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India acts maturely vis-à-vis rattled Pakistan

Saturday May 07, 2011 09:28:02 AM, Amulya Ganguli, IANS

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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 transgressions.

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 once done.

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has tried to retain the earlier flippant tone about the presence of terrorists on Pakistani soil by describing as "outdated" India's demand for punishing the culprits responsible for the Mumbai outrage, New Delhi has displayed a sign of maturity by saying that Bashir could not have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.
 


(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at aganguli@mail.com)

 

 

 

 

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