Editorial 1 / To market
Editorial 2 / Stand for america
First war of the new century
Fifth Column / Anthrax spores as Deadly weapons
Evils in the extreme
Document / Emerging from the mushroom cloud
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / TO MARKET 
 
 
 
 
The initial reaction of stock markets, across the globe, to the opening of trading in United States stocks was over-reaction. Despite reforms, India continues to be a relatively insulated market and is not as exposed to exogenous shocks as some other countries. A major exception is the stock market, where the sensitive index is immediately affected. One can understand the drop in airline or tourism stocks in the US, but the overall impact on the New York stock exchange or on Nasdaq was reflective of general uncertainty rather than anything specific. While the general uncertainty continues and prospects of an economic recovery in the US are indefinitely postponed, despite the federal reserve cutting interest rates by 50 basis points, Asian markets have behaved more realistically on the second day of trading. This includes the sensex, which recovered from an eight-year low. Initially, the blame for the sensex drop was ascribed to large scale selling by foreign institutional investors, although there now seems to be some doubt about how much net sales FIIs indulged in. The market is an extremely thin one and is sensitive to FII sales. The knee-jerk reaction of persuading domestic financial institutions to pick up shares (which may often be worthless) to stem the downslide is dysfunctional. More pertinent is the package of systemic reforms being proposed, such as allowing buy-back without shareholder consent, increases in the creeping acquisition limit and introduction of margin trading and individual stock futures.

One should also state that some recent securities and exchange board of India measures have robbed the market of a great deal of liquidity. While the stock market effect should be transitory, that on the exchange rate is deeper. The rupee may not have permanently breached the 48 rupees to a dollar mark yet, thanks to the Reserve Bank of India-engineered intervention, but further depreciation is certain. An upward pressure on crude oil prices is inevitable and for the first time in several years, India is unlikely to have a net surplus on the invisibles account. There is also the adverse effect on exports, which had shown negative growth even before September 11, and slackening foreign direct investments inflows. Foreign exchange reserves are adequate to prevent any immediate balance of payments disaster. But the moot point is whether the RBI should squander reserves to artificially prop up the rupee, especially when a secular trend rather than volatility is the issue. The 5 or 10-country real exchange rate is already back to 1991 levels and compared to several east Asian countries, which are major competitors, the rupee has nominally appreciated even more. Rupee depreciation is good for exports and had it not been for expensive schemes like the millennium bonds, would have taken place independently of what has recently happened in the US. While depreciation hurts imports, the effects can be neutralized by reducing import duties, which have witnessed no significant reduction since around 1996. The short point is that the government should stop messing around with markets.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / STAND FOR AMERICA 
 
 
 
 
The harvest of tragedy brings many forms of consolidation. Most of these are necessary means of salvaging brutalized certitudes — political, moral and psychological. But some of these simply carry on the work of terror. Americans will have to work out ways of coping with and recovering from the losses and trauma of the recent events, some of which will involve the enactment of deeply felt emotions and passionately held values. But, as the identity of the adversary is becoming surer, the necessary act of picking up the pieces is merging, in some minds, with the act of picking up the gun. The target is a horribly generalized image of the “enemy” — anybody who looks like Mr Osama bin Laden, or shares his faith or looks as if he comes from his part of the world. A Sikh gas-station owner in Arizona has been shot and his killer went on to another station where he fired at a Lebanese clerk, shouting all the while “I stand for America”. Sikhs all over the United States have begun to fear their supposed resemblance to Mr bin Laden, if only in the benighted eyes of certain beholders. But a feeling of profound insecurity seems to be building up within other communities as well — American Muslims, South Asians, Arabs. Mosques are being protected. Organizations like the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Arab-American Family Support Centre in Brooklyn are receiving numerous calls reporting various forms of harassment like verbal abuse, bombings, car rammings, physical violence and death threats.

Within two weeks of Pearl Harbour, President Theodore Roosevelt had signed an executive order directing “people of Japanese ancestry” to report to relocation centres. The ethnic composition of the US and the political climate of the world have changed dramatically since 1941. President George W. Bush may have been successfully fusing the languages of war, popular revenge and religion in his recent addresses to the nation, but he and his aides have also had to make a very public appearance at the Islamic Centre and a mosque in Washington to officially denounce the harassment of Muslims. What Mr Bush and his establishment will have to contend with is a combination of purblind illogic and levelling ignorance. The former makes an absolute connection between Islam and terrorism, and the latter interprets a beard and turban as a particular religious identity. The construction of this muddled ethnic-religious profile then becomes the notional entity, the “evil”, in relation to which the threatened identity of the “good” American is passionately reconstituted. This is, indeed, a terrible feat of consolidation.

   

 
 
FIRST WAR OF THE NEW CENTURY 
 
 
BY SHAM LAL
 
 
A British columnist can sneer at George Bush for “nervously squinting at the teleprompter” during his television appearances and pausing at the wrong places. But the prime minister of his country cannot risk making a snide remark like this. Indeed, according to a well-established tradition, he is duty-bound to offer his services, in the kind of emergency that has now arisen, as a sidekick to the chief occupant of the White House.

What do wrong pauses matter in any case to the American chief executive whose popularity rating is fast approaching 90? His aura depends not on how articulate or sophisticated he is but on how he projects his country’s military might. It just took a few minutes of plain talking for him to give Pervez Musharraf’s face an ashen look. And the echoes of his words prepared all corps commanders in Pakistan, even those with a jihadi mindset, to agree to join the American crusade against their own protégé, the taliban.

There is little chance of the taliban handing over Osama bin Laden to the Americans. Even if they extradite him, it will be on the conditions that he is tried by a court in a neutral Islamic country, the sanctions against the Mullah Omar government are lifted and no aid is provided to the Rabbani set-up controlling a part of northern Afghanistan. Acceptance of these demands will make nonsense of the whole project of a war on international terrorism. For the presumed aim is not just to get hold of bin Laden but to dismantle the networks of terrorist groups operating in various countries under his or other dispensations and oust the taliban regime itself from power since it is the main source of spreading worldwide the virus of the most ruthless form of fundamentalist terrorism. Pakistan is fearful of this scenario because nothing is more hateful to it than the installation of a hostile regime in Kabul since this will not only bar its access to the rest of central Asia but will also bury the idea of gaining what it calls strategic depth for its armed forces.

The suicide squads of terrorists have certainly left a scar on America’s self-image as the only superpower. But the resulting trauma has also made it more painfully aware of the menace of international terrorism which, though it has been ravaging so many countries including India for years, has been ignored by the US administration so far. While Washington has been planning to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in new technologies to protect the country against a missile attack, forgetting that no nuclear power will be so insane as to risk self-destruction, it never gave enough thought to the possibility of a far more insidious and dangerous enemy being at work in the US itself.

It is ironic that the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other allied bodies were unaware even of the size or complexion of the problem. They did not reckon with the possibility that highly motivated terrorists could even receive pilot licences from the country’s civil aviation training schools without let or hindrance. Indeed security at the airports was so lax as to facilitate infiltration by persons whose links with terrorist outfits could have been easily traced. A quarter of the 30 billion dollars the US spent on intelligence work, if diverted each year to a war on international terrorism launched much earlier, could have probably ended this menace or at least prevented it from taking on such dangerous dimensions.

It is doubtful even today if the US policy planners are going about their business the right way. The obsession with getting hold of Osama bin Laden itself shows that the sobriety, sophistication and sense of proportion, which a complicated and emotionally charged problem such as that of international terrorism demands, are still lacking. Whichever aide of the US president crafted the phrase that “this is the first war of the 21st century”, he must be a very clever person since it is fated to find a place in all history textbooks of the future. The irony is that in the opinion polls those who voted for the war were stumped when asked against whom.

A worldwide campaign against terrorism will carry both weight and conviction only if it does not conjure up scenes of devastation projected on tele-screens during the Kuwait war. The US president’s words that his government would make no distinction between terrorists and countries which harbour them make good sense. But can the US live up to this policy premise?

