Where would an extra-passive India be without an extra-aggressive United States? For over two decades, India (and substantially more China) benefited from the excessive consumption habits of the American people. Cross border terrorism went down following the US response to the 9/11 attack and Musharraf’s need to keep his country from being targeted. As a result, India has further jettisoned any attempt at asserting itself – things were happening by themselves, anyway.
Now, it seems, the US is taking India’s fight a step further – by announcing a bounty of 10 million dollars on the head of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) Chief Hafiz Saeed, who masterminded the 26/11 attack on Mumbai. It has also declared a 2 million dollar award for the capture of Saeed’s brother, Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki. While India has been prompt in hailing this decision, what did it itself do apart from pleading with the Pakistanis to ‘take action’ against Saeed?
The Taliban and LeT have been pretty upbeat about US plans to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by 2014. While the Taliban believe that the country will be theirs for the taking, the LeT sees a bright future for itself in Pakistan with ‘believers’ flocking to its fold after the great ‘victory’ against the ‘infidels’. However, if American actions in recent times are anything to go by, there has been a change in tactics, not of intent. Instead of adopting the extremely expensive method of putting boots on the ground – something that has outlived its utility and needs to be taken up by the Afghans, themselves – the US is now ‘targeting’ its enemies. It has developed enough expertise and intelligence on the region to be able to distinguish friend from enemy, as well as the crooked go-between (read ISI). In many ways, the drone attacks across Pakistan’s border have been more effective than many long term campaigns to destroy the Taliban’s power. They are also an acknowledgement of the fact that the headquarters of terror are in Pakistan.
Considering Osama’s fate, Saeed should be a very worried man. He should know that to be so ‘upgraded’ on the wanted list, puts that much more pressure on the American agencies to get him. For reasons that go well beyond the politics and problems of the region, the US intelligence and security agencies work very actively on reducing this list, very unlike the Indian government which cannot even produce an updated list without getting egg on its face.
India is, of course, enormously pleased that the US has targeted one of its most determined enemies. Not just this, there are other indications that the growing awareness in the US of Pakistan’s double-dealing is leading to a more clued-in strategy for the region. Instead of trying to push India into ‘accommodating’ Pakistan’s demands – which are always escalating and increasingly unreasonable – it has understood it is attitudes in that country that need to change. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has admitted this by stating that Pakistan’s problems with India ‘clouds its judgment’, causing it to send ‘mixed messages’ on terrorism. India would describe that as ‘double standards’.
Instead of gloating that US has finally understood there can be no two approaches to terrorism – terrorism in Kashmir has often been thought ‘justified’ by the US under pressure from certain lobbies – it should begin to pull its weight a little bit and match up to its projected image as one of the world’s powerful countries. By merely bolstering the US effort in Afghanistan by taking up development programmes is not good enough – there has to be steel inside the velvet glove. It is too big a country to expect others to deal with its enemies. Instead of rushing to address press conferences, like P Chidambaram did, it would be better to take advantage of the favourable environment to dispatch Hafiz Saeed.