Author: Tunku Varadarajan
Published in From Wall Street Journal - Sept. 19, 2001
In the war against Islamic terrorism -and not merely in the impending strikes against its practitioners in Afghanistan - the U.S. should be aware that there are two classes of ally among the many states to which it will turn for cooperation.
The first is the kind whose common cause will emerge, ad hoc, with each battle, and whose enthusiasm for an antiterrorist crusade will depend on the regional or strategic contours of each engagement. This kind of ally might accurately be described as opportunistic, or mercurial, and an example would be Pakistan, whose military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, has formally - albeit through gritted teeth -offered logistical support to U.S. ground and air forces.
The second, truer kind of ally is the one whose support for any war on Islamic terror is not opportunistic, but instinctive and philosophical. Its fight against this terror is driven by the deepest conviction; indeed, its fight is driven also by dire need, for not to fight would spell doom for its society, and for its civilization.
A perfect example of this kind of state, and ally, would be Israel, whose very existence depends, daily, on combating and overcoming terror. Another example is India, which grapples with organized Islamic terrorism--both state-sponsored and freelance--on a scale that no country, bar Israel, can match. A third example is Turkey, which, while a state of Muslims, is not a Muslim state.
Outside the Western world, as geographically defined, these three states are perhaps the only ones on which the U.S. can count, virtually unconditionally, to show an immutable opposition to Islamic terrorism. Crucially, they are all situated at terrorist nodes, in a vast, seething region in which Islamic states are heavily preponderant.
Israel is surrounded by hostile forces that seek its extirpation from this earth; Turkey borders Iran and Iraq, but its aversion to militant Islam stems as much from cartographical misfortune as from its own Ataturkist history. India shares a border with Pakistan, whose Interservices Intelligence not only helped establish the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, but also hosts about a dozen major terrorist training camps on Pakistani soil.
These camps are now temporarily closed for business, and for the first time in over a year, Indian troops have recorded no border incursions by terrorist infiltrators. Gen. Musharraf, left with no choice but to accede to Washington's demands, has scrambled to ensure that America's laser gaze is not fixed also on the groups that enjoy Pakistani sponsorship. These include names that are as yet unfamiliar in the West, but that are, in India, as much the stuff of dread as Hamas, or the Hezbollah, is in Israel. They are the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the Harkat-ul-Jehadi-Islami, the Tehreek-e-Jehadi-Islami, the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, whose Afghan and Pakistani cadres wage holy war on Indian soil.
The U.S. would do well to encourage the formation of an anti-terror alliance between India, Israel and Turkey. In the long-term war against Islamic terrorism, these are the states in the region with a visceral need to vanquish Islamic fundamentalism, as well as the military capability to fight it. Importantly, they can be relied on to keep their resolve, for they will not be fighting as proxy combatants. Their separate wars against the expansionist forces of militant Islam predate that of the U.S.
Besides, India is in a position to take on a major role as a leader of a global antiterrorism alliance, unencumbered, as it is, by Israel's diplomatic disadvantages. It is inconceivable, for example, that Muslim Arab states would object to the participation of Indian troops in an antiterrorist enforcement action. An Israeli presence, on the other hand, would have the effect of fracturing any broader coalition.
Turkey, for its part, would be an almost indispensable member of this alliance. Indeed, if the military and strategic assault on Islamic terrorists is to be accompanied by an intellectual and cultural offensive, what better example than Turkey's to demonstrate that a distinction can be made between an Islam that is secular and one that is intolerant, aggressive and terroristic. The threat of the spread of such militant Islam into Central Asia can be checked by an India-Turkey alliance, and with the secular "Turkification" of the old Silk Road countries.
In the war against Islamic terrorism, the U.S. needs allies that are in it for the long haul, not ones that pick and choose their battles, laying conditions that vary from time to time. India, Israel and Turkey--collectively and, where necessary, discretely--can give Washington the sort of stable, unwavering comradeship in arms and ideas that President Bush (and, let's face it, his successors) will need, at least for another generation. This is not going to be a brief war, nor will there be a swift, decisive victory. The U.S. must choose its allies well, and give them the assurance, too, of unflinching support and friendship. Only then will Islamic terror, currently so grotesque and violent, be snuffed out.
Mr. Varadarajan is deputy editorial features editor of The Wall Street Journal.