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We can't forget or forgive Pakistan

We can't forget or forgive Pakistan

Author: G Parthasarathy
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: January 8, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/148554/We-can't-forget-or-forgive-Pakistan.html

The coming visit of Home Minister P Chidambaram to Washington, with evidence of Pakistani involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, marks the end of the first phase of India's efforts to seek international understanding and support to compel Pakistan to irrevocably dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism that it has built to 'bleed' India. New Delhi's position initially seemed to endorse President Asif Ali Zardari's assertion that the terrorist attack was undertaken by "non-state actors". There appeared to be a disinclination in New Delhi to make it clear that given the sophisticated nature of the operation, it could not have been undertaken without training, arms, ammunition, navigational equipment and logistical facilities being provided by the Pakistani Army and Navy. Such collaboration between the Pakistani Army and Navy would have required clearance at the highest levels of the armed forces.

Shortly after the terrorist attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul and virtually on the day that Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani arrived on an official visit in Washington, DC, the CIA leaked the details of the ISI's involvement in the bombing to the New York Times, indicating that such an attack could have been mounted only with the clearance of not only the ISI's Director-General, but also evidently of the Army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. It is, therefore, not clear why New Delhi chose to be so circumspect in drawing attention to the Pakistani Army's involvement in the Mumbai carnage.

Seeing New Delhi's ambivalence on the involvement of the Pakistani armed forces, the Americans and others have tacitly sought to absolve them of any involvement. If such involvement is established in the killing of American nationals, the US would have been forced to act against the ISI, causing huge embarrassment to its relationship with a 'major non-NATO ally', whose assistance it requires in the 'war on terror'.

The US had substantial information of the ISI's involvement in the Mumbai bomb blasts in 1993, but the Clinton Administration chose not to act on it. Similarly, there was no dearth of evidence of the involvement of the Pakistani armed forces in providing nuclear know-how to Iran, Libya and North Korea. But the Bush Administration connived in a cover-up by accepting the Musharraf Government's assertion that the entire proliferation was undertaken by AQ Khan, heading a so-called 'AQ Khan network'.

The Pakistani Army appears determined to persist with its policy of 'strategic denial and defiance' in dealing with its culpability in the Mumbai carnage. But, it does appear to have a 'fallback position'. In case international pressure becomes stronger, the Army appears prepared to allow the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba communications chief Zarar Shah to take the rap. It would, however, not allow LeT chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed to face trial despite the fact that by his many utterances of his involvement in terrorist attacks in India, including the January 2001 attack on the Red Fort, he is a self-confessed terrorist. Zarar Shah is known to play an important role in coordination and liaison between the ISI and the LeT. A quiet 'deal' would be struck with Zarar Shah, involving a 'confession' of his sins, a la AQ Khan, in return for a farcical and prolonged 'trial' and eventual acquittal, once memory of the Mumbai carnage fades.

New Delhi should not overlook these realities. While there are said to be transcripts of conversations between serving and former ISI officers on the Mumbai carnage, India will now have to insist that as with the attack on our Embassy in Kabul, the Mumbai outrage could not have been undertaken without the approval of Gen Kayani. The US must be told that there should be no cover-up, as in the past, on the culpability of the Pakistani Army and the ISI.

Pakistan will insist on legal proceedings, if any, being in Pakistani courts. India, however, cannot ignore how Omar Syed Sheikh, released during the Kandahar hijacking, was convicted of killing American journalist Daniel Pearl by an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan and sentenced to death, but still remains a free man in an evident conspiracy of silence between the US and Pakistan. New Delhi should insist that if Islamabad refuses to hand over those guilty, including military officials, past and present, to India, these individuals should be extradited to the US and tried according to American judicial processes, much in the way as Pakistani terrorist Aimal Kansai was extradited, tried and executed in the US.

At the same time, there is a wide range of actions -- diplomatic, overt and covert -- that India will have to take, if it wants to be taken seriously and not regarded as a supplicant. First, our High Commissioner to Pakistan should be recalled and the staff in High Commissions reduced to a minimal level. The argument that the High Commissioner has useful contacts has little merit, as contacts can be maintained, when needed, through other channels.

Second, we should quickly work out measures to ensure that the waters of the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej rivers, which are meant for use exclusively by India, are used in India and do not flow into Pakistan. Cultural and sports contacts need to be restricted to only events to which we are internationally committed. Strategically, the Americans and others should be made aware that we may be compelled to take measures that would result in Pakistan moving its forces away from its borders with Afghanistan unless our concerns are seriously addressed. Finally, we have to send a clear message that we are not insensitive to Afghan and Pashtun aspirations on the Durand Line, which in any case exists now, only notionally.

By stating that any future terrorist attack would have unimaginable consequences, New Delhi already appears to be suggesting that we are prepared to 'forget and forgive' in the aftermath of the Mumbai carnage. The message, instead, should be that we will neither forget nor forgive.

There also appear to be some illusions about China's role. We should never forget that if China had not blocked moves in the UN Security Council in 2006 and 2007 to declare the Jamaat-ud-Dawah as an international terrorist organisation, which would have subjected it to international sanctions, the Mumbai carnage may not have occurred. Thus, China is an accessory to the Mumbai carnage.

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