Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


A South Asian Pitfall for the New President

A South Asian Pitfall for the New President

by J. Sri Raman,
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Far from Barack Obama's battleground, a second-tier city in India's deep south witnessed, on October 26, a fervently devout mass prayer for the Democratic candidate's victory in the presidential election of November 4. The man behind the event, a P. R. Krishnakumar, identified as an astrologer, made a patriotic case for the prayer. "Obama has vouched that India will be top priority [for him]," he told the media. He also mentioned the significance of Obama's candidature as a symbol of progressive causes.

Krishnakumar, however, did not stop there. According to a newspaper report from the textile center of Coimbatore, in the State of Tamilnadu, he stressed a larger South Asian issue as well. "Lauding Obama's determination to 'get' Osama [bin Laden]," Krishnakumar added that "the statement could have earned Obama several enemies ... these special poojas [prayers] will 'protect' Obama from 'evil forces.'"

This particular part of the prayer points to a pitfall, from which Obama will need even greater protection if and after he makes history by winning the election.

The astrologer was articulating an eager and wider anticipation, based not on the stars but on the idea of a "strategic partnership," seen as stronger now than ever before. He was voicing the expectation from an important section of India's political spectrum for an extension of the partnership in the region.

Influential elements in the New Delhi establishment, which pit and promote the "partnership" against regional peace, see new opportunities in Obama's call to replace the "surge" in Iraq with a stronger offensive against al-Qaeda in the unruly Afghan-Pakistan outback.

Spelling out his stand forcefully during the debate with McCain in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 7, the Senator said: "... the war against terrorism began in that region and that's where it will end. So part of the reason I think it's so important for us to end the war in Iraq is to be able to get more troops into Afghanistan, put more pressure on the Afghan government to do what it needs to do...."

Obama added, "And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush al-Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority."

There should be no need to dilate upon the dangers of such a course. The terrain, which has proven tough and treacherous repeatedly throughout history, is not going to turn any more hospitable in the months to come. We have talked, in these columns before, of a Washington-Pentagon plot to give the Soviets their Vietnam war in 1998, which ended up a decade later in the US giving itself an Afghan war (Bush Army in Brzezinski's Afghan Trap, June 20, 2008).

The Afghan trap for the US has consisted largely in its embroilment in a war in which it was paying for both sides - the forces of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's regime and the Taliban warriors whose ties with Pakistan's army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are no tightly guarded secret. Direct US intervention, however, may not prove any less dangerous.

Pakistan army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, regarded as close to Washington, was among the first to protest against the US bombing of civilians in the borderland and the threat of a military response. President Asif Ali Zardari, with no reputation as a flaming anti-US rebel, has followed suit. True, the threats have not stopped the bombings. But these incidents have not increased popular support for any final anti-al-Qaeda push.

Enemies of regional peace, especially the painfully surviving "peace process" between South Asia's nuclear-armed neighbors, can be counted upon to try and exploit the Obama-proposed policy for their own end. Their friends in India's far right, hoping to win at the hustings and return to power in New Delhi next year, are likely to look at it all in the same light. They can also count on collaboration in this regard from their counterparts in a currently far-from-stable Pakistan.

The promised kind of offensive against al-Qaeda can fuel - and is already fueling - fears in Pakistan, and hopes in India, of a US-India-Afghanistan axis. The talk of such an axis, continuing ever since the July bomb blast at the Indian mission in Kabul blamed on the ISI, has only increased the odds against the recently resumed "peace process."

There are indications that the anti-peace camp is already preparing to profit by the prospect of the axis. As far back as the third week of September, leading Pakistani newspaper Dawn quoted Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg as saying that India and Afghanistan had signed a defense pact, by which India would be deploying some 150,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2009. The report has caused much more than a ripple in Pakistan, while it has not been officially denied in India until now.

Related to the idea of the axis was also the report about US Army chief George Casey's visit earlier in October, under Indian auspices, to the Siachen Glacier, the world's highest battleground that saw India-Pakistan hostilities in 1999. Washington's response to Pakistan's remonstration at the visit was more than just to ignore it. It was, in fact, made clear that the visit was part of a study of "Indian expertise and tactics in high-altitude battlefield conditions, which could come in handy for US troops in Afghanistan's front with Pakistan."

In our earlier article mentioned before, we said Brzezinski, by laying an Afghan trap for the Soviets, "had set a trap for George W. Bush and, possibly, his successors, too." South Asia will hope Obama belies such apprehensions.


A freelance journalist and a peace activist in India, J. Sri Raman is the author of "Flashpoint" (Common Courage Press, USA). He is a regular contributor to Truthout.

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Reese Erlich: Foreign Correspondent: Trump Plays Both Sides Against The Middle

Is he a hawk? Is he a peacenik? The President keeps us guessing . By Reese Erlich President Donald Trump has convinced Republican isolationists and hawks that he supports their views. That’s a neat trick, since the two groups hold opposing positions. ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Waiting For The Old Bailey: Julian Assange And Britain’s Judicial Establishment

On September 7, Julian Assange will be facing another round of gruelling extradition proceedings, in the Old Bailey, part of a process that has become a form of gradual state-sanctioned torture. The US Department of Justice hungers for their man. The More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Sorry Plight Of The International Education Sector

Tourism and international education have been two of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. They’re both key export industries. Yet the government response to them has been strikingly different. There has been nothing beyond a few words of ministerial condolence and a $51.6 million package (details below) to get the sector through the pandemic...

Binoy Kampmark: Google’s Open Letter: Fighting Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code

Tech giants tend to cast thin veils over threats regarding government regulations. They are also particularly concerned by those more public spirited ones, the sort supposedly made for the broader interest. Google has given us an example of this ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Trump’s Current Chances Of Re-Election

By now it seems clear that National have no fresh ideas to offer for how New Zealand could avoid the Covid-19 economic crisis. As in the past, National has set an arbitrary 30% ratio of government debt to GDP that it aims to achieve “in a decade or so,” ... More>>

The Conversation: Rogue Poll Or Not, All The Signs Point To A Tectonic Shift In New Zealand Politics

Richard Shaw AAP(various)/NZ Greens (CC-BY-SA)/The Conversation Strong team. More jobs. Better economy. So say the National Party’s campaign hoardings. Only thing is, last Sunday’s Newshub-Reid Research poll – which had support for the Labour ... More>>

The Coronavirus Republic: Three Million Infections And Rising

The United States is famed for doing things, not to scale, but off it. Size is the be-all and end-all, and the coronavirus is now doing its bit to assure that the country remains unrivalled in the charts of infection . In time, other unfortunates may well ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Altars Of Hypocrisy: George Floyd, Protest And Black Face

Be wary what you protest about. The modern moral constabulary are out, and they are assisted by their Silicon Valley friends in the Social Media club. Should you dare take a stand on anything, especially in a dramatic way, you will be found out ... More>>