ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

India-Pakistan Relations : Delicate Juncture

After another meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security on Thursday, the government has announced further diplomatic measures to step up pressure on the Pakistan government to take action against those responsible for the December 13 terrorist attack on the parliament building. It has banned all overflights by Pakistani aircraft with effect from the new year and halved the strength of the two countries’ high commissions in Delhi and Islamabad. The government had earlier recalled its envoy to Pakistan and announced the suspension of the hopefullynamed bus and train services between the two countries. With the ban on overflights, all travel between the two countries has been stopped from the new year.

After another meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security on Thursday, the government has announced further diplomatic measures to step up pressure on the Pakistan government to take action against those responsible for the December 13 terrorist attack on the parliament building. It has banned all overflights by Pakistani aircraft with effect from the new year and halved the strength of the two countries' high commissions in Delhi and Islamabad. The government had earlier recalled its envoy to Pakistan and announced the suspension of the hopefully-named bus and train services between the two countries. With the ban on overflights, all travel between the two countries has been stopped from the new year.

It is obvious that the measures taken by the government so far and the few remaining ones that it could take, such as withdrawal of most favoured nation treatment to Pakistan, are not such as to cause any serious hardship to Pakistan. Their purpose has been to impress upon the Pakistan government and, more importantly, the international community how seriously India takes the terrorist outrage of December 13 and, more generally, the operations of Pakistan-based terrorist outfits in Jammu and Kashmir. For someone whose popular image is that of a hawk, home minister L K Advani summed up the position rather well when he told mediapersons in Delhi this week that "the situation has developed in a manner as to make it possible for India, with the support of world opinion, to force Pakistan to abandon terrorism as an instrument of state policy".

The US government this week formally declared the two organisations that the Indian government has held responsible for the December 13 attack, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, to be terrorist outfits under US law, requiring the Pakistan government, as a part of the US-led international coalition against terrorism, to take action against them. This is what the Indian government has been demanding, though, expectedly, it has dismissed the actions taken by the Pakistan government so far – freezing of the assets of Lashkar-e-Toiba and detaining the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief, Maulana Masood Azhar – as cosmetic.

Clearly, while it has been notably successful so far, the Indian government's strategy to deal with the problem of the operations of Pakistan-based militant and terrorist groups against this country, in Jammu and Kashmir in particular, and the Pakistan government's support to these groups has arrived at a delicate juncture. It must be taken granted that, the pressure of international opinion notwithstanding, any steps the Pakistan government is likely to take against the terrorist organisations will not measure up to the expectations of the Indian government and those that sections of the Indian public, especially sections of the BJP and its allied organisations, have been encouraged to build up. How will the government deal with this situation?

There is not much more that the government can do by way of diplomatic and political measures. In the circumstances the temptation will be strong to beat the war drums all the louder. Apart from the very real military dangers of pushing brinkmanship beyond a point, such a course is likely to neutralise a good deal of the international support and sympathy that have been ours so far. But most important of all, it is likely to go against our own objective – if that objective is indeed to reduce the threat of terrorism from across the border and not, to quote some senior and responsible members of the government, to "teach Pakistan a lesson". Very definitely, a situation of war or near-war with India will tilt the balance of political forces in Pakistan in favour of the Islamic fundamentalists and anti-Indian jehadists there and undermine the ability and readiness of any government to deal with them with firmness.

In accepting the Indian government's evidence on the involvement of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad in the attack on the Indian parliament and urging Pakistan to act against them, the US state department has taken the position that these organisations were engaged in undermining general Musharraf's government itself (as well as efforts at India-Pakistan reconciliation). This formulation may reflect diplomatic tact in large measure, but it is a fact that no government in Pakistan has taken the sort of action against outfits such as these and their backers in the administration and the army as the Musharraf government has, no matter what its compulsions. (Addressing a meeting in Karachi to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Jinnah earlier this week, Musharraf has been reported as coming down heavily on Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan and blaming their attitudes and activities for bringing a bad name to Pakistan by identifying it in the world with "illiteracy, obscurantism and militancy".) The Indian government and Indian public opinion must think many times before contemplating any action likely to extinguish these incipient possibilities.

 

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Back to Top