That Pakistan is a frontline, though reluctant, ally in the proposed war against the taliban flies in the face of this proposition since it has not only been harbouring but also funding, training and arming a number of jihadi groups — it is safe to assume that some of them have close links with bin Laden’s Al Qaid — for daily attacks on both security personnel and civilians in Kashmir. How does the US propose to square this circle — award Islamabad for its present services and punish it for harbouring terrorists at the same time?

The trouble with ground operations in a terrain like that of Afghanistan is that it will be too easy for taliban guerrillas to harass regular foreign troops as the Russians discovered too late at a ruinous cost. The destruction of roads and bridges will only help the guerrillas by impeding the movement of American and allied troops. Air strikes can certainly destroy what remains of Afghan cities after 20 years of war and civil strife. But widely dispersed terrorist training camps will be hard to detect and target from the air. And the post-war political scene in that country ravaged by poverty, repression and obscurantism may turn out to be even more messy and hazardous than it is today.

A full-scale war will in any case add to the influx of refugees, including many terrorists, into Pakistan even if the use of the main roads and entry points are barred to them. This can eventually make things more difficult for the Musharraf regime, particularly if the pro-jihadi sentiment in the armed forces gets too strong for it to control the growing internal unrest fanned by the extremists. Organizations with plenty of secret hideouts cannot be brought to their heels in open warfare. Their camps have to be located by competent intelligence work and destroyed one by one over a long period, and all their sources of funds and arms have to be blocked by stringent economic and other sanctions against frightened regimes which help them secretly.

Fighting the taliban is, however, only one part of the war on international terrorism. Its success depends not only on the emergence of a more moderate and democratic government set-up in Afgha- nistan but also on a concerted attack in carefully planned stages to destroy the networks of terrorist groups and more generous economic and mili- tary aid to all governments engaged in resisting fundamentalist movements at home.

Ironically, a number of governments in the West today allow leaders of many separatist terrorist groups to operate freely and are cynically indifferent to the insuperable problems many poor multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies face in holding themselves together. The globalization process itself, thanks to the impersonal and invisible character of the larger forces at work, promotes both terrorism and separatism by disrupting national and regional cultures, adding to the alienation of local elites from their own people and forcing small groups to search for new identities and a more intimate community life. That is how the twin problems of separatist ends and terrorist means get linked. There is no clinching evidence yet that the big boys in the US establishment have grasped this logic.

No war on international terrorism can succeed unless those who control the new structures of military and economic power do something about the malign aspects of the globalization process. Their own credentials in fighting terrorism will remain suspect unless they divert much larger resources to improve the lot of the poor in derelict societies and try to understand the nature of the fears and frustrations which feed fundamentalism, separatism as well as terrorism.

India, with far too many soft targets for attack by terrorist groups, must move warily in the prevailing situation. Whatever cooperation it offers to the US in its new crusade, it must not get too deeply involved in actions which can easily have a messy outcome unless the US war aims are defined more clearly. It must never lose sight of the larger perspective which alone can provide a meaningful framework for ending the scourge of international terrorism. Nor should it forget that it has been fighting this menace for over a decade without any outside help.

Indeed when Pervez Musharraf, not long ago, talked of “self-determination” for Kashmir, none of the leading custodians of democratic values in the West had the honesty to tell him that a general, who had seized power from a government with a two-thirds majority in the national assembly, was defiling that word just by uttering it. This does not mean that India can stand aloof and watch helplessly what goes on in its neighbourhood. It should help the US only to the extent the Bush administration commits itself to fighting terrorism everywhere, whatever the motives inspiring it, and enables this country to deal more effectively with the terrorist depredations in Kashmir.

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / ANTHRAX SPORES AS DEADLY WEAPONS 
 
 
BY DEVINDER SHARMA
 
 
On a clear, calm night, a light plane flying over New York, equipped with a crop sprayer and carrying a small cargo of 200 kilograms of anthrax spores, could deliver a fatal dose to millions of inhabitants of the city. And by the time the rest of the world wakes up to the horror of the new terror from the sky, there would be no defence measures to protect the people from the epidemic of new and uncontrollable diseases.

