An Indian view
Europe The New Theater of War
By Sandhya Jain
Even disregarding New Delhi's understandable dismay at the US elevation of Pakistan to the status of major non-NATO ally, there are serious problems with Washington's approach to the containment of terror. Since the end of the Second World War, America has been undisputed leader of the white western democracies, the so-called Free World that was united against Communism. Today, the western alliance is rent by major ideological, geographical and strategic faultlines as mainland Europe opts to cringe rather than confront the spectre of Islamic fundamentalism.
The Spanish elections represent a major turning point in the global war on terror. Europe emerges in poor light, ready to cavil before bombs and threats. Spain fielded a token 1300 soldiers in the Iraq war. In the run-up to the general election, a body count of 200-odd in a train blast rattled the entire nation so completely that Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was booted out and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist Party swept to power. A perfectly engineered democratic coup.
As radical Islam tinkers imaginatively with the ballot box and the fear psychology of societies gone soft with good living, Europe ignores the gravity of the challenge to its own survival. In the face of such a grim reality, New Delhi can hardly complain about US and western insensitivity to its legitimate concerns about cross-border terrorism. Unlike Europeans, the Indian people are not resigned to extinction at the hands of a resurgent Islam, and provided the government of the day acts firmly and consistently in the national interest, no amount of US pussy-footing with Islamabad can truly destabilize India.
As of now, Europe seems determined to replay the grand appeasement theme that encouraged Hitler to spread his footprints up to the North Sea. Appeasement is always futile, but only time will tell what price Europe will pay this time before (and if) she sheds her current apathy and fights for the high values of modern civilization. Discerning western commentators point out that there is no guarantee that Spain would have escaped Islam's wrath even if it had stayed out of the Iraq war, as the fundamentalists have always resented the defeat and expulsion of Islam from Spain way back in the eleventh century.
France meanwhile has come under increased threat from a number of Islamic groups, on account of the decision to ban Islamic headscarves in schools. This should make it amply clear to sympathizers and fence-sitters that radical Islam is uncompromising in its belief system and world view, and is unlikely to modernize its medieval mindset when faced with appeasement. If a ban on headscarves can result in the planting of bombs under a railway line, it only means that the bombers are looking for any and every excuse to execute a pre-determined agenda.
That agenda is to spread the Islamic dragnet as wide as possible, and radical Islam has grasped the fact that Europe is a soft target. Not only are the people afraid, but the intellectuals and media - almost cent per cent Leftist - have long been Islam's natural allies and spin-doctors. They can be relied upon to sap the morale of the society and the governments. Not surprisingly, Britain too is beginning to get nervous. After Madrid, it is no longer confident that it can escape Islamic opprobrium for its alliance with the United States, and Prime Minister Tony Blair has already hinted at the 'inevitability' of some sort of attack.
Imust confess I am personally pleased by this unexpected turn of events. For it means that Europe, rather than India, will be the principal battlefield upon which the world shall decide the fate of militant Islam. A few points are in order to clarify my meaning.
Ever since the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto conceived his thousand year war, India has been bled by what has variously been described as low-intensity warfare, war of a thousand cuts, or cross-border terrorism. Initially confined to Kashmir, the Islamic menace now covers each and every State of the sub-continent. Yet despite the devastating strikes on civilian targets, and even Parliament and a State Assembly, we in India experienced a cussed western insensitivity to our problems with Pakistan. And though lip sympathy towards India has increased of late, it is undeniable that Pakistan remains a greater beneficiary of American munificence and understanding.
No amount of Indian diplomacy could effectively change this reality so long as India remained the one country that suffered Islamic militancy. And while the threat to India remains grim and unrelenting, it is my belief that Islam has sensed that the unyielding buoyancy of the Hindu majority can only perpetuate a stalemate, if not outright defeat. That Hindus are doing financially well all over the world is no secret; what is more important is that they are flourishing in all frontier areas of knowledge, science and technology.
More importantly, they are determined to remain rooted in their civilizational moorings, and to ensure that within India, the autochthonous tradition receives its legitimate due as foundational ethos of the nation state. This determination is backed by a willingness to use power (force) where and when necessary. It is pertinent to note that though Hindus have never used force to spread their dharma (moral law), they have always been cognizant of the need for power to protect dharma…
Europe, on the other hand, is soft, supine, and extremely vulnerable. Its vulnerability has been aggravated by its inability to comprehend the nature of the threat it faces… As of now, therefore, Europe seems like a cakewalk. It is timid and does not want to provoke Islam. Then, decades of immigration from North Africa and other Muslim countries have bequeathed each European nation with a sizeable Muslim population that is religiously and ethnically distinct from the native population and is resolutely opposed to assimilation. And here lies the crux of the problem. Even in its most quietist phases, Islam resists change, moderation, dilution. It is unembarrassed about its medieval world-view and virulently opposed to the provision of a secular space in which the individual may exercise freedom from State and Clergy alike. Islam cares little for democracy and such modern niceties, and as a corollary, is readily galvanized in defense of the faith.
Meanwhile, America's new overtures to Pakistan raise some interesting questions. There is speculation that the stage is being set for a possible strike on Iran. Given the problem of holding Iraq, one does not know what Washington could gain by such action. But if it happens, it could suggest a diabolical plan to eliminate all but the most deadly Sunni regimes ruled by friendly dictators. A disturbing thought.
From the PIONEER, March 23, 2004, New Delhi
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