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India scoring own goals against Pakistan

Last updated on: July 28, 2009 16:49 IST

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani must have gone home chuckling, for never in his wildest imagination would he have assumed that the Indians would score so many own goals in less than an hour especially after the drubbing his President Asif Ali Zardari received at Yekaterinburg, barely two months ago. The score at the end of play was Pakistan four, India zero. This sudden loss of form remains inexplicable and has bewildered and angered many. Some have attributed this to American coaching. The Pakistani commentator Ayesha Siddiqa rubbed salt into our wounds, when she said that "This is an Indian government which is under the influence of the United States."

The four goals came in rapid succession. These were:

"Both leaders agreed that the two countries will share real time, credible and actionable information on any future terrorist threats." Now it is a basic and essential truth of life that we share secrets with those we trust or with those where we have an identifiable common interest or target. Do India and Pakistan have this? There is a clear divergence between pious hopes and attainable goals.

"Prime Minister Gilani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas". The incongruity and irrelevance of these 16 words jars. Pakistan has been blaming the rest of the world, chiefly India and now its benefactor and protector, the US, for its current troubles. It conveniently ignores the fact that its present problems emanate from the Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, both of which creations of its own malevolence. Pakistan is today paying the price of fighting a two-front jihadi war. Besides, the implication of the words "and other areas" is particularly sinister. Already there are wild accusations of Indian involvement in the terrorist attack on the Lahore Police Academy and on the Sri Lankan cricketers. More terrorist attacks by the Taliban or whoever wants to do this will surely take place in Pakistan. We can be certain that the evil Indian hand will be seen in this. And what if there is an attack on an American facility by the Pakistani Taliban and the orchestrated allegations are that there is an Indian hand?

In Havana, we had raised Pakistan to our level by describing it as a victim of terrorism. In Sharm el-Sheikh, we downgraded ourselves to their level by allowing them to describe us as sponsors of terrorism.

"Both prime ministers recognised that dialogue is the only way forward. Action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue process and these should not be bracketed. Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh said that India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues." The eagerness to resume the Composite Dialogue is mystifying if we at the same time insist that Pakistan must give us satisfaction on the issue of terrorism. Clearly the two -- Composite Dialogue and terrorism will now operate in separate, unconnected silos. What is the leverage that we will have on Pakistan if we are not even going to insist that we be given reasonable comfort before we resume dialogue? Ironically, and after years of hard fought battles with Washington, we now hear voices that suggest that they too have begun to understand and acknowledge the root cause of the problem. There is an increasing acceptance that the war on terror cannot be disaggregated and fought selectively. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke about the need for Pakistan to control terrorism both on the eastern front and the western front. Just when this is beginning to happen, we have wilted.

"Prime Minister Singh reiterated India's interest in a stable, democratic, Islamic Republic of Pakistan". Now why on earth do we have to say this? In the past also we have had our leaders signing at the Minar-e-Pakistan while the Pakistanis mounted assaults on Kargil, we rush off to Karachi and want to certify Mohammad Ali Jinnah's secular credentials and now this. Has Pakistan ever expressed that it wishes to see a democratic secular Republic of India? At least they are honest about this one because no Pakistani leader can afford to say this and get away as this expression undermines the very basis of the two-nation theory that the leaders still cling to in search of an identity that is non-India. For 60 years Pakistan's leaders have been trying to undermine India through the jihadis. It has not worked but it has not been given up either.

S Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi based analyst, was right when he said that India had to acknowledge that Pakistan, the intelligence establishment and groups like the LeT were not going away. In this triangle, Pakistan cannot survive without the other two, the Lashkar survives because of the other two and the intelligence rules over both. In other words, so long as there is Pakistan there will be the LeT backed by the Inter Services Intelligence backed by the army. Zaidi also added that the Pakistani establishment would not pursue cases against the Lashkar operatives involved in the Mumbai attacks and feared that there could be another Kargil or a Mumbai.

In dealing with Pakistan we must accept that its policy on jihad can no longer change. It has pursued this policy for far too long and the belief apparently is that the only way to get out of this mess is to get deeper into it. In the process it is also a state that is increasingly obscurantist with an acknowledged reputation that the country is now ground zero for global jihad. A terribly frightened and miniscule moderate section stands by, unable to stand up to the jihadis' interpretation of Islam.

All this has been said in these columns before but two important writings in recent months would testify to this. One is Arif Jamal's book Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir. Jamal's book confirms that Mumbai 2008 was a continuation of Baramulla 1947. The other is an essay by John R Schmidt in the Survival journal entitled The Unravelling of Pakistan which is one of the most honest and sombre accounts of what is happening in Pakistan today and the dangers ahead that threaten the existence of Pakistan with the Taliban now sitting west of the Indus and threatening both Punjab and Balochistan. Since one author is a Pakistani journalist and analyst and the other a former member of the US Foreign Service their views cannot be attributed to Indian prejudice.

What we need to understand is that when Pakistan feels cornered its leaders will seek assistance and sympathy and export mangoes; their purpose served, they will revert to form and export jihadis. The way to handle Pakistan is not through kind gestures and misplaced magnanimity; these are taken as signs of weakness and generally used to bargain for more.

The Pakistani establishment has made full use of its feeling of indispensability to the NATO effort in Afghanistan through provision of intelligence and logistics. As the US has begun to realise coddling Pakistan is counter-productive it needs to disabuse Pakistan of this and explore the routes through Iran and Russia. For this naturally it must stop needling both these countries; if India is required to give comfort to Pakistan to allow it to assist the US effort why not the US give some comfort to both Iran and Russia to enable them to help the US in Afghanistan. Indian presence in Afghanistan is benevolent and it would be unfortunate if this is reduced as this is the one country that has rendered assistance to the Afghan people. Pakistan does not have to be given comfort on this issue. Carrots must reduce and sticks must increase.

Pakistan has to be reinvented before it morphs into something very frightening.

Vikram Sood is former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing

Vikram Sood