October 2001 News

Campaign will target Kashmir militancy: US

3 October 2001
The Times of India

WASHINGTON: Through clenched teeth and with kid gloves, the United States has agreed to address India’s problem with terrorism emanating from Pakistan.The commitment comes from several top administration officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whom External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh met Tuesday.However, in keeping with the sensitivity of the current situation, none of the officials publicly named Pakistan as a sponsor of terrorism, although they did not disagree with such characterisations Singh made throughout the day. Secretary of State Powell perhaps made the clearest call when he said Monday’s attack against the Jammu and Kashmir legislature was ''clearly an act of terror,'' a substantial departure from the usual description of such events as violence by state department mandarins. ''The events that took place in Kashmir yesterday, that terrible terrorist act, that heinous act that killed innocent civilians and also struck at a government facility...It is this kind of terrorism that we are united against,'' Powell said.''And as the president made it clear...we are going to after terrorism in a comprehensive way, not just in the present instance of Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, but terrorism as it affects nations around the world, to include the kind of terrorism that affects India,'' he added.But asked specifically about Pakistan, its role, and the links between the terrorists in Afghanistan and those in Kashmir, Powell dissembled, as have many other administration officials. ''We are going after the Al-Qaeda network in its various manifestations and Osama Bin Laden and his lieutenants who are in Afghanistan, in the first instance. And as I said previously and the president has said repeatedly, we are going to be conducting a campaign that goes after terrorism,'' he hedged.Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was equally coy about Pakistan’s role in fomenting terrorism as apparent in this exchange.Q Secretary Rumsfeld, India has always had the position based on available evidence that Pakistan actually harbours and in fact provides safe haven to terrorists. What is your view on this? Rumsfeld We''ve had discussions about a number of countries and the issue of terrorism and the importance of addressing it in a variety of different ways as different countries are. And it is - it is a problem, as I have indicated, that in the case of this one network called Al-Qaeda is in 50 or 60 countries. Without naming Pakistan, Rumsfeld however said that ''terrorists are...operating in countries because countries are tolerating that and if we are to assure the way of life of free systems such as in our country and in India, the only choice we have is to take the battle to them.'' Despite the politic silence about its client state’s dubious role in the region that US officials privately acknowledge but publicly avoid mentioning, Singh returned home sufficiently assured that Washington will act against it. ''I see that the United States really has no option. You cannot fight terrorism...by addressing one manifestation of it and leave the others alone, because all others will turn back and do exactly the same as has been happening earlier in India or elsewhere,'' he told a television show. ''Once in New York is enough. Heaven forbid it happen again. Let it not be repeated,'' he added.In his meetings with Powell, Rumsfeld and Vice-President Dick Cheney, Singh sought to make the case that Pakistan and Taliban are synonymous and it would be folly to treat the problem (Pakistan) as part of the solution. Blunt and unsparing for most part, he said at a press conference before leaving Washington for London that the US is not unaware of the fact that Pakistan is the epicentre of terrorism and Pakistan and Afghanistan are the biggest exporters of terrorism in the world. The Bush administration acknowledges this privately, but it is set on the tactic of pushing what remains of the liberal Pakistan slug it out against the Islamised Pakistan. Some quarters believe that such an approach will also spare India from a battle it may be reluctant to wage. Singh seemed to appreciate such a course when he said ''if the leadership of Pakistan were to abandon the path of violence and of terrorism and join the rest of the international community in its fight against this evil, it would be a development that India would welcome.'' Singh also gained an assurance from the Bush administration that any military supplies it may make to Pakistan will take India’s security concerns into account. While recalling that such arms sales in the past had invariably resulted in the ''barrels being turned against India,'' Singh said ''the United States of 2001 was not the same US as the 1980s'' - a reference to the time when Washington recklessly armed Pakistan.


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