9/11 and Kashmir

The American guest folded his legs and sat on a chair like a horrified child trying to save himself

Farooq Abdullah used to tell a real-time tale post 9/11. He had an American guest at his Gupkar Road residence, now in news for issuance of the Gupkar Declaration and subsequently initiating the setting up of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration.

On the fateful night – it was morning in New York, he, and his guest watched the horrendous images relayed on TV screen. The twin towers of the World Trade Centre were caught in leaping flames and the inmates were jumping from windows to escape the inferno but that was a fatal fall for all of them.

The American guest folded his legs and sat on a chair like a horrified child trying to save himself from what he was seeing. That this could happen to America was beyond his belief. He rubbed his eyes to believe what he was watching. His drink stayed frozen in his hands and he did not touch the snacks.

The American was in shock, and only thing he could mumble was, “Oh my God” and his mouth was wide open in dread and surprise. Terrorists had struck America, jolted the sole super power out of wits. When Farooq's domestic help approached the duo with more snacks, he asked the then Chief Minister in Kashmiri: “what has happened to the guest”. Farooq pointed his finger to the TV screen. Short of yelling, the American did everything to show his anger, frustration, and shock over what he was watching. Perhaps, the question on his mind was that how could it happen to his country. The theory of Henry Kissinger, legendary foreign policy expert, that America was safe from all invasions because of seas surrounding it, had fallen flat. Henry Kissinger hand also justified invasion of Iraq in 2003 claiming that it was needed to keep the world safe from new havens for terrorists. He was wrong. The Iraqi invasion was launched on the basis of fabricated intelligence and the consequences appeared in the shape of ISIS.

Twenty years later, Taliban is back to power in Afghanistan. Whatever optimism exuded by President Joe Biden that Taliban would honour all the commitments made to the US in Doha and elsewhere, the fact is that the US has failed. Its foreign policy is the biggest stigma on it, and fall of Afghanistan to Taliban, can at best be described as its shifting sands on fight against terrorism.

Why the anecdote that Farooq Abdullah shared with audience at almost all functions that he addressed thereafter is important because it reflects the dual standard of the Americans. Though he has many American friends and he is well-versed the way Foggy Bottoms works. He was always opposed to terrorism and never shied away from holding leaders and the countries accountable to their acts of omission and commission vis-à-vis terrorism. It is a matter of record that he had opposed the release of five JKLF militants to seek release of Rubiya Sayeed, daughter of the then Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. And he had not budged from his stand on setting free Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Zargar from J&K jails secure release of the passengers and crew of the hijacked IC 814 on December 31, 1999. He was prevailed upon by the phone call of then Home Minister L K Advani who purportedly said that this was the need of the hour to save Indian lives, and there also was a veiled threat that if he didn’t relent, he would he held responsible for the consequences.

What Farooq Abdullah had told his American guest on September 11, 2001, that this is what happens when you don’t respect borders of other countries and place your self-interest over that of others. The point that he had made was that the American policy of containment, at times, spells disaster. The Americans had created Mujahadeen with the help of Pakistan to fight the Soviet troops since 1979, and ultimately these “ mujahedeen” became the core of Al-Qaeda and Taliban with which America started a fight in October 2001. Al-Qaeda has not vanished even 10 years after the killing of Osama bin Laden. The Taliban has emerged as more powerful entity than it was 20 years ago, there are more nations waiting to recognize the Taliban government, as and when it is shaped with the help of ISI of Pakistan, than it was 20 years ago.

India lulled itself into complacency that since it did not have the high-rise building like twin towers of WTC, terrorists could not hit like they did in America. That’s classical failure of the Indian strategic minds. Kashmir witnessed a devastating terror attack at the legislative Assembly on October 1, 2001 in which nearly 30 people, were killed. That was a rehearsal to the terror assault on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, which brought India and Pakistan to the brink of yet another war. The shuttle diplomacy by the US and the UK helped India and Pakistan to see reason, but America did not practice what it preached. Taliban controlled Afghanistan should hold mirror to Washington.

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