11 September every year, unlike the popular song and music ‘Come September’ from the film by the same name, is a tragic day to pray for peace in our turbulent planet.
It was the dreaded 20th anniversary of 9/11 ‘World Trade Centre’ (twin towers) attacks on 11 Sept 2001 led by al Qaeda in the US’s New York City, stunning the world, killing some 2,750 people and injuring thousands besides, the destruction of properties worth billion dollars, loss of morale, denting of the US super power image and the repercussions of 3 hours attack that changed the US forever with rippling adverse effects across the world.
9/11 was followed by another daring attack some 7 years later, on the night of 26 Nov 2008, by ten Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists, who launched coordinated shooting and bombing attacks in Mumbai at five major locations, killing 166 and injuring over 300 people. Pakistan since its birth, has been the mother and cradle of the fundamentalist Muslim terrorism across the world.
The newly created country baptised terrorists by sending Razakars to annex Jammu & Kashmir even though the Maharaja Hari Singh had willingly signed the Instrument of Accession on 26 Oct 1947 to accede to India, laying the foundation of terrorism that India faces ever since.
The unabated Pakistan sponsored, created, cherished and nurtured with safe heavens, the Afghan Taliban and its more vicious and the violent Haqqani elements provided with training, arms ammunition, intelligence and duly supported by China and Saudi Arabia with funds, resulted in the deaths of the US soldiers, Afghan security personnel, civilians culminating in fiasco of falling of Afghanistan on 15 Aug 2021 and radical Talibanisation of Afghanistan within weeks that has changed the definition of terrorism across the globe.
During the Cold War, strategically both super powers (the US and the Soviet Union) asserted to gain foothold in Afghanistan with financial and military aid and intervention in land locked, underdeveloped, poverty stricken, starving country with inter and intra tribal rivalries.
What Pakistan today as the cradle of Muslim terrorism and fundamentalism is, mostly attributable to the US perception of its geo-strategic location to contain erstwhile Soviet Union in spreading communism during the cold war era! The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was in support of the Afghan communist government fighting against anti-communist Mujahedeen’s over a decade.
The Soviets tried hard to eliminate Mujahideen having support of locals by bombing that led to massive population flight from the interior Afghanistan to both Pakistan and Iran. The Mujahedeen eventually succeeded in neutralising Soviet air power using shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles supplied by the US funding and the logistics support of Pakistan.
During the US intervention in Afghanistan, Pakistan was essential for both operational and administrative logistical support. Also, Pakistan convinced its allies-the US, China, Russia and the Saudis the so-called strategic depth Afghanistan provides vis-à-vis the main rival India.
Pakistan, therefore, nurtured all Muslim terror organisations and to start with the US provided all financial and military aid to Pakistan to create Mujahedeen to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan with tacit support of the UK, Saudi Arabia and many Muslim countries forming part of the Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) based 57 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
And later Taliban rose from the ashes of Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan and al Qaida provided sanctuaries, training, logistics and motivational support with full backing of Pakistan. Thus, the Taliban became the latest incarnation of Pakistan's desire to support Islamist rather than nationalist rule in the neighboring Afghanistan to fight jihad.
It is widely believed that the US had an indirect hand in the creation of Taliban with direct support of Pakistan as in the 1980s, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency provided arms to Afghans to resist the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Even today, the US is engaged with Pakistan as the 2nd largest supplier of military equipment after China, and one of its largest direct foreign investment and economic aid partners, knowing fully well that for Pakistan, India that has cordial relations with the US, is their largest enemy.
It is strange, the US being aware that Pakistan provides Taliban sanctuaries, military training and foreign funds generated from OIC members specially the Saudi Arabia and has been betrayed by Pakistan in fighting war against Taliban in Afghanistan.
One really cannot understand the US grand strategy to contain Russia, China and communism and making friends with Pakistan who not only support Taliban and numerous Muslim terror groups and had given sanctuary to billionaire al Qaida fugitive master-mind Osama bin Laden, who was killed on 2 May 2011 by the US Navy SEALS in Abbottabad in the vicinity of the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) where he was under full protection of the Pakistani security forces, following his role in the 9/11 attacks in the US.
Many feel that the Taliban had turned against their previous benefactor the US. The US military intervention in Afghanistan, supporting the corrupt and discredited tribal warlords and people deprived of basic health care, education, vocation, food, housing, and security, the marginalized groups, women and poor Afghans and victims of the grave violations of human rights, were exploited by the Taliban duly supported by Pakistan in the US’s worst defeat as super power in Afghanistan.
The US has a big role in making Pakistan as a rogue state giving both financial and military aid to keep check on Afghani terror besides doles from Saudi Arabia and China ostensibly all used against India. The US, though betrayed in Afghanistan, lost over 7500 soldiers, and obligated $8 trillion dollars post 9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
Many believe though the US is upset with Pakistan after Talibanisation of Afghanistan, but it is a temporary phase. Sooner or later, the US-Pak patch-up will follow over the strange US-Pak love-hate relationship and India needs to be careful over the US-Pak such bonhomie and honeymooning.
The US had helped Pakistan develop friendly relations with China, ignored its nuclear development programmes and President Nixon moved the US 7th Fleet to Bay of Bengal to teach a lesson to ‘that bitch’. Yet, India should by its offensive diplomacy, economic and psychological war propaganda themes, needs to bring to the notice of the world community and the United Nations that it is NOT Afghanistan BUT Pakistan sponsoring international terrorism.
Many believe Zoroastrian religion originated from Afghanistan before the arrival of Islam but Afghanistan became predominantly Sunni Islamic country with 87-90% population of Sunnis and around 10 % of Shias who are discriminated in government jobs, welfare, other social and cultural activities and representation in governance. Shias in Afghanistan have been a constant source of tension between Afghanistan and its neighbouring Shia Iran as Taliban are fiercely Sunni adversely affecting their bilateral relations.
Iran needs to be appraised that with the Talibanisation of Afghanistan by the Sunni outfit, situation in Afghanistan needs high level of attention from Iran as the Hazara community in Afghanistan are Shias with strong linkages with Iran.
There are about 38-40 lakh Hazaras estimated to be living in Afghanistan out of Afghanistan’s 3.8 crore population discriminated against by the Sunni majority. Besides, there are around 17,000 Bahais, 2000 Zoroastrians, 3000 Christians, 1300 Sikhs and 600 Hindus and some Jews, all living in constant fear.
Afghanistan and India have cordial relations over the years but Pakistan has been playing poor sports and ensured radical Islam in the form of Taliban prevails in the war torn nation making any sort of rapprochements with Taliban government in Afghanistan difficult with veils of radical terrorists’ threats to J&K.
We need to ensure that the Afghani residents of Indian origin are protected, able to live their way of life with dignity and if threatened by the Taliban or any radical elements, are evacuated to India safely with dignity.
Implications for India
- Expose Pakistan who for long has been accused of openly aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan.
- Exposing the Pakistani atrocities in East Pakistan by aggressive and proactive diplomacy culminated in the creation of Bangladesh.
- Exposing Pakistan over sponsoring, supporting, training and motivating terrorist attacks like 26/11, Pathankot, Pulwama, Delhi and other places in India.
- India MUST not have only US centric policies. India must have pro-active diplomacy and get involved in bilateral and multilateral talks the United Nations (UN) and all countries having stakes in Afghanistan- The US, UK, the European Union, China, G-20, G-7, BRICS- Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa , Quad -group comprising Japan, India, Australia, and the US interested in strengthening rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region to contain China, ASEAN- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional grouping for promoting economic, political, and security cooperation among its ten members-Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam and even the OIC-the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation as many support the Indian and South Asian concerns over Pakistan’s sponsored terrorism.
- Expose Pakistan as a country with shrinking minority communities since its creation-Christians, Sikhs, Ahemdias, Hindus, Shias, Pashtuns, Sindhis and Baluch, all exposed to draconian blasphemy laws, systematic persecution, blatant abuse, forced conversions and desecration and destruction of their places of worship.
