Home Minister Shivraj Patil is an honourable man. And as is wont with honourable men, Mr Patil has no intention of making a U-turn that would undermine national interest. But a day before the Indian and Pakistani Home Secretaries met in New Delhi on Tuesday, Mr Patil’s utterings in Srinagar have made more than a few in the capital sit up with consternation. A large part of the two-day talks underway deals with greater cooperation between the not-so-neighbourly neighbours in combating terrorism. Since the last round of talks that were held in May in Islamabad, the Anti-Terror Mechanism officially propped up by India and Pakistan has all but collapsed. If we believe Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who is also an honourable man, terrorism has not been down in Jammu and Kashmir, with the army reportedly killing eight terrorists crossing over from Pakistani territory in one day.
In fact, the Defence Ministry has it that infiltration has been on the rise this summer — 82 attempts in April, 64 in May. While Mr Patil’s talk of the need to not blame Pakistan “for every wrong thing... increase in infiltration and spurt in violence” in J&K is very mature in terms of ensuring that the talks don’t break down even before they begin, taking Pakistan off the hook for cross-border terrorism provides Islamabad with a clean chit. Since Mr Patil has not contradicted Defence Ministry figures of infiltration, we can assume that our quibble is over the matter of who is to ‘blame’.
Pakistan is not one tidy, monolithic unit and Islamabad has its fair share of fires to tackle — as is evident by the latest eruption of violence between authorities and al-Qaeda-linked Lal Masjid students. But at the same time, it would be ridiculous to assume that terrorists from Pakistan are a figment of India’s unchanging imagination. If Musharraf’s Pakistan insists that it is not able to control jehadis from Pakistan, that is not an excuse, but an alibi. For Mr Patil to provide fuel to such a two-nation theory doesn’t help Pakistan ‘feel inclined enough’ to sort out the matter of cross-border terrorism. He is an honourable man and we’re sure he will do the needful to correct the perception of the government taking its eyes off the very real problem of terrorist infiltration.