It is not the principle – ridding the world of dictators who harbour terrorists, threaten the use of weapons of mass destruction and oppress their own people is a noble, justified cause. It is the selective and incorrect application of this principle that placed many Indians squarely against the US war on Iraq. The dichotomy of shoring up Musharraf who is more guilty of all this than Saddam Hussein was so clear to the Indian people, that no political party could openly support the US invasion of Iraq, leave alone dispatching troops to support the coalition of the willing.
As events in Iraq take a negative turn for the United States, many of the people who opposed the US war in Iraq are making smirking ‘I told you so’ noises. They may be right, but the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq are indeed ‘unthinkable’. For everyone from Osama bin Laden, the Iranian theocracy, the Saudi autocracy through to the Pakistani jehadi Islamists will declare victory and pursue their agenda with vim and vigour. A defeated United States may withdraw into a shell of introspection – leaving the field wide open for these elements to exploit. This is a zero sum game – a loss for the United States is a win for jehadis, terrorists and Islamic fundamentalists. Iraq may not have been a genuine front in the war on terror, but it has become one. And in this war, the jehadis and terrorists must not be allowed to prevail.
Some of the most respected voices agree with this thesis, but still advise that India should not send forces to support the United States in Iraq – for fear that this will provoke a jehadi backlash. But are we not already facing a major jehadi threat that is killing people in their hundreds each month? Pursuing peace talks with a insincere Musharraf is not a silver bullet – Pakistan’s support for jehadi terrorism continues unabated.
If a country as far removed from the heat of Islamic terrorism as Japan sees the need to send it forces to Iraq in spite of its pacifist constitution then surely India should see it too. Those who argue that India’s involvement in Iraq will provoke Indian Muslims only end up insulting them. The war on Islamic terror has also been characterised as an internal war between moderate and fundamentalist Islam. Time and again, India’s Muslims have squarely come out on the side of moderation and progress.
The Bush administration has got the United States in a mess in Iraq. But because of what the United States stands for, it is necessary for those who share these values to help get it out of the mess. Even subtracting morals and values, India’s help to the United States is in its national interests. It is illustrative to remember Gandhi chose to side with die-hard colonial Churchill in the war against Hitler.