4 minute read26/11-26/04

Five months past the attacks on Mumbai, the promise of tangible Indo-Pak cooperation has become more urgent but remains just as distant. India has been unable to persuade Pakistan on several counts. It would like its neighbor to take an unequivocal and committed stand and refrain from dragging its feet going after the perpetrators of 26/11.

Pakistan has not convinced India either, in its attempts to portray its sincerity in dealing with the problem on its soil. But now these are things the US too has piped up on. “Even the US has come to this conclusion. The ISI has been taking a lot of bad press with the Obama administration expecting the Pakistan government to act with sincerity against terrorism. This is what we’ve been saying,” one senior Indian army officer told your correspondent.

The Pakistan government argument deemed most disingenuous by India is the claim that any setup in Pakistan directing terror towards India is solely under the control of ‘Non-State Actors’ and that the Pakistan government can do little about them. India finds it difficult to believe an operation like the Mumbai attacks or even the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul had no direction, support or involvement of anyone in the Pakistan government.

An Indian diplomat had this to say to your correspondent. “Even if we were to swallow the idea that nobody in the Pakistan government was complicit in these terror attacks, it is unimaginable for us to think that nobody in the Pakistan government had any knowledge of these attacks at all or the people who planned them.”

But events of the last month are being seen in Delhi as a frantic sign for Pakistan to act against terrorism. The two attacks in Lahore against the Sri Lankan cricket team and the police academy come across as a measure of how much Pakistan needs to push back terror judging from the confidence of terrorists. The confidence is also being seen to have grown as a result of what seems to be an attitude of impunity on the part of terrorist groups after what is seen as a capitulation of the Pakistani government in Swat.

But March also unveiled the new Af-Pak strategy of the US, which has left much to be desired from an Indian perspective. India would have like the US to have recognized the equivalence between terrorist groups in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and groups operating in FATA and NWFP. “Obama needs to understand that the problem for the US in western Pakistan will not disappear if the opposition ups and moves to PoK. Would the US become any more secure if terrorists were to get out of FATA and NWFP and move 200 kilometers east?” asks the officer.

Obama recently spoke of India having a role to play in stabilizing the region to which the Indian Foreign Secretary responded positively. And hypothetically, there are things that India could do in Afghanistan considering its standing in that country. India is generally held in high regard in Afghanistan and keeps in touch with most political groups there.

An increased role could mean Indian involvement in trying to put together the fractured Afghan polity. “In theory, India could probably make a very good mediator or broker between the different factions in Afghanistan. We have good relations with most of them and the Afghan people think well of us. But this could rub Pakistan the wrong way and make them insecure. That could lead to us becoming bigger targets there and increase in terrorist actions against us. This is something the US would have to work to ensure against – they would have to persuade Pakistan of this if India is to play a larger role in Afghanistan,” points out the officer.

But after having suffered 26/11, India has also been quietly preparing to preempt and respond to a possible future terrorist attack. There is also a misconception that India cannot respond to terrorist strikes with punitive action, whether military or otherwise, because any confrontation would lead to nuclear conflict. This is a mindset that needs correction, according to the Indian security establishment. Firstly, any country’s leadership would have to be extremely immature and should expect imminent condemnation and collapse, if it responds to a surgical strike with nuclear weapons. Secondly, the Pakistani military leadership is recognized to be professional and not given to acting impulsively. There is then a need to correct the perceived fear of a nuclear flare-up, which does not prove impunity for terrorist groups as far as India is concerned.

So what do you think?