The last two weeks have witnessed Indians in many quarters asking why India doesn’t act against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) the same way Israel is now dealing with Hamas in Gaza. But, as external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee noted on Saturday, the two situations aren’t comparable.
Israel was born in 1948, surrounded by Arab states wishing nothing other than its annihilation. It learnt early on that to ward off existential threats, it must portray an aura of invincibility. Its current response against Hamas, touted in the international media as “disproportionate”, is part of the same strategy. India, though beset with its own security dilemmas since 1947, doesn’t share the same problems.
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Hamas in Gaza is not LeT in Pakistan. As Gaza’s popularly elected leaders, Hamas controls the land. Pakistan— warts and all—still remains a nominal democracy, where jihadists form a powerful, but minor, section of the population. While most Palestinians would be happy to see the end of Israel, the tolerant middle classes in Karachi and Lahore harbour no resentment against us. Consider that the opening of a trade route in Kashmir last October brought cheers from both sides.
Israel also enjoys military dominance over Hamas and Hezbollah that reduces any struggle into irregular warfare. An Indian version of Gaza would result in all-out war with Pakistan. To be sure, it’s imperative for India to stay on the offensive against Pakistan, even if that means military action. Islamabad’s sacking of its national security adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani, who admitted 26/11 attacker Mohammed Ajmal Kasab’s Pakistani nationality, again demonstrates our neighbour’s perfidy. Yet, given that Hamas lacks Pakistan’s capabilities, it’s clear that Israel has more room to assert itself.
That said, we sympathize with Israel’s ordeal. It has a right to self-defence against terrorists raining rockets on its citizens. Though New Delhi is correct in refusing to start a Gaza-like campaign, it is misplaced when it condemns Israel’s operations, as Manmohan Singh did again last week. To us, these condemnations are in stark contrast with the support Israel provided India in the weeks after 26/11.
Without modelling its foreign policy on Israel’s, India can voice its support. As Osama bin Laden is wont to remind us, Israel and India, along with the US, are part of his axis of evil.
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