Saleem Akhtar Malik l
Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the US gives many reasons to the Indians to chuckle and bask in the warmth of their shared security interests and an expanding strategic partnership. According to an Indian blogger, India was gratified when, just prior to the summit, the US administration labelled Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief, Syed Salah ud Din, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.
Whereas, for both the US and India, the real gains from this summit will continue to be debated during the coming weeks, this article attempts at highlighting an interesting aspect of the US foreign policy – the on again – off again romance of the US administrations with various freedom movements and world insurgencies.
For this to happen, they feverishly try to designate new enemies, even as they continue to designate new friends – In the not too distant past, Pakistan was designated as a major Non-NATO ally. The recent joint statement, issued after the Trump-Modi summit, equates India with the closest American allies. Consequently, a bill has been introduced in the Congress to de-notify Pakistan as a US ally.
If the past actions are to be taken as an index, it appears that the Americans, depending upon their Geo-strategic perceptions in a particular era, warmly enter into relationships with states, groups , and individuals and support them to the hilt to achieve the “shared” objectives. We still remember, how, during the Afghan Jihad, Ronald Reagan likened the Afghan Mujahideen to the Founding Fathers of America. However, a time comes when, like a bored lover, the US starts finding faults with the relationship. This is the time when the erstwhile friends turn into fiends, prompting the Americans to try every trick in the book to get rid of them.
Another interesting aspect of the collective American psyche is their propensity to continually try to shape the world in America’s image. For this to happen, they feverishly try to designate new enemies, even as they continue to designate new friends – In the not too distant past, Pakistan was designated as a major Non-NATO ally. The recent joint statement, issued after the Trump-Modi summit, equates India with the closest American allies. Consequently, a bill has been introduced in the Congress to de-notify Pakistan as a US ally.
To achieve their ends, the Americans are also prone to blow the threat out of proportion. During the Afghan War, through GHQ, a U.S. Army general service publication (GSP) on the Soviet Army was circulated to the Pakistan Army’s formations.
To suit their objectives within a particular period, the US administrations and think tanks, paint a country or groups as friends. Once their objectives are fulfilled, or when they are bogged down, as happened to them in Afghanistan, they change their colors. So , the “Reincarnations of America’s founding fathers” turned into Darth Vaders after the Afghan Jihad.
To achieve their ends, the Americans are also prone to blow the threat out of proportion. During the Afghan War, through GHQ, a U.S. Army general service publication (GSP) on the Soviet Army was circulated to the Pakistan Army’s formations. It was an interesting read which gave in detail the tables of organization and equipment down to the unit level. It also discussed the Soviet Army’s doctrines and tactics. Presentations on the GSP were arranged by the junior formations and units and it was very exciting to discuss the motor rifle divisions (MRDs) and FROG (Free Rocket over Ground) regiments. The GSP painted an awesome picture of the Soviet Army, particularly its mobility and firepower.
Besides the official U.S. publications, the American gossip depicted the Soviet soldier as a thoroughly indoctrinated and motivated person, an embodiment of “The New Soviet Man”, ready to spill his blood for the motherland. Contrary to the CIA propaganda, it has been variously reported that the Soviet troops sent into Afghanistan were ill-equipped, poorly trained and improperly fed. Except for the famed Spetsnaz and recon infantry, they were not sufficiently motivated to take on the Afghan fighter. It had been a long time since WW2 when the Russian soldier would attack his German counterpart with the ferocity of a cornered animal.
We find a glimpse of this peculiarly American mindset in the Khalistan movement. Contrary to the general perception, Khalistan movement was not started by Zia-ul Haq. According to Raman (2012) a retired officer of RAW:
“ …. In 1971, one saw the beginning of a joint covert operation by the U.S. intelligence community and Pakistan’s ISI to create difficulties for India in (Indian, sic) Punjab…. The U.S. interest in Punjab militancy continued for a little more than a decade and tapered off after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.Today, the Khalistanis , in American calculations, are the villains.
We come back to Syed Salah ud Din. According to Hamid Mir , In 2000, Salah ud Din was contacted by the US administration through an American messenger, Mansoor Ejaz (the same Mansoor Ejaz testified against Hussain Haqqani before the Abbottabad Tribunal ) ,who delivered him a message from the Clinton administration.
We find another manifestation of the American psyche during the Iran- Iraq War, when the US and its allies found the real fissure in the Muslim world and started exploiting it to their advantage. It is the Shia- Sunni divide. This explains why US is sometimes on the side of the Shias and sometimes abets the Sunnis. America stumbled on the fissure while dealing with the Iran- Contra Affair. During the Iran –Iraq war America was indirectly helping Saddam Hussain through the conservative Arab regimes. On the other hand, it secretly facilitated the sale of arms to Iran, the subject of an arms embargo. Some U.S. officials hoped that the arms sales would secure the release of several hostages and allow U.S. intelligence agencies to fund the Nicaraguan Contras. It was planned that Israel would ship weapons to Iran, and then the United States would resupply Israel. The Iranian recipients promised to do everything in their power to achieve the release of the U.S. hostages.
We come back to Syed Salah ud Din. According to Hamid Mir , In 2000, Salah ud Din was contacted by the US administration through an American messenger, Mansoor Ejaz (the same Mansoor Ejaz testified against Hussain Haqqani before the Abbottabad Tribunal ) ,who delivered him a message from the Clinton administration. Ejaz met many Indian officials in Delhi and Srinagar before offering a peace deal to Salah ud Din. Mansoor Ejaz was definitely acting on behalf of a the Clinton administration. Throughout this period, Salah ud Din remained in negotiations with the Indian government through Farooq Abdullah and K.M. Singh, an IB officer. So much about the intrigues within the corridors of power.
During the late 60s and 70s , the US used the China Card against the erstwhile Soviet Union. After the demise of the Soviet Union, it is playing the India Card against China. In the foreseeable future, the US may use the Pakistan Card against India. This is how Uncle Sam keeps himself busy.
Saleem Akhtar Malik was a Lt Colonel in the Pakistan Army. He holds an honors degree in War Studies, an MBA and an M.Phil in Management Sciences. He is the author of the book Borrowed Power. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.