No revenge for 26/11: In India, sab chalta hai

Vengeance for the death of an American ambassador is a political compulsion for the US, the planning for which has probably begun

Libya again, this time in the context of American reaction to the death of ambassador Christopher Stevens on September 11 in what now increasingly appears to be a well-planned and targeted terrorist attack on the US mission in Benghazi by the Libyan Al Qaeda.

The assassination of the American ambassador was said to have been ordered by Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri himself to mark the 9/11 anniversary and avenge the death of Abu Yahya al-Libbi, an Al Qaeda militant of Libyan origin — said to be the heir apparent of Osama bin Laden and reportedly killed by an American drone strike at Mir Ali in Waziristan in June 2012.
The attack on the US ambassador took place under cover of the general public disorder created by massive street demonstrations against a purportedly anti-Islamic film made by Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, a maverick film director with a criminal record and allegedly Israeli sympathies living in California. The Israeli government was quick to officially disassociate itself from any such wildcat, private-enterprise venture, its spokesperson even going so far as to label Nakoula as “a complete loose cannon and an unspeakable idiot!”
The present Libyan government has apologised to the United States for the undoubtedly outrageous and barbaric assassination and has promised to bring the perpetrators to justice. So for the United States, at present in a love-in phase of its relationship with the current dispensation in Libya — installed after regime change in that country by American intervention — there is no alternative just as yet but to wait, watch and prepare for retaliation. Any proposed rerun of “Operation El Dorado Canyon”, a massive Ronald Reagan-style “bombs-on-Tripoli” attack, as in 1986 for the bombing of a Berlin discotheque by Libyan agents seems not to be an option. The US attack in 1986 was an early demonstration of surgical military intervention in support of foreign policy and served as a model for many subsequent actions.
But to the American voter, conditioned to a national doctrine of massive retaliation against perceived external provocations, non-action on the death of Stevens will be totally unacceptable at a time when Democrats and Republicans are gearing up for the US presidential elections coming up in just two months, where neither contestant can afford to project a soft-line image. US President Barack Obama had earlier despatched US Navy SEALS on “Operation Geronimo”, a high-risk mission to Abbottabad in Pakistan to kill or capture Bin Laden, a mission which is now a classic in military folklore. “The American people”, a phrase frequently invoked by politicians on the campaign trail, will now expect similar reaction to the assassination of Stevens.
The storming of Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound and the elimination of the Islamic cult figure was a huge windfall for the Democrats in terms of hearts and minds of their domestic vote bank. Mr Obama, coming up for re-election in November this year, is therefore politically hard pressed to come up with a plan of hard retaliation against the Libyan Al Qaeda, which has been identified as the enemy, though as yet faceless. Mr Obama has publicly declared that he would exact justice for the death of the American ambassador. An incident as major as the assassination of an American ambassador will definitely draw an equally major reaction from an embattled superpower.
In this context it would be relevant to recall that the planning of Operation Neptune Spear in which SEAL Team Six of the US Navy finally eliminated Bin Laden on May 2, 2011, climaxed a patient but relentless manhunt which had commenced in 2002 during the incumbency of former US President George W. Bush and carried forward by his successor. It would, therefore, be very reasonable to assume that if the United States is indeed planning a similar retaliatory action, the planning and preparations for such an operation would already have commenced, beginning with the first major but most essential and time-consuming step of intelligence-gathering to determine the identity of those involved. In the case of Bin Laden this had stretched over a period of nearly 10 years.
Vengeance for the death of an American ambassador is a political compulsion for the United States, and it would be reasonable to expect that the planning for it has already commenced.
In this context it may not be out of place to refer here to the Indo-Pak meeting of foreign secretaries and foreign ministers held at Islamabad on September 7, 2012, as a study in contrasts. As on all such occasions, the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and the lack of progress thereon featured on the standard menu. But not withstanding the jasmine-and-roses atmosphere sought to be created by India, the sense of the house, as sought to be established by Pakistan, was that the death of 166 Indian and foreign citizens and injuries to another 300 or so was all very well, but it was time for India to put 26/11 behind and move on, since Pakistan had to cater to its own domestic constituency, which would certainly not tolerate any such initiative. India’s official reaction to this proposal appeared subdued and often outrageously conciliatory, in total contrast to that of the average Indian citizen, except of the windbags who constitute the Pakistani constituency in India.
Meanwhile, fresh clouds are gathering on the Indian horizon, as recently demonstrated by the savage communal rioting in Mumbai, where some of the most revered symbols of India’s national history were vandalised and desecrated. The worrying implications of possible external involvements in these disturbances were again sought to be played down.
Unlike public opinion in the United States, response, restitution or recompense for the 26/11 attacks are not on the public radar as an election issue for 2014. This, too, is par for the course — after all this is India, where regardless of the catastrophe, sab theek hai, sab chalta hai.

The writer is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament

Comments

That is true. India is a

That is true. India is a soft, weak target and nobody cares for it.
Besides, President Zardari raised the Kashmir issue at the UNO while seeking good relation with India.
This is hypocrisy There is a limit to India’s tolerance.
India should send a signal to Pakistan by closing its embassies in Pakistan.

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