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Not because of us

April 4, 2012

There is much surprise and some jubilation in India about the $10m announced on the head of Lashkar e- Taiba chief’s head by the US administration. There are all sorts of permutations and combinations being propounded, many political and strategic objectives being bandied about as to why US did what it did and the timing of this move. The one common refrain from most political and ‘strategic’ commentators is that this announcement of $10m on the head of Lashkar e- Taiba and Jamaat-ud Daawa chief is as a result of Indian pressure on the US. Nothing could be further from the truth. The other assertion of a plausible link having been unearthed between Lashkar and al-Qaeda as the reason for this announcement again is farfetched. The links between various terror outfits in Pakistan and al-Qaeda is nothing new. The US administration is in the know of this for long and it would be wrong to say that any new ‘revelation’ could have convinced the US administration the need for such move.

The truth of the matter is that West’s awareness about Pakistan based terror organizations increased after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.  Lashkar and its affiliates caught their attention as American citizens lost their lives in this dastardly attack. It may also be mentioned that some of the Israeli citizens killed in the attack in Chabad House held dual citizenship of both Israel and US.  Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg, grandfather of Israeli Baby Moshe whose parents were murdered in the Mumbai attacks, filed suits against Mumbai attckers in New York and Chicago courts. David Headley, a former Lashkar operative who was probably a double agent for the CIA spilled the beans about Lashakr and Hafiz Saeed. The case against Hafiz Saeed in the Mumbai attacks was quite conclusive. American law took its course. To say that Indian ‘pressure’ worked is taking things too far. I do not think India mattered at all in this decision of the US administration. At best appeasing India may have been a sundry positive fall out of a decision made with other more pressing considerations in mind. Remember, for the US 2012 is an election year and Obama is very keen on keeping the powerful Jewish lobby happy. They have been less than satisfied with Obama’s posture vis-à-vis Iran. Obama wanted Tel Aviv to know that he cared. A lesser, more manageable target in Hafiz Saeed therefore made perfect sense. That is not to say that Obama may not act against Iran. He has already thrown stricter sanctions against Iran. He might go further before the polls. But the Hafiz Saeed issue was surely another step in the direction of fight against terror and a positive signal to Tel Aviv that his administration was serious about standing with Israel.

I would like to believe that Obama could have done this to win over the 4m strong Indian-American community. However Obama is so popular among Indian Americans as it were that he does not need to do this at all. He has appointed more Indian-Americans to key posts in his administration than any president in the history of the United States. Majority of Indian-Americans are traditionally Democrats. Obama, I am sure did not have the Indian-American community in mind when he made this announcement.

Lately, Pakistan had been acting pricey. Americans have shown remarkable restraint. The issue in question is the resumption of supply lines to American and Western troops in Afghanistan that pass through Pakistan. Pakistan has been citing their inability to take a decision on one flimsy ground or another. While it is true that some supply has resumed by air the bulk of supplies need to reach Afghanistan via road through the Khyber. These have not resumed and Americans have been very worried as some of the supplies include sensitive military equipment with cutting edge technology. Americans are worried that such sensitive armaments may fall in the hands of terrorists, or the Pakistan army might impound them illegally or worst still these weapon systems find their way to the Chinese who will waste no time in reverse engineering. The resumption of the supplies is critical from the American and Western perspective. Pakistan gave the glib alibi of a ‘democratic process’ taking its time to come to a decision. A senior US diplomat was told by the Pakistan establishment, and not too subtly either, that he may not travel to Islamabad as the Pakistan parliament was in session and the PM was facing political uncertainty. The latter part was of course left out for the Americans to figure out. I guess the Americans figured out much more than that. They concluded that their patience with Islamabad was being read as a weakness. They realized that the US was being pushed around. They concluded that their civility was being taken as capitulation of a nation that had accepted ‘defeat’! The claims of an American ‘defeat’ in Afghanistan have been resonating in corridors of power in Islamabad for some time now. It was time to act.

