Does it work?

We do not join US-led coalition to fight terror groups that affect them, nor will US join in our fight against those that affect us.

An important paragraph in the joint statement issued after the September 30 meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and American President Barack Obama said that the two leaders “reaffirmed their deep concern over the continued threat posed by terrorism, most recently highlighted by the dangers presented by the ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), and underlined the need for continued comprehensive global efforts to combat and defeat terrorism…” 

How does this work in practice? How united are we in our joint efforts to fight International terrorism? Modi reaffirmed his deep concern over the dangers presented by the ISIL (or the IS) and underlined the need for continued, comprehensive global efforts to combat and defeat terrorism. Yet, he did not sign up for the US –led coalition fighting the IS. Why? For we have serious reservations on this war launched by the US.  

Firstly, we insist that any international military action should have a clear UN mandate, be endorsed by the UNSC and not be undertaken by any ‘Coalition of the Willing’. The war on the IS  is being fought on the territory of Syria, presently, and possibly in Iraq later. Clearly, such aggression on the territory of a sovereign member of the UN must be endorsed by the UNSC. Though the ruling regimes in both these countries welcome this war and destruction of the IS, the war still lacks international legitimacy. 

A ‘Coalition of the Willing’ can be stitched up for any cause and it invariably ends up toppling a regime that is not to the liking of some prominent members of the coalition. And such wars that have been fought so far by the ‘Willing’ have been invariably clueless as to how the war will proceed and what its objectives are. And they have all ended up creating a greater mess than before, not to mention the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and millions of displaced persons.

Secondly, India is not against the war on IS, but the fact that the terror organisation is a proxy force for some countries (all of them allies of the US) that are bent on toppling regimes in Iraq and Syria and are covertly supporting ethnic cleansing of certain religious groups, makes it repugnant for any Indian support. 

Thirdly, India considers this war to be a much delayed and selective response to an inherently deeper malaise that was deliberately allowed to fester and spread. Of course, we want to see the elimination of IS and Al-Qaeda and all other terror groups in the region, but we would prefer it to be done by the countries that created them. To complicate the matter further, India has friendly relations with all the countries involved in the conflict. And, India considers it impolite to take sides between friends, even if one is killing the other.

India, US and our neighbourhood

The joint statement also said: “The leaders (further) stressed the need for joint and concerted efforts, including the dismantling of safe havens for terrorist and criminal networks, to disrupt all financial and tactical support for networks such as Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the D-Company, and the Haqqanis…” 

Now coming to the groups created and nurtured by the ISI in Pakistan, such as the LeT, JeM, the D-Company and the Haqqanis; what has been our own record in fighting them and what has been the record of the US in assisting us on that front?

Unlike the Americans, we have not fought any of these groups on their turf but have only confronted them when they ventured into our territory and carried out terror attacks in J&K, Mumbai, Pune or Bangalore. Our intelligence agencies regularly claim eliminating some sleeper cells of LeT and JeM but this does not in any way reduce the threat assessment or perception by the same agencies. 

The question is, will America kill our enemies for us, that too in Pakistan? Why should they? Pakistan has been a client state of the US, almost since its birth. India’s ‘strategic partnership’ with the US simply does not deliver what the servility of every regime in Pakistan does. The things that the CIA and the Pentagon do in Pakistan can never be done in India. They routinely carry out bombings in Wazirstan and pick up any of the wanted terrorists from the heart of their urban centres, be it Karachi or Peshawar. The killing of Osama bin Laden was a classic case of what the US can do in Pakistan and what the latter can do in return. 

Yet, we complain that America is selective in targeting terror groups. It, of course, targets terror groups that target the US. No one should grudge that. Every State has to protect its citizens from terror strikes. How we do it, is for us to decide.  

So, what exactly are we talking about when we say joint cooperation in fighting international terrorism? It perhaps comes down to the same old exchange of information between the intelligence agencies. Have the Americans given us any actionable intelligence in the past? Going by the case of David Hadley, it is clear that they were loath to share all details of the impending attack on Mumbai in 2008. Anyone who has worked in the intelligence agencies will vouch for the fact that the Americans are extremely cagey to talk about Pakistan with us.

The net effect is that we do not join in the US-led coalition to fight terror groups that affect them, nor will the US join in our fight against terror groups that affect us. The oldest democracy and the largest democracy have much to learn and live with their differences.

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