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Straightening out the U-turn

india Updated: Jan 20, 2009 10:08 IST
Hindustan Times
Straightening out the U-turn

Pressure can produce at least pointers. New Delhi’s remonstrations to the international community and its carrot-and-stick posturing against Pakistan have begun to generate what can pass as conciliatory language from Islamabad. Pakistan’s official inquiry into the Mumbai terror attacks is unlikely to accomplish much in the way of genuine justice. However, the inquiry is an implicit recognition that the attacks originated in Pakistani territory. If the inquiry is even moderately honest it will also accept that the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba played a hand and, therefore, the terrorist organisation should face punishment. The best evidence that the Pakistani establishment is rattled is the Lashkar’s own statement that its jihad is only aimed at Kashmir and that even when it comes to azadi it is prepared to embrace a peaceful path. Keep in mind that the Lashkar’s underpinning ideology argues for the liberation of not only Kashmir, but all parts of the world that were once under Islamic rule.

The victims of the Mumbai attacks will not receive what should be their due: the arrest and prosecution of the attack’s masterminds, the exposure of the Pakistani military officers who must have known of the attack, and compensation from Islamabad for its culpability. New Delhi may continue to demand that the masterminds be extradited. But it does not require official Pakistani statements to know that countries almost never export their own citizens to foreign soil for trial. The only solace will have to be in recognising that Pakistan’s concessions indicate that those who run the rogue State accept that Mumbai was an attack too far and that, by targeting foreigners, the Lashkar is now an organisation in the crosshairs of other countries.

The long-term goal of any Indian policy towards Pakistan is to persuade Islamabad that its support for terrorism is politically unprofitable for Pakistan itself. The events of the past few days show that Pakistan is being forced to do penance for Mumbai. These rhetorical concessions will seem too intangible for many Indians. However, be assured that they inflict more pain to a country whose ruling establishment has made rivalry with India the cornerstone of its political legitimacy than the mere arrest of a handful of violent fanatics.