India has little to offer Yassir Arafat and his Special Envoy for Terrorism

India’s Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has a problem on his hands. As the violence between Islamic extremists and Hindus spirals out of control, he must appease both the majority of Hindus and the small, but volatile faction of Muslims. Yesterday he found himself receiving a special envoy Hani-Al-Hasan from Yassir Arafat. I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. The violence has just begun to calm down, as only six people were burned alive yesterday, and if he were to take any other approach to the envoy’s arrival, who knows what kind of violence would break out. Concerning the religious violence, the Indian government is walking the fine line between anarchy and letting the problem find its own level of detente.

At the same time, an Indian foreign affairs spokesman said in a press conference that the Indian government is “deeply troubled” by the current events in the Middle East. India can offer no other words. While attempting to control “moderate” Muslims, any move to their camp will cause flare ups in the Hindu population. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Deeply troubled the Indians are. They have watched what was once a small problem in a few areas explode into an issue that has dominated their national (and international) affairs. Mr. Hasan went on to formally ask that India use its power in the region to return the area to normalcy. I would venture to offer that if India had the power to return anything to normalcy, it would be India’s own state of affairs as some 1000 have been killed by religious violence in recent weeks.

It is easy for the Mr. Vajpayee to find the middle ground. And the easy middle ground can be found in being vaguely critical of Israel. His language, concerning “West Asia”, was murky at best. He called for a stop to the suicide bombers, but also expressed concern for the military action taken against the compound of Yassir Arafat. Far easier is it to question Israel’s actions of self defense than to issue even a slight nod of approval to any terrorists actions taken by the terrorists of Palestine. In years past, India’s close ties with the PLO would have produced harsher rhetoric, but in light of current destabilizing events in India’s troubled Gujarat province, Mr. Vajpayee finds the grey area of the middle ground, at least as grey as he can make it.

Stephen A. McDonald

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