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Part 2: Zia Mian on the Impact of the War in Afghanistan on South Asia

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After intense pressure from the U.S. and India, authorities in Pakistan said they arrested the founder of a militant group that Indian officials blame for the recent attack on the Indian Parliament building, which led to the deaths of 14 people, including the attackers. Troops exchanged heavy fire today along the Line of Control, which partitions the Pakistani- and Indian-controlled sectors. Despite the arrests, Indian officials say they’ve not ruled out mounting raids on militant camps across the border. The situation between India and Pakistan is intensifying as India and Pakistan continue moving troops along their border in the largest military buildup in more than a decade.

For more than 50 years, India and Pakistan have been at bitter odds over several disputed territories along the common border. By far the most intractable has been Kashmir. The countries have fought two wars over the region. In the summer of ’99, the two nuclear powers came to the brink of another war over Kashmir. Since then, the region has been relatively quiet. But this past October, the worst fighting in more than a year broke out as India started shelling what it called Pakistani military positions.

We’re going to turn now to a speech given recently by Pakistani peace activist, anti-nuclear scientist Zia Mian at an event sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Democracy Now! in Exile, Resistance Radio. I’m Amy Goodman.

As we read in the headlines, after intense pressure from the U.S. and India, authorities in Pakistan said they arrested the founder of a militant group that Indian officials blame for the recent attack on the Indian Parliament building, which led to the deaths of 14 people, including the attackers. Troops exchanged heavy fire today along the Line of Control, which partitions the Pakistani- and Indian-controlled sectors. Despite the arrests, Indian officials say they’ve not ruled out mounting raids on militant camps across the border. The situation between India and Pakistan is intensifying as India and Pakistan continue moving troops along their border in the largest military buildup in more than a decade.

For more than 50 years, India and Pakistan have been at bitter odds over several disputed territories along the common border. By far the most intractable has been Kashmir. The countries have fought two wars over the region. In the summer of ’99, the two nuclear powers came to the brink of another war over Kashmir. Since then, the region has been relatively quiet. But this past October, the worst fighting in more than a year broke out as India started shelling what it called Pakistani military positions.

We’re going to turn now to a speech given recently by Pakistani peace activist, anti-nuclear scientist Zia Mian at an event sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee. This is Dr. Zia Mian.

ZIA MIAN: I’d like to start by saying that it’s great to see everybody here. And I bring you greetings from the Princeton Peace Network, our small group in Princeton, founded after September the 11th to oppose the war and to find paths to peace, justice and security for everybody that are based on common human values, and, I think, for me, at least, a sense that we need to reclaim a tradition that seems to have disappeared in the past decade as we’ve struggled with a whole series of other issues, which is that our enemy is war itself. And it’s not a particular war or a particular cause of war, but the very social institutions and sensibilities that see war as an option.

What I want to do briefly, since there is a workshop afterwards where I will talk in greater detail about what all this has meant in South Asia, where, you know, there are in excess of a billion people whose future has been transformed, in some ways, by the events of the last three months, but in some ways not, and so we can talk in detail there about some of those questions. And I asked Joe for a TV and a VCR, where I’d like to show a very short documentary film that we have just made. It’s the first documentary film made in Pakistan on the nuclear threat and the relationship to Islamic fundamentalism, and the example that the United States set to the world by saying that nuclear weapons offer a path to security. And we need to say that it wasn’t a path to security here, and it’s not going to be a path to security for us, either, in South Asia. So, you’re most welcome to come to that.

What I want to do now is very briefly talk about some of the events that have started to unfold. My point of departure will be an old saying, that some will remember, that war is the midwife of history. And this war and this administration and governments around the world have proceeded to accelerate and help the delivery of a child that has been long in the gestation. What we’re seeing, in my opinion, at least, is we have rewound the clock back to the beginnings of the Cold War, before the Soviet Union became a power able to counter that of the United States. So we’re back to the late 1940s and the early 1950s.

