While assessing the meeting of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan at Yekaterinburg in Russia, I had said: 'Manmohan Singh is not a man of confrontation. He took the decision to freeze the composite dialogue mainly because of the fears of a likely adverse impact on the voting in the recently-held elections if he did not take a seemingly hard line against Pakistan. Now that the Congress-led coalition has come back to power -- with the Congress improving its own individual position in the Lok Sabha -- -he is unlikely to feel the need for maintaining the present hardline position on the composite dialogue. At this time, when winds of change for the better seem to be blowing towards India from Washington, DC, Manmohan Singh would find it difficult to reject suggestions from the US for a political gesture to the government in Islamabad by way of a resumption of the composite dialogue. The question is no longer whether it will be resumed, but when and how it will be projected to save the faces of both India and Pakistan.'
In the context of this assessment made on June 19, Thursday's development during Singh's meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani at the margins of the Non-Aligned Movement summit at Sharm-El-Sheikh in Egypt did not come as a surprise. I do feel upset not so much by the reported agreement of Manmohan Singh that 'India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues' as by the phraseology relating to terrorism in the joint statement, which would enable Pakistan once again to wriggle out of any negative consequences arising from its involvement in the Mumbai terrorist strike of November 26, 2008.
The relevant question is not whether Pakistan is against terrorism. All Pakistani leaders had said that they are against terrorism. But, not one of them had ever agreed that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, which carried out the Mumbai outrage, is a terrorist organisation. Even the Pakistani judiciary has already pronounced that the Zardari government has not been able to produce any evidence linking the LeT or the Jamaat-ud-Dawa with any terrorist movement. The Lahore high court judgment of June 6, 2009, explaining the decision to release JUD chief Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed from house arrest, clearly said as reported by the Daily Times: 'About the Dawa leaders' involvement in the Mumbai attacks, the bench observed that not a single document had been brought on the record that Dawa or the petitioners were involved in the said incident. There was no evidence that the petitioners had any links with Al Qaeda or any terrorist movement.'
The oral observations made earlier this week in the Pakistan Supreme Court by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury during the preliminary arguments on the appeals sought to be filed by the Punjab and the federal governments against Sayeed's release made more or less similar observations and expressed considerable scepticism over the case against Sayeed and the JUD.
When senior judges of the Lahore high court and the Supreme Court have already expressed their scepticism in open court over Indian allegations of the involvement of the JUD, the political wing of the LeT, in the Mumbai attack, to expect that justice will be done to the memory of the 166 persons killed in Mumbai -- 123 Indian civilians, 25 foreign civilians and 18 brave personnel of the security forces -- by the LeT terrorists as promised by the Pakistani co-operation against terrorism will be naivete of a very high order comparable to the naivete of Neville Chamberlain, predecessor of Winston Churchill as the British prime minister.
I would have been at least satisfied if the two prime ministers had specifically stated that the countries would co-operate against the LeT instead of just saying that the two countries would co-operate against terrorism. If the prime minister's advisers had properly briefed him before his meeting with Gilani, they would have drawn his attention to the following facts:
While even Pervez Musharraf banned the LeT for some months after the December 2001, attack on the Indian Parliament, Zardari has till today not banned the JUD, the post-2001 moniker of the LeT.
Zardari and his advisers have been saying that they had to act against Sayeed and his associates because of the declaration of the anti-terrorism committee of the UN Security Council that the JUD is a terrorist organisation and not because they had any independent evidence against it. It was on these grounds that Sayeed was ordered to be released.
Not a single reference to the LeT. Not a single reference to its continuing terrorist infrastructure. And, we have provided dignity to Pakistan's baseless allegations against Baloch freedom-fighters by agreeing to make a reference to Balochistan in the joint statement in the context of terrorism by indirectly bringing on record in an official statement Pakistan's projection of the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and other Baloch leaders as terrorists. Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed is not a terrorist, but Bugti and other Baloch leaders were or are.That has been Pakistan's contention and we have let this figure in the joint statement.
This agreement, which seeks to whitewash years of Pakistani sponsorship of terrorism against Indian civilians and security forces, will make all those who died at the hands of the terrorists shed tears in heaven.