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'India protecting western world from Lashkar's hate'
Amitabh Sinha, Jan. 29
The US Senate was told that India "unfortunately" had become the "sponge" that was protecting America and the western liberal world from the hate unleashed by Lashkar-e-Toiba which had emerged as second only to the Al-Qaeda in being a threat to global security.
As the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs concluded its hearings on “Lessons from the Mumbai Terrorist Attacks,” two influential policy advisors testified that despite better preventive and response systems in the US, a Mumbai-like attack on America by LeT was “not inconceivable”.
“It would be a gross error to treat the terrorism facing India — including the terrible recent atrocities — as simply a problem for New Delhi alone. In a very real sense, the outage in Bombay was fundamentally a species of global terrorism not merely because the assailants happened to believe in an obscurantist brand of Islam but, more importantly, because killing Indians turned out to be simply interchangeable with killing citizens of some fifteen different nationalities for no apparent reason whatsoever,” said Ashley J Tellis, Senior Associate with the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace, a prominent think-tank.
The testimonies — the first since Barack Obama took over on January 20 — come at a time when the new administration is in the process of unveiling its foreign policy priorities for South Asia, having just announced a special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan in Richard Holbrooke.
Tellis, who in his previous role as senior advisor to the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs had been closely involved in the negotiations for the civil nuclear agreement between India and US, said the fact that LeT had not mounted any direct attacks on the American homeland was not because of want of motivation.
“Given the juicier and far more vulnerable US targets in southern Asia, LeT has simply found it more convenient to attack these in situ rather than over extend itself in reaching out to the continental United States,” he said.
“India has unfortunately become the ‘sponge’ that protects us all. India’s very proximity to Pakistan, which has developed into the epicenter of global terrorism during the last thirty years, has resulted in New Delhi absorbing most of the blows unleashed by those terrorist groups that treat it as a common enemy along with Israel, the United States, and the West more generally,” he said.
Brian Michael Jenkins, senior advisor with the RAND Corporation, another policy group that recently came out with a report on the Mumbai incident, said the attacks in Mumbai showed that the global struggle against the jihadists was far from over.
“Al Qaeda is not the only galaxy in the jihadist universe — new contenders that have signed on to Al Qaeda’s ideology of global terror,” Jenkins said referring to LeT.
“Could a Mumbai-style attack happen in the United States? It could. The difference lies in planning and scale... Could a team of terrorists, recruited and trained abroad as the Mumbai attackers were, be inserted into the United States, perhaps on a US-registered fishing vessel or pleasure boat, to carry out a Mumbai-style attack? Although our intelligence has greatly improved, the answer again must be a qualified yes,” Jenkins said in his testimony.
Describing the clear links that LeT had with Pakistan’s official agencies — “the question whether these murderous acts (in Mumbai) were sanctioned by elements within the Pakistani state is prima facie not absurd in light of the ISI’s traditionally close relationship with LeT,” Tellis suggested that the Obama administration needed to treat India’s concerns about terrorism more seriously than the United States had done so far.
“Of all the terrorist groups present in South Asia, and there are many, LeT represents a threat to regional and global security second only to al-Qaeda,” Tellis said.
“If the United States fails to recognize that the struggle against terrorism ought to be indivisible because Indian security is as important to New Delhi as American security is to Washington, future Indian governments could choose to respond to the problems posed by Pakistani groups such as LeT in ways that may undermine regional security and make the US effort to transform Pakistan more difficult than it already is,” he said.