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One for all...

One for all...

Author: N.V.Subramanian
Publication: NewsInsight.net
Date: November 2, 2009
URL: http://www.newsinsight.net/archivedebates/nat2.asp?recno=1906

General principles must be laid down and followed to deal with Pakistan, says N.V.Subramanian.

Speaking to party workers, P.Chidambaram, the Union home minister, has delivered an unusually strong warning to Pakistan, threatening massive retaliation in case of a second 26/ 11. Chidambaram is a judicious man, a politician of long standing and a Supreme Court lawyer to boot. He won't issue such threats unless he has reason to believe that another 26/ 11-type attack is imminent, or he has intelligence of preparations for it. It is dangerous to speculate more about this, and to leave matters in Chidambaram's hands, who has proved himself more than competent as home minister.

But there are two or three general principles that must be laid out, and to exhort all governments at the Centre, of whatever colour and ideology, to follow them. In respect of external relations, but particularly with Pakistan, the government in power must speak for itself and for past governments as well, looking at governing India as a continuum, so that the other side cannot play the opposition against the ruling party, etc. For example, during his recent Kashmir tour with Sonia Gandhi, prime minister Manmohan Singh repeatedly stressed that his government was keen on friendly relations with Pakistan and so on since 2004. What about before 2004? As prime minister, Manmohan Singh cannot disown nor distance himself from policy decisions made before his term. The second issue is the roster of demands made on Pakistan. India's minimum condition to resume the dialogue with Pakistan, or rather, the present government's minimum condition, is that the 26/ 11 terrorist masterminds must be brought to justice. The government is speaking in different voices on that issue, but we will return to it after taking up another substantive point.

This is that the trial and punishment of the 26/ 11 masterminds is not the only pending terrorism-related issue with Pakistan. There is, for instance, the return of the Dawood and Memon brothers to stand trial for the 1993 Bombay serial blasts. Why is there no mention of it? Because there is no mention of it, Dawood Ibrahim has the gall to make enquiries to return to India provided he is assured no capital punishment and an easy sentence. Is the 1993 Bombay blasts less horrific now that when it happened or less terrible than 26/ 11? Are its hundreds of victims in some way inferior to the 26/ 11 victims (even granted that some of them were many orders richer)? A country should have a long memory of the crimes done against it, and avenge it at the right moment. It does not help to be Gandhian in these things. The third issue pertains to the 26/ 11 carnage itself. Some weeks ago, it was being argued that it was important to get the 26/ 11 trial started in Pakistan, and of secondary significance if Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed, the LeT terrorist leader who authorized it all, was brought to justice. Whoever suggested this, official or politician, should be drummed out of the government. The government should categorically say that nothing less than Hafiz Sayeed's head would make the 26/ 11 trial and punishment credible, and India has to resist US pressure to dilute issues.

That returns us to Chidambaram's dire warning to Pakistan. When 26/ 11 happened and Pranab Mukherjee was foreign minister, he made tough statements against Pakistan, which shocked and angered the other side, but produced no progress in getting the 26/ 11 perpetrators punished. Then out of the blue, under US pressure, Manmohan Singh did an about turn in Sharm-el-Sheikh, to which his own Congress party took objection (quite apart from provoking a countrywide storm), and he had to eat his words. Now Chidambaram promises a "sledgehammer" retaliation for another 26/ 11. Let us hope this is not mere rhetoric. The crying need is for consistency in dealing with Pakistan. On 26/ 11, there has to be an uncompromising maximum demand, that Hafiz Sayeed is punished. The Union home ministry has a list of wanted terrorists, including Dawood & Co, holed up in Pakistan. This must be added to the Hafiz Sayeed-punishment demand. On another level, it is good that India is berating China for making infrastructure constructions in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India should make clear that any dialogue with Pakistan, if and when held, will include the return of PoK illegally occupied during the 1947-48 raiders' attack. And finally, the government of the day should ensure that it speaks on behalf of all the past governments, not just itself.

- N.V.Subramanian is Editor, www.NewsInsight.net, and writes internationally on strategic affairs. He has authored two novels, University of Love (Writers Workshop, Calcutta)

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