British Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s comments during his recent visit to India and Pakistan have gladdened many Pakistani hearts and annoyed many Indians. It is worth re-examining what he really said.
While still in Delhi, he stated that the evidence provided by India to the Pakistani authorities was insufficient to take to court, but it was sufficient to establish the involvement of non-state actors in Pakistan and for Pakistan to initiate a follow-up investigation to find sufficient evidence and prosecute those that it could. He added that the world expected Pakistan to act upon it.
He stated no more and no less than the truth. Two weeks ago, I attempted to explain precisely why that was so and emphasised the need for a transparent, joint, even international investigation and trial. (“A question of evidence”, Daily Times, January 10) Last week, I followed up with an explanation of the need for an international review of both the Anglo-Saxon canons of law and legal processes to ensure that there is justice for all and that the guilty do not escape unpunished, due to mere technicalities. (“Terrorism begs new laws”, Daily Times, January 17)
Miliband’s next comment was in Pakistan, where he said that “there is no such thing as a ‘war on terrorism’”, and added that a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue needs to be found because this gives rise to terrorism in the region. India was prompt to rebuff him with the remark that India needed no advice from the UK on how to deal with its internal problems.
The first part of the comment marks the death of the era of ‘Bushisms’ and Bush’s claim to have led the world in this war. It is also a significant shift from Tony Blair’s policy of unstinting support for Bush, which included blatant falsehoods by both, with the excuse that this way, he (Blair) would be better placed to exercise some control over Bush’s excesses than if he opposed him!
However, it is really the second part of his statement in Pakistan that deserves our attention, since it is in this comment that he has broken fresh ground. So far, while Bush & Co. were determined to conduct their war almost exclusively through the indiscriminate use of force, when some sensible politician spoke of a ‘holistic approach’, it meant combining the use of force with economic reconstruction and provision of modern education for better opportunities. No one seriously considered addressing the cause of the terrorists; there is always a cause that they are fighting for.
There were analysts, led by Noam Chomsky, who not only included in their ‘holistic approach’ the urgency of addressing the cause(s) that produce terrorists, but also went so far as to accuse the US of nurturing terrorists due to its indiscriminate slaughter of innocent individuals and for its unquestioned support to Israel to do the same. However, this is the first time that an important political member of the coalition waging the war against terrorism has voiced this realisation.
Miliband could equally well have asked India to find a solution to its ‘Assam issue’ or its ‘Tamilnadu issue’, or any of the other regions where there is an ongoing insurgency. That he mentioned Kashmir was only because a link with individuals and organisations in Pakistan had been established. That in doing so he touched a raw nerve is obvious by the response.
Let it be clear that no sane person can find justification or make excuses for acts of terrorism. However, I can not only sympathise, I can even empathise with those hapless peoples of the world living under repression and without hope of an end in sight, those who, in their state of hopelessness, set forth to take their own life only to draw the world’s attention to their plight. They might more effectively do so by taking only their own en masse and continuously, rather than kill other innocent people, but then there is always the fact that they are filled with hate for their oppressor. This does not, of course, refer to individuals motivated by religious distortions. However, even they can only be seduced if there are visible injustices.
For 22 days, Israel attacked Gaza and bombed it indiscriminately, leaving 1300 dead, many more injured and maimed for life, and many thousands homeless and starving. And those living in Gaza know that they are at Israel’s mercy and can be again subjected to the same treatment at will. How will these people respond? Has not Israel left behind thousands of potential suicide bombers?
Who is unaware that Israel can defy the whole world’s condemnation so long as it enjoys American support, which will continue to veto even the mildest censure of Israel at the UN Security Council? Obviously, therefore, hate for Israeli atrocities extends to the US. If Mumbai had a link to Kashmir, 9/11 took birth in Palestine. When Americans ask ‘why do they hate us’, here is the answer.
Obama has spoken of a speedy and just solution to the Middle East problem. One can only hope that Miliband’s words have not gone unheard in the new US administration. The significance of his words is that terrorism, though unjustifiable, is a product of injustice within and between nation-states and/or peoples of the world.
Consequently, while those guilty of it must be punished, it can never be eradicated without eradicating the glaring injustices that peoples are suffering from all over the world. That would be a real ‘war against terror’.
The author is a retired brigadier. He is also former vice president and founder of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI)