India, the ISI and the Kabul Bomb
Shashi Tharoor was the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information between 2001 and 2007 and now sits in the Lok Sabha (the lower house in the Indian Parliament) as a Congress Party representative for a Kerala seat. I’d met him at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival several years ago, and we’ve stayed in touch. It was a pleasure to welcome him to Sydney as a guest of the Indian Consul-General Amit Dasgupta and talk to him about Indian politics and the great challenge of Pakistan while showing him Sydney Harbour
Shashi reminded that the notorious ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) in Pakistan was revved-up at the bidding of the United States. It is the body that oversighted Osama Bin Laden’s hideaway in Abbottabad and is believed by Indians to be responsible for terrorist strikes against them and for the recent terrorist strike against the US embassy in Kabul. It was a creature of the Zia-al-Haq period in Pakistan (1978 – 88) but in its modern manifestation as a covert action body it owes everything to American guidance. This took place as the US armed the Mujahedin to wage war on the Soviets in Afghanistan. Shashi reminded me of this sobering historical tidbit, a period captured in the 2007 movie Charlie Wilson’s War. Sadly, our American cousins have not always thought strategically, especially when ultranationalist and neo-conservative drumbeats echo in the Washington marshlands.