OPPOSE US WAR
by Harkishan Singh Surjeet
WITH the launching of a war against Afghanistan by the US and his master's voice, the UK, the world has come to a crossroads. Fears are being expressed that the war may draw long because of the peculiar topography of Afghanistan, among other things. Nay, the war may not remain confined to air strikes; sooner or later the US may feel compelled to move its troops on the ground.
Ostensibly, the US has launched this war in the name of a fight against "global terrorism" and has sought to pose as if those who are not with the US are with the terrorists. But very few people around the world are prepared to buy this argument. How the US itself propped up terrorist groups in different parts of the world, how it masterminded the assassination of a number of political figures and how it intervened in a number of countries even where it had no legitimate reason to be --- all these facts are still fresh in public memory. Not surprisingly, to the world at large, the US claim about fighting terrorism is little more than hypocritical. Anti-war protest actions are naturally taking place all over; peace-loving Americans too are coming out in thousands to oppose the imperialist revanchism of their rulers.
The issue of Afghanistan itself is a testimony to the US hypocrisy. The US has since long been trying to have a foothold in the country in view of its strategic location and to pursue its policy of "containing" the then USSR. After the Saur Revolution of 1979, the US propped up several terrorist groups to fight the PDPA regime and equipped them with arms, training and money through Pakistan. Not only those like Hikmatyar but even Osama bin Laden and the Taliban are themselves the progeny of the US imperialist policy that succeeded in getting the Najibullah regime overthrown by a coalition government led by Burhanuddin Rabbani. It is another matter that the coalition could not hold together for long, mutual fights began and finally the Taliban drove away the coalition from Kabul with the help of the same American arms, followed by the barbaric killing of President Najibullah himself.
Right now, the US seems to be adopting a carrot and stick policy in relation to Afghanistan. While it has already started a war against Afghanistan, it is also planning to have a regime of its choice in the country in case the Taliban are finished. It is busy finalising an aid package for the country after the war. At the same time, the US is also planning to have some sort of a puppet coalition government in Kabul, headed by 86 years old Zahir Shah, the former king who was overthrown by Dawood in 1973. This is perfectly in accordance with the US design of a global hegemony. A puppet government in Kabul will not only allow the US to have a military base in the centre of the Old World, but also enable it to thoroughly exploit the oil and gas reserves of some former Soviet republics in Central Asia. This US design is but an open secret and the world community knows it well.
This is why the pro-imperialist media are busy propagating that the war is not against the people of Afghanistan but against the Taliban who are training and patronising groups for terrorist actions around the world. These media organs are hesitant to admit the civilian casualties that are undoubtedly taking place. Large-scale migration of people out of the country in search of safe havens in Pakistan, Iran and Central Asian republics is also taking place. These refugees are undergoing enormous hardships and will be suffering for a long time to come. The unfortunate people of Afghanistan have not had any respite for over two hundred years and, thanks to US imperialism that cares a hoot for human sufferings, they are still not going to have it.
ROLE OF PAKISTAN
As soon as the US declared its intention to organise a "war against global terrorism" in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, both India under Vajpayee and Pakistan under Musharraf started vying with each other in offering help for the US war design. We will come to the Indian position later.
As for Pakistan, even though it has itself been harbouring, training and arming terrorist outfits on its soil, it became a champion of anti-terrorism overnight. This also suited Pervez Musharraf's military regime that has now gained de facto, if not de jure, recognition from the US and UK, and has been promised substantial financial aid in return for its help in the war. The US has already lifted the sanctions that it had imposed on Pakistan in the wake of the Chaghai nuclear explosions in May 1998. To prove his loyalty to the US, Musharraf has even replaced the ISI chief with a more pliable man and put several clerics under house arrest. In fact, it is with the imperialist assistance that Musharraf hopes to restore the health of the country's battered economy.
Yet, it may not be a smooth sail for Musharraf. For, like his military and civilian predecessors, he too had been propping up terrorist groups in the name of jehad and now suddenly these groups find that their patron has become a turncoat. The ongoing protest actions in Pakistan are, naturally, as much anti-Musharraf as they are anti-US, and Musharraf has sustained so far only with the help of the military. But, how long? This is still an imponderable.
