Monday, January 5, 2009

Tackling terrorism - India and Israel

In the last few weeks, we have been witnessing two contrasting foreign policy responses to state-sponsored terrorism. Apart from minor substantive variations, the situation in South Asia and Middle East are no different. In fact the similarities are striking - Hamas and LeT are internationally outlawed terrorist outfits banned by the UN; both are legally recognized (albeit differently) by the Palestinian and Pakistani governments respectively; both are on openly declared war with Israel and India respectively; both the Palestinian and Pakistani governments are in no position to control the activities of these groups; there is limited (or no) prospect for peace in the respective regions if these two groups continue in exercise of their present power. But the stark contrast in responses is a testimony of the national security philosophies of India and Israel and the global balance of power.

Even as Israel bombs its aggressors to submission, in an action reminiscent of using a sledgehammer to kill a fly (after all, the ostensible reason for the brutal air bombardment and invasion which has claimed more than 500 lives so far, is that Hamas was hurling rockets that "traumatized" Israelis across the border!), India is in its true Gandhian tradition, almost apologetically, imploring Pakistan to stop its, now well established (state or non-state), clandestine support to terrorists on a bombing spree in city after city across India. Statistically, over the past two years, India has lost many times more of its citizens in such terrorist attacks than Israel has over the same period.

The response from Washington conveys another story. The US blocked efforts in the UN Security Council to call for an immediate ceasefire, and has described Israel's security as "non-negotiable" and to be "achieved at any cost", even if a massive human rights disaster ensues in Gaza. In contrast, India's security is very much negotiable, as the Bush administration prevaricates between its loyalty to an old ally and its sympathy for a fellow victim of terror, even in the face of clear evidence of Pakistan government's duplicity in stoking terrorism. Even as the Indian Home Minister has to personally carry a "dossier of evidence" to convince the Bush administration of Pakistan's complicity in the terror attacks, the US Government spokespersons have taken upon themselves the responsibility of defending Israel's aggression.

In many respects, India should learn from the Israeli response, not so much from the nakedness and brutality of the aggression, but the underlying premise behind it. Diplomacy cannot achieve deterrence against non-state actors operating in the lawless political terrain of countries like Pakistan (and Palestine), where the boundaries between state and non-state have long since disappeared. Israel realizes this and sees the elimination or atleast substantial weakening of Hamas as the only route to deterrence and peace. In the absence of any American support for an invasion and the acrimonious nuclear legacy between India and Pakistan, the only window of opportunity for Indian air strikes on the terror camps in Pakistan may have been in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks.

But that moment has long since elapsed, leaving the Government with no option but diplomacy, and that too preferably through the US (because Pakistan will find it difficult domestically to be seen taking the hard decisions, if any, on the terrorist groups at the behest of India). In the final analysis, the security of India from Pakistan based non-state terror groups, supported or not supported by the Pakistani State, depends almost exclusively on how strongly we can convince the US to arm-twist the Pakistani government to decisively crackdown on those groups. In some respects, this should suit at least many of the political actors within the Pakistani establishment, who see these groups (except in relation to India) as threats to their own stability, but cannot be seen taking action on them, except maybe under pressure from the US as part of a global war on terror, for fear of destabilizing the domestic political balance of power.

2 comments:

vijaya said...

I would like to refer to these words:"In the final analysis, the security of India from Pakistan based non-state terror groups, supported or not supported by the Pakistani State, depends almost exclusively on how strongly we can convince the US to arm-twist the Pakistani government to decisively crackdown on those groups"

My heart bleeds for the young widows and mothers who lost their loved ones. It's ironical and it pains to accept that India should seek the help of US to get justice done to her children

gulzar said...

Unfortunate as it sounds, that appears to be the only realistic solution. Foreign policy has rarely been known to respect or be grounded on human emotions.