Ignore Indian Events at Our Own Peril

by Richard L. Benkin (April 2010)

For the past year, I have been saying that the political center in India is collapsing. The re-election of the left-center Congress Party last year only masked this inevitable decline and had more to do with political dynamics in India and the fact that India has remained relatively unscathed from the recent world economic collapse. The finale might not come this year, or maybe even next; but it is coming, and when it does it will be with an explosion heard around the world. I was in India for just over two weeks in February, and during that time alone noted:

• Relations with fellow nuclear power Pakistan deteriorated in a hail of harsh rhetoric and threats such that the Obama administration sent Senator John Kerry to try and “calm” tensions.

• Pakistan first refused to join in scheduled talks with India about the former’s involvement in a 2008 terror attack that killed almost 200 Indians.

• A few days later, they agreed to talks only if they focused on Kashmir—a territorial dispute between the countries that has sparked skirmishes, continued terror and counter-terror operations, and all out wars between the two. Like the Muslim players in the Middle East, Pakistan refused to budge on its unreasonable demands about scheduled talks, and the Indian government ultimately caved, resulting in talks that were fruitless even before they began. The Obama administration urged the Indians to acquiesce to the Pakistani demands.

• While this was happening, Islamists launched another deadly terrorist attack, this time on Pune, a major Indian city of over 5,000,000 people, that at last count took 13 lives and left over five dozen injured.

• Initial investigations identified the terrorists as Indian citizens, known as Indian Mujahedeen who are committed to replacing India with an Islamic state.

• Subsequent investigations confirmed that fact and added that the operation likely was directed from Pakistan.

• The Indian government announced that American Islamist David Headley gave his captors information about the “Karachi Project” that was carried out by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. He said the ISI brought sympathetic Indian Muslims to Pakistan, trained them in terrorist techniques, and returned them to India where they were to await further instructions to carry out terrorist attacks.

• Communist insurgents, known as Naxalites, abducted a government official in the state of Bihar and refused to release him until the government caved into their demands, one of which was for the Indian government to end its, very effective, military crackdown on the Maoist revolutionaries.

• Naxalites carried out a half dozen military operations against the government and people of India. Among the many terror operations were at least two of particular note. They launched a particularly gruesome attack on an unarmed paramilitary camp in which more than two dozen soldiers were shot or burned alive; and an unknown number of wounded were seized and taken to undisclosed locations as hostages. They also attacked an unarmed village in the Jamui district of Bihar because its inhabitants refused cooperate with their insurgency. They murdered several villagers, including some who were burned alive when the Maoists torched homes in the village.

• Islamists carried out several terror attacks, mostly in Kashmir, but in other areas of India, as well. The attacks killed both civilians and military personnel indiscriminately.

• The government’s anti-terror squad prevented another half dozen Islamist terror attacks, seizing 200 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, 600 detonators, and 200 gel sticks from known Muslim terrorists, in one raid in Gujurat (a state that has been a rallying cry for Islamists after violence there in 2002. The government also detained two British nationals caught at a hotel near the international airport with high-tech devices for monitoring and tracking air traffic.

• Students rioted—and as of the time I left were still rioting—at an Indian university in Hyderabad in the South of the country At the time I left India, one student was near death after self-immolating as part of the protest.

Imagine the media coverage if any one of those things occurred in the United States. Yet, from what I could glean from the Internet and other sources, it appears that our own media (except for a few journals that ran my articles) devoted far more ink to Tiger Woods than to all of these events combined. India is a nuclear power, as is the United States. India, like the US, is a major target of international jihadis. Its other primary adversary also has nuclear weapons as do many of the United States’ foes. Both countries are among the largest and most populous nations on earth. Both are among the world’s most important economic powers. And both countries are critical fighters if Islamist and communist imperialism and terror are to be defeated.

During my stays in South Asia, I have questioned current and former members of the military and intelligence services, as well as elected and appointed officials on all sides of the issues. I also have spent a great deal of time with anti-jihadi and anti-communist activists; and even took my camera into Delhi’s bustling Connaught Place to interview everyday Indian citizens. Americans should be troubled. More and more Indians—as well as anti-jihadi Muslims in places like Bangladesh—are questioning the United States’ reliability as an ally in the war against radical Islam. Indians are especially troubled over our continuing aid to Pakistan–aid which even former Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf admitted had been channeled for use against India. Most Indians find it incomprehensible and cannot explain it without relying on cynicism about domestic and international politics. Moreover, the Obama administration’s policies have led most anti-Islamists to conclude that his administration would sacrifice allies like Indian and Israel if it meant even a superficial friendship from America’s worst enemies. On the other side, active Islamists and more importantly, Muslim leaders have concluded that they are far more likely to wring concessions from the current occupant of the White House than they are to face any consequences for tolerating—or even supporting—those groups that would “love” nothing more “than another 9/11.”
Finally, the Indian government’s embarrassingly weak actions in the crisis with Islamist Pakistan and the Bihari state government’s caving into communist Naxalite demands highlighted the growing gulf in the way Indians view their current crises. While there were those who praised the Indian government’s “statesmanship” and others who backed the Biharis because it meant the safe release of a hostage; many more Indians disagreed with these decisions. The latter sentiments seem to be gaining ground in India. For instance, when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged to broker the crisis with Pakistan in an “Obama-like” fashion, it was met with little more than sarcasm and jeers. Even the mainstream media, which is much more openly leftist there than in the United States, treated the PM’s statement largely with contempt. (This is the same media that screamed angry headlines about Pakistan showing “its true colors,” during the immediate crisis, but turned its attention to cricket as it ended to India’s disadvantage.)
Many in the growing opposition expressed additional suspicion about what the government secretly agreed to give up out of weakness in its deal with the communists. Prior to these events, the Indian government had been conducting a harsh and rather successful offensive against the Naxalites, who had wrested control over several parts of the country. The communists in fact said it was the very reason for their stepped up terror and abduction. But since these events, the offensive has been notably absent; a situation not unlike the end to India’s successful anti-terror offensives against Islamists in Kashmir after heavy pressure from the Obama administration last spring.
For most Indians, it is no longer clear on which side the United States will be when the inevitable explosion comes. Nor is it clear to this American.

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