US Diplomacy and its Double Standards On INDIA–read it a Good article
OBL never said a word about jihad in Kashmir till 2005 whn he was guest of ISI – fantastic post in BR
OBL was never an enemy of India, except in the broadest ideological sense. Just because he became the poster-boy of "dangerous Islamism" for the west, we do ourselves a disservice by adopting that image wholesale and applying it to an Indian context where it is not at all relevant.
Indeed, I believe the presence of OBL in our subcontinental neighbourhood was in fact a net gain for India. Let me explain why.
1) In the early 1990s, the US was full of hyperpower hubris. They had just won the cold war and destroyed the USSR, and Pakistan (via its support for the Afghan war) was appreciated as a key player in that campaign.
These times were the apex of influence for the Brzezinski/Scowcroft school of American foreign policy in the State Department, and Milt Bearden/Michael Scheuer were the victorious lions of the CIA. Many political figures of future importance, such as Madeline Allbright (and Robin Raphel further down the ranks) were rising stars under the tutelage of these worthies.
These people could do or say no wrong, as far as the US establishment was concerned. And what they were saying was that Pakistan must be THE primary US proxy in fashioning the new world order in South/Central Asia.
2) I know it is an assiduously created myth by the US media that Afghanistan and Pakistan were "ignored" after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A deliberate power vacuum was engineered in Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal, one that only Pakistan was capable of filling via its proxies. Washington, at that time, favoured the creation of an Af-Pak under Islamabad’s TSPA/ISI rule. It fit in with Washington’s game plan perfectly.
3) The game plan was ultimately, to create an Af-Pak dagger aimed at Western China and the former Soviet states of Central Asia. A dagger that could potentially play the same role against China as it had against the Soviets when needed…even as China was engaged economically by the US. Additionally, such an Af-Pak power under Islamabad could stabilize the Eastern flank of West Asia, threaten a recalcitrant Iran, and give the US "pro-Islamic" credibility with the Arab street.
Essentially the very "Great Game" ideas behind the creation of Pakistan in 1947, were seen to be "borne out" by the eventual usefulness of Pakistan in defeating the Soviet Union. Extending those same ideas, Pakistan (with Afghanistan as its vassal/strategic depth) was now going to be the launch-pad for expanding Western influence into the Asian heartland and containing America’s potential competitors in that theatre.
This whole aspect of US foreign policy in the early 1990s was played out much more quietly than the rebuilding of former Soviet satellites in Europe, and the eastward expansion of NATO. Much more money (and publicity) were allocated to Marshall plans for Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The creation of the AfPak dagger was a relatively modestly funded effort with a much lower profile. This is not surprising; one of the attractions of Pakistan to the US has always been its willingness to sell itself cheaply.
4) For this US proxy Af-Pak to enjoy unchallenged dominance in Central Asia, serving as an uniterrupted conduit for US forces in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea into the Asian heartland… it was vital that this Af-Pak should include all of J&K as well.
Hence, in the early 1990s, a multi-pronged assault was launched with the backing of Washington, to enable Pakistan to separate J&K from India. The assault had a military component, masterminded by Mirza Aslam Beg and Hamid Gul, in which Afghan war veterans and CIA expertise were used by the ISI to launch a "war of a thousand cuts" against India. It also had a political component, as evidenced by the redoubled efforts (via Robin Raphel) to build the Hurriyat Conference as a "democratic" platform for secession.
5) India at that time was seen to be a helpless state, from Washington’s point of view. It was a former Soviet ally and not deserving of trust or sympathy. The strong leadership of IG was a thing of the past. India had slipped into a state of post-dynastic political turmoil following the VP Singh ascension of 1989… this was projected by Washington to mean political instability and lacklustre economic performance for the rest of the decade. To top it all off, in 1991 India had to go to the IMF with hat in hand.
Thus pressure was put on India from every direction to part with Kashmir. Our pleas to declare Pakistan a terrorist-sponsoring state were soundly ignored. We were lectured as never before on Kashmiri "human rights". When the ISI committed terrorist atrocities, such as the Mumbai ’93 blasts, US investigators dutifully "misplaced" the evidence of Pakistan ORF ammunition given to them for examination. IMF strings were pulled taut whenever India made any move to assert or consolidate its regional position.
Had it not been for PVNR, our greatest Prime Minister to date, at the helm in those dire years… the plan to separate Kashmir might even have succeeded.
