India must not succumb to the US strategy of proliferation of terror

By Dipankar Bhattacharya

December 15, 2008 -- The recent siege of Mumbai for nearly three days by a small band of well-trained terrorists has almost universally come to be described as ``India’s 9/11’’. In terms of sheer audacity of planning and execution, the places targeted and the scale and range of people killed and injured, the Mumbai terror siege can surely be bracketed with the original 9/11, and in terms of the duration of the skirmish it can also claim to have left the original way behind.

The analogy between New York 9/11 and Mumbai 26/11 must not however be confined to these operational details. What is most important is to recognise the Mumbai attack was an extension of the same terror trajectory that struck New York seven years ago. What should we learn from this?

The terror that visited the US in September 2001 was not just executed in the US but it was also born and brought up in Washington’s foreign policy laboratory. The history of development of the Taliban and Mujahideen variety of terror – the precursor of al Qaeda – under the aegis of Washington is too well known to merit repetition. But instead of effecting a policy change to terminate the trajectory of this terror, the US Bush administration could only think of attacking Afghanistan in the name of avenging 9/11. And soon enough it moved on to its next project – the invasion, occupation and plunder of Iraq. The US has not been able to bring Osama bin Laden to justice; all it could do was to capture and kill Saddam Hussein and create a huge vacuum that is now filled up by more terror and anarchy.

Some ``terror experts’’ in India claim that this ``firm’’ and ``no-nonsense’’ response has made the post-9/11 US a safer place. The US people evidently do not believe this story and hence we saw them deliver an emphatic mandate against the entire Bush strategy in the recent presidential election. The US may well have escaped a repeat of 9/11 within its own territory, but at a price that has made Americans the world over more insecure and vulnerable to terror threats as once again confirmed by the Mumbai siege. And when more and more parts of the world reel under terror, the US can hardly expect to remain indefinitely insulated from its vice-like grip.

The US strategy to counter terror is therefore nothing but a strategy of proliferation of terror, and India can never afford to adopt such a strategy. While the US can in the short run hope to transfer its burden of terror on to other parts of the world until the accounts are settled and all the transferred terror begins paying a return visit to the US, India just does not have that kind of an option. India can only invite more terror with such a strategy.

Instead of realising that to fight terror India must first of all de-link its foreign policy from the US strategic stranglehold, our US-crazy terror experts and policy analysts have begun prescribing that if the US had followed up 9/11 with Afghanistan and Iraq, India should follow up 26/11 with at least Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Nothing could be a surer recipe for disaster. Pakistan today is more susceptible to terror than India. The Lal Masjid siege, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and the blasts that are rocking and bleeding Pakistan at regular intervals, all confirm this undeniable reality. India must therefore seek Pakistan’s cooperation in a shared battle against terrorism and not try and bully or corner Pakistan, let alone ask for a US-led invasion or occupation of Pakistan on the lines of Afghanistan or Iraq.

Any attempt to destabilise Pakistan could only lead to an unprecedented escalation and proliferation of terror in South Asia. The US, which is desperately looking for an exit route from Iraq while intensifying its presence and intervention in South Asia, may find an Indo-Pakistan war, or at any rate a permanent state of heightened Indo-Pakistan tension, an attractive proposition for fishing in troubled waters. But India and Pakistan must by all means avoid such a scenario. Instead of inviting the US to act against Pakistan, India must keep the US out and directly engage Pakistan in a shared bilateral fight against the common problem of terrorism.

[Dipankar Bhattacharya is general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation.]