Business Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Sep 22, 2006
Industry & Economy - Terrorism
Is India compromising dangerously on terror?
Speaking to a cheering audience, primarily of his supporters from Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir on September 12 in Brussels, an impassioned Pakistani President, Gen Pervez Musharraf thundered: "Kashmir runs in the blood of every Pakistani." This was in tune with what he had said earlier this year: "Kashmir runs in Pakistan's veins and in my veins." He had also proclaimed on February 5: "Our agenda is same as before the right to self-determination and plebiscite for the Kashmiri people."
In Brussels, in response to questions on whether he had given up on his hackneyed clichés on self-determination because of his new proposals for self-governance and demilitarisation, Gen Musharraf vowed: "Freedom and self-determination of a people cannot be put aside." He made it clear that there was no change in his approach to Kashmir and that his statements on self-governance and demilitarisation were merely "ideas" he had put forward. For good measure he referred to India twice as the "enemy", in Brussels.
What the General said in Brussels on terrorism revealed the true state of his thinking. Responding to a question on whether he would favour a "ceasefire" by militant groups in Kashmir, Gen Musharraf retorted: "I don't hold a whistle to control them. There are a lot of freelance terrorists operating (in Kashmir). One can try and influence them. A total ceasefire is impossible. I am against such attempts without moving forward (on Kashmir) and then everything will fall in line. They will fall in place once the Kashmir issue is resolved."
Thus, while on the one hand Gen Musharraf was now claiming that terrorism against India, sponsored on Pakistani-controlled soil, was a "freelance" affair, he was also not too subtly indulging in blackmail by insisting that terrorism would end only when the Kashmir issue was resolved to his satisfaction. More important, he was effectively repudiating the solemn assurance he had given the then Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on January 6, 2004 that he would not allow territory under Pakistan's control to be used for terrorism.
Sadly, one cannot help getting the impression that there are some in India, who are too eager to let Gen Musharraf off the hook, by agreeing that he has no control over the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan and PoK. This is going to have serious and dangerous consequences for India's efforts to focus international attention on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
Over the past two years, the Manmohan Singh Government has appeared both inactive and hesitant in exposing the involvement of such Pakistan-based groups as the Lashkar-e-Taiba in terrorism, not just in India but also in Afghanistan and the West, such as in the US, the UK and Australia. But the decision in Havana to set up an "anti-terrorism institutional mechanism" to "identify and implement counter-terrorism initiatives and investigations" defies all logic and comprehension.
If Pakistan is to join us in investigating terrorist acts on Indian soil it will demand a role in the investigation of such acts. Are we proposing to let Pakistan have access to our information and investigative techniques and capabilities?
Agreeing to such a "mechanism" would be akin to setting up a Joint Investigative Team of Dawood Ibrahim and the CBI to investigate the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, or setting up yet another "task force" of Maulana Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the CBI to investigate the IC-814 hijacking, or the December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament. Have we forgotten that despite substantial evidence provided by us, Dawood Ibrahim continues to enjoy Islamabad's protection, and that terrorists from the Babbar Khalsa, linked to the assassination of Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, still roam the Dera Sahib Gurudwara in Lahore. The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, seems to have fallen into the trap of buying the assertion by Gen Musharraf and his apologists that Pakistan, like India, is a victim of terrorism. In this he is not alone. The US President, Mr George Bush, and the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, for their own reasons, routinely refer to the terrorist threat that Gen Musharraf himself faces. But one should never lose sight of the fact that the terrorist threat to him is limited to fringe elements of groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which turned against Gen Musharraf for his earlier support to the Americans against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. This threat has receded after Gen Musharraf's deal with pro-Taliban elements in Waziristan and the free hand the Taliban now has to attack NATO and the Karzai Government's forces in Afghanistan. Thus, the so-called terrorist threat that the General faces is from extremist Islamist and sectarian groups that receive ISI support.
The threat India faces, however, is from groups backed by the ISI, with the full knowledge and approval of Gen Musharraf. This distinction is now blurred, by the ill-advised proposal for a "Joint Mechanism" on issues of terrorism.
As a result, following any future terrorist attack on Indian soil, we will be advised by the international community and Pakistan to sort out matters through this so-called joint mechanism. We have thus undermined our position of independently exposing the Pakistani involvement in terrorism.
Where is policy made?
In Brussels, Gen Musharraf described the Kargil conflict as a "skirmish", showed his clenched fist and proclaimed that he knew the topography of Kargil like the palm of his hand. He also said that when India deployed troops on his borders after the attack on its Parliament, he took counter measures and forced India to withdraw. He made it clear that he would not stop cross-border terrorism.
Despite this, Dr Manmohan Singh has directed his Foreign Secretary to find an early solution to the Siachen issue. Given Gen Musharraf's propensity for double-speak, what is to prevent him from taking over the heights in the Saltoro Range after we withdraw and thereafter claiming, as he did during the Kargil conflict, that all this was the doing of the "Mujahideen" or "freelance terrorists," over whom he had no control?
Further, what is India to get in return for such a withdrawal? Will we not lose an important tool for bargaining in any future Kashmir negotiations by such withdrawal? An important question now being frequently asked is whether India's security policies today are being made in New Delhi or Washington, which has been pressing for a Siachen "settlement".
It is significant that the entire proposal for a "Joint Mechanism'" on terrorism with CIA involvement was first promoted by the Clinton Administration. And it has been an ardent American wish to be associated with an "environmental park" in Siachen for the past decade.
Within six months of the unprepared visit of Gen Musharraf to Agra, India and Pakistan nearly went to war following the attack on Parliament. One hopes this will be borne in mind as plans are made for the Prime Minister to visit Islamabad and, no doubt, Chakwal also.
(The author is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan.)
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