Over the next few days and weeks, responsibility for Tuesday’s bombings will be assigned, possibly to Kashmir-based separatist groups, possibly to jihadists hiding among India’s mostly peaceful Muslim population. The attack may even be traced back to Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) or elsewhere in that country’s government.
Punishing those directly responsible is a necessary but short-term priority. The United States must also reevaluate its long-term, strategic approach to the Indian subcontinent, as well as its approach to terror-sponsoring states. Specifically, the Bush administration must do three things: First, it should forge closer strategic links with India, something it failed to do after the attacks on the Indian parliament in 2001. Second, it should abandon the unfortunate tendency to view our enemies in this war as a shadowy network of terrorists — les déchets de la mondialisation — with only a tenuous connection to actual states. This should lead, third, to the United States pursuing a more hard-line policy against Pakistan.
“Outside Tony Blair’s Britain,” Tom Donnelly, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies has written, “only India stands as a natural great-power partner in building the next American century.” Donnelly is absolutely right. India is a peaceful, liberal democratic country facing a militant Islamist threat from jihadists within its territory. India and the United States already cooperate with one another on nuclear technology and nonproliferation matters. The Bush administration should begin openly campaigning for India to join the Security Council, and increase joint military training operations and knowledge sharing — this could form the basis for an even closer partnership.
This is the right thing to do not only because of the shared values between the United States and India, but also because of the shared challenges. Over the long-term, just as the United States must confront the rise of a despotic China, so will India. Better India be allied firmly in our camp than pursue, as it did during the Cold War, a policy of nonalignment; already, China’s extensive military cooperation with Pakistan should be reason enough for deeper cooperation between the United States and India.
There is an unfortunate tendency to view our enemy in the war on terrorism as a loosely connected network of militant Islamists. This is only half the story. Hezbollah is completely dependent on Iran and Syria for support. Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network did not thrive off the failed state in Afghanistan, it prospered because of active support from the Taliban government in Afghanistan.
Likewise, most Kashmir-based separatist groups either received seed money from the Pakistani government or elements within it, or depend on them for logistical support and safe cover in the event of hot pursuit. The war against terrorism is not just against the terrorist networks, but against their support networks as well.
The United States must confront the tricky question of relations with Pakistan, which is, at best, an ally sui generis in the war on terrorism. When President Bush distilled the realities of the war on terrorism into a simple, terse statement — “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists” — Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf, manfully, chose us.
President Musharraf has given the United States rhetorical support as well as valuable logistical and operational help. The Pakistani government was instrumental in the capture of terrorists like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Ramzi Yousef, and Mir Aimal Kansi. Pakistan has undoubtedly assisted us in other areas, too.
There are, however, many areas where Pakistan has been less than helpful: It has been unable to control its borders, which has allowed jihadists to travel with impunity to Afghanistan and Kashmir. Pakistan’s sheltering of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the nuclear engineer responsible for selling nuclear-weapons technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea, is a disgrace. A recent story in the London Times reported that the government is denying the United States access to Pakistan’s Dr. Strangelove, even though he would be a valuable source of information about Iran and North Korea’s nuclear program, he having sold them the plans. While acknowledging Pakistan’s shift in approach and tone after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the United States needs to stop coddling the Musharraf government, and needs to pressure it to provide us with more actual support.
India’s war on terror is the same as the one the United States is fighting. The same terrorists who happily slaughter innocent Indians wouldn’t blink an eye if given the opportunity to kill innocent Americans. Al Qaeda had been waging war on the United States since well before September 11, 2001. But it was the September 11 terrorist attacks that gave America the resolve to finally fight back. Likewise, the United States should use this barbaric attack on India’s most populous city as an opportunity to form a common front against the threats that both countries face.
– Alykhan Velshi is manager of research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He is currently writing a book of poetry, “Temures the tyrant and Other Poems.”