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India, Pakistan must cooperate for peace

To ensure its control over the government, the Pakistan army has always exaggerated the threats from India, often referred to as the No. 1 enemy. It has been able to secure billions of dollars from the U.S. ostensibly in the fight against terror.

The Pakistani government has followed the policy of running with the hare and hunting with the hound. Although an ally of the U.S. in its fight against global terrorism, it has collaborated with the terrorists.

According to Matt Walman, intelligence agency ISI representatives attend the meetings of the Taliban Supreme Leadership Council, known as the Quetta Sura, and of the Haqqani Command Council. The ISI thus takes part in planning the attacks. After talking to a number of insurgents, Walman has claimed that whatever the ISI does, has the sanction at the highest level; general Kayani himself is a former ISI man as was Musharraf.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari hardly has any popular political base, and Prime Minister Yusuf Gilani is reputed to be close to the army. Pakistan has funded the training of Taliban, providing them with logistical support for operations in Afghanistan, with the clear intention of reestablishing control over the government in Kabul after the withdrawal of U.S. forces, scheduled to start in July. The U.S. government isn’t unaware of Pakistan’s designs.

The ISI has nurtured LeT and sundry other militant outfits in an effort to destabilize Afghanistan and India. LeT has expanded its base of operations in Afghanistan. It was behind the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in October 2009, and is suspected to have masterminded the car bombing and suicide attacks on two guest houses in Kabul on Feb. 26, 2010. It was also behind the 11/26 outrage in Mumbai. All these attacks were planned by the ISI, and this has been corroborated by developments since the arrest of David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, two LeT operatives of Pakistani origin now undergoing trial in a Chicago court for their involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

The U.S. should take the lead in reining in Pakistan, particularly, the ISI. Other western powers have been vocal in their condemnation of terrorism, but have done precious little to rein in Pakistan. The ISI could well be declared a terrorist organization for aiding and abetting the al-Qaida terrorists, and providing sanctuary to Osama. But that will not be easy most importantly because of China, Pakistan’s all-weather friend. Even the U.S. may be reluctant to totally alienate Pakistan. While President Obama has called for a probe by the U.S. and Pakistani agencies to get to the bottom of Osama’s presence in Abbottabad, he has also referred to Pakistan’s cooperation in the fight against terror. A subtle distinction has also been sought to be made by the U.S. between the leaders of the army, and some elements, apparently lower down the order, who might have been involved in giving sanctuary to Osama.

President Obama’s Afghanistan-Pakistan policy is in a shambles because of Pakistan’s ambiguous role in the fight against terror. While a section of the administration and congressional leaders are in favor of stronger action, by reducing aid to Pakistan, others are advocating caution. In the short run, major changes in U.S. policy towards Pakistan are unlikely as efforts are on towards reconciliation despite Pakistan’s fulminations about the violation of its sovereignty. America needs Pakistan, for operational reasons, in its fight against Islamist terror. Its alliance with Pakistan saves the U.S. from being stigmatized as being anti-Islam.

International terrorism cannot be stopped with the elimination of a bin Laden or some other dreaded terrorist. Their hubs in Pakistan need to be dismantled. And that cannot be done by India alone through surgical strikes on terrorist bases in Pakistan which will, almost certainly, trigger retaliation leading to war between the two neighbors. If that happens, the focus of attention of the international community will shift from combating terrorism to containing the war which will give Pakistan the opportunity to internationalize the Kashmir issue and a number of other problems plaguing India-Pakistan relations. It will also boost the fortunes of the Pakistan army that thrives on propagating the image of a hostile India. Indeed, as the former U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones recently told senators in a congressional hearing on Pakistan, Islamabad has been too resistant to India-friendly overtures, despite the sincere efforts made by Manmohan Singh to reduce tensions between the two states.

What are the alternatives? For India, the options are very limited while keeping its security machinery ready to meet any eventuality. From that perspective, the recent decision to review India’s security policy is a move in the right direction. It should also try to persuade the international community to rein in Pakistan, and for this it should seek the cooperation of the regional powers with a stake in Afghanistan, notably Saudi Arabia, Iran and China. This is in addition to America, Russia and other western powers. Indian prime minister’s visit to Afghanistan in May could not have been more timely. Manmohan Singh made it clear that India is committed to help Afghanistan’s efforts at rebuilding the economy. It has already committed $1.2 billion to different projects in Afghanistan; the value of the commitments has been raised by another $500 million. India is clearly trying to intensify the strategic cooperation between the two states.

It will not be possible to bring about lasting peace in the region without cooperation between India and Pakistan. That will call for a genuine change of heart, especially in Pakistan. As the country’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said recently, Pakistan’s mindset of viewing India as enemy No. 1 has to be changed; it is a task that has to be performed by Pakistanis themselves ― the civil society and the political leaders. And for that, what Pakistan needs is a secular order and pluralist society as was visualized by its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. India may help in that process by convincing Pakistanis that India need not be viewed as a threat and that both have a common stake in combating terrorism. That is a prolonged process, but the dialogue between the two states ― at different levels ― will help develop the process.

By Arun Kumar Banerji

Arun Kumar Banerji is a columnist for the Statesman, a daily based in Kolkata, India. ― Ed.

(The Statesman)

(Asia News Network)
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