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The days after the great terrorist attacks in America have seen a rapid succession of reactions in India. First there was an expectation that the US would now be forced to confront the Pakistani jihadi apparatus. Next there was dismay that the US would reward Pakistan for modest help in fighting the Afghan jihad apparatus that Pakistan itself had created. As the situation unfolds, it is becoming clear that the US and Pakistan are playing a double game with each other. The US is rewarding Pakistan for such cooperation as it is giving. But America has also raised a series of concerns that will persist and clash with Pakistani army’s anti-India agenda. Indian security officials report that many jihadi training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and elsewhere have been disbanded. Jihadis already in Kashmir have launched a major offensive, but they are being steadily worn down. The impact of closing camps will take weeks and months to be felt in Kashmir, but it will come. The changes in the offing include but go far beyond the balance of forces in Kashmir or the balance of politics in Pakistan.
Jihad started as a tactic but by September 11th had become fundamental to the army’s political power in Pakistan. The jihadi outfits are essential to maintaining the passivity of the majority of Pakistanis. This majority neither supports the jihadis nor has an emotionally resonant religious argument against them. The result is passivity. It is this passivity that allows a genteel military dictatorship to survive while immiserating the masses. As the confrontation between the US and Pakistani jihadis grows, the army will either support the jihadis and confront the US, or confront the jihadi outfits and its own pro-jihadi wing itself. Either choice will open the way for democratic forces. The composition of these democratic forces remains to be seen. They could be mainly Benazir and Nawaz Sharif and their followers. Or they could be dominated by ethnic nationalists and others seeking to assert their identities against the Punjabi Sunni establishment. Pakistan is not likely to return to its earlier system of military oversight of elected politicians.
For India, the instability in Pakistan is fraught with risk, but no risk-free path is available. India’s relations with the US are also changing. The closure of jihadi training camps under US pressure does address a long-standing Indian demand. The US has ignored India’s offers of help, wishing to avoid offense to Pakistan. At the same time, India should be aware of some realizations of the Bush Administration that will not yield immediate action, but will play out over time. First, the interdependence of Pakistani jihadis, the Taliban, and Osama’s men is being well advertised within Pakistan. Second, the US has recognized that Pakistan’s nuclear capability could fall into jihadis or army extremists, and thus pose a risk not only to India but also to the West. Discussions have begun between American and Pakistani officials over safeguarding these weapons. These realizations will cause the US to appease Pakistan to an extent, but the West will persist in moving against Pakistani jihadis and focusing on the threats posed by its nuclear capability. Selfish Western actions will also serve India.
At the global level, the East Coast attacks will have profound consequences. The attacks revealed the globalization of both jihad and its victims. The reaction will take globalization another step forward. When the US announces it will attack terrorism globally, it is probably serious. It can assemble a large coalition toward that end. The definition of terrorism does remain to be negotiated, but the distinction between terrorists and freedom fighters or holy warriors is not likely to stand. What is emerging is a conspiracy of states to consolidate their monopolies of force. State violence will be treated by different rules and institutions than non-state violence. This trend will have its moral costs, but is on balance positive at this historical juncture.
Another revelation of September 11th is the tremendous threat of individuals. A collection of two or three hundred extremely determined persons altered the course of world history. That dramatically increases the surveillance problem for the rest of the world. We shall see the rise of massive new surveillance systems. This does have positive implications for the IT industry, in Silicon Valley, India, and worldwide. On the down side, our movements and actions will be followed by machines a lot more intensively than ever before. Our notions of trust and privacy will be challenged.
The fundamental lesson of September 11th is not about terrorist operations or surveillance technologies. It is about the motivation of terrorists and the social foundations of that motivation. The intensity and longevity of suicidal motivation displayed by al-Qaeda is astounding. The world has witnessed the rise of a cult of jihad that has hijacked the religious vocabulary of a billion Muslims and reconstructed it to generate within its members the selfless hatred of large categories of people. The hate speech of jihadi rhetoric must be recognized as a material cause of suffering of terrorist victims. Such speech cannot be censored. Rather the world must become aware of hate speech everywhere and speak against it. This will ultimately require a considerable increase in global solidarity. The interdependence of terrorists creates an interdependence of their intended victims.