World War III had been ?fought? for years through bullying and threats rather than with nuclear weapons, which the superpowers, the USA and the former Soviet Union, had amassed. It was said that these weapons of mass destruction had the capacity of destroying the world several times over. Pity they had only one world to destroy and much of their weaponry would have been left unused! It is another matter who would have been the winner after this war of Assured Mutual Destruction (MAD).
Luckily for the world, humanity was saved with the World War III remaining a cold war. It ended not with the force of arms, but with the natural death of one of the sides, the Soviet Union, and withering away of communism. Marx had forecast the withering away of the state after communism was established in the world, though he didn'tsay that only the communist states would face that fate.
What the world faces today is bushfires instead of a nuclear conflagration. Islamic fundamentalism and its progeny, terrorism, are stalking all over the world. No doubt, it is a danger, but not as big a threat as is made out by socio-political scientists like Samuel Huntington in his book Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order. The 9/11 attacks on the USA was nothing in comparison with what America did to Japan by dropping atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But the destruction of some US buildings by a suicide squad of fanatic young Muslims remains in centre-stage of western media and thereby in public mind because it happened to America, the only surviving superpower after the end of the Cold War.
In recent years, Indian politicians in power nurture the faith that the United States of America, as the most powerful democracy in the world, is naturally bound to help India, the largest democracy in the world. This faith is strengthened because both India and the US face the common danger of Islamic terrorism and have a common purpose of fighting the menace.
From a broad perspective, this belief is rational and it would be a reason to consider USA a natural ally of India. However, international relations are guided by conflicting factors, more by national self-interest than by lofty ideals. So, they are too complex to be taken at face value. There are undercurrents and attractions of expediency that determine the neo-imperialist designs of USA, despite its professed commitment to democracy and freedom. There is often a wide gap between US principles and practices.
Islamic terrorism has its roots in Muslim religious fundamentalism. Therefore, unless the roots are destroyed, the growth of terrorism cannot be stopped. What our security forces could do is to seek out terrorists and put them behind bars or kill them in encounters. But that amounts to cutting off some twigs of the terror tree; these actions cannot root out terrorism. And the roots are in alien lands, Saudi Arabia and some other Islamic countries, especially Pakistan, which is the launching pad of terrorism in India.
Can the US pull out the terror tree with its roots in the Islamic countries? Assessing from the historical perspective and present-day political expediency, America cannot do this.
In fact, USA has been mainly responsible for breeding and nourishing Islamic fundamentalist forces in West Asia as well as South Central Asia. However, the US contribution to Islamic terrorism has been in diametrically opposite ways in these two regions. In West Asia, the US helped prop up the feudal dictatorships of the kings and sheikhs, which made the common people turn to terrorism to fight autocracy and dictatorship. Of course, for want of a revolutionary ideology like Marxism, a section of the people turned to Islamic militancy. Their contention is that the kings and the sheikhs have abandoned Islamic tenets and have become puppets in the hands of Americans; the rulers allow the US to exploit their natural wealth of oil and in return get protection against popular revolts. There was the armed attack on Kaaba in Mecca and attempt to capture the holy place. The attackers contented that the Saudi royal family earned millions of dollars from the ?pilgrimage business? from Muslims all over the world and used the money for its own protection and pleasures. Hundreds of foreign pilgrims die in stampedes in the holy places, but the Saudi royal administration neither takes any remedial measures nor pays compensation to the kin of the dead. Also the Islamic terrorists launched suicide attacks on the American military establishments in Saudi Arabia and killed a few hundred US armymen stationed to protect the royal regime.
President Saddam Hussain of Iraq was a ruthless dictator who liquidated his rivals mercilessly and trampled on human rights. But that was not the reason for the US to attack Iraq and bomb the country to utter destruction. Saddam was no Islamic fundamentalist and Iraqi society was quite modern and liberal in comparison to other Arab countries. The reasons President George Bush gave out to go after Saddam Hussain were that he had a hand in the 9/11 attack on US installations and that Saddam had nuclear weapon developing facility, which could pose a threat to the free world. The charges were made on the basis of intelligence gathering by CIA. After the capture of Iraq by US forces, both the charges were found to be false by CIA itself. The real reason for US enmity towards Saddam was that he was not ready to allow US oil companies for exploration and exploitation of the country'soil resources.
In Iran, the US protege Shah was overthrown by an Islamic revolutionary movement, the leadership of which was taken over by mullahs and Ayatollahs to establish a Muslim theocracy. Although the changeover from autocracy to theocracy didn'tprovide much relief to the people, the mullah regime'sintense hatred for America and its support to peoples? liberation movements in Arab kingdoms and sheikhdoms helped the Ayatollahs to retain the militant Muslim youth on their side. Now President Bush is telling that Iran has a nuclear weapon programme, which should be curbed, militarily if necessary.
