It’s been more than two days since the terrorist attack in Pune and the aftermath is painfully familiar. There’s the post-mortem outcry about ‘intelligence failure’ and the need to teach Pakistan, the usual suspect, a lesson. Apart from charting this usual trajectory, the Pune blast comes just after the Indian government’s announcement of holding foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan in Delhi later this month. The attack provides a strong ballast to those who think that holding talks with Pakistan at this stage is a strategic and diplomatic mistake. And the Opposition isn’t alone to think along this line. We, however, strongly believe otherwise. If holding India-Pakistan talks were indeed the direct cause of Pakistani-sponsored terrorism, New Delhi would have been only too happy to maintain a permanent silence with Islamabad. This is, as far too many past tragedies have shown, not the case. Thus, not only does the Pune attack make it imperative for New Delhi to talk to Islamabad, but it also gives it the moral and diplomatic right to talk to the Pakistani leadership firmly and specifically.
Dennis Blair, Director of the United States National Intelligence, recently told the US Senate Intelligence Committee that Islamabad continues to use militant groups as “part of its strategic arsenal to counter India”. India, as a victim of these militant attacks, quite obviously has known this for some time. But to have the US — Pakistan’s major ally in countering the jihadi menace gnawing away at Pakistan from inside the country — make such an observation provides India the opportunity to demand that Islamabad give some objective answers to some objective questions. The reported rallies in Muzaffarabad and Lahore by jihadis condemning India after the talks were announced may have been part and parcel of the usual rabble-rousing. But the tacit support shown to these anti-India diatribes by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza invites an explanation. As does the issue of the continued well-being of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT).
The LeT is the only terrorist organisation that Pakistan’s intelligence agency still controls to leverage its attacks on India. Islamabad’s refusal to equate the LeT with the other jihadi groups attacking Pakistan should be challenged by India. New Delhi needs to use the same rhetoric that Islamabad has devised, honed and utilised to its advantage all this while: we are also victims of terrorism. In our case, the LeT is the particular viral that we suffer from and that needs to be eradicated. A concerted fight against terrorism in all its forms and against all operators of terror should be on top of the agenda on February 25.