ruling coalition. This is just fantastic; now they can disappear into the bottomless pit of obsurity from whence they came. For three years, the Communist Party of India (CPI), with 50-something votes, has held India hostage. Since independence, CPI’s dictum has held sway in only two states – Kerala and West Bengal. However, since the formation of the UPA, the whole nation has had an opportunity to experience the obnoxiousness of this party. My general opinion is that when alliances are formed with no commonality in ideology apart from an antipathy towards a third party, that alliance is tenuous and bound to fail. The CPI in India today exists not to expound the principles of communism or Marxism, but to oppose capitalism and any alliance with the United States. Similarly, when the Congress threw its lot in with the CPI for no reason but their mutual dislike of so-called communalist parties, that alliance was bound to fail. And fail it did. Karat submitted his decision to withdraw from the ruling coalition today, and asked President Pratiba Patil to ask the Congress to prove it’s majority in the Parliament.

Even in a country where political two-facedness is de rigour, the barefaced hypocricy of the CPI is astounding. Representing India, Karat traveled to our northern neighbor to pucker to the Red bottom. Then he suggested that a partnership between India and the US was designed to “encircle China“. I’m tempted to ask why he’s so concered about the security of the country that invaded India in 1962. So what if this hypothetical Indo-US nexus were true?. If he were half as concerned about India’s energy security as he apparently is about China’s strategic security, India may have already been brought back into the nuclear mainstream of the world. One only has to look at the state of affairs in West Bengal and Kerala to gauge the leadership capabilities of the Left. West Bengal has suffered from decades of economic stagnation and widespread poverty, while Kerala earns most of its revenue from foreign remittances from the Middle East.

The Left’s farcical drama continued, with Mayawati, the leader of the Samajwadi Party, a CPI ally, claiming recently that the Indo-US nuke deal was “anti-Muslim”. That Mayawati has actually read the “123 Agreement” between India and the US is slightly less believable than the implication that she is capable of reading anything at all. Clearly, if she had read the agreement, she would have known that the proposal was to transfer civilian nuclear technology to India to help the country meet it’s overwhelming energy demands. How that translated into being anti-Muslim, only Mayawati will be able to explain.

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