Anthrax is a bacterial disease of cattle and sheep, but its pneumonic form can kill humans. Properly “weaponized” to the precise particle size, the spores pass through the lungs to other tissues, releasing toxins in the process. In a matter of a few days, the victims collapse from respiratory failure, haemorrhage and toxic shock.

This isn’t science fiction. It is based on the 1993 report of the United States office of technology assessment on weapons of mass destruction. Ironically, as the world is being told that Osama bin Laden is scouting for biological weapons to fight the American onslaught after the demolition of the World Trade Center, it is the US that leads in developing biological weapons — and that too in the name of “a broader research effort to improve US defenses against biological agents”.

Killer vaccines

The New York Times reported on September 4 that the Pentagon had built a germ factory in the Nevada desert capable of producing enough deadly bacteria to kill millions of people. American scientists have constructed at Camp 12 of the Nellis air force range in Nevada a 50-litre cylinder capable of cultivating germs out of materials bought from hardware stores. While the aim was to demonstrate how easy it is for a terrorist group to construct one of its own without being detected, the fact remains that the simple procedures to amass biological weapons were already known and well-established.

It is primarily for this reason that George Bush had recently refused to sign the draft agreement aimed at further strengthening the 1972 convention on biological weapons, which prohibits nations from developing or acquiring weapons that spread disease, but allows work on vaccines and other protective measures. Sadly, Bush’s flawed policy initiatives are a complete turnaround from what his predecessor, Richard Nixon, had unilaterally followed by renouncing biological weapons in 1969, stating: “mankind already carries in its hands too many of the seeds of its own destruction”.

Biohazards

The seriousness of the threat can be gauged from what the OTA report states. Its list of probable weapons of mass destruction includes plague, small pox, tularemia and botulism. Such biological weapons have long been the stuff of nightmares, but recent developments have turned this into reality. The threat becomes serious with more biotechnology companies emerging on the horizon, and given the fact that the technology does not require much sophistication and investment. In the recent past, the aftermath of the Kuwait War brought into focus the horrors of germ-warfare that lie in store. Iraq is not the only country to have gone into the production of biological weapons. China had suffered a serious accident at one of its secret plants for developing biological weapons.

Ken Alibek’s book, Biohazard, also talks of the Soviet programmes that included tinkering with the genetic make-up of anthrax disease so as to make it resistant to five kinds of antibiotics. He blames the Soviets for clandestinely obtaining a sample of the AIDS virus from the US in 1985 and efforts to turn it into a weapon. Included among his list of countries interested in the research are South Korea, France and Israel.

Much of the problem is because the international community has given a free hand to the unstinted growth of the biotechnology industry. The genetic engineering industry, entirely in private hands, is outside the purview of any regulation and control of the society or the democratic systems at large. In fact, the political leadership of the countries provides support and promotes the horizontal spread of the genetic engineering industry merely to seek more finances for electioneering and party funds. Perhaps the global community is awaiting another disaster from offensive genetic engineering before it decides to “retaliate”. It will then be too late.

   

 
 
EVILS IN THE EXTREME 
 
 
BY RAKESH SHUKLA
 
 
Dastardly attacks like the ones in New York and Washington, unfortunately, lead to knee-jerk reactions which cannot help contain bloodshed in the long run. Such acts of terror lead to strident demands for the passing of special “anti-terrorist” laws. Special laws like the infamous Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act or the spate of state level mini-TADAs which have just received presidential assent create a vague category of “cover-all” offences such as “terrorist activities”, “promoting insurgency” or “activities contrary to law”.

In sharp contrast to acts of violence which are regarded as offences under the ordinary criminal law, the imprecise nature of the offences under the “special laws” gives the authorities the power to arrest almost anyone opposing a policy or act of the reigning government. For example, the largest number of arrests in the country in 1985 under TADA were made in Gujarat, a state untouched by militancy and terrorism. Workers of an industry protesting against non-implementation of an industrial tribunal award, landless labourers of Morvi village demanding the land that belonged to them, agitating farmers who had organized a rasta roko in Mehsana district were all detained under TADA in Gujarat.

