As the war on terrorism completes its fifth year, it is becoming clear that while terrorism does pose a challenge to the world, it also offered an opportunity to the major powers to consolidate and expand their clout in and around their region. Under the expansive umbrella of terrorism, Russia and China held hands, strengthened and enlarged the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation with Central Asian Republics, ostensibly to foster economic cooperation and fighting the ogre of terrorism, but essentially to keep the US out. Pakistan, the long patron of state-sponsor terrorism, also saw in this the opportunity to reclaim its lost strategic space in Afghanistan by assisting the Americans drive out Mullah Omar’s Taliban and al Qaeda. Musharraf’s Taliban, are now making a spectacular comeback in the south and south-western Afghanistan. In addition, its mechanisations in Kashmir, which ideally should have qualified as promotion of terrorism got the honourable sobriquet of a just freedom struggle.
As far as the US is concerned, its area of influence is, well, the whole world. Hence the battlefield of terrorism has extended to all the places where the US writ is not law. Afghanistan was followed by Iraq, and though strident noises have been made about Iran’s dubious nuclear programme, for the moment the war will remain in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like a septic wound, the Palestinian issue refuses to die down, so whether the US takes an active interest in it or not, the Palestinians will continue to kill themselves in order to kill the Israelis. This, in short, is the war on terrorism: an opportunity for major powers to effect strategic realignments. However, before the major players get into the new balance of power, they have to be conscious of two important rules of the game: One, the war within their borders is their own and no outsider would either help or support their case impartially. Moreover, winning the internal battles themselves will enhance their prestige in the neighbourhood. Two, to be recognised as a major player one cannot be seen piggybacking on the US.