- The Taliban government must prove its legitimacy and protect citizenry including Shias, other minority groups and women and get due recognition from comity of nations and the UN to function as a terror free peaceful country.
- To divert global attention on its role and complicity in Talibanising Afghanistan, Pakistan is quite clever to raise bogey of Indian excesses in J&K. Pakistan, the world community and the United Nations must be made clear that J&K is an integral part of India and Pakistan should cease to covet it.
- India must caution Russia and China seeking cooperation from the Taliban’s for their major interests as terrorists are no one’s friends. While Russia is seeking buffer of small but strategic Muslim Central Asian Republics between Afghanistan and Russia, the Chinese in Afghanistan are eying US$ 1 trillion worth of minerals and ensure a secure environment for their infrastructure projects, the isolation of Uyghur militants who can be reached by Taliban by infiltrating through the rugged and narrow 57 km international border with Afghanistan and security of the CPEC- The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) being developed to transform Pakistan's economy by modernizing its road, rail, air, and energy transportation systems and to connect the deep-sea Pakistani ports of Gwadar and Karachi to China's Xinjiang province and beyond by overland routes. Once established, the Taliban would create ruckus for Pan Islamic Talibanisation of the CARs, Xingjian, Baluchistan and Iran for the creation of Greater Pashtunistan and have no sanctity of Durand Line defining the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- India also needs to caution Iran on exploitation of Hazara Shias by the fiercely Sunni Taliban. Many incidents of sectarian violence have already been reported and Iran is highly annoyed over them.
- All major stake holding countries have divergent priorities and interests such as the US, Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, and India. India is following sound diplomatic initiatives, talking to them and shaping the contours of dialogue with the Afghan Taliban. Besides, the adverse geo-strategic security implications, India has invested around $3 billion in Afghanistan as one of the largest donors in development of the infrastructure like highways dams, power projects, and parliament house and so on. The war devastated country needs developmental aid urgently and unless the government is legitimized and recognized by the world community, international aid cannot flow. It is reported that China has set its eyes on investment opportunities in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and is urgently providing $30.96 million worth of humanitarian aid like grains, winter supplies, vaccines, and medicines to Afghanistan, more to keep Taliban on its right side rather than the needs of the Afghan people. With peace in the region, many countries including India would aid the war beaten nation for many decades. China is eying Afghanistan for its long time strategic interests to exploit its mineral wealth and peace and tranquility in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. While the Taliban has assured India of its desire to seek Indian investments, India must wait and watch and once the Taliban government has established a satisfactory track record of governance, only then recognize it and proceed in its reconstruction work in the mitigation of hunger, disease, malnutrition and overall development.
- Taliban lack everything essential for good governance-administrators, economists and financial experts, doctors, hospitals, technicians, IT experts, agriculture scientists, educationists and the list can be endless that can be easily sourced from India if peace and tranquility prevails in the country. Taliban must be made to realise that if the pool of the trained manpower in all spheres is missing, there will be negative implications for the economy and for growth in Afghanistan as was the case in the earlier Talibani government in Afghanistan.
- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has retained Pakistan on its 'Grey List' for funding, money laundering and terror financing. India being active member of the FATF must expose Pakistan and its notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for supporting the terror groups like the Haqqani and all elements Taliban and likes of al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e- Mohammad (JeM), and downgraded to ‘Black List’.
- India needs to stabilize relations with countries around Pakistan and China and highlight to world the human rights violations and subjugation of democracy in Afghanistan, Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the POK and the autonomous regions of the Tibet and the Xinjiang, highlighting Tibetan and Uyghur suppression. We could discreetly train and support their dissident elements like Mukti Vahini to fight for their liberation from their oppressive masters. India should think about changing its stance over Tibet and project to the world how the Chinese have suppressed their independence and human rights.