And there were all kinds of things that happened then. And I think it pays all of us to follow Noam’s advice and go read some history books from that period as to just what was going on, when you saw the effectively unchecked exercise of U.S. power in terms of destabilizing governments, undermining social progressive movements and starting to shape the world into not its own image, but into an image that suited certain interests in the United States.

Now, what I want to say is that what we saw in the early 1950s, and what we’re seeing again now very clearly, is that as an empire establishes itself, it offers people and governments very few choices. And many governments in the 1950s and many governments now are seeing that there are advantages to inciting empire, to take advantage of an empire to serve their own narrow, domestic, political and economic interests. And nowhere has that been more clear than in South Asia, where, after September the 11th, the government of India rushed to the United States and said, “You can use Indian military bases. You can use Indian ports. You can use Indian air strips. We will help you all the way in this war against terrorism.”

Why, after 50 years of nonalignment and Indian notions of independence in the world and presenting itself as a counter to, you know, the notion of unchecked power, the government of India should rush to this kind of new position, I think, bears scrutiny. And what it was was that if the U.S. had gone with India, as India tried to get them to do, it would have marginalized Pakistan. It would have consolidated India’s role in the region. It would have given India the example and the opportunity to pursue its own narrow national interests, because the U.S. would have become the godfather to India.

Pakistan, seeing this, rushed to the U.S. and said, “Oh, but, look, we trained the Taliban. We know where Osama is. You should use us.” And why Pakistan should have built the Taliban, who they worked so assiduously to create, was precisely the fact that they saw an even greater threat looming on the horizon. They could afford to lose Afghanistan, if they could get back into the good books of the United States. So we’re seeing a competition for who can be closest to the United States among ruling governments and elites around all these countries.

The dilemma that we face, not just in South Asia but around the world, is that as governments rush to cultivate the United States, as they rush to create their own lobbies, as they rush to present themselves in a whole series of ways as loyal allies in the war against terrorism, as they rush to present themselves as potentially open markets, as sources of cheap labor, as guarantors of all kinds of stability, is what happens to people in all this.

Now, in the case of Pakistan and India, there are two specific dangers that we face. Those dangers are most clearly evident in a recent statement made by General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s military dictator, who, when George Bush was a candidate for president, when he was famously asked those questions about, you know, who is the dictator of Pakistan, he didn’t know, when he was asked. Well, now he knows. He’s now George’s best friend. General Musharraf has planted his flag securely next to the stars and stripes, and he recently went on television to explain in Pakistan to his people why Pakistan had supported the United States in this. And he said, “Look, we have secured four key national interests. The first is, we have secured our sovereignty, which means that if we’d gone up against the United States, we would have been bombed, too.” Right? The way The New York Times reported this was that after September the 11th, the United States told Pakistan, as was pointed out, “Either you are with us or against us.” And Pakistan was threatened, according to the Times, with “everything short of war.” So, General Musharraf says, “First, we have saved national sovereignty. The second, we have saved our economy.” In other words, by virtue of being loyal, the Americans will send money. And for a bankrupt country, that’s not a bad thing. “The third thing,” he said, “is we have secured our nuclear weapons. And the fourth thing,” he said, “is we have secured our position on the Kashmir dispute.” Right? So, this is how narrow interests and larger interests merge in this crisis.

Now, for everybody certainly in this audience, you know, I don’t need to go into great detail, but over the last 10 years, we’ve seen the combination of the nuclearization of South Asia, where both India and Pakistan having tested nuclear weapons, and they have fought yet another war over Kashmir. The drift has been that, initially, the U.S. tried to restrict and restrain the development of nuclear weapons and tried to impose some kind of restraint on the tension over the Kashmir region. But even before September the 11th, the U.S. was starting the process of bringing South Asia back in from the cold. So, President Clinton made his famous visit in which, basically, he said, “You can keep your nuclear weapons,” to India. It’s a market of a billion people. And to Pakistan, he said, “Look you have to behave.” Pakistan is now showing that it knows how to behave.

