A reply to Robert Hathaway

by Dr. Koenraad Elst

[The reply first appeared in two parts on August 30, 02' and September 03, 02' at]

The American South Asia scholar Robert M. Hathaway has used the opinion page of the Chennai-based daily The Hindu (8-8-02) as a forum for tendering advice to his own Government. Dr. Hathaway is the director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a famous think-tank in Washington D.C. The beautiful think-tank network in Washington D.C. should, to judge from the generous amounts of money oiling it, provide the American policy-makers with the fullest information and analysis base available to any government in world history. And yet, American foreign policy is by no means the most intelligent even in the contemporary world scene.

Hathaway's article illustrates what the problem is. Instead of laying down general principles or specific American national interests, his advice concerning Washington's South Asia policy focuses on sectional demands whispered into his ear by a foreign lobby whose nature and motives he fails to comprehend. In particular, he wants his own employer to investigate and eventually to block fund-raising in the U.S. by "groups implicated in the Gujarat violence". This is a demand recently pushed by US-based Indian Communists such as FOIL (Forum of Indian Leftists) as their latest weapon in their struggle against their nationalistic compatriots.

Hathaway correctly reminds us that "terrorism comes in many guises": armed assaults, suicide bombings, assassinations and "yes, hate-consumed mobs butchering innocent women and children". The latter expression presumably refers to the Muslim attack on Hindu pilgrims, a majority of them women and children, in a train in Godhra, Gujarat? Well, no, unfortunately Hathaway is blind in one eye and exclusively refers to those phases in the conflagration when Muslims were the victims. I will charitably assume that this bias is not a matter of considered opinion on Hathaway's part, merely an unreflected borrowing from his Indian sources.

Terror in Kashmir

Apart from poetry about a "sore" to be "healed", Hathaway takes no interest whatsoever in India's main terrorist problem, Islamic armed separatism in Kashmir. He merely warns Hindus not to use Kashmir as an excuse for Gujarat, and denies that Hindu exasperation at Muslim violence in Kashmir has anything to do with the Hindu reaction in Gujarat, as if he had investigated the matter. Yet, it is precisely on the Kashmiri frontline that America is most directly concerned, for it has provided indirect support to the terrorists for more than a decade. Many Hindus have been killed with American-made weapons and bombs.

The only act of terrorism in Kashmir which has registered in his consciousness is "the assassination earlier this year of Abdul Gani Lone, who opposed Indian rule in Kashmir but who in his final years had come to the realisation that violence and extremism offer Kashmiris no way out in their struggle with New Delhi", a struggle which Hathaway refuses to take distance from.

Outrageously, he insinuates that this murder is the handiwork of the Indian Government or its much-maligned Hindutva allies. That indeed is the unmistakable implication of his statement: "The Gujarat violence, Lone's assassination, and most recently, the designation of L.K. Advani as Deputy Prime Minister and most likely successor to Mr. Vajpayee have all raised new concerns about India's future among India's friends in the U.S."

Misinformed by Indian "secularists", whose Communist background seems unknown to him, Hathaway assumes that the soft-spoken Advani is some kind of extremist, and he blames the Indian Government for Advani's promotion as this is obviously a governmental decision. (It is of course none of America's business whom the democratic Indian Government nominates; for months after his election, George W. Bush rightly gave the cold shoulder to European politicians who had overstepped diplomatic decorum by openly supporting Bill Clinton and deploring Bush's victory.) Again leaning on secularist sources, Hathaway blames the Gujarat violence at least partly on the Indian Government; why else should it "raise concerns" as potentially damaging the inter-state relations between India and the US? Finally, in the same breath, in his list of blameworthy moves tainting the Indian Government, Hathaway claims that Lone's murder is a cause for worry about the course India is taking. This is simply despicable.

Lone was murdered by Islamic separatists more extreme than himself, by the very terrorists whom India has been fighting for over a decade. The murder was one more anti-Indian blow struck by the international Islamic terrorists against whom America claims to be waging a war. How should it be a cause for worry among pro-Indian Americans that India was targeted once more, now in the person of the relatively loyalist opposition leader Lone, by the terrorists?  Isn't the merciless hostility of the terrorists rather proving that India is doing something right?


Hathaway probably doesn't understand why the vast majority of the human race is fed up with American arrogance. And by this, I don't just mean the anti-American fanaticism and conspiracy theories in the Muslim world, but also the healthy skepticism about the boundless American self-centredness which you may encounter in India, China or Europe. He might do well to reread this statement of his: "Some Indians, of course, say that the tragic events in Gujarat are a domestic Indian affair, and that the United States and the rest of the world have no business intruding into a purely internal Indian matter. This is a self-serving falsehood."

No, this is purely a matter of national sovereignty. India wants no foreign interference, a principle which America not only endorses but takes to inordinate lengths. Just recently, President Bush has declared that he will not tolerate the arrest and sentencing of American intervention personnel by a non-American court, not even the UN-sponsored international tribunal in The Hague. He even reserved the right to invade the Netherlands to free American citizens brought before that Court. India's insistence on managing its own communal problems is far more modest than the bullying American conception of national sovereignty.