Hafiz Saeed and other such ideologues that are at the head of the various terror organizations are nothing but an extension of the ISI and the Pakistan establishment. The fact is that Saeed was roaming free when India had given more than nine dossiers about the complicity of the man and others. All such correspondence was thrown aside by those in Islamabad. Saeed was ‘put behind bars’ in Bahawalpur jail soon after the Mumbai attacks but as the heat on Pakistan dissipated the man was let off under the pretext that there was no conclusive evidence of his complicity. India has been casual and less than serious about getting those who were behind the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan knows that and therefore disregards anything that New Delhi says.

For the Americans targeting Hafiz Saeed was perfect as this was not an attack on the Pakistan establishment and yet those in the know understood that this was as frontal an attack as any. Lately, Saeed had been organizing rallies where anti-America slogans were routinely raised and American flags burnt. It has also come to the notice of the West that Lashkar and other such Pakistan based terror organizations have direct links with Middle Eastern terror outfits such as Hamas. This alarming fact has not escaped the notice of security experts around the globe.

I would like to believe that Americans did have India somewhere at the back of their minds, especially after losing the prestigious multi-billion dollar MMRCA deal. Maybe they wanted to send a message to New Delhi that they care and that they stand with India shoulder to shoulder. Maybe they wanted to seal the F-35 Marine version deal for the Indian navy. This one little puny man, Hafiz Saeed fitted perfectly in so many ways that I am surprised DC took so long to play this vital card. Pakistan is jittery and I will not be surprised if they resume supplies pronto. I will neither be surprised if Hafiz Saeed is then taken off the list of most wanted men for the time being and used as a Damocles sword hanging on the head of Islamabad were they to act pricey again. For India and the South Block, though this announcement has taken them totally by surprise. Chidambaram though did make the usual statement that Pakistan should act against Saeed, but that was as routine as it can get.

I might add here that while all of the above may be true there could be a deeper reason for the US to come down heavily on Pakistan. Maybe US do not care a fig if the supply lines are opened or not. They are exiting in 2014 anyway – at least partially. What US is looking at is a more basic concern. The US and the West and many Pakistan watchers have come to the conclusion that this fountain head of terror that is Pakistan must be nipped in the bud. They conclude that Pakistan’s audacity to nurture terror outfits and use them all over the globe stems from the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state. A stricture against one of the top terrorists is perhaps a first step in a series of measures to make sure Pakistan rolls back its nuclear weapons program. American and other Western leaders have voiced their concern of possible proliferation from Pakistan to rogue elements around the globe. US president has said that he has spent sleepless nights worrying about such an unimaginably horrible scenario. The need to de-teeth Pakistan was never greater. India voiced its inability to act against Pakistan post 26/11 Mumbai attacks on the grounds that Pakistan is a nuclear weapons state. Many Pakistani experts have repeatedly offered this fact as the last argument in defense of terror emanating from Pakistan. Maybe this announcement of a $10m on the head of Hafiz Saeed is a small step in the ultimate aim of de-nuking Pakistan. But this is at best a conjecture. I am not sure even the best of experts can predict how this will unfold.

The ludicrous assertion of US trying to appease India so that New Delhi changes its stance vis-à-vis Tehran is laughable at best and outright silly at worst. India may look desperate to get the culprits of Mumbai attacks but Washington also know that if India were really so concerned they would have done something about it themselves.

I may point out here that the credibility of Indian media is at an all time low. What the loud, rhetorical, repetitive and may I dare say imbecile Indian media dishes out is disregarded by those who matter. The conclusions’ drawn by most ‘experts’ are mostly what are obvious facts or sometimes ridiculously improbable. The fact that the Maoists handed over an Italian kidnapped by them to one Indian media house speaks volumes about their biases. No wonder Indian media was pointedly left out when the same Italian addressed the world media. West know that the shrill Indian media will discuss the Hafiz Saeed issue with all the vigor and gusto at their command and they also know that invariably they will miss out the obvious in their eagerness to sound politically correct. The less said about the Indian media, the better.

Targeting Hafiz Saeed by the US is a crucial move. It will have strategic ramifications regionally and globally. Pakistan must know that they cannot get away by glib talk anymore. Its time Pakistan acted and dismantled the terror structure on its own lest the world community’s hand is forced. It is also time New Delhi learned to fight its own wars. As for the Hafiz Saeed episode casting a shadow over the Zardari visit  well, the man in inconsequential – almost as inconsequential as India is in this declaration of a $10m on the head of Hafiz Saeed.

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