Terrorism sits deep at the centre of Indo-Pak relations. India remains focused on Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which it believes is the prime source of terrorism on Indian soil and in Kashmir. The terror attack on the Indian parliament (Dec 13, 2001) and the Mumbai carnage (26 Nov, 2008) not only reinforced Indian certainty that LeT was behind the attacks, but they also stand out as stumbling blocks in the path of the resumption of formal talks between the two countries.
The deadlock on the dialogue stems not only from the Indian conviction that Pakistan’s security establishment supports the LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammad but also that New Delhi believes that the Pakistani establishment continues to back non-state actors against the Indian state, and thus maintains a rogue army that has been a source of violence and instability in Kashmir and India.
The US establishment in particular also views the Pakistani security apparatus through the Indian prism, a fact explained through the observation that almost every visitor from Washington or elsewhere invariably asks about the fate and the status of Lashkar-e-Taiba (Jamaatud Dawa). They also want Pakistan to “delegitimise and disarm” these non-state actors operating across the Line of Control and the Durand Line.
This view practically scuttled the 2004 proposals of a joint anti-terror mechanism, but such a mechanism requires prior bilateral negotiations with no major interruptions. There is much missing in the India-Pakistan bilateral relationship which also has a trilateral dimension, with Afghanistan being the third destabilizing factor. The Afghans apply the same yardstick to measure Pakistani policies as the Indians do: the nexus between the establishment and some Taliban factions, the Haqqani network, Mullah Omar and Hikmetyar in particular, whom they claim are still under the Pakistani protection.
All three players, the Indians, the Americans and the Afghans, lump the LeT with the TTP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Al Qaeda when making the case that Pakistan aids and abets terror outfits. Everybody keeps questioning the inaction of the state against the Punjabi Taliban. Little do they try to understand that the government (the army) already moved against all those groups which challenged the writ of the state (Swat, South Waziristan, Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber are cases in point), and that the state cannot afford to open multiple fronts all over.
A special TIME magazine report (August 30) is also quite instructive: “A repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will require the kind of political courage that New Delhi has yet to show in the region. If it continues with the same old strategies blaming Pakistan for stirring trouble, imposing curfews and superseding talks with bloody crackdowns, it will engender the same cycles of violence …. the only effective response to this new generation of Kashmiri stone pelters may well be a new generation of Indian statesmen. ”
Both sides indeed need a new generation of statesmen on the way to cooperation. While Pakistan reels under the crippling effects of the counter-insurgency and floods, groans under political instability, and the army establishment is stretched to the hilt (war on terror and the floods), the Indian establishment refuses to review its analysis of the Pakistani establishment.
India was reticent and reluctant even when an all-powerful General Musharraf laid open all his cards and invited New Delhi to think out-of-box on Kashmir. The Indians then thought they would rather deal with a civilian government. When the civilians returned to power in February 2008 the Indians once again retreated into a wait-and-see mode, saying the government was one too weak to deal with.
It is a dilemma on both sides that seems to have stymied forward movement. In the words of the noted American scholar Micahel Krepon, “The Army is taking on one group, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan that has blown up mosques, markets and military installations, at significant cost. Other outfits, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and its parent organization, are inconvenienced only after major explosions in India… but they are also likely to become the Pakistan Army’s allies in the event of an Indian attack triggered by their actions.” The longer this dilemma continues, the harder it becomes for the Pakistan Army to address.
India, on the other hand, faces the dilemma of indecision, as to who should it talk to. It shall have to concede that the Indo-Afghan influence in Kabul and their alleged role in Balochistan does constitute a legitimate concern for the Pakistani establishment, as much as the alleged Pakistani involvement with groups operating across the Line of Control (Kashmir) and the Durand Line (Afghanistan) remains the major Indian concern. Unless both sides recalibrate their positions on issues of concern to each other, and come clean on their intelligence operations in the region, this relationship will remain bumpy and beset with suspicion and acrimony.