Here are my answers to four questions e-mailed to me on March 3,2010, by a correspondent of the "Washington Post":
Question: Is the Indian government growing increasingly frustrated over the Obama administration's policy of reconciliation with the so called good Taliban? And why or how will this impact India and U.S. relations? What position does this put India in?
Answer:"Frustrated" is not the word. India is increasingly concerned over the US belief that there are good fundamentalists and bad fundamentalists and that it can do business with the good fundamentalists and bring them into the mainstream. India looks upon the "war" against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan as directed not only against these organisations, but also against their ideology of religious obscurantism by projecting before the Afghan people the ideas of a secular and liberal democratic society.If it makes a deal with the so-called good Taliban even if they do not give up their medieval ideas, the US will be admitting beforehand that it has lost the ideological battle. It will not be good for Afghanistan and other Muslim countries. And it will not be good for India, which has the second largest Muslim community in the world.
Question: Is India worried that Pakistan is getting too strong b/c the U.S. is courting Pakistan in its fight? And why is this a concern to India ie - despite Mumbai, despite everything, is there a growing feeling in Delhi that Pakistan will hoodwink the world?
Answer:India is worried over the US readiness to close its eyes to Pakistan's use of terrorism against India so long as Pakistan acts against terrorism directed against the US and helps the US in preventing another 9/11 in the US homeland. Pakistan is confident that so long as it helps the US against the Taliban and Al Qaeda it does not have to fear any adverse consequences from its continued use of terrorism against India. It is this confidence which should explain its inaction against the Lashkar-e-Toiba and other Punjabi terrorist organisations whose activities are directed against India.Pakistan has been hoodwinking the US not today, but for the last 30 years ever since it started using terrorism against India.It will continue to hoodwink the world brazenly so long it has the confidence that no action will be taken against it.
Question:Is Afghanistan the new Kashmir, a place india and Pakistan are fighting it out?
Answer:In Kashmir, India is resisting Pakistani attempts since 1989 to annex Indian territory through a proxy war using terrorist organisations trained in Pakistan. In Afghanistan, India has been resisting Pakistani efforts to exclude it from playing its due role as a historic ally of Afghanistan and as a well-wisher of the Afghan people who has been trying to help them convert their country into a modern democratic state. In Kashmir, it is a confrontation over territory which belongs to India. In Afghanistan it is a political and ideological confrontation.
Question: How big is India's intelligence presense in Afghanistan - is it robust? Is it as big as Pakistan claims? Does anyone know?
Answer: I would not know whether India has an intelligence presence in Afghanistan and, if so, how big is it. (3-3-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )