On October 3, the International Awakening Centre (IAC) recommended the names of the Indian prime minister, AB Vajpayee, the US president, George W Bush, and the British prime minister, Tony Blair, to the Norwegian Nobel Institute for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. “Mr. Vajpayee’s name should also be considered as he had been in the forefront of a global coalition against terrorism,” announced the IAC, although Bush is waging a “crusade” and Vajpayee is imposing war on Muslims in India and Kashmir.
Every law-and-order breakdown in India is attributed to Pakistan. Whether it be the struggle of the Kashmiri Muslims, an attack on a temple, a Muslim anti-government protest or even negligence that causes a railway accident, there are only two causes as far as the Indian authorities are concerned: “Pakistan-sponsored terrorism” or “ISI-engineered plot”. Any Muslim in India protesting anti-Muslim pogroms or government policies is branded “anti-national” or “pro-Pakistan” and labelled an “ISI agent” or “infiltrator”.
The siege and attack on the Akshardham Temple complex on September 24 ended after 12 hours with 30 dead and 70 injured. LK Advani, the deputy prime minister, who visited the site on the night of September 24, seems to have arrived there with the investigation report already written. He blamed the attack on Pakistan, saying “even last week our enemy spoke of Gujrat in the United Nations, so it seems that the plan was on for quite some time.” In fact in his speech to the UN on September 12, president Pervez Musharraf had referred to the murders of more than 3,000 Muslims in Gujrat last spring. Advani, however, was determined to link Pakistan to the temple attack. Indian security officials involved in the operation to end the siege said that the two gunmen involved in the attack belonged to a Pakistan-based militant group Tehrik-e Kasak. On September 25, while condemning the incident, Pakistani foreign office spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said, “Indeed we feel that those behind the terrorist attack and those trying to drag Pakistan into it are working to heighten tensions in the region.” Aziz Khan also wondered why those who were alleged to be Pakistanis in such incidents were never taken alive. Musharraf said, “what is happening in Gujrat is the fallout of killing of thousands of Muslims there.”
On September 25, one day after the temple attack, seven people were killed when gunmen opened fire inside the office of a Christian welfare organization in Karachi. The dead were four Christians and three Muslims, all of them Pakistanis. Musharraf said that he did not rule out the involvement of Indian agencies, but at the same time maintained that Pakistan, unlike India, would not jump to conclusions without evidence. Condemning the murders, General Musharraf said, “I cannot say who could be behind it. It could be the Al-Qaida, it could be the sectarian elements of the RAW [Research and Analysis]. We are examining it.” Moinuddin Haider, Pakistan’s interior minister, claims to be pursuing two lines of investigation.
The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s foreign intelligence agency, has become an effective instrument of Indian national power. RAW has engaged in espionage against Pakistan and other countries. Founded in 1968, RAW works directly under India’s prime minister, and its structure and operations are hidden from parliament. In 1968 RAW had 250 agents and a budget of less than $500,000. Today it has more than 40,000 agents and a budget estimated at $145 million. RAW is believed to have an extensive network of agents in Pakistan, including dissidents from various sectarian and ethnic groups of Sindh and Punjab. Reports published in Pakistan reveal that as many as 35,000 RAW agents entered Pakistan between 1983 and 1993. RAW also has a long history of activity in Bangladesh. The involvement of RAW in East Pakistan is believed to date from the nineteen-sixties, when RAW supported Mujibur Rahman, leading to his general election victory in 1970. RAW also provided training and arms to the Bangladeshi ‘freedom fighters’, known as Mukti Bahini. RAW’s aid was instrumental in Bangladesh’s ‘independence’ from Pakistan in 1971. RAW is also suspected of the hijack of an Indian Airlines flight to Lahore in 1971, which was attributed to the Kashmiris. RAW has also established a training camp in the town of Qaidan, East Punjab, where non-Muslim Pakistanis are trained for terrorist activities. As many as 40 training camps in Rajastan, East Punjab, occupied Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of India are run by RAW’s Special Service Bureau (SSB). Recently RAW has provided the US with information about al-Qa’ida and Taliban targets. Maps and photographs of ‘terrorist camps’ in Afghanistan and Pakistan and other ‘evidences’ have been handed over to American officials.
