At the outset of the war on terrorism, President Bush announced a doctrine: Regimes that harbor terrorists will be dealt with as severely as the terrorists themselves. Three months later, the Taliban regime that then ruled Afghanistan is gone, and Washington is scanning the horizon for other regimes to attack. The government of Iraq is the one most frequently mentioned.
There was no sign back in September that Bush imagined that other countries might claim comparable rights, but that is what has happened. On December 13 terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament, killing seven. India announced its belief that extremist Islamic groups in Pakistan were responsible and that they had the backing of the Pakistani government, America's new ally in Afghanistan. A spokesman for Pakistan further enraged Indian opinion by answering that India may have staged the attack upon itself. India's home minister, L.K. Advani, then accused Pakistan of having "the temerity to try to wipe out the entire political leadership of India." In holding the Pakistani government responsible for terrorism by groups in Pakistan, India consciously adopted the US doctrine to the letter. Now it is contemplating military action.
Just how deep India's debt is to the American example is revealed by, among other things, an article by Brahma Chellaney, professor of security studies at India's Center for Policy Research. He wants the December 13 attack to "shape India's response to terrorism in the same unmistakable way that September 11 has defined America's." The solution he has in mind is the use of force and other unilateral measures. Just as the United States pulled out of the ABM treaty, Chellaney writes, so India should pull out of its Indus River Water Treaty with Pakistan. "The resultant water crisis," he hopefully suggests, "will help foment internal disturbances and contribute to Pakistan's self-destruction." But shouldn't Pakistan's nuclear arsenal induce caution, he wonders? In phrases borrowed directly from the high texts of US nuclear theology, he answers that there is nothing to worry about, because India can answer "any level" of attack with a "higher level." So if, for example, Pakistan destroys ten of India's greatest cities with nuclear weapons, India presumably can destroy twenty of Pakistan's, and everything will be fine.
Alarmed, perhaps, by such patent lunacy–and also by the danger that America's own coalition against terror, in which India and Pakistan have vied for leading roles, will be busted up–the White House, through its spokesman Ari Fleischer, counsels "restraint." India is unimpressed. Counsel of restraint from a nation that has just overthrown the government of one country and now has five or six more in its gunsights can hardly be expected to carry weight with one whose Parliament has been attacked, as it believes, by its enemy of almost half a century.