In fact, the experience of TADA brings out the utter failure of these laws even in their own dubious premises. Enacted in 1985 to tackle terrorism in specified “disturbed areas”, TADA was initially applied to four states and by the end was in force in 22 states. These kinds of legislation generally confer a lot of power on the police with no precautionary checks. Contrary to the ordinary law of the land, such legislation ensures longer periods of police custody, makes confessions to the police admissible as evidence in court and allows for effective preventive detention for long periods through extension of the time limit to file chargesheets.

The fundamental flaw in such draconian laws is the lumping together of a wide variety of social and political movements under a blanket cover of “militancy and terrorism”. A complete lack of interest or the inability to understand the varying causes of diverse movements in the country seems a characteristic feature with our decision-makers. Therefore, quite naturally, Marxist-Leninist movements rooted in the specific socio-economic conditions of Telengana get equated with militant activities in Kashmir. Rather than grapple with complex realities, the same over-simplistic vision leads bodies like the law commission to make no distinction between the Naga struggle for self-determination and the activities of the Al-Umma, considered to be the principal fundamentalist outfit of south India. Catch phrases like “extremism” and “terrorism”, references to the alleged attempts of foreign powers to destabilize the country, and other bits of drawing room conversation, which are frequently used as substitutes for analysis, cannot help us move towards a resolution of the raging conflicts in India.

Laws giving protection to armed personnel engaged in tackling terrorism and demands for giving them autonomy are another side to this genre of “special laws”. The proposal of the home minister, L.K. Advani, to consider an amnesty for the Punjab police personnel who committed crimes while tackling the Khalistan movement, for example. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was imposed in the Northeast as an answer to the demand for a separate Nagaland. The act gave the army the power to shoot to kill without any checks or balances. The legislation has existed together with the flourishing insurgency in the region.

There is little doubt that the tremendous resentment caused by the atrocities committed by security forces functioning with impunity under the Armed Forces Act since 1990 has fuelled militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. Firings on peaceful funeral processions and public protests leave no space for the articulation of differing viewpoints, a process integral to a democracy. The beatings, harassment, molestation and humiliation inflicted on ordinary people by the armed forces leave no room to retain even an iota of self-respect. The only recourse, especially for boys and young men, seems to be to join the militants. In fact, the armed forces zeal-ously single out family members of militants for harassment and brand them anti-national.

The Madhya Pradesh Special Areas Protection Act, which recently received presidential assent, supposedly to tackle the Naxalite menace, creates a new category of offence — “activities contrary to law”. This is even more vague than the frequently used term, “illegal activities”, which is specified under the Indian Penal Code. The definition for the former contains the standard ingredients — indulging in violence and terrorism, use of explosives and firearms. However, the act goes further and includes in its purview breach or a tendency towards breach of peace and public order; obstruction or tendency to obstruct the administration or its institutions and employees; encouraging disobedience of law or institutions of law and breach of rail or road communication.

In a drastic curtailment of the fundamental rights to assemble peaceably, to form associations or unions, to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution, all forms of peaceful protest and civil disobedience are sought to be curbed by the new law. Effectively outlawing rallies, public meetings, dharnas, black flag demonstrations, gherao and blockades can in reality only lead to the promotion of extremism.

Unchecked power to the executive in the face of perceived threat of terrorism or Naxalite menace or internal disturbance, as happened during the Emergency, has always lead to atrocities on ordinary people. Specific acts of violence can be dealt with under the ordinary law. TADA was held to be inapplicable and the accused were convicted of murder in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

The misery unleashed on the ordinary civilian population by such extreme measures as bombing large areas, as is being contemplated by the US in the case of Afghanistan and as was done during the Kuwait war by the US, draconian special laws permitting use of helicopter gunships in Kashmir as suggested by the home ministry in India, can only provide fertile ground for the Osama bin Ladens and Lashkar-e-Toibas of the world.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / EMERGING FROM THE MUSHROOM CLOUD 
 
 
 
 
The use of nuclear weapons in particular as well as other weapons of mass destruction constitute the gravest threat to humanity and to peace and stability in the international system. ...Nuclear weapons remain instruments for national and collective security, the possession of which on a selective basis has been sought to be legitimized through permanent extension of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in May 1995. Nuclear weapons states have asserted that they will continue to rely on nuclear weapons with some of them adopting policies to use them even in a non-nuclear context. These developments amount to virtual abandonment of nuclear disarmament...