6) In support of the fiction that "Af-Pak was ignored after the Soviet withdrawal/ Pakistan felt betrayed by the US"…. the laughable Pressler Amendment (which prohibited US arms sales to Pakistan on account of its nuclear weapons program) is often cited.
In truth, the Pressler Amendment was completely spurious as a non-proliferation tool. Pakistan already had nuclear weapons by 1990, tested and produced by China… and the US knew it. Given nuclear weapons and a large, well-organized offensive machine for subconventional warfare… jihadi veterans of the Afghan war and growing cadres of local Tanzeems… the Pakistanis could very well wage terrorist jihad in Kashmir without fear of conventional retaliation from India. The US knew this as well as TSPA/ISI did… hence, it did not matter at all if TSPA/ISI were denied conventional armaments and F-16s under the Pressler Amendment. In fact, such things could be held up as carrots by Washington to further guarantee TSPA/ISI’s future cooperation in the great game.
In the 1990s, from Washington’s point of view, it was more than enough to let Pakistan have control of Afghanistan and conduct nuclear blackmail against India. TSPA/ISI’s economic strength did not suffer as a result of the sanctions… they had income from the Photochor nuclear proliferation industry via BCCI, and income from heroin sales via the Afghan poppy fields they controlled. They would do Washington’s bidding, well-financed as they were through all these unorthodox mechanisms to which Washington turned a willing blind eye.
Thus the myth of the "Pressler Amendment" being a symbol of Washington’s "negligence", "neglect" or even "neutral even-handedness" is nothing but a hoax.
Eventually, Washington was betting that India would tire of the sustained nuclear blackmail/terrorism from Pakistan and buckle under political pressure from the western world, giving up Kashmir. Then India could be turned into a docile, decapitated cash cow while martial Pakistan, imperial overlord of Af-Pak-Kashmir, could become the West’s frontline soldiers for the dominance of Central Asia.
Managing China, Iran and resurgent Russia, rather than containing India, was the thrust of the 1990s Great Game. India, it seemed, would be a pushover.
7) The early and mid 1990s were truly dark days for India, as many of us remember. J&K was overrun by thousands of foreign mercenaries of the ISI, trained in Afghan camps under the tutelage of Hekmatyar and others. Pandits were ethnically cleansed from the valley by the lakhs. Dost Gul occupied the Hazratbal shrine and IA could not get him out. Harkat-ul-Ansar with its British-Paki cadres (including Omar Shaikh) were trying to "internationalize" Kashmir by kidnapping and murdering Western tourists. Meanwhile LeT and other groups were recruiting Punjabis to wage jihad in J&K, and also building bridges with the Islamist underworld of Dawood Ibrahim to terrorize the rest of India. Month to month, it seemed that we would inevitably lose Kashmir to an irrepressible wave of jihad.
At that time, we were growing our economy bit by tiny bit. We were still fighting the Khalistani separatists in Punjab, also supported by Pakistan and tacitly by the West. Northeastern insurgencies also received a tremendous boost in this decade.
As the decade wore on, China’s tremendous economic rise caused it to gain political influence in Washington with the Hamiltonians. The Clinton-Wilsonians (Albright/Brzezinski) jumped on the Hamiltonian bandwagon, and it seemed as if the US was prepared to accept China’s nominal overlordship of the Asian continent, to Pakistan’s benefit and at India’s expense. Washington even suggested that China could be an "honest broker" in mediating between India and Pakistan on Kashmir!
It was only through the greatest and most steadfast heroism that we stood firm through these times. This was the WORST of jihad we faced in Kashmir.
And Osama Bin Laden/ "Al Qaida" had NOTHING WHATEVER to do with it.
8 ) All the above is background.
Now we come to the story of OBL in the Indian subcontinent.
It begins in 1988 when OBL split from the Maktab-el-Khidamat, the organization that was originally formed under ISI/CIA aegis to funnel funds, weapons and materiel to the Afghan jihad. The rest of the OBL story can be seen as an effort by the TSPA/ISI to woo OBL back into their sphere of influence… with US support until 9/11, and for their own purposes after 9/11.
But in 1988, he split from the Maktab, because he saw the US and the West (including Israel) as a greater enemy of Islam than any power that the Maktab was focusing on. That was the birth of OBL’s very own Pan-Islamic agenda.
