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No white flag

No white flag

Author: N.V.Subramanian
Publication: Newsinsight.net
Date: August 7, 2009
URL: http://www.newsinsight.net/archivedebates/nat2.asp?recno=1871

The Indian government should settle for no less than capital punishment for the LeT terrorist leader, Hafeez Mohammed Sayeed, says N.V.Subramanian.

The Manmohan Singh government is shooting itself in the foot by articulating, through a section of the press, that it is following a policy of "flexible containment" of Pakistani terrorism. (And you thought Sharm-el-Sheikh was the last of the disaster.) What this means on the ground is that India is okay if the Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist leader, Hafeez Mohammed Sayeed, is not prosecuted for terrorist acts like 26/ 11 if instead some of his subordinates like Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah are "put out of action" or even lesser fries. That's called lowering the bar, and it always results in zero action. The argument for lowering the bar vis-a-vis prosecuting and convicting Pakistani terrorists is that even if a Lashkar-e-Toiba foot soldier is punished for a terrorist crime committed in India, it would debunk the idea of the LeT's presumed immunity to punishment in Pakistan and its presumed patronage by the Pakistani military and ISI and thus hurt its future terroristic capabilities. That's being ultra naive and stupid. That's about as effective a solution to Pakistani terrorism as the trickle-down theory to eliminate poverty. First and foremost, terrorism must not be contained but eliminated. "Flexible containment", perhaps the coinage of an underworked IFS officer, is an even worse counter-terrorism measure, if it is any counter at all. Containment invests the entity it seeks to contain with a sliver of legitimacy. It does so indirectly. It accepts that an ideology or whatever the object to be contained enjoys a certain legitimacy and that it cannot be eliminated overnight and so ought to be contained over a period of time. That was okay with Marxism USSR when George Keenan formulated his famous containment theory in a Foreign Affairs piece bylined X. But is the Indian government suggesting that Pakistani terrorism, like Soviet communism, has (or had, at least in a pre-Stalin era) some legitimacy? There are UN Security Council resolutions against terrorism that strip it of all legitimacy. One resolution describes terrorism as "criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act...." This is by no means a comprehensive definition of terrorism but it comes close, and UNSC resolutions apply to Pakistan as to India. You could argue for containing terrorism if you accept the terrorist-freedom fighter distinction. Is the Indian government accepting this distinction? The former foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, has said more than once, in respect of Pakistani action against its sponsored terrorist groups, that the proof of the pudding lies in the eating. LeT foot soldiers do not make the "pudding", not even Lakhvi and Shah. It is Hafeez Mohammed Sayeed. Unless he is tried and given capital punishment for terrorist acts in India, which will never happen, there is no proof of the consumed so-called pudding. Take this writer's word (for whatever it is worth), no LeT terrorist, big or small, is going to be punished in Pakistan. There are going to be no capital sentences passed on them. If show trials have to be put up (with no lost lives in the end), why, Hafeez Sayeed will produce some jihadi justification for it. If young men can be brainwashed to die, not in tens but in the thousands, what will the LeT leadership's ingenuity not device? Since terrorism is war by other means (a low-intensity war, proxy war, as India has often described it), terrorists should be tried (at the very least) on similar principles as war criminals are, and you pursue the top leadership in war crime trials, not satisfy with tenderfoots: prime minister Tojo of imperial Japan, Goering (Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels had already taken their lives), Slobodan Milosevic (died in custody), Radovan Karadzic, and so forth. The United States, for all its muddle-headedness in Af-Pak, has not given up the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri or the Afghan Taliban chief, Mullah Omar. India should demand nothing less than the head (sorry for that; sounds jihadi) of Hafeez Sayeed, Masood Azhar, Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon. If the dialogue process stalls for that reason, let it. There is nothing to talk to Pakistan about as Jammu and Kashmir is non-negotiable. There is no reason at all for the foreign office to show white flags to the Pakistanis.

- N.V.Subramanian is Editor, www.NewsInsight.net


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