India’s primary objective is to achieve economic, political, social, scientific and technological development within a peaceful and democratic framework. This requires an environment of durable peace and insurance against potential risks to peace and stability. It will be India’s endeavour to proceed towards this overall objective in cooperation with the global democratic trends ...

Autonomy of decision making in the developmental process and in strategic matters is an inalienable democratic right of the Indian people. India will strenuously guard this right in a world where nuclear weapons for a select few are sought to be legitimized for an indefinite future...

India’s security is an integral component of its development process. India continuously aims at promoting an ever-expanding area of peace and stability around it so that developmental priorities can be pursued without disruption.

However, the very existence of offensive doctrine pertaining to the first use of nuclear weapons and the insistence of some nuclear weapons states on the legitimacy of their use even against non-nuclear weapon countries constitute a threat to peace, stability...

This document outlines the broad principles for the development, deployment and employment of India’s nuclear forces. Details of policy and strategy concerning force structures, deployment and employment of nuclear forces will flow from this framework and will be laid down separately and kept under constant review.

In the absence of global nuclear disarmament, India’s strategic interests require effective, credible nuclear deterrence and adequate retaliatory capability should deterrence fail...The requirements of deterrence should be carefully weighed in the design of Indian nuclear forces and in the strategy to provide for a level of capability consistent with maximum credibility, survivability, effectiveness, safety and security.

India shall pursue a doctrine of credible minimum nuclear deterrence. In this policy of “retaliation only”, the survivability of our arsenal is critical. This is a dynamic concept related to the strategic environment, technological imperatives and the needs of national security. The actual size components, deployment and employment of nuclear forces will be decided in the light of these factors. India’s peacetime posture aims at convincing any potential aggressor that any threat of use of nuclear weapons against India shall invoke measures to counter the threat: and any nuclear attack on India and its forces shall result in punitive retaliation with nuclear weapons to inflict damage unacceptable to the aggressor.

The fundamental purpose of Indian nuclear weapons is to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons by any state or entity against India and its forces. India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail.

India will not resort to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against states which do not possess nuclear weapons, or are not aligned with nuclear weapon powers.

Deterrence requires that India maintain sufficient, survivable and operationally prepared nuclear forces, a robust command and control system, effective intelligence and early warning capabilities, and comprehensive planning and training for operations in line with the strategy, and the will to employ nuclear forces and weapons.

Highly effective conventional military capabilities shall be maintained to raise the threshold of outbreak both of conventional military conflict as well as that of threat of use of nuclear weapons.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Legally unbound

Sir — The arguments put forward in the Supreme Court in support of J. Jayalalithaa, especially those made by K.K. Venugopal, the counsel of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief, are interesting (Jaya scores minor victory, Sept 8). According to him, the governor’s discretionary power cannot be questioned and the courts are “bound by the will of the people” and the verdict of the voters. If his argument is taken seriously, then the electorate should have no reason to be worried about corruption. However, although the courts are bound by people’s will and the Constitution, they cannot overrule universal truths. The truth in this case is what electioneering has been reduced to in India. Many will agree that elections have become a farce and the election of a convicted leader like Jayalalithaa as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu illustrates this most certainly. Jayalalithaa has even been accused of buying votes by the media. Unless the Indian legal system provides resistance to such unprincipled politicians, our country would become known as the most corrupt nation in the world
Yours faithfully,
B.S.Ganesh, Bangalore

Difficult choice

Sir — It was strange to see Pakistan use the United States’ demand for cooperation in the impending crackdown on Afghanistan as a bargaining point (“Pak names price: keep India out”, Sept 17). Pakistan has asked for an active role by the US in the Kashmir problem, India’s exclusion from the US strikes and the relaxation of sanctions and reduction of debts. These are all clearly aimed at blocking out India while Pakistan tries to absolve itself of past sins in the eyes of the US. One hopes that the US will not give in to any of Pakistan’s demands.

