Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Indian-Israeli terror nexus

The Indian-Israeli terror nexus

Shireen M Mazari

The present situation in the Middle East shows the desperate need for the UN to include state terrorism within any international convention on terrorism. Israel's unleashing of its military might against the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian people and against the hapless Lebanese state shows most starkly the terrorism a state with massive military resources can unleash.

With US President Bush and his faithful sidekick Tony Blair, continuing to declare their absurd refrain of Israel's "right to defend itself", the international community has been reduced to a frustrated spectator to this latest act of Israeli terrorism. If ever there was a true reflection of unilateralism, it is this ability of the US to undermine all efforts at multilateral diplomacy and international peace and security.

Apart from the historic record of Israel to kill Arabs at will -- after all who can forget the massacres of Sabra and Shatila and the almost daily target killings by the Israelis of Palestinians -- the efforts by Israel and its defenders to rationalise the present military onslaught against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians has absolutely no legal or moral justification. A state cannot be allowed to massacre civilians at will in response to the actions of a non-state actor. As for the notion of 'collective punishment' -- if that is to become part of international state behaviour, then there will be total anarchy in the world. Already the US, with its unilateralism and notion of 'coalitions of the willing' is reducing the international system into an anarchic one making existing international law and norms of inter-state behaviour almost irrelevant. If the Israeli notion of collective punishment is accepted then even more chaotic scenarios can result. If, for example, a Pakistani soldier is kidnapped or killed by an Afghan, should the Pakistani state have the right of collective punishment and move it's military into Afghanistan? By such perverse logic, it really depends on who is more powerful, not who is right.

If Israel continues to get the indulgence it is getting from the US and its European allies -- one really wonders how much more sufferings the Palestinians will have to endure in order to pay for Europe's Nazi guilt -- it may well become more adventuristic and widen the conflict to Syria and Iran. Iran has already given a commitment to defend Syria against Israeli aggression and probably the only thing stopping Israel so far is the element of the unknown with regard to Iran.

There is also a wider plan of the US-Israeli combine to eventually break up what are seen as "strong" Muslim states. Iraq is already slipping into a divisive, ethno-sectarian civil war and since 9/11 the US has sought to undermine the Saudi ruling family. There are some in the US who think a Shia Arab state carved out of Eastern Saudi Arabia (where the bulk of the oil also lies) and southern Iraq could be a counter to Iran. This is as bizarre as it is untenable, but then logic and rationality have not always held sway in the US. As for Jordan, the Israelis along with the US have been thinking of this "third option" -- that is, annex the West Bank, push Palestinians into Jordan creating a Palestinian state there, as a way out of their dilemma of having to accept the reality of a viable Palestinian state. So far the Jordanians are holding their ground as the chaos increases around them.

Meanwhile, as Israel finds itself free to conduct its terrorism in the region, India is seeking to assume a similar role in dealing with Pakistan although so far it has restricted its actions to verbal barbs only and to "postponing" the peace process -- such as it was -- although there are mutterings of "hot pursuit". The reason for Indian 'restraint' is not humanism but South Asia's nuclear reality. So let us once more thank those who persisted against all odds in giving the Pakistani nation its nuclear deterrence. This should dissuade India from its efforts at brinkmanship -- a strategy it employed rather unsuccessfully in December 2001.

Equally important for Pakistan should be the realisation of the fragility of the peace process despite Pakistan's major moves towards conflict resolution. Not only were these never reciprocated by the Indians, India used the first opportunity it found to halt the process itself. Despite no proof and despite some members of the Indian cabinet insisting that the Mumbai blasts could be the work of Hindu extremists, the Indian leadership and its compliant media lashed out against Pakistan. It seems the Indian psyche has not moved out of its traditional hostile mode towards Pakistan and that is why it was probably finding the peace process increasingly uncomfortable. After all, the atmospherics had gone on long enough; it was time to move substantively on conflictual issues and India is not ready for that, as reflected in its continued use of state terrorism in Occupied Kashmir.

This is also a good time for Pakistan to reassess the direction of this peace process, seeing as how vulnerable it remains to Indian sabotage. Was there anything substantive that has been lost in the present postponement? If not, then what was the worth of this process? Peace cannot be sustained by one party alone. While Pakistan was showing good intent and commitment to anti-terrorism, India was busy in covert actions against Pakistan -- primarily through Afghanistan. Despite all the evidence, Pakistan decided not to go public on the India-Afghan linkages to the BLA -- which has offices both in the centre of Kabul and in New Delhi. Nor have we made much of a noise about the presence of Indian Special forces in Afghanistan, despite ample evidence, including intercepts, to suggest Indian efforts to intervene in our border provinces. All this so that the peace process does not get derailed. (Some among

our political elite even made offers which run contrary to our policies -- as happened on the FMCT.) Now India has derailed the process with accusations and histrionics to hide the fissiparous tendencies within itself.

Of course, now that the UK has declared the Balochistan Liberation Army a terrorist organisation, Pakistan should take up the issue of India and Afghanistan's support for it more vigorously, especially since India is a strategic partner of the US and Afghanistan is still in the control of its NATO-US 'liberators'.

As for the Arab World, their sheer helplessness, despite their economic power, is a disgrace. They have failed to translate their economic strength into political and military prowess, and so remain subject to the political, psychological and military terrorism from the West and Israel. Is it any wonder the Arab street continues to become more radicalised? And the anger and frustration is spreading to Muslim civil societies beyond. In the final analysis, state terrorism has to be condemned, irrespective of the power of the perpetrating state.

The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Email:



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