OBL’s mission was intensified in 1991, with the stationing of US troops in Saudi Arabia after Desert Storm (whose successful completion also contributed to Washington’s hyperpower hubris.)
The stationing of US troops in the Holy Land of Islam, galvanized Bin Laden to declare Jihad against the West.
9) Bin Laden’s chief targets were always the USA, the wider West, and Israel.
His base of operations was initially KSA, from where he was banished to Sudan in 1992. His chosen theatre was East Africa and the Arabian peninsula at this stage. However, he was already beginning to set his sights on the American homeland, as evidenced by the 1993 WTC bombing in which his associates like El-Sayyid Nosair and Ali Mohammed played crucial roles.
Around 1993-94, the charismatic Sheikh caught the attention of many Islamist opportunists from all over WANA, including splinter groups of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood who had been lying in wait for just such an opportunity. Fighting against Western-proxy dictators in their home countries, people like Ayman Al-Zawahiri could hope for neither political success nor personal glory… but under the banner of a pan-Islamist international Jihad against the greatest of Satans, all that might change!
Thus, the nucleus of Al-Qaeda was engendered.
10) It is important to note that at this stage, OBL never said a word about jihad in Kashmir.
In fact, I don’t recall him mentioning Kashmir at all until about 2005. By that time he was a "guest" of ISI and the Hizbul Mujahedin, probably at Abbottabad. So, he was probably just relieving his polite obligations to his hosts by including Kashmir in his speeches.
There is a good reason why OBL… concentrating on Israel, the West and US-proxy-KSA…could not care less about Kashmir.
It goes back to the Arab Ghazi psyche.
To people like OBL, disputes like Kashmir are beneath contempt for an organization of Al-Qaeda’s scope and ambition. They are squabbles between lesser beings, not worthy of his time or effort.
OBL (and most Arabs) do not see the Pakistanis as birathers. In fact, they see the Pakistan-India conflict as something not very serious; it is a case of upstart recently-converted SDREs fighting against kaffir, but highly Dhimmified and harmless SDREs. If a serious conflict erupts, Pakistan (as Muslims) must be supported; however, it is better to maintain a distance from both Pakistan and India in general. Both have their uses… Pakis as servile mercenaries and dalals for China; Indians as cheap, docile and sometimes skilled labour. The idea that India constitutes a "threat to Islam" would have made an Arab Ghazi like Bin Laden laugh… Kashmir or no Kashmir.
11) 1996 is a pivotal year in our narrative.
The Taliban consolidates TSPA/ISI’s grip on its Af-Pak empire… with the full blessings of Washington.
India is in dire straits. After PVNR, her governments are falling within months. Economic reforms are progressing erratically. Kashmir jihad is at its height… and now, with Taliban in Afghanistan, it seems that Pakistan will have even more capacity to leverage its strategic depth and intensify that jihad even further.
At this fatal moment, the Taliban invite OBL (whom Sudan is trying to expel) to come to Afghanistan.
12) The Taliban’s invitation of OBL to the Indian subcontinent is secretly welcomed by many… including Riyadh, Washington and Islamabad.
The US and Pakistan would very much like to see OBL turn his assets and energies towards the ongoing Af-Pak jihad against India. Saudi Arabia would be very happy with this as well.
If OBL and Al-Qaeda throw their weight behind the Kashmir jihad, they will be diverted from targets that actually matter to Washington… the US, Western countries, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The TSPA/ISI are happy too… they think that the addition of OBL’s Pan-Islamist banner, plus the vast West Asian funding networks of Al-Qaeda to the Kashmir jihad, will give them the ability to push India over the edge. They assure Washington that, with Taliban cooperation, they can keep OBL diverted away from Western interests and towards India.
13) This beautiful plan fails to take into account the tenacity, single-mindedness and commitment of OBL to his grand vision… pan Islamic jihad against the West. As stated before, he doesn’t give a cr@p about Kashmir. It is beneath him and his army to get involved in such a lowly scrap. He is after the US, and Israel!
14) What slowly unfolds now, is the eventual demise of Pakistan’s best-laid plans for Jihad in Kashmir.