Over the last two decades, whenever India has fallen victim to terrorist attacks, no country, including the US, has come forward to assist India. It is only now that the US has realized the threat terrorists pose to national security. If the US wants to eradicate terrorism, it must fight against the jihad in Kashmir. By accepting Pakistan’s demands, the US will only help in keeping terrorism alive, not in their own country maybe, but in India. Pakistan-aided terrorism in Kashmir should also be brought to the notice of the world by the international media. It is wrong of Pakistan, a country known for its support of terrorism, to use this catastrophe as an opportunity to protect its own interests.

Yours faithfully,
Mahesh Kumar, via email

Sir — Pakistan is one of the few countries which recognizes the taliban. This together with its proximity to Afghanistan makes Pakistan crucial in the strikes the US is planning on Afghanistan. Not unexpectedly, General Pervez Musharraf is in a fix and is unable to decide whether he should give the US unconditional support. So certain conditions involving India have been set out for the Americans. Latest reports claim that Pakistan is not even certain of the extent of its support — whether it will allow the US to use its air space, military support and so on.

Pakistan’s dilemma is obvious. If Pakistan agrees to give full support to the US, it will gain as the US might dilute its stance regarding Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism. However, Pakistan’s support to the US will extract its own price. Militant outfits within Pakistan are likely to create a lot of internal disturbance if the country lends out a helping hand to the Americans. The threat of strong internal opposition and a probable civil war might ultimately prevent Pakistan from assisting the US.

Yours faithfully,
Mahesh Kapasi, via email

Sir — Pakistan, although initially unsure of how to react to the US plea for cooperation in its action against Afghanistan, seems to have framed a strategy which tries to make the most of a bad situation, albeit with some grave attendant risks. For Pervez Musharraf himself, the stakes are high. By apparently signing on the US “dotted line”, Musharraf has attempted to wrest significant advantages for Pakistan. His primary objective is to obtain legitimacy for his military rule from the West.

How far he is able to convince militant outfits in Pakistan about the benefits of extending support to the US will have a significant impact on the success of his gameplan. He will, of course, try to hard-sell his policy of cooperation to the jihadis as the only other alternative is to be wiped out under the American onslaught. Nevertheless, the extent to which the militants will listen to logic is questionable. Also, the more extreme Islamic elements in the army may not be able to resist the urge to play to the large fundamentalist domestic gallery. The balance of power in the Inter-Services Intelligence will also be a deciding factor.

The fringe fundamentalist groups that are bound to survive the expected US strikes, either in Pakistan or in other countries, might target it as the primary enemy of their cause. Therefore, while we criticize Pakistan for laying down clauses, we must realize also the pressure that it must be facing .

Yours faithfully,
Pronoy K. Ghosh, Jamshedpur

Sir — The links between the taliban militia in Afghanistan and the Pakistan government is apparent after the crashes. It is because of this knowledge that the US is choosing a more pragmatic approach of “engaging” Pakistan rather than bypassing it in its operation in Afghanistan. Reports claim that India is being “sidelined” in the entire gameplan. I believe India has more to gain than lose if it is not included in the strikes against Afghanistan. This is because the de facto pressure on Pakistan will automatically clean up the madrassahs and training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan. One should remember that Pakistan’s bargaining chip regarding the non-involvement of Israel and India and the US support for Kashmir is more a request than a demand. Also, by being spared participation in the military operation, India will save both human and other resources.

Yours faithfully,
Gaurang Jalan, Calcutta

Parting shot

Sir — Cattle on the streets in Calcutta are becoming a major nuisance. The animals not only hold up traffic — some of them often deciding to rest in the middle of the road —– they also dirty the public fare with their droppings. Owners of these animals should be asked not to leave them to graze on the roadside.

Yours faithfully,
Debayan Sarkar, Calcutta

Letters to the editor should be sent to:

The Telegraph
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street
Calcutta 700 001
Email: [email protected]
Readers in the Northeast can write to:
Third Floor, Godrej Building,
G.S. Road, Ulubari, Guwahati 781007
   
 

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