Integrated development, politics and social empowerment in India and beyond

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Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Far from fighting the so-called War on Terror, Pakistan is an epitome of world terror, having nurtured this scourge over the years, earlier, with American assistance and silent approbation, to fine tune it into an instrument of state policy

Seven Dossiers and Still Waiting

As India relives the horror of 26/11, Pakistan protects those responsible yet reels in a terror inferno of its own making. What is the way forward?

By B G Verghese

Deccan Herald, 30 November, 2009

The country has relived the horror of 26/11 a full year after the event, vainly waiting for Pakistan to respond with more than empty words, counter-accusations and injured innocence. Seven dossiers later, Pakistan is still brazenly waiting for more evidence while prime movers like Hafeez Saeed, the former LeT head and now the chief of the Jamat-ud Dawa, a wolf in lamb’s clothing, walk free. Meanwhile it faces punishment in the Talibanised inferno of it own creation. It is the innocent who bleed while the ideologues, military and hapless civil-political regime they manipulate watch and wait for something to turn up.

Far from fighting the so-called War on Terror, Pakistan is an epitome of world terror, having nurtured this scourge over the years, earlier, with American assistance and silent approbation, to fine tune it into an instrument of state policy under the protection of its own nuclear umbrella, which too it was allowed and assisted to create by China and America for short-term collateral gains unmindful of huge future collateral damage from which India has surely been the worst affected.

Hillary Clinton formally described this as a period of incoherence in America’s AfPak policy. This incoherence clearly remains as General Stanley MacCrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, has high praise for Indian humanitarian assistance to that devastated country and yet asks Delhi to be solicitous of Pakistan’s sensitivities even as Washington periodically arraigns Pakistan for thwarting, if not aiding, the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Pakistan calculation is that sooner or later, the Americans will tire of Afghanistan and once again walk away after proclaiming some kind of victory, leaving the field clear for it to use that unhappy land as a strategic asset and the Taliban as its sub rosa strike force in pursuit of its eastern ambitions.

Obama has now joined with Hu Jintao, the Chinese Premier, to call for “more stable and peaceful relations in South Asia”. This is a gratuitous barb – coming just as A.Q. Khan has again reminded the world through the Pakistan media that Beijing assisted Islamabad with enriched uranium and the blueprint of a tested nuclear weapon in 1982 – notwithstanding the further remark that neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan“ can or should be used as bases for terrorism”.

Even as Ajmal Kasab’s trial continues in Mumbai, new evidence keeps surfacing of other sinister players operating out of Pakistan or with Pakistani connections. Headley, an American and Rana, a Canadian, both of Pakistani origin, increasingly appear to have been involved in the Mumbai terror plot or were possibly planning more mischief elsewhere in India. Evidence points to their having been in touch with the same Pakistani handlers as the 26/11 terrorists. Meanwhile, more arrests have been made in different parts of the country and huge caches of arms found. Much of this evidence might yet be circumstantial but as the dots are joined, the emerging picture suggests that the Pakistani state, or elements thereof, and not just non-state actors remains active and working to a plan to wage a terrorist jihad in India.

It might be argued that a distinction must be drawn between Islamabad and rogue elements within the state and genuine non-state actors, former protégés now out of control and creating mayhem within Pakistan itself. Such subtleties provide cold comfort. Even if their background is ignored, the Pakistan state refuses to take on these ideologues and their covert organizations. The trial in Rawalpindi of Lakhvi, Zarar Shah and five others for their role in 26/11 inspires little confidence as it proceeds fitfully in camera, with long adjournments under different judges, one of whom recused himself as he was under threat.

Pakistan’s defence is now offence. It has charged India with assisting those perpetrating terror in Balochistan and within the Federally Administered Tribal Area through Afghanistan. The Americans and others have publicly pooh-poohed such fantasies and have on the contrary accused Pakistan of colluding with the Taliban in Afghanistan while selectively fighting it in Pakistan and of harbouring the Quetta Shoura and other Taliban and Al Queda leaders within its territory. The Pakistan Prime Minister, Gilani, farcically asserts he has clear evidence of India’s complicity but will only reveal details “at the right time”. Such humbug fools nobody, not even Pakistanis themselves.

The problem is that nobody quite knows who is in charge in Pakistan. Not Zardari who has his back to the wall especially after his National Reconciliation Order indemnity against corruption charges was rescinded. He has started shedding power. Gilani? The military, with the ISI in tow? Sundry ideologues in cahoots with rogue elements within the civil establishments and military? External players like the Saudis, who have guaranteed all manner of deals and provided massive (possibly non-state) funding for the spread of madrassas and the Wahabi-inspired Taliban ideology? The Americans, hoist with their own petard and afraid that if they push too hard Pakistan might collapse under the weight of its many contradictions in which scenario desperate men might use or sell nuclear material to dubious elements even if the actual nuclear arsenal can be protected in these circumstances.

What then should India on the first anniversary of 26/11? Not rant and rage or encourage chauvinist bravado. Nor refuse to engage Pakistan quietly. Merely sitting on its hands is no policy. It must endeavour to strategize to assist incipient civil, democratic forces in Pakistan to rally and build themselves to reclaim the State. This will include educating the Americans and Europeans, especially about the deeper identity crisis in Pakistan which is at the root of its misbegotten militarization and Islamisation, and regionalizing the AfPak solution with international guarantees to create a neutral Afghanistan.

Pakistan has to find its soul, not in enmity but in friendship with India, ending the trauma of Partition and the negativism and hate inherent in its founding philosophy. For its part, India must go forward boldly with a Kashmir settlement, internally and also externally if possible on the lines of the Manmohan-Musharraf package of cohabitation between the two parts of J&K, making boundaries (the LOC) irrelevant, but retaining the existing twin sovereignties. This was first enunciated by Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah in 1964 in an embryonic confederal idea that could evolve over time.

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