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Trap the chameleon as it changes 'color'

Trap the chameleon as it changes 'color'

Author: Wilson John
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: November 14, 2001

Finally we are saying what we should be saying. It is such a relief to hear Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, for a change shedding all diplomatic niceties in New York, telling Pakistan to forget about Kashmir. Well, General Musharraf, you can shout till you drop dead, Kashmir is an Indian state and will remain so. I am sure the Americans too would not have been exactly happy to hear such unambiguous words from an Indian Prime Minister. They were, in a way, a clear rebuff to a renewed attempt by the Americans to push in their long nose into another country's internal affairs, all couched in the guise of a war on terrorism which till date seems to be confined to headlines on CNN.

Two months after the WTC attack and six weeks of mindless, merciless bombing of Afghanistan later, one thing is becoming quite clear. The United States is not exactly fighting a war against terrorism. It is more interested in having a toehold in Asia, somewhere between Kandahar and Kashmir. Signposts are clear. High on the mission objective of the US Armageddon is the replacement of the Taliban regime of Mullah Omar with that of a pliable ruler who could run to Washington every time he gets a cold. Installing puppet regimes has been a favourite past time of the American policy makers. They do it all the time and wherever they fail, they invent enemies to expend their stored ammunition. I, for one, cannot understand how on earth are the Americans trying to root out terrorism by bombing civilians and hospitals while pumping hands with General Pervez Musharraf without whose support the very Taliban the Americans are hunting down would not have survived till now. If supping with the enemy is part of the American military strategy, then it is time the Pentagon shenanigans understand that it has outlived its purpose. Pakistan is a case in point. But before we come to the current cozy relationship between US and Pakistan, which seems to have enraged quite a few of our own policy makers on the Raisina Hill, let us look at a singular positive fallout of this war on India.

For all the characteristic flip-flop that seems to have kept our policy makers heavily engaged in the first few weeks of the American War on Terrorism, we have finally come around to take a stand, an Indian stand. Remember those statements of indignation when the Americans rushed into the arms of Pakistani General when a handful of terrorists broke their invincibility and ploughed planes into their symbols of pride. It was such a shame to hear our wise men in South Block whining about being spurned by the Americans. It was such a national embarrassment that if it had continued for some more time, we, as a nation, would have been a laughing stock in the world. Just about that time, mercifully, someone on the Raisina Hill had a stroke of common sense and brought back George Fernandes as the Defence Minister. There is no one more apt, by qualification and inclination, than George Fernandes to be the Defence Minister, especially at a time of crisis like the present one. The nation can trust him to be a straight and strong man. His rapport with the armed forces is well known. In the past two years, he is the only Defence Minister to have visited all the frontier posts of the Indian armed forces. He is a nationalist to the core and makes no bones about his opinions on matters of security. He has no leanings, as some others at South Block have. Along with Home Minister LK Advani, he forms a formidable duo. In fact, his return as the Defence Minister was a clear indication of a sudden shift in the Indian stand on the US war on Afghanistan. The Americans were, till then, treating India as an appendage, no less different than Musharraf's Pakistan. They not only wanted our unstinted support but also military bases, logistics support and intelligence inputs. In return, they were willing to lift sanctions. India rightly said no. Yes we are for a global war on terrorism, yes we are for snuffing out terrorists from their rat holes, yes bin Laden is as big an enemy of India as US, yes terrorist networks like Al Qaida should be destroyed .... but wait, when we talk of terrorism, terrorist networks, terrorist training camps, terrorist funding, can we forget Pakistan. Musharraf could be a good friend of George W Bush (whose dear father incidentally had among his friends bin Laden Sr, a wealthy Saudi businessman who invested a few hundred thousand dollars in his son's fledgling business) but not ours, not any one who talks about a war on terrorism.

The Americans have their compulsions; they always have. They use gullible leaders like Musharraf to fulfil their agenda that is nothing but economics. When the Americans despatch their men and machines across the globe, it is not for settling the dispute but for meddling in the region. Peace is way down the priority list of the American planners-they are impelled more by geo-strategic considerations and oil. To put it more simply, they go wherever there is a chance to establish their supremacy as a nation. Look at Afghanistan. They are hell bent on displacing the Taliban-not a bad idea at all considering the politics of hatred this entity has been spreading, all with the active support of Pakistan and a few other nations in the Middle East. They are using the Northern Alliance to cut down the Taliban but are not sure whether they would like the Alliance to control Kabul and Kandahar. It will not be easy to control the Alliance-it is a rag tag army of tribal chieftains and mujahideens who, so far, have been aided and supported by Russia, Iran and India to fight the Taliban. They have no love lost for the Americans; nor for the Pakistanis. The Americans will not be exactly comfortable having the Alliance in Kabul or Kandahar which could, in other words, mean an entrapment of their ally, Pakistan. That is the reason for a sudden burst of love for India.

The US is like a chameleon at best of times. Allowing Musharraf to talk about Kashmir is just part of that devious strategy. With public opinion in India not exactly in favour of holding hands with the Americans, they are left with no choice but to lean on Pakistan to stoke fire in Kashmir. To my mind, Kashmir is no longer an issue between India and Pakistan. The US is keen to get into the act-it makes lot of strategic sense. If the US were to act as a mediator, which we must not allow at any cost, it would give them a reasonable excuse to send in peace-keeping troops, set up a station to monitor peace and hold us to ransom while allowing their time-tested friends in Pakistan to foment trouble. There is one thing that we must keep in mind while talking to the Americans. They are businessmen first, and anything else thereafter. So when we talk to them, we need to shed all emotional and philosophical baggage that our diplomats seem to strut around with, talk business. You need help from us on your war against the Taliban, then you tell the General to arrest Maulana Azhar Masood, Dawood Ibrahim, Syed Salahuddin and a few others flourishing under his patronage and deport them to India to stand trial. It will be a meaningful start to a better Indo-US understanding of the changing geo-political situation in this part of the world.

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