India's home minister, Lal Krishna Advani, claimed "the terrorists and their mentors across the border had the temerity to try to wipe out the entire political leadership of India." He held the Pakistani government responsible for the attack, adding that Muslim Pakistan "is unable to reconcile itself with the reality of a secular, democratic, self-confident and steadily-progressing India, whose standing in the international community is getting inexorably higher with the passage of time."
The five well-armed attackers were easily blocked from entering the parliament building, and were killed in a gun battle in which eight others died. Within a couple of days, the Indian police announced that under "intensive interrogation" four Pakistani citizens had confessed to conspiring in the attack. New Delhi's police commissioner said that the Jaish-e-Muhammad, or the Army of the Prophet, was responsible, while other Indian officials have also implicated Lashkar-e-Taiba, or the Army of the Pure. Washington has tagged both organizations, associated with the resistance in Kashmir to repression by the Indian armed forces, as "terrorist." Both groups deny involvement in the assault.
An Indian intelligence official said that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency knew in advance about the attack. Others have gone further, implying that the agency was "pulling the strings behind the scenes."
Islamabad denies involvement
Pakistani military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf said his government had no connection to the attack. Spokesperson Rashid Qureshi said that if evidence was presented of the culpability of any group on its soil then Islamabad would itself "initiate action," and offered his government's participation in a joint inquiry.
"How does a joint investigation help?" said Advani in response, pointing to one claim by Qureshi he called "absurd"--that New Delhi had staged the attack itself in order to have a pretext for military action.
The cabinet of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of the Hindu-chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party declared that the "terrorists" will be liquidated, "wherever they are," referring to the Kashmiri groups' bases inside Pakistan.
Islamabad has stated that it will retaliate in self-defense if the Indian military carries out incursions into its territory.
New Delhi's war against insurgent Kashmiri forces has taken some 30,000 lives over little more than a decade. Both New Delhi and Islamabad try to make use of conflicts in the disputed territory, the center of two previous wars, in their mutual diplomatic and military relations. The Kashmiri independence struggle is the creation of neither country, however, having roots in British imperialism's brutal division of its colonial empire in 1947, as it tried by divide-and-rule methods to hold on to its power in face of a rising and massive independence struggle across India.
While seeking to prevent the outbreak of open hostilities, the U.S. government has supported New Delhi's targeting of the Kashmiri groups. Speaking on December 17, State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher put the onus on the Pakistani regime to deal with them. "We believe that all countries are responsible for addressing terrorist activities within their borders and we'll continue our discussions with Pakistan in that context," he said.
A string of U.S. officials have visited India in recent months, aiming to cement closer military and economic ties between the two countries. For the first time since the 1980s, sales of fighter aircraft and other "major weapons platforms" are under discussion. Proposals for joint military exercises and other moves are justified in identical terms to those used by Washington in its increasing intervention in Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere. Military officials from both countries stated in the Indian capital on December 4 that they would work together "to counter threats such as the spread of weapons of mass destruction, international terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and piracy."
In mid-December, a U.S. aircraft carrier and its battle group stopped off the coast of Bombay after participating in the assault on Afghanistan. "The stop is unprecedented," reported the Wall Street Journal, "but it is happening with little fanfare and surprisingly little opposition from a country long prickly about its independence." The paper added that neither side is proposing any formal military alliance. Such a step would meet major protests among working people in India.
"We want to get going on this," said U.S. ambassador Robert Blackwill, referring to the accelerated pace of the two governments' rapprochement. Without the events of September 11 and their aftermath, he said, "we would have eventually gotten there, but it would have probably taken a year or two."
A major strategic prize
Situated next to the Chinese workers state and close to Central Asia, and possessing a substantial navy which patrols across important trade routes on the Indian sea, India is a major strategic prize for the imperialists. It is also a huge country with a population expected to exceed that of China early in the coming century.
Researchers Sterling Burnett and Wess Mitchell argued in the December 12 National Review Online that the Asian giant's importance "extends beyond military matters.... By 2025, gross domestic product is expected to exceed that of Germany and France."
"Long before the September 11 attacks," wrote Burnett and Mitchell, "India and the U.S. were actively cooperating to combat terrorism." They pointed to an agreement between former U.S. president William Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee, signed "almost one year to the day before the attacks."
William Richardson, former ambassador to the United Nations and a cabinet minister under Clinton, addressed similar themes in a Los Angeles Times column in mid-November, entitled, "India May Be Our Best Ally in That Troubled Region."
"We must...recognize that a strong India, supported by the United States, will be better able to deal with Pakistan regarding the disputed region of Kashmir, which is critical to South Asian stability," he wrote.
The capitalist politician noted the growing U.S.-India trade. "Indian imports have grown 8 percent in the last year," he wrote. "Imports from the United States now approach $4 billion. The United States is India's largest investment partner, with total inflow of U.S. direct investment at $2 billion in 1999. Conversely, the United States is India's largest market for exports.... A significant number of Indians, nearly 2 million, have emigrated to the United States."
Indian presence in Kabul
The Indian government's cooperation with the U.S. imperialists' aggression against Afghanistan, although less publicized than Islamabad's contribution of military bases, has nonetheless been significant. A supporter of the Soviet intervention into the country during the 1980s, in a period when it came into frequent conflict with Washington, New Delhi more recently provided aid and support to the Northern Alliance. Its officials offered bases and provided the U.S. rulers with intelligence on the locations of Taliban and al Qaeda military installations.
New Delhi moved rapidly to establish a presence in Kabul after the establishment of a pro-imperialist interim administration under United Nations auspices. A number of Afghan officials have visited India to discuss aid to the new regime and other questions. "New Delhi's fast-moving diplomacy--which has so far included aid to reopen the Indira Gandhi hospital in Kabul and plans for the first commercial air-link with Afghanistan since September 11--is thought to be partly aimed at undermining Pakistan's traditional influence over Kabul," reported the December 13 Financial Times.
In late November the Indian government pushed through the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, containing wide-ranging attacks on legal and constitutional rights. Bearing similarities to legislation passed earlier in the United States, the 50-page "emergency decree" grants authorities the power to tap telephones, monitor e-mail, detain people without charges for up to six months, conduct secret trials inside jails, and allow the testimony of secret witnesses.
"Leading newspapers, civil liberties advocates, and the National Human Rights Commission" have opposed the ordinance, reported the New York Times. Critics noted that similar legislation, known as the Terrorism and Disruptive Act (TADA), lapsed in 1995 amid widespread opposition. "During the 10 years TADA was in force, more than 75,000 people were arrested, but only 1 percent were ever convicted of a crime," reported the paper. "The state that arrested the most people under TADA was Gujarat where there was no terrorist threat. Rather, the government of the time used the law in 1991 to jail thousands of farmers who were demanding cheaper electricity."
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