Cohen's Congressional Calumny

Stephen Cohen’s recent testimony to Congress on “South Asian security and the United States ” finds Cohen in familiar territory.  Cohen has been the master of careful juxtaposition and prevarication (Coelho, 2003).  This testimony does not disappoint us in this regard.

Cohen’s testimony begins with the term “ South Asia ”.  The term “ South Asia ” is an interesting one.  On the surface, it is a seemingly innocuous term referring to India and other countries in the South Asian peninsula.  However, when Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Sri Lanka or Afghanistan are discussed, rarely does anyone feel compelled to use the generic instead of the specific – and one is keenly aware of the irrelevance of conflating the challenges and successes in those nations with the largest of the nations in South Asia.  This is mainly because there is much that distinguishes each of those nations to make the generic meaningless. 

If the generic is irrelevant in the context of those nations, then how much more is the generic irrelevant when comparing a secular democracy with a theocratic dictatorship?  In one case, Pakistan , we have a military dictatorship ruling a state on the verge of failure, known for harboring terrorists, and proliferating nuclear technology to Iran , Libya and North Korea ; and on the other hand we have one of the great success stories of the 20th and 21st centuries – an economic powerhouse built on democratic ideals. 

Given this, it is obvious that anyone who seeks to use the “ South Asia ” term to discuss India and Pakistan generally seeks to tar India with Pakistan ’s woes; and to obliquely suggest that India ’s successes apply equally to Pakistan .  In other words, we should be immediately wary of the spin that is about to be ladled out.

Cohen, as usual, does not disappoint us.  The conflation of India with Pakistan ’s well documented dalliance with terrorists and nuclear proliferation starts immediately.  On Page 4, Cohen notes that “ South Asia will again serve as a base of terror against the US ,” including “chemical terrorism” and “bioterrorism.”  This is a particularly interesting assertion since India has never served as a base of terror against the US .  The only part of “ South Asia ” that has served as a base of terror against the US is Pakistani (Komerath, 2002).  Interestingly, the only fear of bioterrorism and chemical terrorism emanating from “ South Asia ” were linked to the Taliban, who were known to be controlled by Pakistan .  Why does Cohen feel it is honest to conflate India with Pakistan in this context?  Would it not have been more accurate had he been specific rather than generic in his assertion? 

Cohen goes on to note that there is a “high probability” of “danger … that Pakistan *and* India will share nuclear technology with other countries.”  This is an interesting conclusion given that India has never shared nuclear weapons technology with other nations.  India has also recently greatly strengthened its already exemplary export control laws.  Pakistan , on the other hand, is the home of the Islamic bomb.  And, as if to underline that idea, has been documented to have proliferated nuclear weapons and missile design to Libya and Iran .  As if this was not enough, Pakistani weapons technology has been documented to be exported to North Korea on American made C-130s (Raman 2003).

On Page 9, Cohen suggests “the possibility of India or Pakistan sharing their nuclear weapons with other states.”  Cohen then goes on to admit that this “was Pakistan ’s policy for several years” while obliquely recognizing that this has never been India ’s policy by noting that “ India might find it useful to extend its umbrella over another state.”  It is unclear how Cohen jumps to this conclusion.  The Indian polity and leadership have never suggested that an Indian nuclear weapon is to be used for anything other than deterring attacks on India .

Interestingly, Cohen by conflating the “good” in India ’s democratic polity with all of the regional countries finds that “all regional governments” exhibit “generally sound judgment and moderate tendencies”.  This is a convenient conclusion that seeks to obscure the nuclear proliferation, as well as Islamic terrorism sponsored by the Pakistani state. 

Occasionally, Cohen relies on the outright lie when he claims that “Indian strategic elites imagined an American-China-Pakistan axis aimed at cutting India down”.  The recent FOIA disclosures (Gill 2004; Chowdhury 2005) remind us of Kissinger’s actual words and deeds encouraging Chinese action against India in 1971, and the threat of force embodied in the USS Enterprise in the Bay of Bengal in 1971 at the moment that India was engaging in the liberation of Bangladesh from the genocide and rape of their Western Pakistani co-religionists.

By refusing to acknowledge the Pakistani states sponsorship of terrorism, or use of nuclear proliferation as an instrument of state policy, Cohen is deliberately misrepresenting the threat to the United States . Cohen is so absorbed in his attempt to acquit the Pakistanis that he completely ignores the possible threat of a jihadi delivered atomic munition, (or JDAM), by one of the myriad Pakistani based terror groups against the United States, its friends and it's allies.

The only thing worse than the pedantic analysis, is its calculated prevarication that seeks to pervert the truth from the American people and its elected representatives.


Chowdhury, D. R. “Indians Are Bastards Anyway” Asia Times June 23, 2005 .

Coelho, J L Khayyam, “Stephen P Cohen: South Asia Analyst - A Review” Volume 6(1) Jul-Aug 2003.

Cohen, Stephen, “South Asian security and the United States ” Congressional Testimony

Gill, John H. “Dissuasion and Confrontation: US Policy in India-Pakistan Crises” Strategic Insights Volume 3 (10) October 2004.

Komerath, N, “Pakistani role in terrorism against the US ” Volume 5 (2) Sep – Oct 2002.

Raman, B. “The Pakistani-North Korean WMD Axis” South Asia Analysis Group July 4, 2003 .