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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 8, February 7, 2009

In the Wake of the Mumbai Bloodbath

Wednesday 11 February 2009, by Mansoor Ali

Who were behind the terrorist onslaught in Mumbai last November? This question has lately acquired critical significance among defence analysts and security experts in the aftermath of the Mumbai bloodbath which has far-reaching implications.

The main suspects behind the terror strike are the Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba. But then weren’t the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, whose brainchild is the Lashkar, the handiwork of Washington and its agencies to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the eighties? That is precisely why it doesn’t surprise close observes of the Afghan scene that even as the Western powers publicly denounce the two and resolve to fight them tooth and nail on Afghan soil as well as the Pakistan side of the Pak-Afghan broder, there are irrefutable reports of American and British representatives having established contacts with them (and even arranged direct weapon transfers to them under the pretext of “arms in exchange for armistice”) in Kandahar and Helmand.

These observers are of the view that the US stood to gain much from the latest terror attack in Mumbai and hence it cannot be ruled out that the Americans had a hand behind the operations there. Of course, it can be argued that with American citizens figuring prominently in the list of casualties such “cooperation” from the side of Washington would have been highly improbable. However, there are strong reasons to believe that the US agencies were not deterred by such considerations. Knowledgeable sources allege that the lives of American citizens (perished in or affected by the Mumbai terror), like those of the huge number of victims of the 9/11 Twin Tower strikes in New York, were cynically used by Washington as “collateral damage” to help realise the US leaders’ political ambitions.

FOLLOWING the Mumbai spisode the US has found one more “just cause” to widen its intrusion in South Asian affairs: Washington is hardselling itself as the lone guarantor of stability and peace, one which is capable of providing political assistance to countries of the region in their struggle against international terrorism. Observers are of the considered opinion that India ranks foremost in the list of such countries—under the pretext of intensifying the cooperation to fight terrorism, the US will definitely seek to nudge India into executing the US’ regional designs.

These observers feel that Washington has availed a rare opportunity now to press Delhi in signing the military agreements the US was lobbying for (and these include the Logistic Support Agreement as also the Proliferation Security Initiative) and in giving valuable information about Iran, given New Delhi’s overall good relations with Tehran (even if it voted twice against Iran at the IAEA Governing Body meeting under US pressure).

At the other end Americans have found a pretext to intimidate Islamabad and conduct military operations on Pakistani territory if the authorities there move part of their armed forces to Kashmir thereby weakening the country’s military potential on the Pak-Afghan border.

In effect Washington is interested in maintai-ning its current relations with both New Delhi and Islamabad in a situation of “permanent crisis” for both the countries that will not snowball into an open military conflict while “preserving” the festering sore and thus not fully resolving the Indo-Pak problem—after all, Americans do not wish to lose their role of functioning as an influential intermediary between the two states.

Meanwhile media reports suggest that the worst fear of the Obama Administration, which has just taken charge in Washington, is Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into wrong hands—the scenario it dreads most is the seizure of Islamabad’s atomic arms by some extremist group which is interested in provoking an Indo-Pak confrontation that would give it a godsend opportunity to lay its hands on these weapons when they are being shifted close to the frontlines in Pakistan’s eastern sector in the event of such a conflict. This has been conveyed lately by the author of a new book on the challenges before the new US President; according to David E. Sarger, the book’s author and The New York Times’ chief Washington correspondent,

…… when the deadly terror attacks occurred in Mumbai in late November, officials (in the outgoing Bush Administration aware of all the intelligence reports on this score) told me they feared that one of the attackers’ motivest might have been to trigger exactly that scenario of events.
This may be the official view in Washington but available information from other sources bring out the dual face of the US authorities —they are not in the least averse to keep the two major South Asian powers at loggerheads because this serves their own devious interest at the cost of both India and Pakistan.

It is time both New Delhi and Islamabad realise the dangers involved in voluntarily following or being coerced to toe the Washington “line”. This applies more to the Indian officialdom now boasting of having become the US’ “comrade-in-arms” in so many major areas (never mind the massive price that had to be paid to attain that status!) and thus being blind to the actual state of affairs: how Washington is leading them up the garden path without at all abandoning the government and military of Pakistan. Thus a change of direction on the part of South Block is overdue. Striking a radical departure from this course New Delhi must reverse its present approach to Islamabad and once again extend its hand of friendship to the latter with the objective of jointly fighting the common enemy (religious fundamentalists-cum-terrorists) independent of Washington which has time and again proved to be an unreliable friend and/or ally.

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