Welcome, President Obama


Welcome to a dazzling and sparking Deepavali, Mr. President. India will make a best presentation of its festival of lights despite several dark threads inter-winding our bilateral relationship and our approaches to various international problems; especially the problems in our immediate neighborhood and in the region. We are not exactly sailing in the same boat, yet we are compelled by history and destiny to sail in parallel direction by the effect of same jet stream. We are stable practicing democracies and are grateful for America’s support for early freedom from British yoke. You played the role France had played in respect of the Northern America, for breaking away from the shackles of British servitude. As the first non-white American President having his roots partially in Asia, we welcome you with heartiest oriental warmth.

Obviously, India and the United States will talk about issues of mutual concern like terrorism, jihad next door and global threat from Islamist terror groups. With the end of the Cold War, the Pan-Islamist forces have imposed a new cycle of fascist Warm War on the civilized world. This is reminiscent of Islamist hoards overrunning the North African, European and Asian civilizations. As the frontline custodian of global peace, the United States of America has a global responsibility to fight this fascist Warm War; India will be ready to support you.

Besides the freezing ambiance of the Cold War period and India’s perceivable leaning towards the USSR it must be admitted that Washington had never blessed the non-aligned movement and rather interpreted it as a front for Communist advancement in Third World countries. The myth is not yet busted. Somewhere, in some corners of American policy-outlook, India’s sovereign thinking towards global strategic situation and our policy approach towards countries ‘not so friendly to the U.S.’ are still suspected by policymakers in Washington. This reflects the post WWII hegemony hangover of the United States. Please help the U.S. to get out of this hangover. We have every right to frame independent foreign policy approaches to countries like Venezuela, Panama, Cuba, Nigeria and Russia.

However, American assistance in capacity-building in traditional counter-terrorism was started in the early 1980s during the administration of Ronald Reagan, when some officers of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) were sent initially to the UK and then to the US for training in matters like dealing with hostage situations.

The U.S. in 2001, during the administration of George Bush, started certain capacity-building assistance to India. Cyber security was the initial area of US assistance. This was extended to maritime security in ports and container vessels, prevention of catastrophic acts of terrorism involving the use of weapons of mass destruction material etc.

Mutual legal assistance in the investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases was started during the second term of Ronald Reagan when the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was sought by India for the investigation of the assassination of Gen. A. S. Vaidya, retired Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), by some Khalistani terrorists in Pune in 1985. The co-operation declined during the administration of Bill Clinton. The U.S. agencies were only partly helpful when their assistance was sought in the investigation and prosecution of the Mumbai blasts of March 1993. The co-operation had improved under the George Bush and Barack Obama Administrations. Under the Obama Administration, the FBI was helpful in the forensic examination of the intercepts during the 26/11 terrorist strikes. For the first time, FBI officers testified before the trial court through video-conferencing. In the past, the FBI’s policy was not to allow its officers to testify before an Indian court.

Problems in intelligence sharing

Intelligence sharing is the most unsatisfactory aspect of Indo-US counter-terrorism co-operation. Before 26/11, the U.S. had hardly ever shared with India any worthwhile preventive intelligence. However, in 2008, during the Bush Administration, the FBI was reported to have passed on to Indian agencies three fairly specific bits of information about the plans of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to launch a sea-borne attack on some seafront establishments in Mumbai including the Taj Mahal hotel. This is what probably Headley had shared with the FBI/CIA. Now it is known that David Coleman Headley had been planning an attack on India in collaboration with the ISI and the LeT for a long time. This was known to the U.S. authorities. Perhaps they could have tackled Pakistan to restrain their spy agency.

All U.S. administrations have, as a matter of policy, refrained from sharing with India intelligence relating to terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir. The U.S. agencies are allowed to share with India only preventive intelligence relating to planned acts of terrorism by jihadi organizations in Indian Territory outside J&K. Here too, the agencies are required to share the intelligence in such a manner as not to implicate Pakistan and not to add substance to India’s case against Pakistan for the sponsorship of terrorism in Indian Territory. There have been exceptions to this such as the reported U.S. warning to India about a planned terrorist strike against the Indian Embassy in Kabul by terrorist elements instigated by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

As long as the U.S. continues to attach importance to counter-terrorism co-operation from Pakistan for dealing with the situation in Afghanistan, its intelligence-sharing with India and co-operation with India against Pakistan will be half-hearted. Mr. President, in case you are keen to fight terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan, India should be the most trusted ally and not Pakistan. America is feeding a demon in Pakistan and expects the same demon to devour all terrorists. Would you like the world to believe in such American naiveté? Sorry, even a common street-walker laughs at such foolish U.S. policies.

