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Shut the backdoor

Shut the backdoor

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: November 16, 2001

Russian President Vladimir Putin's frank admission, before American journalists in a recent press conference in Moscow, that the Taliban in Afghanistan and international terrorism in general were products of Cold War rivalry, is refreshing. His remarks are a first step towards recognising the systemic origins of the current world order, without acknowledging which there cannot be any meaningful efforts at crafting a better one.

Unfortunately so far there has not been a similar confession by the United States or its close NATO allies. If indeed the global coalition against terrorism is to hold in the long term, a threadbare recognition of past mistakes is imperative. Mr Putin did mention in the same press conference: "Thank God, we are today capable of avoiding mistakes of this kind. And it is in this (context) that the international anti-terrorist coalition is precious". His assuring words not withstanding, there is no glossing over the truth that even today, the handling of the war in Afghanistan and the as yet incipient post-Taliban order, is underscored not so much by alacrity about rooting out the forces that support terror, but by US efforts to retain control within the tight corridor of a backdoor zero sum game.

At best, one can assume the Americans are confused and wish to play it slow. They want to neutralise the Taliban, but do not wish to ensure the same vis-à-vis Pakistan's deep-rooted strategic foothold in Afghanistan. They are unwilling to commit their own foot soldiers to the frontline and are happy to have the Northern Alliance fighters do the job for them. Yet they do not wish to have them gain too much territory too soon, which may lead to the Alliance developing an impetus that outpaces the US initiative. After all it is common knowledge that the Alliance has no love lost for either Pakistan, or the US, the two closest partners in the region in the strikes against Afghanistan. The above scenario is the charitable one. But there could be more to the position the US is adopting. It is entirely possible that it is not confusion, but a deliberate strategy that is directing US policy. Having directly borne the brunt of the trouble emanating from the region, and having spent the tax-payer's money on carpet bombing a non "target rich" country, the US would like to "make amends" by moving in edge ways within the power centres that are likely to emerge, and possibly extend its sway to new playing fields like Kashmir.

By pursuing a back door agenda-that of playing favourites between the factional centres of power in the region-while professing to further a self-engendered global mission against terror, the US is replaying just those board games that Mr Putin has identified as being the cause of the current crisis. India would do well, as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee did during his recent visits to Russia, the US and the UK, to be circumspect about the ongoing political manoeuvring in the region. We need to go by the straight and the narrow and not experiment with emergent theories, for instance on Kashmir. As Mr Vajpayee made amply clear at every stop, Kashmir is at the core of India's nationhood and not open to negotiations. With the US out shopping for fresh toe-holds, this is the only sustainable approach for India to adopt in its own interest, and that of the world's.
 


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