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An Open Letter addressed to Mr Barack Obama

by Sashanka Sekhar Banerjee

An Open Letter addressed to Mr Barack Obama on his inauguration day as the 44th President of the United States of America on 20th January 2009 in Washington DC.

Mr Barack Obama
The United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington DC 20502

Dear Mr Barack Obama

Please accept my sincere congratulations on your “awesome” win on November 4, 2008 as the President of the United States of America. I wish you every success in your life’s mission.

As a person of Indian origin, I am acutely aware that your inauguration as the 44th President of the United States of America on 20th January 2009 came in the wake of the terrible terror attack on the Indian city of Bombay on 26/11 of 2008 which according to evidence provided by the investigating agencies in India and the US were orchestrated from the soil of Pakistan, killing nearly 200 innocent people. 26/11 was India’s 9/11. Indians, who are still nursing the grievous wounds they suffered during the three days from 26th to 29th November 2008, appreciated your sentiments when you defended India’s right to act in self-defence in the face the attack. As a mature nation India has acted with utmost restraint. It is in the context of these developments that I wish to share my thoughts on the rise of Islamist Terror in Pakistan that has the potential to destabilise not only India but also further afield in South and Central Asia extending in fact to the whole world.

It is of utmost importance to understand why Pakistan since its inception in 1947 adopted gratuitous belligerence on Kashmir founded on religious extremism and took to militarist adventurism against secular democratic India as instruments of state policy and how it emerged over the years as the epicentre of Islamist terrorism. The one uncompromising purpose was to ensure the centrality of Pakistan Army in the Islamic nation’s polity. As the Generals consolidated their political power in the backdrop of the Great Games played by the Super Powers in Central Asia during the Cold war, it produced the effect of suppressing the political aspirations of the people of Pakistan particularly the ethnic minorities for democracy and freedom.

In the aftermath of the historic defeat of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1989 at the hands of the Islamic Mujahideen, Pakistan was faced with the onerous task of dispersing the demobilised Afghan war veterans so that they did not threaten Pakistan’s very own existence. To keep the unemployed, radicalised, rag-tag army of ferocious Islamic fighters at bay, engaging them and paying their maintenance, the Pakistan Army decided to launch its infamous War on Two Fronts, which was to be conducted concurrently. It was an experiment with an innovative military doctrine.

These wars were and continued to be:

1. Across the Durand Line into Afghanistan and

2. Across the Line of Control into the Indian administered State of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Taliban, comprising mainly of ethnic Pashtuns of North West Frontier Province in Pakistan, was created in 1992-93 by the Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) as “the human shield” of Pakistan Army’s military campaign in Afghanistan. Training them for war and arming them came only later. The military objective was to secure “strategic depth”, which would be useful in a future war with India, which Pakistan Army’s GHQ in Rawalpindi believes is inevitable.

The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) , Harkat ul Jihad e Islami (HUJI) and the Al Badr were the four main terror outfits that were brought into being as proxies of the ISI that would “carry Pakistan’s war deep into the heartland of India beyond Kashmir”. This was a phrase coined by the hard line General Hamid Gul who held the position of the Director General of the ISI in the ninety’s of the last century.

The above-mentioned organisations have three common features.

(a) The religious inspiration of all the aforesaid terror outfits is drawn from the extreme right wing Dar-ul-Uloom of Deoband located in India, a soul-mate of Wahabi

(b) Salafi cults of Saudi Arabian Sunni Islam. The younger recruits are almost all impressionable green-horn Punjabis and the commanders are experienced military men trained in guerrilla warfare.

(c) The rank and file of these organisations are meticulously integrated as operational units of the Pakistan Army’s ISI.

Their existence is such a “top secret” construction that it allows cast-iron assurance of the “state of deniability” of the involvement of the powerful Intelligence Agency in terror outrages in India, as were the attacks on Indian Parliament in December 13, 2001 and more recently on the Indian Embassy in Kabul. The 26/11 terrorist attack by Pakistani nationals in Bombay was no exception. Pakistan’s robust deniability convinced the US and UK. Only India remained unconvinced. The identities of the “non-state actors” like the LeT and the JeM are rigorously kept under cover and manipulated intricately to serve as “cut outs” ( an expression used by the intelligence community ) independent of their links with the “state actors”. The reality is that there is no difference between “state actors” and the so-called “non-state actors” in Pakistan’s terror infrastructure operating against India. .

Rawalpindi’s tryst with terror against India thus began in 1989 and remains a continuing phenomenon. The objective of this brutal campaign of armed violence is to bleed infidel India into submission.

Iran was so impressed with Pakistan Army’s strategy of using terror outfits to conduct its proxy war against India that it too took to promoting the Hezbollah – the Shia terror organisation - in the Lebanon and the Hamas in the Gaza Strip as its own satraps in the region. The aim was to open multiple war fronts for Israel to fight, hoping to bleed it out of existence.

The next step in the conduct of its War on Two Fronts was for Pakistan to develop expansionist territorial ambitions in both Afghanistan and India, which would soon become the twin regional roots to global Islamist terrorism.

