The fight against terror in the subcontinent is useful to the US !
by Ashok Motra
Swat is a metaphor, but a metaphor representing a harsh reality: parts of Pakistan are already Taliban territory. Another metaphor has, however, failed to attract any worthwhile attention, even though it reflects, at least for the subcontinent, an equally harsh reality.
India's vote-on-account budget has not been taken seriously, and for honest good reasons. Forget its income side, even its expenditure accounts are by and large an imaginary exercise; the new government, to be installed three months hence, is going to rework both the arithmetic and the priorities. And yet, one particular proposal in the interim budget is bound to be considered sacrosanct; the new regime would not dare tinker with it. The item is defence outlay. In the light of the grave event that is now ponderously described as 26/li, the outgoing government has suggested an increase in defence expenditure by as much as Rs 40,000 crore, that is, by 35 per cent over the year. Nobody, whether in Parliament or outside, has expressed concern over this inordinately large rise in defence outlay. Discretion is the better part of valour. Whoever questions the rationale of fortifying the country's defence network so as to cope effectively with the menace of global terror would run the risk of his or her patriotic credentials coming under close scrutiny.
India's formal recognition thus of 26/11 as a watershed in the nation's affairs signals a major gain for the American administration. The Indian government had already prided Uses' as a strategic partner of the United States of America. It has taken a further step forward, its explicit endorsement of the American pointof view thatthe Taliban— along with its various associates such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba—is as much India's sworn enemy as of the US; henceforth it is a global war for India too, a common global war against a common enemy
The American administration can claim to have squeezed eut of the developments tak- -ing place in the wake of 26/11 another substantial'victory. It has persuaded Pakistan's ruling circles, including the army brass, to admit, even if obliquely, that they are no longer hi full territorial control of their country. In the circumstances, they are ready to bury the hatchet with the Indian establishment and join in a grand alliance with the US and India to put down the pestilential enemy, the Taliban. Pay to the devilthecreditthatisitsdue:theUS administration was in a state of transition during these weeks; that did not prevent it from a most deft handling of the situation. It H¥Ut to relentless counselling i both Indian and Pakistan; ties, finally convincing I "'*' to let bygones be bygones, ft on they are going to fight destroy the-demon of represented, at this-V ment and in this particular region, by the Taliban.
It needed some doing. Pride is everybody's prerogative! For Pakistan's ruling politicians, enjoying a democratic mandate, it must have been an excruciatingly devastating experience to be cajoled into agreeing of the fact of their not being in
effective charge of many parts of their countcy For the Indian authorities too, it was ft delicate decision to agree to suspend the season of belligerence, the Lok Sabha polls are proximate enough and political adversaries could have attempted to condemn the tacittmderstanding reached with Pakistanis an unjustifiable din^i^Mj^^ nation'sdignitjitij
lief, the Bharatiya;SIanata Party leaders chose-to play alonig. The BJP,, actually can have no mental reservations in joining the concordat against global terror, It has its pet theory about saboteurs at home, and the kith and kin of these saboteurs across the border, If, along with the Taliban, tJ»,LeT too could be given a bloody nose, Kashmir, in the reckoning of the BJP, would be safe for India.
This grand arrangement between the Indian and Pakistani establishments, under the benign overlordship of the Americans, has other ramifications as well. The US is passing through trying financial times. The Obama administration has its hands fia&wen as it tries to ride out the eXxmomic crisis; resources have to be harnessed and carefully disbirsetettj the object of saving the nation'from the prospect of aneconotniccsownslidethat would equal, OT'pren surpass, the Great Depression of the 1930s. It would be thflnM^|>ibr whatever help, big or small, its strategic partners might provide. It would suit its interests if, while its own defence budget is kept on leash, strategic partners like India and Pakistan raised their defence spending. A gesture of this nature on their part would not only ensure the satisfactory conduct of the war against the Taliban, it would offer some subsidiary advantages as well.
For instance, India's defence spending has always had a high import content; the bulk of the proposed increase in its defence outlay is bound to help the military-industrial complex in the US gain some extra breathing time. India's politicians need not feel unhappy either; when international arms dealers
sign contracts, it is standard pi ac-tice for them to set aside a comr lis-sion of 10 per cent or thereabo uts for the parties offering the contracts. Toe issue of Hl-B visas should not be allowed to intr sde into this happy picture. It wf uld also be lestmajestt to ask how 1 lat alien outfit, tbe Federal Bureai of Investigation, could acquire righttogrfllIndian citizens! "