Operation Iraq Freedom has not gone down well on the Indian subcontinent. Pakistan’s English-language papers have been unanimous in their condemnation of the war and the United States’ motives for waging it. The Nation described American tactics as “barbarities” and “atrocities.” By bringing about the invasion of Iraq, the paper said, Bush administration hawks “have ended up alienating major European allies, ruined the UN’s effectiveness, and are now in the process of turning the whole Muslim world against Washington.”
The News International encouraged the United Nations to send a peacekeeping force to Iraq to intervene against “the American warlords” and their “mindless mayhem.” The paper observed, “There are more states against the war than those who support it. The UN should rally this raucous majority to call a halt to the fighting, as America must be contained before … it plunges the world into a terminal Armageddon.” Elsewhere in News International, a former Pakistani army chief of staff made his sympathies clear when he noted in an op-ed, “[The] Soviet Union’s demise enabled USA to assume absolute power, which corrupted it absolutely. Iraq, which happens to be the custodian of great civilisational heritage, is perhaps ordained to bring sanity in the otherwise chaotic world.”
In India, an op-ed in the Deccan Chronicle said the war represents a test for the Bush administration’s “extravagant state doctrine of world supremacy.” S. Nihal Singh doubted the United States’ motives for invading Iraq: “No one in West Asia takes seriously the stated American goal of bringing democracy to Iraq or the region. To begin with, the US will not have the patience or the desire to expend treasure on such a venture, which would, at a minimum, take a generation.” What’s more, recent experiences with Turkey, where the flowering of democracy led to the thwarting of U.S. plans to invade Iraq from its northern neighbor, “must give President Bush’s advisors second thoughts on the virtues of promoting democracy in the region.” The Hindu was just as harsh on the United States. A commentary declared: “The sheer brazenness of American behaviour has forced upon the international public’s consciousness the recognition as never before that the U.S. is an emperor without clothes; that this war is being fought for imperial purposes, no matter what Washington’s official explanations are.” The piece warned that Washington could “win the war on Iraq, yet lose the peace because it has aroused more collective hatred and political isolation towards it than ever before.”
The Telegraph of Calcutta conceded that India stood to benefit by taking a “judicious middle-path” regarding the war—even if New Delhi’s wishy-washiness stemmed from a feeling that it was incapable of influencing the United States’ political will. The paper interpreted some subtle messaging last week by British Foreign Minister Jack Straw and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell as offering India an edge over Pakistan—which has officially opposed the war—regarding the deadlock over Kashmir. If India were to take “its position on the Iraq war a step beyond mere neutrality,” further advantages could come its way.