National Security Advisor MK Narayanan’s explication on how India expects the new Indo-Pakistan joint mechanism on fighting terrorism to work is timely. Ever since it was announced, the idea has been attacked by critics in both countries and 'clarified' to the point of irrelevance by Pakistani officials. Mr Narayanan has been candid in acknowledging that while India has good proof of Pakistani complicity in the Mumbai blasts, the evidence that Pakistan was involved is not quite clinching. The aim of the mechanism is to find that space between the Pakistan government and its agencies, and the Pakistani jehadis, who may or may not be operating on their own. The NSA is being realistic when he says that India must give Pakistan the opportunity to walk its talk on combating terrorism. Having said this, he has also made it clear that if India were to detect a pattern of negative responses by Islamabad to information provided, the whole thing would be called off.
Though Mr Narayanan is right in arguing that the evidence on hand on the Mumbai blasts was “as good” as one could get in cases of terrorism, there is need to understand that this is not merely a matter of India and Pakistan, but a global battle for hearts and minds. India is also on trial and must meet some established norms of the quality of evidence that it provides, before it can expect the international community to accept India’s word that Pakistan continues to encourage terrorism. To this end, the Indian police and establishment need to know that evidence gathered through custodial interrogation and pseudo-scientific methods such as brain-mapping and narco-analysis most certainly do not meet internationally accepted norms of evidence. Indeed, it is doubtful whether they would meet our own norms. The police’s general failings in using forensic tools for investigation are well-known, but there is no real substitute for solid police work to provide clinching evidence in a case.
This said, let us be clear about one thing: the ball is in Pakistan’s court.Islamabad must do more than mouth rhetoric, if its professions about being a victim and not perpetrator of terrorism are to be taken seriously.