The blasts in the Attari Express, a feeder for the cross-border train Samjhauta Express, killing and injuring ordinary Indians and Pakistanis, has jolted the subcontinent. Even as many ask if India’s and Pakistan’s decision to join Bush’s bandwagon in the ‘War on Terror’ has put these nations on the global terror map, the US response to the blasts has sent disturbing signals.
On the heels of the soothing official phrases about “not allowing terror to destabilise the peace process”, Bush has declared that “Taliban and al Qaeda figures do hide in remote regions of Pakistan. This is wild country, wilder than the Wild West. And these folks hide and recruit and launch attacks.” This remark was followed by the arrogant reminder to Musharraf that he had “better be able to deal with terror”, given the military arsenal the US has provided to him. Bush’s not-so veiled warning to Musharraf is another sign of the US establishment’s calculated choice of cultivating India as an ally while chastising Pakistan with threats of a ‘civilising’ military mission in the ‘wild’ parts of its soil.
Predictably, the UPA Government has taken the cue and fallen back on familiar accusations of ‘Pak-based militants’ being responsible for the blasts. Further, despite the fact that no one has claimed responsibility for the blasts, official sources have tried to build up an unfounded claim that the Attari blasts are linked to a threat issued by militant groups against Afzal’s death sentence. Such responses by the Indian establishment and the UPA Government can only allow the blasts to provide fodder for the shrill communal campaign of the BJP and Sangh Parivar.
The official response of the Indian and Pakistani establishment has been to declare that the “peace process” will go on undisturbed. The media have tended to echo such sentiments. But beyond empty official platitudes, the people of India and Pakistan need to ask their ruling establishment some tough questions about the very nature of this “peace process”.
Both India and Pakistan are allies in the US-sponsored ‘War on Terror’, both vying to curry favour of the imperialist Uncle Sam. Isn’t this position rendering the people of both countries more vulnerable to global terrorist attacks? Isn’t the official backing for Bush’ ‘War on Terror’ widely seen by people of India and Pakistan as shameful support for imperialist aggression topped by Islamophobia? Isn’t the ‘War on Terror’ framework and the tightening US grip on the ruling class of both countries, effectively hampering our countries from confronting and addressing the domestic contexts and causes of terrorism?
In India, massive people’s movements in Kashmir and the North East have demanded scrapping of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the withdrawal of the Army that is terrorising civilian populations. Beyond doubt systematic State terror and virtual military rule in these areas is fuelling rather than quelling insurgency and terrorism. The fact that the additional resonance of Guantanamo and Abu Gharib can be heard at Ganderbal heightens the sense of alienation and resentment. Democratic dialogue with the people of Kashmir, which is possible only by lifting the grim shadow of Army terror, is the first step in any genuine peace process. But with the additional approval and encouragement from the US for an intensified military and Islamophobic ‘war on terror’, the Indian establishment is even less ready than before to countenance such steps. Tackling terror Bush-style, India’s official response to terrorism has taken a familiar pattern – witch-hunting on the one hand, accompanied by triumph when the US raps Pakistan on its knuckles for terror attacks and pats India on the head for being a fellow-warrior against ‘Islamic terrorism’.
Rather than basking in self-congratulation at such US tactics, the UPA Government ought to desist from joining Bush in bashing Musharraf, and take the Attari blasts as an opportunity to firmly delink from the US-sponsored ‘War on Terror’ that can only intensify the insecurity of the subcontinent and its people.