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`One by one'

IF only policymakers and diplomats keep their eyes peeled and ears cocked for any unusual expression or gesture, there is plenty they can do to ward off disasters. After the unhinging trauma of 9/11, the US President, Mr George W. Bush, has been using the phrase "one by one" on a number of occasions in his formal statements and impromptu remarks to signify the manner in which his country is determined to go after its supposed enemies and even those among its partners for the nonce who do not obey its diktats. It is clear that in the grand design that the US has formulated for its unchallenged hegemony, Iraq is only the first of the targets lined up by it. The precise sequence has not been disclosed, although it is possible to surmise that North Korea will be the next to have its nose rubbed on the ground. Even President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan seems to be in some dread that the US will make him face his "day of reckoning" (another favourite expression of Mr Bush) for his doublespeak and double role on terrorism.

Of course, India will be delighted were that to happen. But Indian governing class must understand that the US will not single out Pakistan alone for retributive action. The US and, in fact, industrial countries as a whole have long been conditioned to view India and Pakistan as an inseparable bundle. Even in such simple matters as official visits, dignitaries of industrial countries club them together. One feels tempted to presume that this applies to phone calls as well!

So, if Pakistan has to be rapped on its knuckles, the US will look for some excuse to clout India also on the head. In any case, regardless of whether Pakistan is in the US cross-wires or not, evidence is at hand that the US is losing patience with the continual spat between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue with a possible replay of provocative military mobilisation of last year. A few days ago, the US Secretary of State, Mr Colin Powell, ominously declared that India-Pakistan tensions were on "the broad agenda" of the US to be taken up once Iraq and North Korea were out of the way.

What preparations is India making to meet this contingency? For, once the Kashmir fat is in the US fire, it will not be just the US, but all industrial countries acting in unison will begin exercising pressure on India. Iraq provides a case history of how excruciating that pressure will be. Once that happens, India will be friendless: Neither Russia nor any of the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement will come to its rescue, even if they count. The so-called India caucus in the US Congress will also melt away. In fact, recently a leading and influential Republican-cum-business tycoon, Mr Robert J. Guida of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, angered by Indian Embassy's cussedness, has vowed to take Pakistan's case on Kashmir to every State in the US and to the highest levels in Washington. Great humiliation is in store for India if it thinks it can get away with its usual trite and smug rigmarole.

B. S. Raghavan

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