India's readiness to continue
talking with Pakistan despite the "sensational" event of Osama bin
Laden's death is open to several interpretations. One is that
since the Al Qaeda leader's presence in Pakistan has put a final
seal on its longstanding reputation as an "epicentre of terror",
India probably feels that its own case has been bolstered so much
that it can afford to be forgiving about its neighbour's criminal
If the centre had followed the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP)
advice not to talk to a country that now answers to the
description of Terroristan, the international community might have
seen the refusal as sheer cussedness, for it would have seemed
like hitting Pakistan when it is really and truly down. As the
government sources have asked, "what next" after "bringing
Pakistan to its knees?"
Since it is not India which has been directly targeted as during
the Mumbai massacres of November 2008 or the attack on the
parliament building in 2001, India's case for suspending talks
would have looked too much like a knee-jerk reaction.
Instead, New Delhi apparently feels that since much of the world
is likely to agree with Salman Rushdie's call for declaring
Pakistan a terrorist state, India has won its argument for the
dismantling of Pakistan's terrorist infrastructure.
So, India now expects the West, and especially America, to put
genuine pressure on Pakistan - by way of cutting off aid, for
instance - to go after the terrorists in real earnest and not
faking it any longer as till now.
Whether Pakistan will do so after so many years of cohabitation
with the fanatics is not known. But its plummeting prestige may
make it more amenable towards addressing India's concerns instead
of dismissing the charges against Hafiz Saeed, for instance, as
"literature", as Pakistan's foreign secretary, Salman Bashir, had
Although Bashir has tried to retain the earlier flippant tone
about the presence of terrorists on Pakistani soil by describing
as "outdated" India's demand for punishing the culprits
responsible for the Mumbai outrage, New Delhi has displayed a sign
of maturity by saying that Bashir could not have been "serious".
How the atmospherics have changed between India and Pakistan can
be seen from this particular exchange. While the utterances of a
rattled and shaken Islamabad are not making much sense, such as
Bashir's curious observation that since "bin Laden is history, we
don't want to keep ourselves mired in the past", New Delhi's
emphasis is on engaging Pakistan with "head, heart and courage".
The same confusion in Pakistan's attitude could be seen in its
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's explanation that the failure
to nab Osama was that of the world community's intelligence
apparatus since Pakistan was supposedly a part of the worldwide
campaign against terrorism.
Against the background of these muddled statements, India's
expectation probably is that the reputation of the Pakistan Army
and its notorious adjunct, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), is
currently so low because of the location of Osama's house within
earshot of an army camp that they will desist from any major
terrorist operation in the near future.
As a result, India can use this brief window of opportunity to
persuade Pakistan's harassed civilian leaders to reassert
themselves. The hope may not be fulfilled. But it is something
worth trying. This is all the more so because of another
interpretation of last Sunday's events which is doing the rounds.
It is that at least a section of the Pakistan Army was aware of
Operation Geronimo, which was why power supply was switched off in
Abbottabad as the American helicopters arrived and that Osama's
house was cordoned off by the Pakistani security forces. According
to a former Indian diplomat, the helicopters took off from a
Pakistani base and not from Afghanistan. Moreover, the Pakistani
forces subsequently seized all the memory chips from the video
cameras of those onlookers in Abbottabad who had climbed to their
roofs to take pictures of the operation.
No one except the Chinese news agency Xinhua, which had put out
these reports, can vouchsafe for their authenticity. But, if true,
it can mean two things. Either a split has appeared in the
Pakistan Army between those who believe that America can no longer
be opposed, especially since it has found out about Osama's
"secret" location, and those who think that the army cannot afford
to sever its links with the terrorists, who are its "strategic
assets" against India.
Or that the army as a whole has decided to forsake its earlier
policy of harbouring terrorists and help the Americans to
establish a permanent military presence in the region, but with
their faces turned towards West Asia. In a situation as uncertain
as this, India cannot but tread cautiously.
is a political analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com)