India can feel a mild sense of vindication to hear retired Major General Mahmud Ali Durrani admitting on Indian soil that the Mumbai 26/11 attacks were carried out by a terrorist organisation that crossed over from Pakistan. Durrani was National Security Advisor to the Pakistani government at the time and the statement is in line with his public admission then that Ajmal Kasab, the only one of the terrorists captured during the attack, was from Pakistan. Though he followed up his statements in India by insisting neither the Pakistani military or government had any role to play in the attack, Durrani’s statement is not the first such admission by a senior Pakistani official. The most sweeping confession was from General Pervez Musharraf, both former head of the Pakistani military and the country’s president, that Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and a dozen other terrorist groups had been “supported” and “trained” by Pakistan and used to force India’s hand on the future status of Kashmir. Musharraf said that, at the time, these terrorists were “our heroes” but subsequently began attacking Pakistan as well. In the civilian space, there is an even greater number of similar admissions by senior Pakistanis. And they are echoed by a long line of senior American officials who, normally after retirement, admit the complicity of Pakistan’s military in supporting terrorist groups aimed at fighting India.
The credibility of New Delhi’s claims against Islamabad are enhanced with such statements, but have materially only slightly changed either Pakistan’s willingness to use terrorism against India or the ability of New Delhi to get external players to force Pakistan to change its behaviour. There has been a shift in Washington’s point of view, especially following the 9/11 attack and evidence that Pakistan’s attempts to firewall Lashkar and other Indian-oriented terrorist groups from more global groups like Al Qaeda have not wholly succeeded. But waning US support for Pakistan has been replaced by increasing Chinese support – and Beijing’s willingness to pressure Pakistan on terror can best be measured by their blind support for an internationally acknowledged terrorist chief like Masood Azhar on the floor of the United Nations.
New Delhi’s larger strategy has been and should continue to be to differentiate between Pakistan’s use of terror as an instrument of statecraft and Pakistan’s territorial claim on Kashmir. This dehyphenation is necessary to change a still common view in the rest of the world that the terrorism is only a symptom of a deeper territorial malaise and that until the Kashmir dispute settled the terror will continue. This continues to be an uphill battle for India, largely because of its struggle to bring about political stability in its part of Kashmir.