Al-Qaeda puts Kashmir in the agenda
14 October 2001
The Times of India
WINSTON-SALEM: Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terrorist group has now formally and publicly adopted the Kashmir issue as one of their causes on the eve of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s trip to the region.In a new video-taped message released through Al-Jazeera television network, an unnamed Al-Qaeda spokesman added the Kashmir cause to their familiar list of grievances that include US presence in Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian issue, and the situation in Iraq. Now the fourth grouse is “US support to Hindus against the Muslims of Kashmir.” The addition comes in a message that warned of more attacks against the United States with some helpful advice to Muslims in America to steer clear of high-rise buildings and flights. The White House, which has warned Americans of imminent terrorist attacks, dismissed the video as “more propaganda.”But the administration has also fixed Kashmir firmly in its sights, although not in the manner Pakistan or its terrorist groups would like. The ostensible reasons for Powell’s visit is to calm tensions between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue, but the pressure seems to be more on Pakistan to reign in its militaristic agenda in the region. “Both the US and India are agreed on maintaining the current internal stability of Pakistan, and that would appear to be the primary purpose of the trip,” says University of Georgia scholar Anupam Srivastava, who is currently in Washington meeting administration officials. Officials and analysts also reiterate that the Bush administration has no intention of getting into the Kashmir tangle beyond asking both countries to resume talking. Even former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a long-time interventionist said in an MSNBC interview last week that the US ''should stay out of Kashmir... (because) it''s not a matter in which we can make a useful contribution.''But there is an emerging school of thought which is arguing that New Delhi should make use of Washington’s “new understanding of the situation” to seek a settlement of the Kashmir issue. This school believes that now, if anything, the burden is now more on Pakistan to prove its bonafides as a peace-loving country since its pretensions to amity and harmony has been exposed by the havoc it has caused in Afghanisan.“Although a stable Pakistan is important, now is also the time to put pressure on Musharraf change Pakistan’s course vis-à-vis India. It’s a delicate task…not to put too much pressure that could topple him, but at the same time getting him to back off on Kashmir,” says Srivastava.“But if don’t do it now, it will be difficult to do it later when the Afghan crisis recedes into the background,” he adds.Despite the disquiet in India over the attention Islamabad is getting in the current crisis, the publicity is not exactly what Pakistan bargained for. American media outlets are opening western eyes to a lawless, fractious country that is on the edge of an abyss and where anti- Americanism runs deep. The administration itself is discovering, amid the intense investigation into the terrorist networks, how neck deep the Pakistani establishment is in the shenanigans, starting with the country’s military leader. The disclosure that Gen.Pervez Musharraf was on the board of the Rabita Trust, now banned because of its terrorist links, has deeply embarrassed both Islamabad and a section of the administration that is pushing hard to retain Pakistan as an ally. Reports said the administration actually had to hurriedly warn Musharraf to dissociate himself from the Trust before the ban could be announced.