Nayan Chanda, the director of publications for the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, said he quickly realized the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks would have a substantial impact on U.S. relations with South Asian countries, particularly Pakistan and India.
“I could immediately see that the effort to fight terrorism and the effort to hit back at [terrorists] would involve Pakistan in that Pakistan is the creator of the Taliban,” said Chanda. “Either Pakistan would join in alliance with the U.S. to get rid of Osama bin Laden, or Pakistan would oppose it and the U.S. would rely on India. Either way, both [Pakistan and India] would be involved, and the fact that both have nuclear weapons made it very dangerous.”
Under the auspices of the globalization center and the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, Chanda brought together five experts Wednesday to discuss the effects of Sept. 11 and the war in Afghanistan on South Asia. About 60 people attended the symposium, which followed an earlier luncheon for the panelists and a group of other specialists.
The symposium was called, “War on Terrorism: Watching for the Fall-out in South Asia.” Chanda said he chose the word “fall-out” deliberately because it describes the proliferation of radiation in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion.
“The war against terrorism risked leading to war between India and Pakistan with possible nuclear confrontation,” he added.
The panelists said it is unlikely that the Pakistani nuclear arsenal will fall into the hands of external forces. But security expert George Perkovich of the W. Alton Jones Foundation said an internal coup in Pakistan could have dangerous implications.
“What are we going to do to prevent these weapons from passing into the hands of terrorists?” Perkovich said.
Amit Sabharwal ’03 said he found the panel’s discussion of nuclear weapons and the dangers they pose in South Asia compelling.
“Prevention in the event of a Pakistani coup is key,” Sabharwal said.
Zia Mian, a physicist and research associate at Princeton, said beyond immediate concerns he also is concerned with the long-term ramifications for the region.
“The ‘fall-out’ for South Asia may not be the equivalent of a nuclear bomb in the blast that destroys a city, but the radiation that lingers for years and years and years,” Mian said. “When the U.S. goes home, political Islam will be strengthened [against the existing governments], because they will say, ‘Not only were you unable to govern, but you also sold out.'”
Against the background of the military action in Afghanistan, Sadanand Dhume of the Far Eastern Economic Review said alliances have shifted in the last six weeks.
“Before Sept. 11, it looked that India and the U.S. were moving rapidly closer together,” Dhume said. “All that changed on Sept. 11. Now you see Pakistan being referred to as an ally — in the war against terrorism.”