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Guilty of Complicity

It is truly astonishing that a man who has lied so often and so obviously on the subject, should still be constantly sought out for his opinion and assessment on the course of terrorism in the South Asian region and, in fact, the world. It is, moreover, incomprehensible that world leaders still tolerate, acquiesce in, and even encourage this man's continuous mendacity, his baseless boasting, and his incessant and false posturing. Gen Pervez Musharraf must be one of the few dictators in the world who has made such an utter mess of his country, and of regions well beyond, during his tenure, and still gets such excellent Press globally, and constant support and praise from the leaders of the 'free world'.

In return, Gen Musharraf harangues and threatens the very leaders and nations that support him and his perverse regime and its monstrous intelligence wing, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), claiming that the West would be 'brought to its knees' by terrorism, if Pakistan and the ISI did not support the 'Global War on Terror'.

Gen Musharraf is, in fact, the most effective agency of Pakistan's propaganda machine, and has relentlessly propagated fabrications and half-truths, largely or entirely unrelated to the situation on the ground, and that prey on public, Western - and particularly American - ignorance. The sheer brazenness of these fabrications, and the Pakistani propagandist's strategy of offence as the best form of defence, is illustrated by Gen Musharraf's recent counter to Indian allegations of Pakistan's role in terrorism, to which he responded, "There are 21 such places in India where violence continues. The situation in Assam is also visible. So New Delhi should first correct its own matters and then talk to Pakistan."

The reference to Assam is significant: First, it seeks to divert attention from the core problem of Pakistan-backed terrorism in widening areas of the country. Second, it brushes under the carpet the fact that the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the principal insurgent group in Assam, and the lesser surviving groups in the State, all secure operational bases and safe haven in Bangladesh and also receive significant assistance, weaponry, training and tactical advice from the ISI-DGFI (Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, the ISI's Bangladeshi counterpart) combine that has kept these movements alive long after their complete loss of public support and their abandonment of the original ideology and mandate for which they were purportedly created. In this, consequently, Gen Musharraf is essentially pointing to problems that his country has at least some role in keeping alive.

The mischief and mendacity in Gen Musharraf's reference to Assam become clearer when they are taken in the context of an earlier statement (on August 28) by Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tasneem Aslam who declared authoritatively, "India remains afflicted with several insurgencies, including in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Bundelkhand, Gorkhaland, Bodoland and Khaplang, which are being suppressed by force."

The audacity of the statement is startling - not even the smallest effort has been made to check out facts before such a statement is issued at the level of the Government. For instance, Bundelkhand (in central India) has never been the location of an insurgency; 'Gorkhaland' is not a location, but was the demand of a brief movement by people of Nepali extraction living in a small area around Darjeeling in West Bengal, which was resolved as far back as 1988. The insurgents in Nagaland have been in a continuous cease-fire and process of negotiations with the Government for the last nine years.

The major parties to the Bodoland movement have settled for peace with the Government. And finally and most barefaced of all, Khaplang is the name of a factional leader of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim, one of the militant groups in Nagaland currently negotiating with the Government, and not of a place or even an insurgent movement. And yet, nearly two months after this statement was made, none of this has been publicly challenged, no call for explanations has been made by India or demanded by an alert and informed media. The statement, however, will have worked its damage, projecting the idea of an India that must answer for the multiplicity of insurgencies on its soil, rather than a Pakistan that needs to explain its role in a specific set of terrorist movements and actions.

The sudden emphasis on insurgencies in India's North-East, rather than any other regions afflicted by comparable problems, is not accidental, and is significant in both Ms Aslam's statement and Gen Musharraf's specific reference to Assam. This is evidently part of a strategy to shift focus towards an ethnically and geographically distinct region in India, and may well be a prelude for greater covert activity by Pakistani and Bangladeshi intelligence, through local militant groups including the ULFA, in the foreseeable future.

This brazenness is directly related to India's failure to expose Pakistani propaganda, and to adequately demonstrate to the world, Pakistan's continuing role as the source of Islamist terrorism in India and internationally, and of support to terrorist groups across India's North-East. This is despite the immense volumes of hard evidence that is available in terms of arrested cadres from Pakistan and their narratives of Pakistani military and intelligence involvement in their recruitment, training, arming and deployment; the thousands of clearly identifiable weapons and tonnes of RDX, detonators, communications equipment and other materials, overwhelming proportions of which could be traced back to Pakistan with sufficient forensic attention and international cooperation.

In effect, India is part of the conspiracy of silence and appeasement that has allowed Pakistani deniability and falsification to flourish. Through the current 'peace process' and the charade of the 'joint mechanism' for counter-terrorism India continues to provide international legitimacy to a terrorist state and Gen Musharraf's criminal regime.

These are the circumstances - our ignorance, our indifference, our pusillanimity, our inability to understand and neutralise the strategic intent of Pakistan's propaganda and terrorist machinery - that create the enveloping circumstances which allow Pakistan to remain the principal breeding ground of Islamist terrorism in south Asia. India's security forces are constantly called upon to make sacrifices for the defence of the country against Pakistan-backed terrorism; thousands of security personnel and even larger numbers of innocent civilians have lost their lives in Pakistan's covert war on India. To continue to give Pakistan and its leadership the latitude it currently enjoys is nothing less than criminal complicity in this enterprise of terrorism. India's political leadership and the higher echelons of its policy establishment are squarely guilty of this complicity.

(Published in The Pioneer, October 28, 2006)





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