From Mumbai Terror To Bin Laden’s Death: The Moving Target Of India-Pakistan Peace

More than two years after the Pakistani jihadist attacks in Mumbai, India wants to push ahead with peace talks with Islamabad to resolve longstanding disputes over Kashmir. But new questions continue to arise over links between terror outfits and the Paki

Muslim citizens in India joined others in condemning the 2008 Mumbai attacks (Anuradha Sengupta)
Muslim citizens in India joined others in condemning the 2008 Mumbai attacks (Anuradha Sengupta)
Frédéric Bobin

NEW DELHI - There is little room for maneuver. Between denunciations of Pakistan's "terror sanctuaries' and the need for dialogue with Islamabad, India is painstakingly trying to strike the right tone in its tormented relationship with its western neighbor.

The rival countries have already fought four wars (1947, 1965, 1971-72, 1999), and a significant part of the Indian diplomatic apparatus is focused on avoiding that Pakistan's current internal instability spirals into confrontation with India. Two-and-a-half years after Pakistani jihadists stormed Mumbai in a coordinated attack that left 166 dead, bilateral relations continue to be bumpy, with a constant swerving between rhetorical fever and shared desires for peace.

The Indian dilemma is perfectly illustrated by a recent sequence of events. Home Affairs Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram dealt a hard blow on the occasion of the May 27 visit to New Delhi of U.S. head of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Chidambaram took the opportunity of this unprecedented visit, aimed at showcasing the deepening cooperation between the US and India on internal security matters, to condemn the threat coming from Pakistan, which he described as the "global epicenter of terrorism," adding that the "vast infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan has long flourished as an instrument of state policy."

The Minister was referring to a flurry of jihadist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba or the Haqqani network, which have historically enjoyed support from army secret service Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), when targeting Indian interests in Kashmir or Afghanistan.

And yet despite these public flourishes, officials from both countries maintain a dialogue. Mr. Chidambaram's lashing out preceded by a few days a bilateral meeting in New Delhi of the Secretary Generals of the respective Defense Ministries. Resuming talks after a three-year hiatus, the two senior officials discussed perspectives on settling the Siachen Glacier dispute, a Kashmir territory in the Himalaya mountains claimed by both countries. This meeting is one of a growing series of contacts in preparation of a July meeting of Foreign Ministers. Both sides display their willingness to restart the "peace process' that was interrupted by the Mumbai attacks. India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is personally committed to resuming the dialogue.

What Bin Laden raid reveals

There are however numerous pitfalls. Explosive news events keep complicating the diplomatic task. The main challenge for India lies in the revelation of the degree of complicity between ISI and jihadist groups in Pakistan. The U.S. discovery of Osama Bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, a suburb of Islamabad, has generated significant questioning about how much support the former Al Qaeda leader might have enjoyed before his death. Meanwhile, the Chicago trial of David Hadley (real name Daoud Gilani), a Pakistani-American jihadist who performed reconnaissance missions in Mumbai ahead of the 2008 attack, casts a crude light on his links with senior ISI staff. Mr. Headley asserts he was getting orders from a certain "Major Iqbal."

Could this type of revelations derail the peace process? The Headley trial "will not negatively impact the dialogue with Pakistan," says Ali Ahmed, an analyst with the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA), "because we were already aware of what Mr. Headley is now revealing, just more broadly."

India's Prime Minister already stated that the dialogue would go on "to convince Pakistan that terror as an instrument of state policy is not acceptable." To some extent, the Bin Laden case and the Headley trial might benefit India's cause, as the international community wakes up to the Pakistani Army's shady dealings. India today is far less isolated than in the past in its accusations of Pakistan's complicity with terrorists. "What matters is acting in coordination with the international community," says Ali Ahmed.

Yet the effect of these revelations remains ambiguous. It is helping India with the outside world, but it can also make it harder domestically. "The Headley trial got major coverage from the Indian media," says Wilson John, a Researcher with the Observer Research Foundation. "The government is now under public pressure to react accordingly. The Prime Minister cannot go too deep and too fast with the dialogue." India's Pakistan dilemma remains in full effect.

photo - Anuradha Sengupta

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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