America and the Muslim world

While not providing any reason whatsoever why India should have an interest in conceding to America a right in intervene, Hathaway focuses on America's own self-interest in supporting the Muslim pogromchik side in the Gujarat carnage: "Important American interests, including the global war against terrorism, can be directly impacted by what the U.S. says -- and fails to say -- about Gujarat. At this particular moment in history, the U.S. cannot allow the impression to take hold that Americans somehow value a Muslim life less than the life of a person of another religion."

In the Indian subcontinent, there is no danger whatsoever that anyone will get this impression, for the reality is too obviously the opposite. American meddlers, Hathaway among them, consistently turn a blind eye towards Hindu victims of Muslim violence, in India as well as in Pakistan and Bangladesh. America has consistently given material and diplomatic support to the very forces which have been butchering Hindus.

Hathaway insists strongly on this point, that America is not at all anti-Muslim: "Sadly, there are those in the Islamic world who assert that the present conflict is a war directed not against terrorism, but against Islam. That the U.S. does not care about Muslims. That Washington seeks to hijack the tragedies of 9/11 to carry out long-held plans to repress the Islamic world. These are detestable lies, but many in the Muslim world are prepared to believe them."

If Muslims believe these "detestable lies", it must be because of America's anti-Palestinian position in the Middle East, or because of its tacit support to Russia's campaign in Chechnya. It seems that Muslims just want to have it all and are ungrateful for the American support to the Muslim side in many other conflicts: against the Greeks in Turkish northern Cyprus, against the Soviets in Afghanistan, against the Serbs in Bosnia and Kosovo, against India in Kashmir. No further pro-Muslim gesture is going to convince those who attribute anti-Muslim motives to an American government which has already so consistently supported Muslim interests on many fronts.

What anti-American Muslims also fail to understand, is the structural economic reason for America's preferring the Muslim world over the fledgling infidel superpower India. The Muslim world is not very dynamic and has a lot of purchasing power, so it is the perfect market for American hi-tech (and low-tech, e.g. agricultural) products. India, by contrast, has only limited purchasing power but is a very dynamic competitor in all advanced industrial sectors. For this reason, and also to compensate the Muslim world for the permanent grievance over American support to "the Zionist entity", America is bound to take the Muslim side in purportedly peripheral conflicts, especially against India. The peptalk about India and the US being "natural allies" as "the biggest and the oldest democracy" has little impact on real-life policies. In practical terms, Bush and Hathaway are the running-dogs (or rather, to borrow another Leninist term, the "useful idiots") of Pakistani jihadism.

War against terrorism

Hathaway's concept of a "war against terrorism" is flawed: terrorism is a strategy, not an enemy. As Daniel Pipes has remarked, "war against terrorism" makes as much sense as "war against trenches" or "war against carpet-bombing". If American policy-makers cannot define their enemy more properly, their mindless muscle-flexing dooms them to misdirected aggression and ultimately to humiliation and defeat. You can bomb only so many Afghan wedding parties by mistake without paying a price.

But at least Hathaway is aware of India's consistent stand against terrorism: "Following the trauma Americans experienced on September 11, India was one of the first countries in the world to step forward with a pledge of unconditional and unambivalent support for the U.S. in its quest to bring to justice those responsible for the terror attacks in New York and Washington. The administration of George W. Bush, already keen to upgrade relations with Delhi, took notice."

Unfortunately, it is unclear to what this "notice" has amounted in practice. True, the US has lifted the sanctioned imposed against India for conducting nuclear tests in May 1998. But this gesture of goodwill toward an anti-terrorist frontline state was counterbalanced by the same gesture towards Pakistan, the prime sponsor and organiser of terrorism, eventhough Pakistani links have been proven in a number of terrorist attacks against not only Indian but also American targets. Just recently, the US has resumed the delivery of advanced weaponry to the Pakistani Army, whose prime target is not terrorism but India.

Impact of Gujarat riots

We may quote here without comment the following secularist platitude by Hathaway: "So leaving aside the moral issue, it is essential that India's friends in the U.S. speak out to condemn the injustice and hatred so prominently displayed in Gujarat, and to lend support to those Indians, of all religious beliefs, who are working to strengthen the forces of secularism, tolerance and multiculturalism."

Hathaway has two opinions about the consequences of the Gujarat riots for Indo-American relations. The first one belongs to Realpolitik: "Some have asked what impact the recent events in Gujarat will have -- should have -- on the new and healthier relationship that the U.S. is developing with India. (...) Prior to the February 27 Godhra attack that touched off the bloodshed in Gujarat, this new and more sanguine relationship between the U.S. and India was widely viewed by Americans as in the national interest. It remains so today; Gujarat has not changed this calculation."

