Remembering 20 Years Since 9/11

ArticleRemembering 20 Years Since 9/11


Remembering 20 Years Since 9/11

Article – By Shashank Suresh

The September 11 attacks dealt catastrophic damage to the United States’ national character, jeopardizing public safety and casting doubt on the idea of American exceptionalism. Following the attacks on September 11, policymakers went into action, introducing the Authorisation of Deployment of Military Force (AUMF), a broad piece of law that authorized US military forces against those responsible.

Even two decades after the heinous terrorist assault on September 11, 2001, the image of the burning towers remains etched in the public consciousness. The events of 9/11 represented the conclusion of existing geostrategic currents and the beginning of new ones.

Since 1989, India has been besieged in Kashmir by a Pakistan-backed terrorist insurgency. The Islamic terror wave, on the other hand, was not given the international attention it deserved. While India battled terrorism, leaders of the Western power bloc, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, who were closely aligned with Pakistan, the ultimate perpetrator of cross-border violence, cleverly downplayed the issue.

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Domestic and Foreign Policy

George Bush was an outspoken opponent of nation-building during his first presidential campaign. After 9/11, however, the US perspective on the post-Cold War system shifted dramatically. It was unthinkable for a country like the United States to be attacked and not retaliate, according to Thomas Hegghammer, a Senior Research Fellow at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment.

The pace and scope of US counterterrorism operations in the early years after Bush began the War on Terror were astounding. Aside from the war’s signature invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the US also spearheaded counterterrorism operations in 85 nations, training and equipping other governments to combat regional terror threats.

After 9/11, the United States’ international strategy was a mixed bag. On the one hand, Bush had little choice but to retaliate in the aftermath of the greatest assault on US territory, yet the proportionality of the response was exaggerated. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Hegghammer, were primarily punitive and overdrawn, with a high cost in civilian life. 

Elliot Ackerman, an author, and former US marine, further distinguishes the need to respond to 9/11 from the need to conduct large-scale invasions in an essay for Foreign Affairs Magazine, stating about Afghanistan and Iraq that “the long, costly counterinsurgency campaigns that followed in each country were wars of choice.”

Following the 9/11 attacks, Bush undertook dramatic policy and governance reforms both at home and abroad. The US Congress also authorized the Patriot Act, reorganized 22 Federal Agencies, formed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and expanded the scope of the National Security Agency (NSA), in addition to approving the AUMF, which gives the President unrivaled powers to conduct and declare wars.

Because of the increased threat of asymmetrical warfare, some of these adjustments were once again essential. However, fearful of being accused of jeopardizing national security, legislators enabled the federal government to function without appropriate control. As a result, the US government has been allowed to abuse its surveillance, custody, and interrogation capabilities.

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Impact on India

Simultaneously, India-US ties have changed dramatically in the two decades after 9/11. While the foundation was built in the aftermath of the Pokhran nuclear tests, with President Bill Clinton’s visit to India in 2000 serving as a watershed moment, 9/11 served as a significant catalyst in bringing India and the United States closer together.

Shortly after 9/11, India was hit by two heinous terror attacks: the attack on Parliament on December 13 and the Kaluchak massacre on May 14, 2002, in which three Pakistani terrorists slaughtered 31 people, including ten children and eight women from the families of Indian soldiers. Despite such severe provocation, India never truly imposed consequences on Pakistan.

Even after the horrific Mumbai terror attacks on 26/11 in 2008, India chose to exercise “strategic restraint.” This euphemism has been sent to the trash bin in recent years since two domestic reasons have altered. First, a solid national leadership with a strong democratic mandate to rule and attendant political stability has emerged. Second, India’s economy has grown rapidly and gained clout.

In these situations, India acted with conviction and confidence to assert itself and defend its interests, adopting military steps that shifted the geopolitical equation. The Indian economic shift, attributed to Prime Ministers P V Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, underpins India’s growing global prominence and the trajectory of India-US ties following 9/11.

It’s important to remember that India’s economic growth is a recent phenomenon. Pakistan’s GDP per capita was $737 in 1990, greater than India and China. In 1960, India was ahead of China and Pakistan, but three decades of anti-market, inward-looking economic policy stifled India’s potential. In 2001, 36 years after Pakistan grabbed the lead over India in 1965, India’s per capita GDP surpassed Pakistan’s. Economic progress is enticing nations to invest in and trade with India today, giving democratic India more arrows in her diplomatic quiver.

Since 9/11, the globe has shifted away from unipolarity, with China emerging as a new pole challenging the US-led global system. The pandemic-induced economic and health crises have only intensified these tendencies, with numerous nations understanding that relying on China for supply is unsustainable. India, too, has embarked on a series of reforms and policy adjustments to increase its manufacturing production share. China’s economic strength gives it financial and military might that few countries can match or oppose, and countries like Pakistan are lining up to become Chinese client states.

Geopolitics and the global economy have shifted dramatically in the years after 9/11. India might take center stage in international events in the future decades if we learn from our mistakes and accelerate economic liberalization. Liberalization is not just vital for reducing poverty and attaining prosperity; it is also, perhaps, the most important policy for national security.

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