Ever since the American adoption of pre-emptive strikes as a legitimate method of ‘self-defence’ against perceived enemies, the idea has been embraced by several countries.
Russia was one of the first, warning of a strike against Chechen rebels. India, too, has occasionally voiced similar feelings although, in its case, the concept predates that of the Americans. Not surprisingly, the US has been firmly against any other country indulging in such an adventure. Clearly, Washington seriously believes that what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander. What the US has given itself the right to do is to be denied to all others.
It is this specific sentiment which a US State Department spokesman articulated recently when he rejected that any parallels existed between the conditions in Iraq and in the subcontinent. The comment followed observations by India’s External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha to the effect that India had a case for a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan for the latter’s sponsorship of terrorism in South Asia. As is known, there have been references to pre-emptive action, mainly against the terrorist-training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, by people at various levels in Indian politics and the government. However, these have always been at the level of rhetoric and no serious action was ever contemplated. In fact, even during the Kargil conflict, India scrupulously maintained the sanctity of the Line of Control.
So, the point is not about Indian intentions, which have always been above board. But that doesn’t take away anything from the fatuity of the US observation about “parallels”. If any parallel does exist, it is in this region where Pakistan has been amassing weapons of mass destruction in secret nuclear collaboration with China and North Korea and has been described as a “platform for terrorism” by none other than the US ambassador in Islamabad. Therefore, it isn’t that India does not have a case, but that India is more respectful of international law than the US.