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Putin Understands Pak Perfidy Better than Bush

Putin Understands Pak Perfidy Better than Bush

Author: V Gangadhar
Publication: The Asian Age
Date: December 4, 2002

Hard, cold facts are more important to Russian President, Vladimir Putin than diplomatic niceties or vague statements. On the eve of his state visit to India, the Russian leader told Indian media persons in clear terms that he saw a clear danger in the likelihood of Pakistan's nuclear arms falling into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. Such a happening would have a disastrous consequence not only in the subcontinent but the entire world, he warned.

Putin's statement came immediately after startling revelations of long-term nuclear collaboration between North Korea and Pakistan. But the US administration including President Bush had treated the subject lightly and the State Department had been telling other concerned countries not to read too much into this development. This attitude was rather strange because, North Korea, according to successive US governments, was an `evil empire'and had been bracketed with nations like Iraq, Iran and Sudan, the traditional enemies of the US. As usual, the US spared Pakistan of any criticism. But the Russian leader was more forthcoming.

As he explained to the Indian media persons, ``What we are worried about is the fact that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) could fall into the hands of bandits and terrorists. This is exactly how I would like to call these persons rather than just militants. Not only that is dangerous, but we also have concerns they ( terrorists) could obtain information concerning production techniques or even simple means that could be equal to WMD''. If President Putin did not mince his words, there are reasons behind them. And there are equally historical and important reasons for the enigmatic US silence on this issue. Like India, Russia had been the target of criminal attacks from various groups representing the smaller Republics which demanded independence.

The Chechen rebels had been launching forays into the Russian territory, the recent one being the hostage taking inside the Moscow theatre which resulted in the deaths of about 130 people during the rescue operation, personally ordered by Putin. Like Israel, Russia follows a rigid policy of not being held to ransom by any kind of terrorist demands. Both the nations would risk civilian casualties rather than give in to the demands of terrorists. But Putin must be growing uneasy in his mind that the time may not be far off when one or other of the terrorist groups got hold of some kind of weapons of mass destruction and threatened Russia, the US or the UK or even India. The consequences will be a nightmare. It is this fear which had made Putin speak out on the eve of his New Delhi visit. Unlike George Bush Putin was a world leader who understood the working of the minds of the Asian nations and the increasing influence of terrorist groups. While Bush relied on the use of excessive force to tame terrorism, Putin knew that such an attitude would not work.

The US, for instance, had destroyed Afghanistan but cold not capture or kill Osama bin Laden or Mohamad Omar. They could still pose great dangers to the rest of the world. It is a historical fact that Russia, and earlier the Soviet Union, had never got along with Pakistan.

Putin, a keen student of history, knew that Pakistan had always been a `special friend' of the US in the region and that the US relied on Pakistan to balance the power equation in the region. While the US never tried to understand India's status as the leader of the Non-Aligned Nations group and bracketed it with other satellites of the Soviet Union, Pakistan threw its lot with the US and eagerly embraced memberships of the US-sponsored military pacts like SEATO and CENTO.

Pakistan would not forget easily nor forgive the Soviet support to India during the Bangladesh crisis when the two nations signed a historic military pact in 1971. But Russia had more bitter memories about Pakistan over its own ouster from Afghanistan. Fighting a proxy war, the Central Intelligence Agency, roped in the Pakistani government to fight a war along with the Taliban hot heads who committed all kinds of torture on the Soviet troops. The Soviet ouster from Kabul could not have been possible without the active co-operation of Pakistan and the US was eternally grateful to Rawalpindi.

In those heady days of Soviet humiliation, the US could not foresee the future of the Taliban in becoming the most repressive force on earth and a breeding ground for the worst kind of Islamic fundamentalism. Osama bin Laden and Mohamad Omar were the products of such an Islamic revolution and who would have thought they would join hands and create a force which made the US tremble? But the American obligation to Pakistan over its historic military ties with the West received a boost with the happenings in Afghanistan. But neither Washington nor Rawalpindi anticipated the Frankenstein like turnaround of the Taliban. Even after the rout of Taliban from Kabul many of its leaders took shelter in Pakistan and it is freely rumoured that the refugees included Bin Laden and Omar. If the US was sure about it, they had kept quiet.

That is why, unlike Russia, which had experienced the horrors of the Pakistan perfidy in the past, the US continued to soft-pedal the Pak role as a nuclear power. Despite the clear proof provided by India which had borne the brunt of Pak-inspired terrorist attacks over the Line of Control, Washington had refused to brand Pakistan as a `terrorist state'. It had not expressed any concern over the increasing influence of religious fundamentalists nor the fear over the possibility of Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of these hot heads. We now have the anomaly of the US threatening Iraq with annihilation for the alleged possession of chemical, nuclear and biological weapons despite constant denials from Baghdad. That is because President Saddam Hussein was at the top of the US `Hate' list, despite the fact that Iraq had steered clear of Islamic fundamentalism.

Iraq despite all that odious propaganda from the US remained a rare example of a secular state in the Middle East. Contrast this belligerence with the soft attitude towards Pakistan where terrorists were active, terrorism exported across the Line of Control and religious fundamentalists ready to pounce on President Musharraf. Add to all this, the likely presence of men like Bin Laden and Mohamad Omar. Yet, the US has no apparent fears over the Pak nuclear weapons falling into wrong hands. It was left to the more pragmatic Soviet President to highlight this sensitive and dangerous issue. India, of course, is not a world power and can only share Russia's worries over this issue.

Today, Putin and Bush are friends, Putin enjoyed the famous Texan hospitality of the Bush ranch and the pair of world leaders agreed on most international issues. One hopes that President Putin, after his Indian visit, raised the issue of Pak nuclear arms falling into the wrong hands with the American president. George Bush and his government must get rid of their `fatal attraction' towards Pakistan. Recent events had clearly shown, that if there was one country which the Pak religious bigots hated more than India, it was the US. This was something the US government could not afford to ignore.

Already, American institutions and individuals had been attacked and killed in Pakistan. Worse may follow if Putin's fears came true. President Musharraf had done a lot of tightrope walking during the past weeks holding an `election' which fooled no one. At present, with a handpicked Prime Minister, the President seems to be holding all the aces.

Perhaps, the US should now prod him to take foolproof security measures so that the dreaded weapons of mass destruction remained safe and inaccessible to the members of the terrorist brigades.

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