Gurpreet Singh: What about the other fugitives in Pakistan?
Whereas U.S. forces have finished off their most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, by conducting a secret operation in Pakistan, others like him continue to hide there after allegedly committing the worst terrorist attacks in India.
For years, India has been seeking extradition of terrorists wanted for crimes on its soil and who are believed to be hiding in Pakistan, a known U.S. ally.
However, despite 9/11 and a London bombing, the U.S. and other western powers have done little to press Pakistan to hand over these fugitives to India.
Among them are prominent Islamic and Sikh extremists wanted in connection with numerous violent incidents that happened in Kashmir, Punjab, and other parts of India.
Dawood Ibrahim, the most sought-after gangster-turned-terrorist, is wanted in connection with the 1993 Mumbai bombings that killed 300 people. It's believed he fled to Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Wadhawa Singh is leader of Babbar Khalsa, a designated terrorist group that is blamed for the Air India bombings of 1985. He is also believed to be in Pakistan.
International Sikh Youth Federation leader Lakhbir Singh Rodes is on an Indian government list of 20 most wanted fugitives in Pakistan. His name popped up in the Air India inquiry conducted in Canada and he was interviewed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
India produces this list from time to time, evoking little interest from the U.S., which launched its war against terror only after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The most recent terrorist attack in India that generated global attention was the November 26, 2008 assault on Mumbai. The attack on the country's financial capital came to be known as 26/11, and it left more than 150 people dead.
The terrorists came on a boat from Pakistan and virtually took the huge coastal city hostage. The only survivor among the attackers was a Pakistani citizen, Ajmal Amir Qasab, who is now convicted. (Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper visited the sites that came under attack during his Mumbai visit in 2009.)
Though the Indian government has repeatedly sought action against the conspirators of the Mumbai attacks that are being sheltered in Pakistan, U.S. authorities have stated that 26/11 cannot be equated with 9/11. According to the Americans, this situation was unique, even though India has indicated its ability to conduct a bin Laden-like operation to flush out these fugitives.
The American approach on this question clearly reflects doublespeak. For a powerful country like the U.S., which has an influence over Pakistan, it was very easy to send its forces to a town near Islamabad and kill a wanted terrorist. Even the way the operation was conducted raises human rights concerns. Bin Laden was unarmed, yet he died with no collateral damage suffered by the U.S. Navy Seals.
No one will be held accountable over the violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and no questions will ever be raised by the U.S. administration over the liquidation of bin Laden.
On the contrary, a country like India which has endured terrorism since the 1980s and in some instances, much earlier, has often been accused of violating human rights for adopting proactive methods to deal with the terrorist menace in disturbed areas.
The U.S. has done what it wanted to do, but what about those who have committed heinous crimes in India and continue to live in Pakistan without being challenged? Bin Laden’s death proved beyond doubt that Pakistan is being used by the terrorists as a safe haven.
If the U.S. is really concerned about terrorism, it should press Pakistan to kick out all terrorists hiding in that country or cut its aid because the country is harbouring rogue elements.
The moderate Pakistani leadership that is honestly opposing religious extremism and is being targeted for speaking against terrorism should be strengthened.
If the U.S. cares little about human rights and sovereignty in its war against terror, then why should countries like India be expected to respect human rights?
That said, the Indian government also needs to look into the root causes of terrorism in Kashmir, Punjab, and elsewhere. The internal political crisis has to be resolved by the Indian establishment itself.
Pakistani agencies have only tried to take advantage of the internal conflicts to create instability in India as part of its proxy war. It's identical to the situation in 1971 when Bangladesh separated from Pakistan. Indian agencies helped Bangladeshi insurgents in East Pakistan, but the demand for the separate country of Bangladesh was a result of the persecution of Bengali-speaking Muslims by the Pakistani establishment.
The government of India cannot just go on blaming Pakistan for terrorism and violence. It has to settle issues that have bred militancy in Kashmir, Punjab or tribal areas.
It is a lack of will to solve simple political problems, uneven growth, and exploitation of the poor and tribal population—as well as discrimination against minorities—that have fuelled political violence.
Unless these issues are addressed, militant groups—be they Kashmiri insurgents, Sikh separatists, or Maoists—will continue to find recruits. Only political initiatives can isolate terrorist leaders.
In addition, there is also a threat from the fledgling Hindu nationalist terrorist groups that have emerged in recent years, which are posing an internal threat to the secular democracy of India.
Gurpreet Singh is Georgia Straight contributor, and the host of a program on Radio India. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings.