Recently I returned from a trip to India. The biggest story during my visit was the spectacular raid inside Pakistan to get Osama Bin Laden. It was pure shock and awe. There was an instantaneous burst of applause for America’s brilliant action.
Unfortunately, within a day or two, the sentiment changed. India, like Afghanistan, had always maintained that Pakistan provides sanctuary to terrorists and in many cases actively encourages, aids and provides material support to terrorists. This reality, Indians thought, was ignored by America either because of America’s self-interest or gullibility.
The discovery that Bin Laden was hiding in the open in a Pakistani military town confirmed to Indians that they were right and America was wrong for all these years. Indian society then compared the execution of Osama Bin Laden to the complete freedom provided within Pakistan to the terror-masters of the horrific 2008 Mumbai attack.
Indians have always accused America of a double standard for terrorists. This feeling morphed into certainty after the Bin Laden raid. Then came statements by American officials exonerating Pakistan’s Top Leadership and proclamations about how Pakistan was still America’s ally.
The insult and the injury cut very deep. The people I spoke to were quietly livid. I was stunned by the intensity of their feelings against what they see as America’s duplicitous dealings with Pakistan.
These were Lawyers, Doctors, Teachers and others in India’s middle class, the heart of India’s educated society. They understand the good about America. They understand the need for Indo-American partnership. But gone is their euphoria about the heady Bush days of Indo-US Strategic Partnership. Today, their anger and contempt towards America seemed unanimous. As one said simply, “this country (America) cannot be our friend”.
The India-Pakistan relationship has been a zero-sum game. So this sentiment within India should translate into a vote of confidence for America inside Pakistan. Right?
But the anger against America seems to be even more intense within Pakistan. From reports in the New York Times and the Washington Post, the rank and file of the Pakistani Army is “seething with anger” against America. Most Pakistanis seem convinced that America is trying to bring mayhem and terror to Pakistan to meet its own objectives in Afghanistan.
What about Afghanistan? America is pouring billions into Afghanistan every year to protect Afghans from the Taliban. This seems more and more like a waste of money and more importantly lives of young American soldiers.
This week, the Taleban launched attacks in the northern cities of Herat and Taloqan. Also this week, about 200 Afghan militants crossed into northwestern Pakistan and engaged in a gun battle with Pakistani security forces. Rather than work even more closely with American forces, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan issued an ultimatum this week to American Forces and NATO to cease all strikes against Afghan homes. Why?
As Stratfor, the widely respected geo-strategy firm wrote this week “Opposition to the ISAF and the counterinsurgency-focused campaign across the country is on the rise among even anti-Taliban elements of the government and general population…… the trajectory of declining patience and tolerance of and increasingly virulent opposition to ISAF military operations across broader and broader swaths of Afghan society continue to worsen,…..”.
America is deeply involved in these three countries in different ways. American leadership would like to be a mediator between these countries and facilitate accommodation between them, if not peace. Unfortunately, America seems to be achieving just the opposite.
These are three societies at conflict with one another. When you are a friend or enemy of one society, you automatically are not an enemy or a friend of the other society. But today these vastly different societies have developed the same image of America.
If this isn’t an improbable achievement, I don’t know what is!