Shuja Nawaz , Director, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council is anxious and sad. The Pakistan-born strategic analyst and author is worried about the huge price people around the world pay everyday due to the ‘big fear’ that has crept in following the 9/11 attacks.
“Yes, it has left us imprisoned mentally and physically,” says the author of works as celebrated as Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army , and The Wars Within and Fata: A Most Dangerous Place. He regrets that the cost of living in cities has multiplied with countries adding new layers of security.
There has to be a way out, he insists. One has to find a solution, at least in the South Asian region, he says. “We could react by removing issues that divide us within countries and within South Asia as a region. That requires political vision and will, which seems to be lacking among politicians in the region. It is time for civil society and especially the youth to step up efforts. I, for one, am committed to ‘waging peace’ in the subcontinent.”
Looking back at the 10 turbulent years after the 9/11 attack , Nawaz says he is saddened by the way Islam has been portrayed as a religion of violence, which, he says, it is not. “9/11 offered a chance for radical extremists in the West to portray Islam as a religion of violence,” he notes.
He argues that this attempt to paint all Muslims as dangerous, even the large and increasing numbers who live and work in the West, and as extremists, has created a reaction in the Muslim world and created more antagonism than what existed before 9/11. After 9/11, the Indian subcontinent has increasingly become home to a collection of bad memories, he says.
After the strikes on the twin towers in New York, when the US went after Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pervez Musharraf, the thenpresident of Pakistan, was concerned about possible Indian assistance to the US in Afghanistan. Shuja adds that, in fact, Musharraf gave the likely Indian intervention as the reason for his ‘alacrity’ in accepting US conditions to join the attack on the Taliban government of Afghanistan.
Adds he, “Since then, India’s massive investments in Afghanistan have become an issue of concern to Pakistan. The Pakistani establishment sees India’s penetration of Afghanistan’s northern territory in particular as a move to encircle Pakistan. This perception continues to affect India-Pakistan relations.”
This past decade also saw a massive churning in the region , Nawaz says. “The emergence of radical Islamist groups in South Asia found in the coalition attack and presence in Afghanistan a rallying point,” says he.
He warns that a dangerous regional syndicate seems to be emerging in the region, which does not bode well for bilateral relations. As regards ties between traditional allies US and Pakistan , Nawaz says the decade after the 9/11 attack witnessed an ‘up-and-down relationship’ . It will continue to be the same, he adds.