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Chechnya: impending nuclear flash point

Russian troops continue pounding Chechyn separatist strongholds. Western press  gleefully gives the news of considerable loss to Russian troops in terms of men and material. Their estimates speak of about three thousand Russian soldiers killed during the fresh assault, although Russian official sources place the losses at five hundred. In any case, the Russians have maintained pressure on the separatists and pinned them down to their mountain fastnesses.

The news has come in that the Taliban Islamic regime of Afghanistan has formally announced their recognition of independent Chechyn Republic. Though the headquarters of Taliban are in Peshawar, the capital of the NWFP of Pakistan, yet the announcement of recognition was made from Kandahar, the seat of Mulla Omar, the Taliban chief.

Though the details of the discussion on the issue in the Taliban shura (assembly) are not available, yet Taliban foreign minister, Mulla Ahmad Mutwakkil said in an interview that for quite some time their regime had been thinking of according formal recognition to Chechyn republic. This was, however, accelerated by the Russian attack on Chechnya.

Mutwakkil said that the first step after recognition of the Chechyn Republic would be that they could appoint their ambassador in Afghanistan. Thereafter, he disclosed, the Taliban would consider extending economic and military support to the Chechyn Republic to meet the threat from the Russians. This means re-enactment of mujahideen role on the borders of Russia.

Tthis decision of the Taliban came on the heels of a significant development in Moscow. Only two days ago, Moscow announced that Russian Federation had formulated a new security doctrine that was an improvement on the one announced in 1996. The Acting President, Vladimir Putin approved the 21-page doctrine. Among other things, it says that Russia would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons if the insurgents and other destabilizing forces out to work towards disintegration of Russia, threatened its integrity and sovereignty.

Some political analysts think that this step has been taken in the background of intensified fighting in Chechnya and the possibility of its escalation. But others think that for some time, Moscow has been uneasy with what it has called the steady encroachment of NATO in Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe.

As a matter of fact, Russian disapproval of NATOís role began with the latterís air attacks on Yugoslavia, once a strong East European ally of the erstwhile Soviet Union. That marked the determination of Russia not to allow the Western powers to sideline her in European and global strategies as a power and make her irrelevant.

In another development, the 41-member European community is sending its delegation to Moscow to discuss Chechnyan situation. The British representative, John Russell, heading the delegation, has made no bones of what the delegation intends to convey to Moscow. He said that the European community might consider expulsion of Russia from its membership if it does not halt what it calls violation of human rights in Chechnya by the Russian troops.

Nobody doubts the double standards employed by the European community and the US in regard to the violation of human rights. The imposition of economic sanctions on Iraq depriving millions of infants from milk and essential medicines are not considered violation of human rights by them. Likewise, the heavy bombardment of Yugoslavia destroying the vital infrastructure in that country and crippling civilian administration with disastrous consequences for the populace are not violation of human rights in their lexicon.

Chechnyan affair is much more complicated than what may appear at the surface. If it were just a separatist movement, perhaps its resolution could be envisioned in terms of negotiations. But Chechnya is the hotbed of Islamic fundamentalist activities aimed at disintegration of Russian Federation by fanning religious frenzy among the local Muslim population. The Wahhabi ideology emanating from Saudi Arabia with strong and effective disseminating centres in Pakistan and Taliban Afghanistan, is entrenched in  Chechnyan Muslim segment.

Apart from ideological subversion, the Chechyn fighting men are provided with an inventory of latest automatic and other lethal weapons forming part of the supplies made earlier by the Americans to the Afghan mujahideen during the war with Soviet Union. Now the Chechyn separatist cadres receive enormous arms, ammunition and funding directly from a number of Islamic organizations world over, and indirectly from some of the theocratic Islamic States with an agenda of boosting Wahhabi ideology in the Caucasus and Central Asian region.

The role of Osama Bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi Islamic warlord responsible for the bomb attacks on two American embassies in Africa in August 1998 resulting in the killing of several hundred innocent people, cannot be overlooked. Osma is reported to be hiding in Afghanistan and is protected by the Taliban. Talks between Taliban and American authorities for the extradition of Osma have not yielded any result, The Taliban proudly say that Afghans donít betray a guest.

But there is something more than that in the story. There are rumours that the 15-year old daughter of Osama Bin Laden is married to Mull Omar, the Taliban chief. Though some Taliban official sources have tried to contradict this rumour, yet it is getting rounds again. As such, extradition of Osama, as demanded by the Americans, may never materialize. This must have been one of the factors that made the Taliban decide to grant recognition to Chechyn Republic.

The Afghan fighting force - Taliban - have, evidently, become the strong muscle for propagation and dissemination of Wahhabi ideology. This means that the Taliban and their cohorts among known extremist organizations would be taking on Russia even if the Chechyn crisis is somehow resolved. This is the agenda of these organizations. Significantly, the Pakistani Jamaat-e-Islami chief has recently pronounced that they would not allow Pakistanís military regime to sign CTBT under the US pressure because the nuclear bomb produced by Pakistan belonged not only to Pakistan but also to the entire Muslim ummah. In other words, it means that in the context of Chechyn crisis, it is not only the separatists, but the entire Islamic ummah that is pitted against the Russians. Pakistan (its extremist religious organizations or the regimes) would undoubtedly give a befitting response to Russia if the latter decides to use nuclear weapons in Chechyn war. Do we have the real nuclear flash point in Kashmir or in the Caucasus?



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World Kashmiri Pandit Conference, 1993
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