If the US has opted to prefer Pakistan over India for getting logistic support in this war, it is first because of the geographical factor, as Pakistan is adjacent to Afghanistan. Taking off from the warships present in the Arabian Sea, the US-UK war planes cannot but have to use the Pakistani air space for bombing Afghanistan, as Iran is not going to provide them any air passage. Secondly, Pakistan has for long been a trusted ally of US imperialists in the region, was a member of the now-defunct CENTO, and the US is certainly not going to desert Pakistan even while trying to have India by its side.
This is precisely what the Vajpayee government has been unable to understand so far. Spurred by a blind hatred for Pakistan, the BJP government has always been trying to have the US at its back, in its fight against Pakistan. It is precisely this thinking that led the Vajpayee government to make a blanket offer of help to the US in a "war against terrorism." Needless to say, to the BJP, terrorism is synonymous with Islamic (!) terrorism.
This blindness of the Indian government made it a butt of ridicule all over. It first wanted the US to use our military bases for its war against Afghanistan. But when that offer was not accepted, the Vajpayee government stooped still lower and as though prayed to the US: Please, allow us to provide you refuelling facilities at least! This is the lowest depth of fall for a person or a government who has lost his/its self-respect.
In sum, it is no pro-US tilt on part of the BJP government; it is out and out capitulation before the world gendarme. Yet, nothing more or nothing better could be expected from a government that has given up the time-tested and consensual foreign policy of non-alignment, anti-imperialism, opposition to wars of occupation, opposition to weapons of mass annihilation, and support to national liberation struggles. Not very long ago, India played a laudable role in fighting the Apartheid regime in South Africa and for the liberation of Namibia. It also supported the Polisario Front's struggle in Western Sahara and that of Palestinians for a homeland. But the BJP government has totally gone back on this consensual foreign policy, even to the extent of withdrawing recognition from the SADR and collaborating with Israel.
The Vajpayee government is also under illusion that the US will help it get rid of terrorism in Kashmir. Of course, in order to humour New Delhi, Colin Powell did announce that the US will fight "global" terrorism. But then he also added that terrorism in Kashmir was not on immediate US agenda. Moreover, even after the dastardly attack on the J&K assembly building, the US did not take any action to ban the terrorist outfits like Jaish-e-Muhammad or Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. Bush did promise, in his telephonic talk with Vajpayee, that he would ban these outfits. But this promise too is nothing more than the repeated US promises of declaring Pakistan a terrorist country. In short, it is the BJP government itself that is allowing the US to take it for a ride.
The BJP moves also pose the danger of US interference in Kashmir. Ever since the USA emerged as a superpower, it has been eyeing Kashmir and has the intention of having it ceded from India. As said in these columns earlier, a puppet government in an "independent" Kashmir will go a long way in serving the US geo-political strategy. Kashmir too is located in the centre of the Old World and, if stationed here, US missiles can easily target Russia, China, India, Afghanistan, Central Asian republics and so on. Hence it is futile for both India and Pakistan to expect that the US will help either of them regarding Kashmir. In fact, the issue of Kashmir has already been internationalised to the detriment of our national interest and this is a big disservice the so-called nationalist party, the BJP, has rendered to the nation.
As far other constituents of the NDA, many of them do swear by non-alignment, but it is nothing more than a verbal phrase for them. Nor do they appear bothered about the country's foreign policy or its status in the world arena. They have been silent about the government's moves and offers to the US, just as they have been silent about the issues of federalism, secularism, national unity and many other things, provided their ministerial gaddis are secure. Even though the big brother has made to them clear that the NDA government is a de facto BJP government, this most myopic lot is not perturbed in the least.
But the people are not silent. Indians have always been in favour of world peace and against wars, for national liberation struggles and against imperialism, and that tradition is still alive and strong. That is why public opinion is gradually building up against not only the present US-UK war but also against the BJP government's capitulation to the US. The people are also aware of the BJP design of using terrorism as a trump card to communalise the situation so as to try mobilise Hindu votes in the coming UP elections. But this design is also going to suffer the same fate which the BJP's other manoeuvres have met.
The Left parties have already called for protest actions all over the country on October 12 and expectations are that other political parties, mass organisations, citizens groups and even many NGOs will join these actions. Hence the day is certain to witness militant protests and these will definitely continue even later. The only thing is that certain elements, like the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid of Delhi, are wittingly or unwittingly playing in the hands of communal forces which is unfortunate. Yet there are strong grounds to be sure that the common Muslim masses will not fall into the trap and will oppose the US-UK war and terrorism alike.
October 10, 2001