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The Pakistan we can talk to

The Pakistani military establishment, with its own cabals and huddles, is itself under attack from Islamic terrorists.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2009 23:33 IST

Pakistan, as is becoming increasingly obvious to the world outside, is a prime victim of Islamic terrorism. This hardly makes the observation of Pakistan being a prime conduit of jihadi violence redundant. It merely makes the ‘Pakistan constant’ in the equation of Islamic terrorism — and the way the world deals with Pakistan — more complex. If Friday’s attacks on mosques in the military headquarters town of Rawalpindi is a further confirmation, jihadis on Pakistani soil have reached the stage that all revolutionaries do after a point: that of turning on their own benefactors. For India, Pakistan has been for the last one year two nations: its civil society and civilian government trying to make sense (if nothing more) of the fundamentalist rage swirling around them; and its military establishment, spearheaded by the Inter-Services Intelligence, continuing to cherry-pick ‘good jihadis’ for strategic reasons. This two-nation theory of Pakistan has now become dated.

The Pakistani military establishment, with its own cabals and huddles, is itself under attack from Islamic terrorists. The military operations in Swat and Waziristan were not, thanks to American refereeing, shadowboxing. In such a setting, the issue of India talking to Pakistan in ‘good faith’ is no longer an option of diplomatic manoeuvring; it is necessary. Demanding cooperation at a time when Pakistan is facing an existential crisis is more fruitful than doing what New Delhi has always done when it alone has been the target: simply rail against an uncooperative Islamabad. But for India, the question is, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh put it in Washington recently, whom do we talk to? Islamabad is living a hand-to-Big Mouth existence with no coordinated decision — let alone one involving neutralising elements bent on destroying the Pakistani State — being made. US President Barack Obama understands this and thus his comments about America being forced to ‘do their job’ if the Pakistanis can’t.

With a Federal Bureau of Investigation team scheduled to visit New Delhi this week to share information on Pakistani-American David Headley’s and Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana’s involvement in planned terrorist attacks on India soil, India must push the envelope. As of now, jihadi agents like Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafeez Saeed are roaming about freely in Pakistan despite India providing ‘enough evidence’ for his arrest for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. With terrorist attacks within Pakistan unlikely to go down until the country’s military establishment bites the leather to shed its schizoid approach towards jihadi terror, New Delhi has the advantage of telling Islamabad — Rawalpindi, actually — that it’s high time Pakistan helps us to help them to help both of us against an increasingly obvious common enemy.