Saturday, May 02, 2009
Obama's blue-eyed Zardari can do no wrong!
The US State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism 2008, which was released last Thursday, serves as both a compendium of terrorist activities around the world as well as an indicator of the prevalent thinking in Washington’s foreign policy establishment. While those in India who constantly look up to the US for succour, support and sympathy as a substitute to fighting terrorism on our terms and in a meaningful manner will no doubt seize upon this year’s Country Reports to proclaim how America has accepted that “in 2008, India ranked among the world’s most terrorism-afflicted countries” — as if we needed the Americans to tell us this simple fact, a truth that would have been controverted had the State Department not made a passing mention of it — a full reading of the document will reveal that we need not be distracted by such hoopla to which the English-speaking middle classes are given.
President Barack Hussein Obama’s Administration may have found it pertinent to record India’s “pivotal moment that is now called ‘26/11’ (our very own scaled down version of ‘9/11’)”, but it has shown no inclination towards placing on record how last November’s multiple fidayeen attacks on high profile targets in Mumbai conclusively exposed Pakistan’s role in promoting cross-border terrorism. This is what the Country Reports has to say on India’s ‘pivotal moment’: “Terrorists struck at a variety of locations in Mumbai on November 26, killing at least 183 people, including 22 foreigners, six of whom were Americans and 14 members of the police and security forces. Over 300 more were injured. The attacks in Mumbai targeted places frequented by foreigners and wealthy Indians. The attackers entered Mumbai from the sea and attacked people in two hotels, a Jewish centre, the main train station, and additional locations ... The terrorists appeared to have been well-trained and took advantage of technology, such as Global Positioning System trackers.”
There’s no mention of where the attackers came from, no assertion of Pakistani complicity, not even the most casual reference to the manner in which the Pakistani Government mocked at overwhelming evidence about the nationality of the fidayeen, their ‘handlers’ and those who trained them in guerrilla warfare. Ten men held an entire city to ransom for 62 hours, killed 183 people and fiercely fought back crack commando units. Yet, the Obama Administration is of the view that Mohammad Ajmal Mohammad Amir Kasab and his fellow marauders “appeared to have been well-trained”. The implicit doubt is not without purpose.
Way down in the chapter titled ‘South and Central Asia Overview’, the Country Reports says, “Despite an increased number of infiltrations across the Line of Control, Pakistan-India relations were improving, with trade opened for the first time in over 60 years, until they were significantly set back by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November. These attacks were attributed to the (Pakistan-based) Kashmir terrorist group Laskhar-e-Tayyeba, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation, and to its fundraising subsidiary, the Jamaat ud-Dawah, which the Government of Pakistan banned after the UN Security Council listed the group and certain named individuals in the 1267 Sanctions Committee.” So, Pakistan gets a pat for taking prompt action against Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, a “Kashmir terrorist group” to which the Mumbai attack has been merely “attributed”.
The report then points out how despite “allegations of involvement by the LeT and JuD in the Mumbai attacks”, Pakistani “officials (have) pledged to prosecute all individuals in Pakistan found to be involved in the Mumbai attacks and offered to share intelligence regarding the attacks with the Government of India”. No less a person than President Asif Ali Zardari has said “non-state actors (terrorists) were operating on Pakistani soil and noted his own wife (Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto assassinated on December 27, 2007) had been a victim of terrorism”. What, then, is India complaining about? In a suggestive apportioning of blame, the Country Reports adds: “The composite dialogue between Pakistan and India was frozen by the Indian Government in December ... contributing to heightened tension between the two Governments.” Never mind the terrible waste of innocent lives, New Delhi should have continued with devising ‘confidence-building measures’ to bolster the dissolute Zardari regime in Islamabad.
Pakistan after all, as the Country Reports makes out, is a ‘victim’ and not the perpetrator of terrorism, or, as Mr Gordon Brown, the trans-Atlantic ally of Mr Obama, has recently described it, the “crucible for global terrorism” and the “breeding ground for international terrorists”. To drive home this point, the chapter titled ‘South and Central Asia Overview’ begins with a quote of, hold your breath, Mr Zardari: “We are fighting the menace and we will continue to fight... This is the fight for the peace of the world...” Hopefully next year’s Country Reports will record the fact that among the means adopted by Mr Zardari to “fight for the peace of the world” was to meekly capitulate to the Taliban. For the moment, the Obama Administration is gratified that “Pakistani security services (have) cooperated with the United States and other nations to fight terrorism within Pakistan and abroad. Hundreds of suspected Al Qaeda operatives have been killed or captured by Pakistani authorities since September 2001. Pakistan (has) continued to pursue Al Qaeda and its allies through nationwide police action and military operations in the FATA and elsewhere.” The most expensive lobbying firm in Washington, DC, could not have done a better job of whitewashing Pakistan’s sins of omission and commission.
Ironically, the publication of this year’s Country Reports with its cockamamie tale of Pakistani valour in the face of jihadi aggression coincided with a revealing Fox News report. America’s top military commander David Petraeus, according to this report, has told lawmakers on Capitol Hill, currently debating billions of dollars in fresh American aid to Pakistan, that he is “looking for concrete action by the Pakistani Government to destroy the Taliban in the next two weeks before Washington determines the next course of action ... The Pakistanis have run out of excuses”. In what appears to be a reference to the alleged ‘crackdown’ on the Taliban in Buner, Gen Petraeus, who heads the US’s Central Command, is believed to have commented wearily that “we’ve heard it all before from the Pakistanis”.
Given the tone and tenor, not to mention the contents of this year’s Country Reports, it could well be said, “We’ve heard it all before from the Americans.”
[You can read the full Country Reports on Terrorism 2008 here.]
[My friend Prof Barry Rubin, who is director of the Gloria Center in Jerusalem, among the foremost commentators on West Asian affairs and author of several books, including a biography of Yasser Arafat, has analysed the Country Reports section on Israel related issues. His analysis provides a unique perspective.]
Obviously embarrassed by the Fox News story, the US State Department put out a statement through its acting spokesperson who said, "[There has been] a positive last couple of days in terms of Pakistan taking action against these militants. [B]ut we’re under no illusions. It’s going to take more than two days' worth of actions. It’s going to take consistent, determined, and forceful action. And Pakistan seems committed to that, and we’re willing to be as helpful as we can in terms of dealing with the militants."