In Pakistan, terrorists with links to the CIA-trained secret service ISI have recently killed Americans and allied French citizens posted there for purposes of the "war against terrorism", as well as a few dozen Pakistani Christians, deemed a pro-American fifth column. Yet, this has not led to any American reprisals against Pakistan. It would be odd if internal Indian troubles which have not hurt any American citizens or direct allies would jeopardize Indo-American relations.

And yet: "And yet, it is neither possible nor practical simply to pretend that Gujarat did not happen. The violence in Gujarat, and the steps the Indian Government might take in coming months in response to those events, could have a significant impact on American views of India, and hence, on political and public support in the U.S. for a close and collaborative U.S.-India partnership."

Here, Hathaway is clearly abandoning Realpolitik and seeking a moralistic scapegoat, a pretext for keeping Indo-American relations in lower key than they ought to be if America meant business with its "war on terrorism". Why should America bring a moral Hypersensitivity to bear on its relations with India when it has always turned a blind eye to Pakistani human rights violations, open and proxy aggression against India, open interference in Afghanistan, and unmistakable covert involvement in international terror? Clearly, morality or concern for communal harmony in a distant country is not what moves American policy-makers. Hathaway is cynically playing this up in order to justify the American refusal to take the side of the Indian victim against the Pakistani aggressor in the "war on terrorism".

At the recent meeting of the Indo-American Friendship Council (16 July), two spokespersons for the US National Security Council likewise refused to take the side of India against Pakistan. They picked up the quarrel in the middle, as if there could be a moral equivalence between democratic India and dictatorial-theocratic Pakistan, one of the world's prime sponsors of terrorism. Not that India is in such terrible need of American support, but America itself is in need of reliable allies, and at present American

policy-makers are fooling themselves by assuming that General Perwez Musharraf is their friend and will deliver the goods in the struggle against the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and his own Islamist militias terrorizing Indians in Kashmir.

Cut the money supply

The practical bottom-line of Hathaway's paper turns out to be a plea for cutting off the flow of donations to Hindu charities such as the Ekal Vidyalaya scheme of village schools. US-based Indian Communists have recently opened a campaign against Hindu charities, and Hathaway offers to serve as their loudspeaker in Washington: "Credible reports have recently suggested that substantial sums of money are sent from Indians resident in the U.S., and from American citizens of Indian origin, to groups and organisations in Gujarat and elsewhere in India that are directly linked to the violence in Gujarat. I do not know if these accounts are true. But respected Indian journalists have uncovered disturbing linkages. If these reports prove accurate, then it is possible that such financial transactions violate U.S. anti-terrorism statutes."

How does Dr. Hathaway know that the reports which have reached his eye are "credible"? How does he know his sources are "respected" except in the purely conventional sense of enjoying prestige within the existing establishment? It is, at any rate, not hard to find out that these sources are extremely partisan, for they themselves aren't exactly keeping it secret.

At any rate: "It is probably advisable for the American Government to hold an official inquiry into fund-raising in the U.S. by groups implicated in the Gujarat violence, to ensure that U.S. laws are not being violated. (...) Nor would such an inquiry be new or unusual. The U.S. has acted in the past to regulate or even to ban fund-raising activities by groups advocating violence and ethnic or religious intolerance in other countries, as well as activities where fraud may be an issue."

Hathaway's concern goes beyond terrorism. Even non-violent religious bigotry should be curbed by Amerivcan governmental action: "Responsible sources report that some U.S. residents make financial contributions to overseas religious groups in the belief that these funds are to be used for religious or humanitarian purposes, when in fact the monies so raised are used to promote religious bigotry."

If Hathaway wants to thwart religious "charities" promoting both "religious bigotry" and "violence and religious and ethnic intolerance", he can start much closer to home. American Baptist and Evangelical groups are financing the propagation of Christian religious bigotry of the most obscurantist kind in India's Northeast and tribal belts. Much of this bigotry has resulted in armed separatism, terrorism and ethnic cleansing of tribes refusing to become Christians.

Hathaway patronizing conclusion adopts a false formula of even-handedness: "An official U.S. investigation into Gujarat-related fund-raising, voluntarily facilitated by the Government of India, would go far towards easing those concerns and further strengthening the new partnership between our two peoples."

The Indian people is not financing movements violently disrupting American society. By contrast, American citizens are financing Church activities in India which often shade over into armed separatism, social disruption of tribal societies and ethnic cleansing. The American state is arming Pakistan, and even if it were to fully stop arms deliveries to Pakistan, it still carries a legacy of having armed the Pakistani Army and trained the Pakistani secret service, agents of terror against Indian citizens and the Indian state. The guilt for keeping Indo-American relations unfriendly is entirely on the American side. If Dr. Hathaway believes in a "new partnership between our two peoples", he had better advise his Government to investigate American private support to missionary-cum-terrorist subversion and to halt every form of American state support to Pakistani jihadism.




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