Saturday, March 27, 2010

India is losing out. Beware !

Pakistan’s clever outmanoeuvring of India is racing towards a successful climax while India seems increasingly unsure of what to do. Consider two game-changing developments. First, America is willing to forge a strategic partnership with Pakistan. Which means one thing to America, and quite a different thing to Pakistan. Second, India has been snubbed by the US first agreeing to India interrogating American terror agent Headley and then changing its mind.

It is clear that America now sees India as a country that can be taken for granted. In all honesty, America cannot be faulted for this conclusion. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lost half the game when he turned the civil nuclear treaty into a personal prestige issue, even risking the survival of his Government. The other half of the game is being lost by his eagerness to get parliament approval for the nuclear liability bill that virtually absolves US companies of financial responsibility in the event of an accident. (This agreement is so loaded in favour of America that the BJP joined hands with the Communists to oppose it.)

The net result is that India is facing its biggest policy failure to date. It has gained nothing whatever from the US in the fight against terrorism. It has potentially lost because the approvals Pakistan has won from the US put no break on terrorist activities directed against India.

A keen Indian leadership could have foreseen much of this. America’s obsessive interest now is to get the hell out of Afghanistan. Pakistan has convinced them that it is in the best position to help facilitate this exit. It launched military operations against recalcitrant Taliban elements and negotiated with the “good Taliban” on America’s behalf.

But the issue of terrorists looking east to India never came up between Pakistan and the US. This is clear from the Headley episode. From the outset America was unwilling to “share actionable intelligence” on the man who, as everybody knows now, was the principal scout and organiser of the Pakistan-based terrorist attack on Mumbai. America plays hide and seek because it does not want to admit that Headley was an American spy as well. More importantly, it does not want any evidence to come out about Pakistan’s direct involvement with Headley and the Mumbai attack. In other words, America is interested in protecting the Pakistan government from terrorism charges. Protecting India from further terrorist attacks from Pakistan-backed groups is not of much interest to the US at present.

If Manmohan Singh did not understand this, it is a failure of commonsense. If he understood it and still went ahead with promoting American interests in India – from nuclear accident immunity to surrendering our farms to American agribusiness companies – it is a more serious failure.

Things can get really dangerous because the man the Americans are banking on in Pakistan is army boss Ashfaq Parvez Khayani. They speak highly of him and in 2008 they honoured him with the US Army’s General Staff College Hall of Fame. As it happens, Khayani is also a former head of the ISI, the intelligence agency behind most of the operations against India. He is said to believe that India’s disintegration, or at least immobilisation through crippling terrorist attacks, is what will eventually stabilize Pakistan’s position as a major regional power.

It is true, as a Pakistani journalist’s supposed report circulating on internet says, that two Ambani brothers can buy 100 percent of every company listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange and still be left with $ 30 billion to spare. And also that the four richest Indians can buy up all goods and services produced over a year by 169 million Pakistanis and still be left with $ 60 billion to spare. But one Pakistani military schemer can make Indian politicians go round in circles and still be left with plenty of American financial/military aid to spare. So, fasten your seatbelts.