It is not surprising that United States President Barack Obama’s visit to India is preceded by dramatic developments relating to Pakistan. US secretary of state John Kerry visited Islamabad soon after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and attempted a balancing act. He reminded Islamabad of the dangers terrorist groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba pose to the world and, perhaps in deference to Pakistan’s wishes, nudged both countries to take on the hard work of overcoming historical mistrust.
New Delhi appreciates Washington’s messaging on terror but its mandarins tend to believe that this is geared to advance US interests in Afghanistan rather than fully address India’s concerns. The LeT is, however, forging a rare meeting of minds in the US and India lately. A Pakistani prosecutor told the high court in Islamabad on Monday that two countries, believed to be the US and Britain, “had demanded” that the Mumbai attacks mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi be handed over to India.
Pakistan’s interior ministry sources separately conveyed to the media that the US and Britain also suggested the option of handing over Lakhvi to them to ensure an independent trial. It’s not clear if the prosecution intended to make such a disclosure but it does point to certain trends. Nawaz Sharif’s government is responding to pressure and trying to ensure that Lakhvi stays behind bars. Washington and London have come to see the LeT as a global terror threat that has the West in its sights and are rightly pushing for the Lakhvi case as a test-case of Islamabad’s resolve to counter Hafiz Saeed and his cohorts. India’s argument — that progress on the Mumbai trials is an imperative for forward movement on ties with Pakistan — also stands vindicated by the US and Britain’s lobbying on Lakhvi.
Terror groups can be expected to push back against Mr Sharif’s government. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa is organising a ‘million march’ in Karachi this Saturday to demonstrate its political clout. It is quite a scathing symbol that a terror group mobilises a million people in Pakistan’s largest city around the time two large democracies commemorate Republic Day next door.