- India must improve relations with its neighbours-Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Maldives giving them liberal industrial, military and economic aid helping in developing their infrastructure rather than acting as a big brother as some of them feel. We must ensure these along with the ASEAN countries wean away from the Chinese influence by promoting trade, transit, tourism and regional security amongst the ASEAN countries
- We must diplomatically prevail on Russia to regain its erstwhile superpower status and distance itself from China. No one can deny that the erstwhile Soviet Union was India’s greatest ally during the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 War.
- We need to develop lateral and horizontal roads and rail networks crisscrossing our entire land borders with Pakistan and China with alternate routes, for the faster movement of goods for the locals and troops and their logistics support.
- Both the Pakistanis and the Chinese are the world’s most notorious hackers. We need to develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) and measures to protect our public, defence and private domains from their attacks, counter them and deface their sensitive sites.
- Our biggest failure in all the wars that we have fought has been the total lack of strategic, tactical and battlefield intelligence. We must improve our capabilities and resources of intelligence gathering and its interpretation -humint, techint, saint and IT must be dovetailed and we must have adequate numbers of translators/interpreters of the dialects in which our adversaries communicate.
- India must pursue relentlessly through economic and diplomatic initiatives to be the member of the UNSC and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) even though vehemently opposed by China. China needs to learn that India is not its enemy but another democratic, secular, peace loving and progressive country.
- India must improve its gross domestic product (GDP), economy and standards of living of its masses with dignity. Poverty, ignorance and dismal health care are their common enemies that need to be eliminated jointly and universally.
- In a vibrant democracy like India print and electronic media play pivotal roles as fourth estate. But we must ensure our media does not get hysteric day in and day out blasting and sensationalizing reporting which is counterproductive. We must be objective, constructive in our reporting with appropriate psywar themes for our own people and our enemies and refrain from winning war or cricket world cup through hysterical media reporting.
- Many military thinkers feel, since India, Pakistan and China are nuclear powers; chances of long drawn conventional war are minimal. However, short swift wars and skirmishes to take local strategic or tactical advantage cannot be ruled out.
- India faces multidimensional threats from the Chinese and Pakistani combined land, naval and air threats along with terrorism that can be leashed to vitiate and nibble our territorial integrity and way of life. We need to be prepared, be proactive and need to be very strong economically, diplomatically and militarily to overcome the combined Pakistani and Chinese threats to our national security, sovereignty and dignified way of life!
Many Pakistani intellectuals, journalists, seculars, liberals and think tanks have criticized Pakistan’s role in Talibanisation of Afghanistan. Khalid Umar, a Muslim Pakistani staying in London has very different views and he says in his writings that ‘Celebrations in Pakistan over Talibanisation of Afghanistan is a blessing in disguise for India and Pakistan has fallen into a trap as Afghanistan is bankrupt land-locked country with no industrial, agricultural and services industry base.
It is a country who exported only terrorism, hashish and asylum seekers and with 14 wanted men on UNO’s black list as its ministers. The interior minister is the most wanted on the FBI’s list. While the PM had destroyed Bamiyan Buddha. The Deputy PM was arrested in 2010 from Karachi and was in Pakistani jails for 8 years till Jan 2019 and released on the US orders.
The Intelligence chief was arrested in 2001. With hunger, starvation and shortage of commodities, soon the warlords, like wild hungry dogs will be out hunting and scavenging anything they come across. Afghanistan will implode first and then explode. Afghanistan is an unfortunate land which has nothing.
We thought that the fate of Pakistan is already miserable enough, but I am sure the real suffering for Pakistan has just begun. While the US, the global super power was humbled by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Taliban has given Pakistan the dubious distinction of becoming ‘The Only Global Super Power of Terrorism’
About the Author
Col NN Bhatia was commissioned into the 13 Kumaon in 1963. He commanded 2 Kumaon (Berar), which is one of the oldest Indian Army Battalions. Upon his retirement from the army, he went on to work in intelligence, specializing in industrial security, goin on to conduct security audits of vital installations.
Presently he is a freelance Industrial Security Consultant and a prolific writer on military and industrial security. He is deeply involved in the release of 54 Indian POWs languishing in Pakistani jails since the 1971 War. He can be contacted at Email: [email protected]
(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial policy of Mission Victory India)