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Battle for Pakistan helps India too

world Updated: May 12, 2009 23:26 IST
Amit Baruah

As Pakistan fights to exorcise the extremist genie within, what should India do? Sit back and watch, or do something to help?

In my experience, there are as many opinions on Pakistan as there are Indians. Everyone has their “take” on Pakistan, so to speak.

There’s little doubt that Mumbai 26/11 has hardened Indian attitudes towards Pakistan, with many demanding that New Delhi take punitive action (against whom, where?) against Islamabad for its support to militants.

A tiny section in India believes that it’s in our interest to do whatever it takes to prod Pakistan into going under. To me, that’s like cutting your nose to spite your face.

It is not in India’s interest that a Talibanised Pakistan exists next door. It is not in our interest that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons fall into the hands of the Taliban. It is also not in our interests that millions stream across the border into India if Pakistan fails as a state.

Actually, it’s in India’s interest that the Pakistan army succeed in its latest venture against the Taliban in Buner, Swat and the rest of the northwest frontier.

The jury’s out on whether the Pakistan army is serious about finishing the Taliban. But as long as the operations continue, it makes strategic sense for India not to do anything to jeopardize such an approach.

If President Asif Ali Zardari is correct, then Pakistan has already pulled some troops from the Indian border. And, he’s likely to pull out more troops.

And, India should do nothing to raise the temperature along the border to make things difficult for the Pakistanis.

“This is a good move. India must do everything to support President Zardari and the Pakistani establishment to take on the Taliban,” former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra told this writer.

Already, the US has dropped its reticence to having India on board in charting a regional approach to the Afpak conundrum. No longer is Pakistan able to keep India away from participating in such discussions.

“India should be careful in what it says about us. It’s picked up by the Americans and the West the next day,” a Pakistani official told me recently.

Indian officials are also convinced that Pakistan must be transparent and convict quickly those being tried for the Mumbai carnage. “Any resumption of the dialogue between us will hinge on this,” an official familiar with the issue said.

India can’t directly tackle the Taliban in Pakistan, but we don’t need to provide any excuse to Islamabad to stop its military campaign.

amit.baruah@hindustantimes.com