Another highly unsatisfactory area of co-operation is U.S. keenness to protect Pakistan from the consequences of its using state terrorism against India. It was reported that after the U.S. troops entered Kabul in 2001, the U.S. response to Indian requests for the interrogation of some suspects and for the examination of some documents relating to the Kandahar hijacking of 1999 was unsatisfactory. So was its much-delayed response to Indian requests for the prompt interrogation of Headley of the Chicago cell of the LeT who had visited India five times for collecting, targeting information for the Pakistan-based terror group. The recently reported disclosures of two ex-wives of Headley — one living in the US and the other in Pakistan — about their alerting an FBI Task

Force in New York and the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad regarding Headley’s terrorist links with the LET could have embarrassing legal consequences for the U.S. Government. The LeT was designated by the State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under U.S. laws in 2000. It is criminal for any U.S. national to maintain contacts with an FTO or to assist it in any way. The alerts of the two ex-wives showed that Headley had violated U.S. laws relating to contacts with an FTO. He should have been immediately detained, investigated and prosecuted. The FBI did not do so. He continued to maintain his contacts with the LeT and we have an instance of an American national helping an FTO in killing some U.S. nationals in Mumbai without the FBI taking any action to stop this. If the relatives of the Americans killed in Mumbai take the State Department, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and the FBI to court for this, they could face difficulty in defending themselves.

During their meeting in London in January 2000, Jaswant Singh, the then Indian Foreign Minister, and Strobe Talbot, the then U.S.

Deputy Secretary of State, agreed to set up an institutional mechanism in the form of the Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism. This was followed by the setting up of an Indo-U.S. Cyber Security Forum as suggested by Armitage in 2002. The forum ran into controversy following Indian suspicions that the CIA had misused it for penetrating the National Security Council Secretariat. During Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Washington DC in November last year, the two countries launched what was described as a Joint Counter-Terrorism Initiative to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation in different fields such as forensics, megacity policing etc. This was formalized into a Memo of Understanding in July 2010. It is not clear which institution co-ordinates and monitors its implementation. The Headley case illustrates deficiencies in its implementation.

The trust level between the Indian and U.S. agencies leaves much to be desired. The U.S. anxiety to protect Pakistan adds to the distrust. Dear President, the U.S. intelligence edifices, the Pentagon, the NSA etc are painfully aware that out of 5 global terror plans, terrorists of Pakistan origin are involved in three cases. Pakistan has become a terror manufacturing country.

Pakistan: Terror factory

Besides, LeT, there are outfits like Markaz ud Dawa (please ask FBI to show you the interrogation report of Headley), Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami, Hizbul Mujahideen, Sipaha Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Zhangvi, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan etc.

Certain terrorist forces were created and trained by the ISI specially to fight against India (please ask CIA to produce the interview excerpts of self-exiled Gen. (Retd) Parvez Musharraf.)

Why had it not been possible for the U.S. to pressure Pakistan to dismantle 45 jihadi training camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and other places? America has pumped in more than $12 billion to Pakistan economy (in civil and military). Washington has not carried out an audit of the development works carried out so far. The Pakistan Army has even declined to assure that weapons and armaments supplied by the U.S. would not be used against India. Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile is increasing and the world is not sure that these deadly nukes would not be exploited by unscrupulous Generals like Musharraf or by al Qaeda and related terrorists.

Now additional two billion will only strengthen the hands of General Kiyani, the favorite boy of Pentagon and Hillary Clinton. The more billions you pump into Pakistan for fighting terrorism more instability is created in the region. Part of the money goes to strengthening the armed forces, part goes to the jihadi forces created by the ISI and the some part goes to al Qaeda and Taliban. It is painful to see that the U.S. finances its own enemies through the most unreliable ally: Pakistan. How can India trust the U.S. with this kind of disastrous foreign policy, which is supposed to be the anchor of democracy in Islamist-chaos ridden world? We are perplexed by such policy naiveté of the White House.

Mr. President, your government is painfully aware that China is gradually increasing its stranglehold on Pakistan. In rural India there is a saying that a snake charmer can smooch a snake as well as a mongoose. No doubt President Yahya and Z. A. Bhutto had built a bridge between the U.S. and China. However, Washington overlooked reports of supply of Chinese and North Korean missiles to Pakistan. Pakistan’s so-called Ghouri missiles are nothing but Chinese workhorses redesigned by Pakistani scientists with Chinese collaboration. It is not unknown to Washington that there was no Islamic bomb; it was Chinese bomb refabricated by Pakistani scientists. The nuclear thief and proliferator Dr. A. Q. Khan was a Chinese collaborator. The CIA and NSA were aware of the whole sordid Chinese-Pakistani collaboration but the hangover of Kissinger-era visceral hatred towards India had compelled Washington.

Right from Johnson, Carter, Bush, Clinton etc era the bias against India continued unabated. Perhaps, the 9/11 attack on the very heartland of the States sent a shockwave. Washington realized that its favorite satellite in South Asia had turned rouge; but it could not say bye to the rogue beauty. A kind of forced cohabitation still continues. It’s like a Nawab of Oudh visiting a courtesan in the night, regretting it in the day, and again allured to visit and lavish the beauty with gifts. Fortunately, India is rugged unlike the beautiful and charming Pakistan.

China’s expansionist policy

Ambiguity of U.S. policy over Chinese presence in Pakistan and gradual Chinese advancement in regions of Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and attempts to bolster bondages with Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have started worrying the strategic thinkers in Asia-Pacific region. The Japanese have already started talking about a new Chinese policy of ‘greater lebensraum’-greater living space. Recent Chinese talks about Okinawa being a part of China has added to the expansionist design of China. The lebensraum policy of Hitler had resulted into the WWII. Would we face WWIII in another 25/30 years because of Chinese lebensraum policy?