In contrast to its indirect contribution to the growth of terrorism in West Asia, USA had a major role in directly encouraging Islamic militancy in South and Central Asia as an antidote to communism in the Cold War years. The Soviet-leaning government of Afghanistan was subverted by the most ruthless fundamentalist organisation, the Taliban, trained and equipped by USA through Pakistani military intelligence set-up, ISI. The madrasas located in India and Pakistan and funded by Saudi Arabia, were the ideological breeding ground of Taliban that infiltrated and proliferated in the mountain terrain of Afghanistan. After a protracted war, the Soviets were finally ousted and their puppet regime overthrown by the Taliban. Meanwhile, Pakistan was also partially Talibanised by the military regime, which wanted the support of the mullahs. What is more, Pakistan was able to divert part of the armaments, which were supplied by the US to arm the Taliban, to its own army to fight future wars with India.
The Taliban regime in Afghanistan turned out to be most cruel and unscrupulous based on medieval Muslim governance of ruthless suppression of people, especially women. Modernism was a red rag before the Taliban bull and it charged ferociously on those who disobeyed its diktats with the sword of the Shariat. The country was pushed back to savagery where Taliban cadres set up a reign of terror. Men were compelled to keep beard and women entombed in veils to make them walking ghosts. Anyone breaking the lawless laws was punished on the spot by flogging on the streets or even beheaded.
Did USA get worried when its henchmen, the Taliban, became a fundamentalist monster and its patron Pakistan was sliding back towards Islamic extremism to prop up its military regime? No, it is wrong to think USA turned hostile to the Taliban regime because it was trampling on human rights. The US went to war against Taliban-controlled Afghanistan because it gave refuge to Osama bin Laden who masterminded the 9/11 attacks on America. The Arab leader estranged from his Saudi royal relatives had a vision to convert the world to Islam. He planned to destroy the West'ssupremacy through terrorist tactics, for which he organised pan-Islamic gangs to go on suicide missions to kill people, spread panic, and demoralise West'sliberal society. Disgruntled Muslim youth immigrants in the West and madrasa-educated unemployable young men from Asia, mostly from Pakistan and India, joined the ranks of Osama'sAl-Qaeda and other local outfits to expand the Islamic terror empire.
The US again required Pakistan'sassistance to free Afghanistan from the Taliban regime, actually a creation of the unholy alliance of America and Pakistan. Pakistan provided the base and passage facilities for US troops. The Taliban regime was ousted from power to herald an elected government in Afghanistan. But the main target of the US, Osama bin Laden and his terror outfit, could not be traced. Also the remnants of Taliban were left out, which continue to harass the new Afghan regime.
In all the American efforts to root out Islamic terrorism, Pakistan adopted a policy of hunting with the hounds and running with the hare. It tried to prevent the terrorists to make Pakistan a base to operate in the West, but encouraged them to cross over to India for their nefarious activities. The US is only anxious about the safety of the West and Pakistan plays the role of the saviour of the US and Europe cleverly. Didn'tPresident Musharraf'smen arrest the British national Taib Rauf, who was in Pakistan to finalise the plot to simultaneously blast 10 airliners bound to USA from UK? Rauf is said to have given out the whole plan on the basis of which some 24 young men of Pak origin were arrested in Britain. President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair congratulated Musharraf for averting the terrible disaster in which a few thousand people would have perished. As for the simultaneous bombing of the seven Mumbai local trains in which some 200 people actually died, Bush only sent a routine message of condolence, but did not forget to say that there was no Pakistani hand in the bomb attack.
Did America do anything to prevent Pakistan from acquiring the Islamic nuclear bomb? Not much. The US turned a blind eye to Pakistani misdeeds and perfidy because of its greater vested interest of using the country as a springboard to Central Asia where the potential oil lake lay underground to be exploited when the fast-depleting assets of hydro-carbon assets of West Asia get exhausted. If the US could overlook Islamic fundamentalism and human rights violation of Saudi Arabia, it could as well remain chummy with Pakistan despite its military dictatorship and encouragement of terrorist outfits against India. Therefore relying on the US to jointly fight Islamic terrorism is only a wild dream, which could ultimately turn into a nightmare for India.
(The writer is a veteran journalist and can be contacted at 42-B, Pocket 1, Mayur Vihar Phase 1, Delhi 110091. Email: [email protected])