If the international community is really serious about achieving long-term peace and security in the world, there is no alternative but to force Pakistan to give up this dangerous military strategy which has the potential to destabilise the whole of the South and Central Asian region in no uncertain terms. Funding to prevent a failed state from failing is not the answer to the problem. President Bush’s gift of 11 billion dollars only helped General Pervez Musharraf to intensify his proxy war against India and help the Taleban to regroup and rearm on the soil of Pakistan. India, America and Britain – all suffered in the process.

The use of a combination of military and economic pressure to neutralise Pakistan’s strategic ambitions have to be considered with utmost prudence. It is this that should constitute the core of America’s future course of its War on Terror. Islamabad’s central role in promoting Islamist terror will remain an unending phenomenon as long as Pakistan Army’s designs of land-grab in India and Afghanistan remain unfulfilled, unless stopped in its tracks.

In the broader context, after the defeat of the Soviet Union in 1989 al Qaeda-led militant Islam’s strategic ambition had also undergone a radical redefinition. Defeating the US, the last surviving global super-power, was now Osama bin Lader’s primary focus. It was an opportunity that could not be missed. The atrocities of 9/11 of 2001 were the consequence of the momentous event of the collapse of the Soviet Union. It symbolised militant Islam’s declaration of war on the West. One should not forget that the attack was planned from the soil of Pakistan and it was not entirely done by the so-called non-state actors. Make no mistake, thanks to its burgeoning regional aspirations Pakistan has emerged as the inspirational leader and the operational base situated at the heart of militant Islam’s strategic ambition.

However as the war on terror continues, what the US can ill afford to ignore is that despite its superior technology America is pitted against militant Islam’s inexhaustible supply chain of suicide bombers. The support base is provided for by a proliferation of Mosques and Madrassas, its hinterland extending to large sections of its population of 1.3 billion people spread across the world. For the West to win this unconventional war against an unusual adversary is likely to be very difficult if not impossible. Unless of course overwhelming force is used, but this will have human rights implications. Confronted with such difficulties, the chances are that the Coalition Forces led by the US would perhaps be left with no alternative but to leave the battlefield in Afghanistan exhausted and fatigued. The euphoria and triumphalism that would undoubtedly follow in the Islamic world – both among the moderates and the militants - would have the potential of drowning what we have so far known as Western Civilisation.

There is however another alternative about how to deal with the Pakistan problem.

It would be to allow Pakistan, already a failed state and in dire financial crisis, to disengage and disintegrate into several smaller independent ethnic states like Balochistan, Sind and Punjab. Should Pakistan disintegrate, Pakhtun-majority North West Frontier Province would not hesitate to merge with its kindred Pashtun-dominated Afghanistan. The entire tribal region bordering Afghanistan has been transformed into an intense conflict-zone for the Pakistan Army with no sign of ending. Indications are that these tribal sub-national communities are prepared and ready to fulfil their aspirations for independent national status.

From historical evidence we know that in the Islamic world, ethnic affinities have grown stronger than the bond of religion. The virus of ideological disintegration has affected non-Islamic societies too. The end of cold war, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disintegration of its empire together led to the birth of freedom and liberty and produced aspirations for democratic expression everywhere. The break up of former Yugoslavia is but one glaring example. The disintegration of the Soviet Union is another example. The fragmentation of Iraq into three parts is perhaps only a matter of time. Afghanistan’s minority Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras are waiting for their main chance to separate from the majority Pashtuns. Even the Palestinians have split into two parts. They have fragmented into Hamastan in Gaza and Fatahstan in the West Bank. Lebanon may suffer the same fate splitting into several bits driven by religious fervour. Stopping them from realising their aspirations for freedom will only prolong the conflict and make the security situation uncontrollably messy. .

What is perhaps needed is a Yalta or a Potsdam type Summit of World Powers which would include world powers like Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and India and help redraw the map of Central Asia. What is needed are lots of clout in the region, political will and decisive leadership. It is only the US as the sole superpower that can provide such leadership. It will be useful to hold such a Summit of World Powers under the auspices of the UN, but it is not absolutely essential. It should serve a uniquely historical purpose of guaranteeing long-term peace in he region and indeed the entire world but the key to that would be addressing sincerely the legitimate aspirations of the ethnically diverse Muslim people of the region.

The Summit should also be in the nature of a Security Conference. It should be able to devise cast iron ways and means of taking control of the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan before they fall into the hands of the al Qaeda and the Taliban.

With peace returning to Central and South Asia, the Arab-Israel conflict will have the potential of finding a mutually acceptable solution of their own in their own momentum.

A word of caution may however be in order. It would be very unproductive to return to the tired old days of treating India and Pakistan in the context of a hyphenated equation. It will be like equating the State of Israel with Hamas-ruled Gaza. As you

are aware that India is the world’s oldest and continuing victim of terrorism having lost nearly 80,000 innocent lives killed at the hands of cross border Islamist terrorists

since its independence in 1947. Israel is a close second as a sufferer at the hands of Islamist suicide bombers. Both India and Israel – flourishing democracies in turbulent regions – are America’s natural allies and they should be treated as such. I hope you agree with me on this thesis. .

I submit these ideas to you in the hope that these will serve a purpose in the evolution of your strategic thinking on the Pakistan question as the 44th President of the United States of America..


Sashanka S Banerjee

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