Have your policy soothsayers been looking into the magic ball? What do they advise you? Please enlarge the American global vision beyond Dollar and Yuan equation, trade and commerce and correlate China with its expansionist designs.

While India shares concerns of Asia-Indian Ocean-Asia Pacific Rim countries’ concerns, we are more worried about Chinese occupation of a vast area of Jammu and Kashmir, gifted by Pakistan to it in violation of the UN mandate. This has given China continuous land connectivity between Aksai Chin and the Karakoram areas ‘temporarily ceded by Pakistan pending solution of

Kashmir dispute with India.’ Besides illegal occupation of Aksai Chin areas of the Leh region of J&K, China has obtained dominating position in Kashmir region. The CIA briefing reports must have presented to you Chinese muscle flexing on Kashmir matters in favor of Pakistan. To any future negotiated settlement, China has been made a party by Pakistan by its action of ceding the territory. This causes serious concern in India.

Your government is aware of presence of Chinese troops in Pakistan numbering about 15,000. A Pakistani spokesman pleaded that they were there to help in flood relief work. In a country that is totally dependent on the army, is it not ridiculous to invite the Chinese Army to help in flood relief work?

What causes concern is presence of unspecified Chinese workers and PLA elements in Gilgit-Baltistan areas in road construction works and construction of hydro power projects. India has launched formal protest as legally the whole of Jammu and Kashmir (including areas occupied by Pakistan) had acceded to India. In addition, Chinese presence in Balochistan and other areas of Pakistan are not unknown to the CIA.

Amid concerns by India and the U.S., Pakistan claimed that it had inked a deal with China to build two nuclear reactors in 2009 itself, even as the two countries signed six agreements during the visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to cement their all weather bilateral ties. It is understood that China and Pakistan are on the anvil of reaching a series of understandings on nuclear activities and development of IRBM and ICBM. Why does Pakistan require ICBM? To hit remote parts of eastern and southern India or Israel?

Hopefully the American snoopers will divert their telescopes towards Pakistan once in a while from Iran and try to understand what is cooking up inside the vanguard of Islamic jihadist country.

Looking forward

According to Dan Twining (Foreign Policy, October 19, 2010), The Centre for a New American Security had drawn up a policy paper that broadly outlined the U.S. attitude towards emerging India. In his words, “The stakes are high: the United States has a compelling interest in facilitating democratic India’s emergence as a global power to help shape a world order conducive to our common interests and values.” More particularly, as the report notes, U.S. interests in strengthening ties with India are premised on:

  • Ensuring a stable Asian and global balance of power
  • Strengthening an open global trading system
  • Protecting and preserving access to the global commons
  • Countering terrorism and violent extremism
  • Ensuring access to secure global energy resources
  • Bolstering the international nonproliferation regime
  • Promoting democracy and human rights
  • Fostering greater stability, security and economic prosperity in South Asia, including in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka

How should the United States act to advance these interests with India? In order to chart a more ambitious U.S.-India strategic partnership, we believe that the United States should:

  • Commit, publicly and explicitly, to work with India in support of its permanent membership in an enlarged U.N. Security Council
  • Seek a broad expansion of bilateral trade and investment, beginning with a Bilateral Investment Treaty
  • Greatly expand the security relationship and boost defense trade
  • Support Indian membership in key export control organizations, a step toward integrating India into global nonproliferation efforts And liberalize U.S. export controls, including the removal of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) subsidiaries from the U.S. Entity List

Of course, strategic partnership is a two-way street, and India lately has disappointed American friends who had hoped for more progress on nuclear liability, defense cooperation, and trade and investment. India has an equal responsibility to help move the relationship to a higher level.

Mr. President, you will honor us by addressing the joint session of the Parliament. We shall eagerly wait your pronouncements on regional and strategic security in South, Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific Rim region. Your visit to India and Indonesia offer you unique opportunity to initiate a security garlanding system in the India Ocean region, countries around China and its enteric ally North Korea, and present an infrastructure that can withstand the dream of lebensraum of China. While applauding its economic surge, the U.S. may also like to begin a campaign that democracy and people’s participation are more important than producing cheaper goods through bonded labors. If America could undertake a mission Saddam for restoring democracy why should it shy away from putting pressure on the pseudo-communist giant? Perhaps a time has come to conceive a fresh axis in this vast fluid region which is unstable and which can counterpoise Chinese muscle-flexing. Mr. President, if America fails this historic opportunity it will do so only at the cost of its rating as a top global power. The British Lion does not roar today. The American Bison should not sacrifice its horns in a mock fight with Chinese papier-mâché lion.

With all humility and pride, we in India want to welcome you and submit that we want to prosper as an equal partner and not as a client state as Pakistan is. You will find in India a stronger spine against Chinese expansionism, Islamic jihadism and a rapidly progressing democracy in the Asian continent.

(Maloy Krishna Dhar retired as a Joint Director of India’s internal intelligence agency, Intelligence Bureau. He is a guest writer with Canary Trap.)

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