TILL its embassies became recent targets, the US had essentially ignored India's oft-repeated claims that both Pakistan and Afghanistan have become terrorist havens. What do the August 20 US missile attacks now imply for India?
Said an Administration source: "We don't think it means anything for India. I certainly hope India will cooperate with us in combating international terrorism." A Congressional aide agreed: "There's no direct connection (with) India, although I venture to think the US would not condone similar Indian actions in Pakistan or Pakistan actions in Kashmir." As was indicated by the rumpus created in Washington when Indian home minister L.K. Advani advocated a 'hot pursuit' policy.
So, how does the US justify two sets of rules, launching its own retaliatory attacks after expressly warning India not to retaliate against Pakistan's forays in Kashmir? Did the US want India to do what it said, not what it did? "I think the two situations are not parallel at all. We were able to trace the terrorist activities to their place of origin. I don't believe the Indians were able to do that so specifically. They were talking of launching attacks into Pakistani territory without a specific target in mind," said an official. Reminded that India was talking of cross-border terrorist bases, he parried: "Our information is a little different."
He denied Clinton ordered the attacks to divert attention from the Lewinsky scandal: "They were meant to save American lives. We know the terrorists were planning more attacks, this was a preemptive measure. The next terrorist attack could have been anywhere." The Congressional source added: "It is inconceivable the President could take such an action in the absence of overwhelming evidence. There are several people on the Hill who support what the President did and have said so." An amused US official declined to give details about where the missiles were launched from. "The Pakistani press are asking if the attacks were launched from India and the Indian press want to know if they were launched from Pakistan. You guys should talk to each other," he laughed.