For a while, ISI’s "war of a thousand cuts" continues in force. The nuclear tests of 1998 firmly establish Pakistan’s capacity for nuclear blackmail against India. In Kargil, Musharraf uses jihadis trained by Afghan war cadre in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, as the thin edge of TSPA/NLI wedge to occupy Indian land. In December 1999, Punjabi Deobandi terrorists use the sanctuary of Taliban-controlled Kandahar to hijack IC814 and demand the release of Maulana Masood Azhar, a development that leads to the creation of Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Everything seems to be going well for Pakistan. But meanwhile, OBL isn’t involving himself in J&K (other than a few massacres of rebellious Shias in the Northern Areas at ISI’s request.)
On the contrary, OBL is using Taliban/ISI sanctuary to mount attacks on US interests in East Africa and the Arabian peninsula… Embassies, Khobar Towers, USS Cole.
And finally, on Sept 11 2001, he masterminds the attack on Washington DC and New York City that makes him a household name.
15) The rest is recent history which we know very well.
The Americans launch Operation Enduring Freedom, ousting the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, and replacing them with Karzai.
The TSPA/ISI chooses to GUBO to the Americans. Their betrayal of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda has lasting consequences. One by one, the Deobandi groups nurtured by the ISI go over to OBL’s side. Wahhabandism becomes a sociopolitical force unto itself, and eventually the TTP is born.
This is exactly the opposite effect of what the Pakistanis had hoped to achieve by inviting OBL to Afghanistan. They had hoped that they could influence OBL to turn his attention away from the West and KSA, and towards India in J&K.
Instead, OBL has turned Pakistan’s own proxies (created to wage jihad in J&K) against the US… and against Pakistan itself!
In effect, forces that were committed to the J&K jihad are now more committed to fighting the Americans in Afghanistan!
Besides this, the generous sources of funding which OBL used to bring into Afghanistan (and of which, some must have been siphoned off by ISI to use against India) quickly dry up under American pressure against the financial conduits. So even that fringe benefit of OBL’s presence, quickly disappears for the ISI.
Net gain for India, any way you look at it, compared to the 1990s.
16) 2002 is another pivotal year.
OBL escapes from Tora Bora and into Pakistan proper. From here on he is shielded from the Americans by the ISI in a cat-and-mouse game lasting a decade. The ISI still hopes to use him as a figurehead of jihad in J&K… and if all else fails, sell him out as the ultimate bargaining chip to the Americans.
Meanwhile, the NDA government in India launches Operation Parakram in response to the Parliament Attack. The buildup of Indian troops along the IB alarms the Americans, who do not want their sizeable commitment of forces in Af-Pak to become embroiled in an Indo-Pak war zone.
Washington now starts to lean on Islamabad to rein back terrorism against India. Notably, terrorism against India in J&K goes into a steady decline from 2002 onwards… showing that J&K jihad was completely, entirely in the hands of ISI, and had nothing to do with OBL/Al-Qaeda.
17) From 2005 onwards, the character of the Afghan conflict changes. The ISI begins to use specific proxies among the Taliban to do its bidding in Afghanistan… including the Haqqanis, Hafiz Gul Bahadar, Maulvi Nazir, Hekmatyar etc.
Meanwhile the TTP (joined increasingly by Punjabi tanzeems following the Lal Masjid episode) intensifies its attacks on the TSPA/ISI. In following years, Swat is overrun, GHQ is attacked. The war overflows the FATA and NWFP into the heartland of Pakistan.
From 2005, ISI terrorism picks up again in India, not so much in J&K but elsewhere. LeT is used to build cadres of local terror cells owing allegiance to SIMI and the so-called "Indian Mujahedin." There is no evidence that any of this is related to Al-Qaeda, TTP or the Wahhabandi tanzeems.
OBL may have provided his blessings to these efforts as a gesture of gratitude to his Pakistani hosts… but he did not have either the assets, experience or reach within India to do anything of practical use. The LeT and ISI have far more assets in India than "Al Qaeda" ever did. So why would they need him as a "guiding light" or anything else?
In 2008, the ISI and LeT launch 26/11 against Mumbai in a desperate attempt to force military action by India, hoping that the various tanzeems fighting in Pakistan will unify under TSPA as a result. It doesn’t happen.
18) The Obama administration, from 2008 onwards, takes an increasingly hard line towards Pakistan. Drone attacks are stepped up, and focus increasingly on Waziristan, where those factions of Taliban loyal to the ISI are based. TSPA defiantly refuses to engage in any military action in Waziristan.
