By K Subrahmanyam
28 Jan 2009, 0011 hrs IST,
British foreign secretary David Miliband was partially correct when he talked of the inappropriateness of using the term "war on terror". This was pointed out in this newspaper as far back as October 2001. In World War II, the German blitzkrieg or Japanese carrier operations were strategies to establish and promote the ideologies of the Nazis and Japanese militarists. The war was waged against Nazism and Japanese militarism. Similarly, terrorism is the strategy of the perverted Islamist extremists to propagate their ideology all over the world.
As happened in the case of the Nazis and Japanese militarists there is an assumption of racial and ideological superiority by Islamist extremists. They believe that it is their manifest destiny to bring the entire world under the dominance of their version of Islam. And this version of Islam has nothing to do with the glorious Islam of Baghdad, Samarkand, Delhi and Agra or that was preached by Jalaluddin Rumi, Omar Khayyam, Amir Khusro and Akbar. Just as the Nazis perverted the term socialism and degraded it as National Socialism, the followers of al-Qaeda and Taliban have degraded Islam and are using a perverted cult to advance their ideology. Just as the Nazi and fascist ideologies had their followers and supporters all over Europe, there are supporters of the perverted Talibanised Islam in various Muslim countries.
The war is against this ideology and it's not going to be won unless there is de-Nazification as happened in Germany or the demilitarisation in Japan. While this could be carried out in Germany and Japan only after effective military occupation, similar exercises for al-Qaeda and Taliban have to be done without military occupation of Pakistan. Fortunately a much larger portion of the Pakistani middle class consider themselves victims of this perverted Islamist cult than there were anti-Nazis in Germany during the heyday of Adolf Hitler.
There is a lot of talk of root causes that are alleged to have led to the present situation. And both Palestine and Kashmir are included in the list of root causes. The latest to say this are Miliband and Pervez Musharraf. Palestine was to have been an independent state under the UN partition plan of 1947. Jordan's King Abdullah conspired with the Israelis and ensured that there would be no independent Palestine. More Palestinians have died at the hands of Muslims than at the hands of Israelis. This is not to deny the Israeli intransigence in finding a fair and just solution to the two-state issue.
The root cause in the case of India is not Kashmir but the Pakistani elite's belief in the two-nation thesis. Musharraf in an interview in 2002 pointed out that while Hindus worshipped cows, Muslims ate them; while Hindus worshipped thousands of Gods, Muslims had only one. Therefore, they belonged to two different civilisations. Underlying this perception is that Muslims cannot coexist with other cultures within the same polity. Musharraf forgot that the glory of Islam in India reached its peak during a period when the two cultures interacted and the Muslim emperors of India, including Aurangzeb, refused to accept the jurisdiction of the Caliph. The present perverted Islamist cult, which originated from the harsh deserts of eastern Saudi Arabia in the 18th century, are not the heirs to the glorious Islamic past.
It was Jinnah who argued that with the lapse of paramountcy every Indian ruler had the right to join India, Pakistan or to become independent. And the ruler's word was final. British Parliament accepted this. Pakistan tried to outsmart India when they argued in favour of lapse of paramountcy and the decision on accession resting wholly on the rulers. That ended in Kashmir's accession to India. They thought they could take over Kashmir through tribal infiltration. They succeeded to some extent but failed in their main objective. They tried again in 1965 and failed. In 1971, they thought they could drive 10 million refugees into Indian soil. The result was the secession of Bangladesh.
The Kashmir problem was Jinnah's gift. His idea was to fragment India just as the ISI continues to do. There is only one root cause for the present situation. The Muslims in Pakistan have to decide whether they will follow the mainstream traditions of Islam that gave it its glorious past or whether they will adopt the perverted cult that sets them against all other civilisations. After the 26/11 Mumbai attacks Pakistan finds itself totally isolated.
Palestinians and Kashmiris did not carry out the 9/11 attack, the Bali bombing, the Madrid train explosions or the London blasts. They were carried out by people conditioned to hate all other civilisations. Talibanisation is creeping in from the tribal areas towards Punjab in Pakistan. The US and NATO are now determined to contain Taliban. India has to contain the infiltration of jihadis on its side. It will be up to the Pakistani middle class, including its military leadership, to decide whether they want their children and grandchildren to live in a Talibanised and internationally isolated Pakistan.
Today's "war against terrorism" is likely to be fought within Pakistan between the perverted Talibanised elements and the majority Pakistanis who follow traditional Islam. The Pakistani army, which has used the jihadists as an instrument of an expansionist foreign policy, has to take a stand. They stood on the side of the Americans in 2001 and will do so again. Meanwhile, their policies continue to exact a very high price from the Pakistani people.
The writer is a Delhi-based strategic affairs analyst.