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Too much trust. No verification

Too much trust. No verification

Author: Tavleen Singh
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: August 2, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/too-much-trust.-no-verification/497017/0

Many puzzling things have been said about our relations with Pakistan since the Sharm el-Sheikh engagement. Our Finance Minister told the Lok Sabha that India's foreign policy "is embedded in our 5,000-year-old civilisation". So mysterious is this remark that it defies analysis. Official Congress Party spokesmen are easier to understand. They have said petulantly on national television that any criticism of the joint statement amounts to violating the "62-year-old consensus on foreign policy". Why should there be a consensus? And, why should something that was valid 62 years ago still be relevant? But, for me, the most puzzling remark of all came from the Prime Minister when he told the Lok Sabha that the choice was between dialogue and war. "Let me say that in the affairs of two neighbours we should recall what President Reagan once said-trust but verify. There is no other way unless we go to war."

What puzzles me is why he has not noticed that we are already at war. The attack on Mumbai was an act of war. The men who were guiding the operation from Pakistan make this absolutely clear. In the cell phone conversations between them and the ten jihadi killers in Mumbai they say two things that our intelligence agencies must have told the Prime Minister about. They order their men to "kill as many people as you can so that an atmosphere of fear lingers long afterwards". And, they say "this is only a trailer, the film has yet to begin". Did the Prime Minister ask Yousuf Raza Gilani what this means? Did he ask him if the controllers who guided the attack on Mumbai included a 'General Sahib'? Ajmal Kasab has spoken of meeting such a person. Did he ask him if it were not true that the reason why Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed could not be arrested was because as the founder of the Lashkar-e-Toiba he would have been acting on the instructions of the Pakistani army when he put together his appalling army? On the day that the Prime Minister defended engagement with Pakistan, did he notice that the Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations described Sayeed as 'an humanitarian'.

'Trust but verify.' That is what he plans to do as Ronald Reagan did when he brought the Cold War to an end. But has he noticed that before President Reagan got to this stage of his engagement with the former Soviet Union, before he ordered President Gorbachev to 'tear down this wall', he described the Soviet Union as an 'evil empire'. What I am saying is that there cannot be peace until we face the reality that we are already fighting an ugly war against an evil Islamist army whose links with the Pakistani government remain unacknowledged by Pakistan's democratically elected leaders. We need them to acknowledge that the attack on Mumbai was an act of war before we can even begin to have a meaningful dialogue.

The Prime Minister told the Lok Sabha that the reason why his whole stand on the Mumbai attack changed was because he was given a dossier by the Pakistan government that listed action taken against the men responsible for the Mumbai attack. Then, why is the founder of the Lashkar-e-Toiba a free man? Why is he being described as a humanitarian by Pakistani officials?

Dr Manmohan Singh is a decent man and like all decent men he puts more faith in trust than verification. If he concentrated a little more on the latter he might be able to understand why the Pakistanis are already using the Balochistan reference against us. Richard Holbrooke admitted last week that Balochistan had come up in his recent talks in Islamabad but no credible proof of Indian involvement had been offered. There isn't any but Pakistan would like the world to believe that India is as guilty of sponsoring terrorism as Pakistan. Why? Is this peaceable behaviour?

The mistake our trusting Prime Minister makes time and time again is that he continues to believe what happened in Mumbai was just another terrorist act. It was not. Mumbai was invaded by ten highly trained killers who were guided through their murderous mission by men who behaved like Generals in a battlefield. Every move the killers made was made after consulting their controllers in Pakistan. If we continue to delude ourselves into believing that this was just the work of jihadi terrorists then the rules of our engagement with Pakistan are based on a false premise. You cannot have dialogue in the middle of a war and we are right now in the middle of a war against evil men who have no time for peace with us infidels. We need much more verification before we can begin to trust.


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