Now, in the middle of September the 11th and the War in Afghanistan, the Pakistanis have started to believe that — this military government that we have has started to believe that they don’t really need to take democracy very seriously, because they have proved that they are allies. And so, last week, General Musharraf announced that even though there are elections scheduled for next year, he will make himself president and stay as president for at least five years, even though there are going to be elections. And so what’s the point? But there was no comment from the United States. And the sanctions that were imposed on Pakistan after his coup in 1999 have been lifted. So he’s got away with it. And he’s going to get away with it again, because he’s proved his loyalty.

In the same way with the nuclear weapons, the sanctions that were imposed on both Pakistan and India are being lifted. And India is actually now emerging as a potentially major U.S. military ally in the region. There is talk now of U.S. military sales to India, of joint military planning and of joint military operations between the United States and India on counterterrorism, counterproliferation and who knows what else.

Now, what interest of India’s is served by this? The answer is relatively straightforward, that the Indians feel that their role in the region has not been appropriately understood. They are the biggest power, and therefore they should dominate, in the same way that the U.S., being the biggest power, feels that it should dominate, but not South Asia, the whole world. So there is this kind of tier that is very clearly emerging, as we saw back in the 1950s, of not big fish eating little fish, but tiers of gangsterism, tiers of a willingness to exploit and use force, who are tied to each other by crude notions of loyalty and dependability.

Where does that leave us? Where it leaves us, I think, is that if we go back to where I said this all started, when Pakistan and India were founded, they went to war over Kashmir. And after that, the first thing the Pakistanis did was to go to the U.S. and ask for $4 billion of military aid, which didn’t come. But as the Cold War started to develop, it did come. And for 10 years, Pakistan had a military dictator, supported by the U.S., financed by the U.S., given political legitimacy by the United States. And he got us into a war with India over Kashmir.

In the 1980s, we had another military dictator, and we had the last great battle of the Cold War in Afghanistan, which everybody’s read about, where, again, the U.S. gave military support, the U.S. gave money, the U.S. gave political legitimacy. And what happened? We ended up in another war. Now we’re in a third version of this, where we have a military dictator, the U.S. is giving money, the U.S. will give guns. And we will probably have yet another war. And this time, we have nuclear weapons.

But, in one sense, you see, it doesn’t seem to matter, because those weapons don’t have global reach. It’s OK for the tribes to kill each other. And this is where, when you rewind back to President Bush’s statement about the war on terrorism, he said this is about terrorism with global reach. Touch us, and we will kill you. Your own wars? Well, you know, going back to Julius Caesar, the tribes are supposed to be restless. That’s proof that they’re not civilized. Now, the dilemma, of course, is that we’re talking about a billion people and the prospect of nuclear war, and the U.S. basically saying, “We can live with this.”

What we face is an unprecedented historical moment, as Noam Chomsky pointed out, that the pattern and process of domination has reached a new standard and a qualitatively new stage. What has not happened is that the arts of resistance have not evolved in a way to counter this. Now, while there are these new global social movements about environmentalism, about human rights, about globalization and etc., they lack that genuine internationalist, globalized depth that we need of activism beyond borders. Right? Noam Chomsky was recently in India and Pakistan, and I came back with him last week from Pakistan. What we need to do is to find ways where the pattern and the recognition of what you could call rightful resistance needs to be established, that people here need to know that there are peace groups and activists on the ground in all these countries.

AMY GOODMAN: Zia Mian, Pakistani American anti-nuclear scientist, teaches at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. You are listening to The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we’re going to go to the West Bank to an undisclosed location, where in the last few months — the last few weeks, Free Speech Radio News correspondent Raphaël Krafft interviewed a man who is being talked about as a possible successor to Yasser Arafat. He is in hiding. You’re listening to Democracy Now! in Exile. Back in a minute.

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