Monday, July 20, 2009

Positive Pakistan

The admission by President Asif Ali Zardari that Pakistan trained terrorists in the past, the joint statement at Sharm-El-Sheikh and the filing of a charge sheet against five suspects in the 26/11 Mumbai attack are welcome from India’s point of view. But Pakistan still has a long way to go before its credibility is established.

Till 9/11, the U.S. was all for Pakistan. It used Pakistan to recruit, arm and finance the mujahideen to fight the Soviets and turned a blind eye to the infiltration of Pakistan-trained terrorists into Kashmir. After 9/11, it asked Pakistan to eliminate the terrorists it had created and nurtured. Islamabad agreed but has continued to train terrorists and kept its channels open with the Taliban to retain its influence in Afghanistan.

The meeting between Yosuf Raza Gilani and Manmohan Singh at Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, has sent positive vibrations, notwithstanding the different interpretations of the joint statement issued by them. There is a feeling in India that it has given more by way of de-linking terrorism from the composite dialogue process.

Given that the two countries have been arch rivals, there is a deficit of trust between them. The need of the hour, therefore, is patience. Continuing to engage in talks is the only way forward for both countries.

The joint statement did give rise to the fear that India has compromised its stand that it would not engage Pakistan unless the latter brought those behind the Mumbai terrorist attack to justice. But Dr. Singh has clarified that the statement did not amount to diluting New Delhi’s stand on terrorism.

While terrorism is a major agenda, let us not sideline all the other important bilateral issues. We would do well to remember that Pakistan too has had its share of terror attacks from home-grown terrorist outfits.

India needs to demonstrate its resolve to go it alone in its fight against terrorism and not feel obliged to please the U.S. Pakistan knows how to get the maximum out of the U.S. without conceding much.

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