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Getting Pakistan on board, without scaring it away

india Updated: Oct 14, 2006 00:14 IST
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United States Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns’ call on Pakistan to use its influence on “Kashmiri terrorist groups” to stop all attacks on India is an indirect way of telling Islamabad that it must stop all support to terrorism, period. Pakistan and its official spokesperson, Tasnim Aslam, do not see it that way. They claim that Pakistan does not support violence in Kashmir and, in any case, whatever is happening is an indigenous struggle. In her words, “Pakistan supports the struggle in occupied Kashmir but condemns violence either by Indian forces or by individuals.” Read closely and not only are the words not particularly helpful, but they actually make little sense.

Since 9/11, India, the US and the world community have been involved in a major project to aid Pakistan to give up its dependence on jehadi violence to achieve policy ends. The effort has involved coercion as well as co-option, and there can be no doubt that it has been able to achieve a great deal. Yet, there are large areas of failure that haunt both New Delhi and Washington. Far from being defeated, the Taliban appear poised to make substantial gains in its guerrilla war to recapture Afghanistan. The discovery of terrorist sleeper cells across India in the wake of the Mumbai blasts is a sign that things are not too good. It is a measure of the success of the project of detaching Pakistan from its jehadi temptations that it has now become difficult to lay direct blame on the Government of Pakistan and its Inter-Services Intelligence. But Nato military officers are still persuaded that the insurgency is being directed from Pakistani territory. For their part, Indian officials are convinced that nothing has changed and the ISI continues to organise terrorist attacks, though it has become better at hiding its links with the jehadi groups that actually plan and execute the strikes.

Neither India nor the US has yet found an easy way to deal with Islamabad. Given the nature of Pakistan’s polity, both countries have no other alternative but to deal with its military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, as the best, or perhaps, the only means of achieving their ends in the short run. Both are now fine-tuning their efforts to end Pakistan’s fatal fascination with what its military men call ‘sub-conventional’ conflict. The US has periodically praised Mr Musharraf’s contribution to the war against terrorism. Last month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh insisted that Islamabad, too, was a victim of terrorism. Perhaps their aim is to boost Pakistan’s battered self-esteem, as well as to make its commitment to fighting terrorism into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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