Bomb-explosions in Pakistan, the car-bomb outside parliament in Srinagar and the attack on December 13 on the Indian parliament are all thought to be RAW’s work. The men killed on December 13 were accused of being Pakistani nationals, which Pakistan denied. The Indian authorities cremated the bodies after Pakistan refused to accept responsibility for them unless India proved their nationality. According to the Washington Times (August 2), the Indian government has admitted that its forces were responsible for the massacre of 35 Sikhs in the village of Chittisinghpora, Kashmir, on March 20, 1998. The massacre was planned to coincide with US president Clinton’s visit to India, thus tarnishing the Kashmiri movement. It was also intended to create a rift between the separatist movements of Kashmir and the Punjab.
On September 24 India successfully test-fired a surface-to-air missile, Trishul. On October 4 India successfully test-fired Akash, its most sophisticated medium-range surface-to-air missile, one of the five missiles being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO). Akash is said to have a range of 25 km (about 16 miles) and the ability to carry a payload of 55 kg. On the same day, after “due notification to neighbours”, Pakistan also successfully test-fired a medium-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile, Shaheen. Shaheen can carry a nuclear warhead and hit targets within 700 km. Talks of a possible Indo-Pak war are looming large. Vajpayee has said that “we have to fight on our own” to combat terrorism. This seems to indicate that India may decide to act without the US.
On September 30 finance minister Jaswant Singh endorsed the doctrine of ‘pre-emption’ articulated by Bush and his officials. The doctrine of pre-emption has been in the news because of the increasing American rhetoric against Iraq. In Washington on September 30 Singh said, “Pre-emption is the right of any nation to prevent injury to itself.” US secretary of state Colin Powell has argued that the doctrine of pre-emption is only an extension, not elimination, of existing national security and military doctrines. “There is no nation that should not have... recourse to a line of thinking [of pre-emption] when a threat is coming its way. It is inherent in the sovereignty to protect itself,” General Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the last week of September. Jaswant Singh also held discussions with Powell and Richard Haass, the US director of policy planning, on this doctrine.
Even before Jaswant Singh left Washington on October 1, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended that the US secretary of state classify India as one of the “Countries of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (others include Pakistan, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, China, North Korea and Sudan). The commission argued that, despite India’s democratic traditions, religious minorities have periodically been subjected to severe violence, including mass killings. “Those responsible for violence were rarely even held to account,” said the commission, adding that it is becoming increasingly clear that “an increase in such violence has coincided with the rise in political influence of groups associated with the Sangh Parivar, a collection of Hindu extremist nationalist organizations that views non-Hindus as foreign to India and deserving to be attacked.” The USCIRF made the point that with the rise in power of the Sangh Parivar’s political wing, the BJP, “the climate of immunity for the perpetrators of attacks on minorities appears to have strengthened.” The commission also referred to the recent genocide in Gujrat. “Though the severe violence in Gujrat provided the national government with adequate grounds – under the constitution and existing laws to counteract the communal violence – to invoke central rule in the state, the BJP government did not do so, despite many requests and the fact that the killings of Muslims continued on a larger scale for many weeks.”
One question in particular has arisen since the attack on the Akshardham Temple: why did the attack not “provoke” the kind of barbarism that followed the Godhra train incident? The post-Akshardham ‘peace’ is a damning indictment of the double standards of the Gujrat government led by Narendra Modi. More than 3,000 Muslims were slaughtered post-Godhra, but post-Akshardham Gujrat is ‘peaceful’! Is the BJP government concerned about the forthcoming elections or the recent USCIRF recommendation? Or is another anti-Muslim pogrom being planned elsewhere in India, now that such losses have been inflicted on Gujrat’s Muslims that what they now have left is too little for Gujrat’s Hindus to bother about?
After the Akshardham attack, every temple in India from Bombay to New Delhi was given protection. Yet on December 6, 1992, security officials watched the Babri Mosque being razed in broad daylight. LK Advani, one of the most prominent culprits in that barbarity, is the home minister of the country that blames Pakistan for every crime committed in India. Instead of that, India should be putting its own house in order. So should Pakistan. And so should the Muslims of both countries, both separately and together, regardless of ‘national’ borders and other distractions.