India – Pakistan War Tensions Persist

By GERRY FOLEY

The threat of war between India and Pakistan is a “blowback” for the U.S. rulers on a far greater scale than that of bin Laden and the Afghan Islamists turning to bite the hand that fed them. It could threaten a slaughter bigger than anything seen since World War II.

India’s pretext for mobilizing its force against Pakistan was a terrorist attack on the Indian parliament on Dec. 3. The attackers were linked to the Islamic terrorists fighting Indian forces in the disputed state of Kashmir.

The groups named as responsible for the Dec. 3 attack, the Jaish-e-Mohammed (Mohammed’s Army) and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (the Fighting Force of the Pure) are mainly active in Kashmir and supported by the Islamist movement in Pakistan. The country’s rulers have obviously given them some degree of support.

The Islamist movement in Pakistan was largely built up by the country’s most powerful dictator, Zia ul-Haq, Washington’s stalwart lieutenant in the region. It was the network of religious schools, madrassas, fostered by Zia that also spawned the Taliban.

Pakistan’s rulers have historically fostered Islamism because religion is the only basis for the country’s existence as a state. The United States countenanced this because Islamism was also useful to it as a basis for mobilizing support for anti-communism. During the Cold War, Pakistan was the major U.S. ally in the region.

Of course, the utility of Islamism for Pakistan’s rulers and for the U.S. has been limited. They do not want anyone to take it to the point of radical anti-Westernism. But they cannot prevent the masses educated by the Islamists from drawing conclusions that go against the interests of the Western imperialists and Pakistan’s alliance with them.

Thus, Islamism became a tolerated and well-financed channel of opposition, into which all sorts of resentments against the effects of imperialist domination and the corruption of Pakistani politics flowed.

Washington favored the bourgeois regime in Pakistan over the equally bourgeois one in India, because India, although desperately poor, was big enough to be able to maintain a certain independence from the imperialists, while Pakistan was not.

But in the most recent period, the U.S. has been tilting toward India. The Indian economy has been growing, while the Indian bourgeoisie has been dismantling the forms of relative economic independence that it long maintained.

Nonetheless, the United States is unlikely to abandon Pakistan. If India were able to absorb Pakistan or make it into a satellite, it would be far too powerful a state for Washington, and the U.S. would lose a key lever of its policy in the region. The U.S. also needs the Pakistani ruling class as an ally for its maneuvers with conservatives in the Muslim countries.

The support of the military government in Pakistan was essential for the success of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and it remains essential to Washington’s operation there. But the U.S. has needed India’s support as well, including as a pressure on Pakistan.

Now, the U.S. is ahoist by its own petard. The Indian rulers can and do argue that the U.S. is applying a double standard in its “war on terrorism,” launching a full scale war in the name of defending itself against Islamist terrorism, while turning a blind eye to Pakistan-sponsored Islamist terrorism against India.

On the other hand, Indian politics is no longer dominated by the Congress Party, which officially eschewed religious partisanship, but by the Hindu chauvinists implicated in pogroms against Muslims.

A major war between India and Pakistan would risk becoming a pretext for attacks on the Indian Muslims on a vast scale. In fact, although Muslims are a minority in India, they are more numerous than the Muslims living in Pakistan.

Washington has clearly been bringing pressure to bear to prevent an India-Pakistan war, which would be a disaster for its policy in the region as well as for humanity in general. But it is far from certain that it can prevent an explosion of the contradictions that it and its older brother, British imperialism (which fostered Muslim separatism as a weapon against the Indian liberation movement), have created.

The threat of war between India and Pakistan-already a disaster for the population living on the border-is another demonstration that the imperialists cannot solve the problems they have created. The only ones who can solve them are the peoples of the region themselves.

In this regard, the most hopeful signs are reports of a growing antiwar movement in both India and Pakistan.

This development merits all possible attention and solidarity from all those who are concerned about peace and the welfare of the overwhelming majority of the world’s people.