We were wrong. Despite the rhetoric, this war is not about freedom and democracy. Rather than fight international terrorism, the U.S. seems to be concentrating on a single, limited objective: replace the Taliban with a new government.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]For India, the compromises dictated by the pursuit of that one objective are worrying. We have also suffered because of a jihad, or holy war, declared by terrorists. Each time Osama bin Laden appears on TV to remind the world of his jihad on America, he also slips in a mention of his jihad against India. Western intelligence agencies concede that many of the militants operating in Kashmir have been trained in camps run by bin Laden's network.
We had hoped that the war against terror would treat both jihads on par. But the U.S. has decided to ignore the one against India. It needs Pakistan as a strategic ally for its Afghanistan operation, and it especially needs the intelligence available from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, the very body that first sponsored the Taliban. India believes that ISI also sponsors the terrorists in Kashmir. As long as the U.S. works closely with ISI and with Pakistan's military dictator, President Pervez Musharraf, there is no hope that the terrorism directed against us will ever be addressed.
Predictably, this has led to both anger and disappointment in India. When U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell visited New Delhi recently, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee warned him that Indians were so hurt by what we perceived as the unfairness of Washington's approach that any politician who enthusiastically supported the U.S. war effort endangered his own popularity. For instance, India's External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, who offered operational assistance to the U.S. right after the World Trade Center attacks, has been criticized by his own colleagues.
Such is the public anger that when Vajpayee declared that he would not meet Musharraf in New York City as originally scheduled, he was applauded. And India's Defense Minister George Fernandes marked his re-induction to office with so-called punitive firing on Pakistani border posts despite U.S. calls for restraint. From an Indian perspective, the U.S. strikes on Afghanistan may have moral legitimacy, but the U.S. errs by not extending that legitimacy to others who face identical predicaments.
A nation that is the victim of terrorism has the right to strike at the roots of that terrorism. But here's the moral contradiction: if the U.S. has the right to bomb terrorist camps in Afghanistan, then why doesn't India have the right to bomb terrorist camps in Pakistan? The moral imperatives are exactly the same. To tell us, as some Western observers have, that we should not fight terrorists but instead engage in a dialogue with Pakistan over Kashmir is not particularly useful. It is like telling the U.S., "Don't bomb Osama, talk to him." Or, "Don't use violence, try to find out why the Islamic world hates you so much." Dialogue is important, but it only works if fanatics and terrorists are removed from the equation.
Saner voices in the U.S. have called for introspection. When that process does begin, here is something worth pondering: America has spent a half-century supporting dictators and tyrants all over the world (and in the Muslim world, in particular). Its reward has been global anti-Americanism. Perhaps it is time for the U.S. to abandon the fingernail-pullers and make common cause with countries like India that actually share the values that make America great—the values of freedom and democracy.