Yes, indirectly in several ways

The war may be going on when this gets printed, and you, gentle reader, may well be in a somber mood when you see this. War is never good. However, I think there is a silver lining in the cloud for India, despite the fact that Iraq has generally been one of India’s most reliable Arab trading partners.

On the one hand, the conventional wisdom is that the American attack on Iraq this time around is intended to cause a regime change. We can safely expect that someone very friendly to U.S. interests will be installed in Iraq if and when President Saddam Hussein is overthrown. This obviously means that Iraq, with its vast oil reserves (the second largest in the world after Saudi Arabia), can be used by the U.S. to keep world oil prices low. This surely suits India, which imports much of its oil from the Persian Gulf.

Secondly, the acquisition of Iraq as a reliable source of oil means that the Americans can then afford to jettison Saudi Arabia. The U.S. has been loath to do anything that the House of Sa’ud would view as a threat to its hold on power, primarily because of this Democles’ sword of oil prices.

With that threat removed, the U.S. can begin to treat Saudi Arabia more realistically, as the moneybags of the real “axis of evil”—China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. These nations proliferate nuclear weaponry, fund and train terrorists, and export Islamist extremism all over the world. The difficulties faced by the paymaster will surely hurt the activities of Islamist terrorists and Wah’abi mullahs. This should help India by reducing terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Thirdly, the war should be generally beneficial to the U.S. economy; recent experience shows that the U.S. economy just loves a good little war. Therefore, it should be able to shake its 2002 blues, say, by the end of the second quarter, in June. This should improve business confidence in the U.S., and that is good news for India because that will release pent-up demand for software development and business process outsourcing, both of which are India’s trump cards. The Indian economy should benefit.

Finally, once peace and oil revenues return to Iraq, Indian migration to the region should begin to look up. It is worth noting that relatively secular Iraq was always the least prejudiced Arab state from the point of view of Indian workers, and the place where they have been least oppressed and terrorized.

Thus, based on enlightened self-interest, India gains more than it loses. That should be the criterion, not some woolly Non-Aligned Movement notion.

Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this opinion from Pondicherry, India.

No, internal hemorrhage is the consequence

What can terrorism do to a state? Consider Kashmir. A decade of terrorism has caused irreparable damage hemorrhaging Kashmir physically and emotionally. The wonderful Shangri-La of old has degenerated into a synonym for wreckage, rendering useless a productive limb of the Indian body. Does India need a severed jugular to complement this fractured limb?

There is real prospect of an increase in terrorism that may well sever India’s jugular should thoughts of an Indian-American conspiracy take root in Saddam Hussein’s unpredictable mind.

Political tensions and isolation have forced Saddam Hussein to unleash the sword of jihad. The world knows only too well that Islamic terrorism believes in a scorched earth policy that causes untold miseries to victims; India has faced the brunt and bears many scars of jihad even today. India’s being a soft target (as the Al-Qaeda proved convincingly) could well result in Saddam ordering a jihad against India. Given that India has to recover from the ISI-Al Qaeda-choreographed holy war, would it even want to contemplate a bigger jihad?

The juxtaposition of Arabic nationalism and Islamic holy war raises prospects of possible disturbances in many places from Kerala’s Malappuram district to Hyderabad. The droves of immigrants flocking to the U.S. and the Gulf from these places may have already bought into the baneful Pan-Arab Pan-Islamic ideology. Apparent Islamist involvement in terror events in Southeast Asia prove that committed Islamists will stop at nothing to create nightmares anywhere in Asia.

While India may thwart a second jihad, lingering Islamist terrorism will fracture and rupture the delicate nature of Hindu-Muslim relations, the lifeline of Indian harmony. The internal consequences clearly demonstrate that any war in the Middle East will affect India adversely.

And would any benefits accrue to India through the crusade? America will court India in its desperation to find supporters and dangle a few carrots. Favorable trade policies (the most obvious advantage of a strategic alliance) are infeasible because of the American economic situation. America’s reduced prosperity, coupled with the hawk-like glances of the compassionate conservative crowd looking to finance their Christian crusades, certainly void any economic gains through the alliance.
No carrots here, India will find itself in Iraq’s gun-sights should it attempt to support President Bush. The move will accomplish what the terrorists couldn’t despite repeated attempts—it will fracture India’s social fabric and devastate the country economically.

India has nothing to gain through a war in the Middle East; it should certainly refrain from playing Sancho Panza to Bush’s Don Quixote.

S. Gopikrishna wrote this opinion from Toronto.