Meanwhile it is the sunset of OBL’s career. He is now ensconsed in an ISI/Hizbul Mujahedin safehouse far from the Afghan border, and close to the J&K border. Finally, he starts to mention J&K in his speeches. But this is no more than chai-biskoot.
It is unfounded to imagine that OBL played any significant role in J&K jihad, alongside the TSPA/ISI who betrayed him by GUBO-ing to the Americans. Why would he, when wars far more important to him were going on in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Yemen? Why would he, when J&K had never been a matter of consequence to him in the first place?
19) Some have suggested that, near the time of his capture, OBL was a virtual hostage of the ISI in their Abbotabad safe-house. However, it’s important to note that… while ISI had him by the balls, he also had them by the balls. It’s not as if they could force him to take any greater role in J&K than he wanted, or force him to become involved to any greater extent than lip-service for politeness’ sake.
What could the ISI do to him… hand him over to the Americans? In doing so, they would lose their primary trump card, their greatest bargaining chip of all. They would also earn the instant wrath of all the jihadi tanzeems that still remained loyal to TSPA, and possibly of allied Taliban factions in Waziristan as well (the formerly ISI-allied Maulvi Nazir in South Waziristan has already declared Jihad against Islamabad following the Americans’ raid on Abbotabad!)
By 2011 the TSPA/ISI had been forced into a corner. 89% of drone attacks by the US in 2010 had been against ISI-proxy Taliban factions in N. Waziristan. Meanwhile TTP in Orakzai, Malakand and Bajaur had begun to hit back in force against the TSPA, including raids in Dir and Swat. The Raymond Davis episode, among other things, had forced US-Pakistan relations to the point of nearly public hostility.
The TSPA/ISI knew they could not keep up the show of defiance for very much longer. By summer the IMF had to approve critical loans that Pakistan needed to survive. If the only way out of this was to play the trump card… to sacrifice Osama Bin Laden, who was never any use to them against India anyway… so be it.
19) This brings us to the final chapter concluded last weekend: the American raid on the Abbotabad HM Safehouse where OBL was hiding.
The event is shrouded in mystery.
Could the US have conducted the raid without any knowledge of the TSPA/ISI top-brass? Unlikely.
However awesome the stealth helicopters, the NAVY seals, the high-tech jamming gear etc… there were just too many things that could have gone wrong with a purely unilateral operation, for Washington to risk it. From JSOC choppers getting shot down, to a fire-fight in urban Pakistan including civilian collateral damage, to the mistaken launch of a Pakistani nuke against India. Just too many unpredictable outcomes to consider, if the US had actually "gone it alone."
BUT BUT BUT… if Pakistan AGREED to let the US snatch OBL, why did they not bargain for a more H&D-saving facade? Why did they not insist that OBL be "found in the border regions of Afghanistan" rather than the very embarrassing location of Abbotabad? Why did they not angle for more recognition of their cooperative role so that they could get generous baksheesh in reward from the US Congress? Why did they submit to a raid that makes them look so very bad, in terms of H&D, and in terms of casting suspicion on their role in harbouring OBL all these years? Why did they let SEALS cart away incriminating evidence from the location instead of delivering Bin Laden to the Americans on their own terms?
There is only one possible answer: the Pakis may have agreed to let the US snatch OBL on such humiliating terms because… the only alternative available to the Pakis was WORSE. Unkil has something so damaging to the Pakis, that he was able to threaten them with it, and dictate the terms of how the OBL raid was going to go… or else.
What is that "WORSE" thing? I don’t know.
I have a suspicion that it might revolve around two trials currently taking place in the US, though. The trial of Tawwahur Hussein Rana in Chicago; and the trial in NY where the families of American 26/11 victims are suing the Pakistan Army and ISI. Things which could have come out in those trials and become public information, may have been even more damaging to Pakistan than the mere fact of OBL hiding in Abbotabad all these years.
20) For India… for the last 20 years, we have faced jihad alone. We will face it alone for the next 20.
USA/Al-Qaeda squabbles don’t matter to us; USA-Pakistan lovefest doesn’t matter to us; Pakistan-China double teaming doesn’t matter to us.
We have survived the connivance of all these parties under much worse circumstances, when we were much weaker. With the wisdom of our ancestors, the courage of our people, and the virtuous sword arm of Dharma on our side we shall continue to survive it until we prevail. Jai Hind!