First Person | Heart of the Matter

On terrorism, India and Pakistan have different world views

Ghazala WahabGhazala Wahab

There has been a surge in sympathy, and rightly so, for the Pakistani people following the terrorist attack on Samjhauta Express. Analysts have pointed out that the attack proves that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was right in signing the joint mechanism on terror in September 2006 with Pakistan as it is as much a victim of terrorism as India; the suggestion being that the perpetrator has now become a victim of its own creation. To further this line of thinking, the earlier suicide attacks on Musharraf and the recent ones in various Pakistani cities including the one at Hotel Marriott in Islamabad just before Indian high commissioner’s Republic Day reception are held out as examples. That the suicide attack in Marriott was followed by one at the Islamabad airport, leading the Pakistani intelligence agencies to ominously announce that there are going to be 10 more such attacks on high profile targets further supports that reasoning. According to Indian intelligence agencies, ever since Musharraf did an about turn on the Taliban in Afghanistan and Talibanised terrorists in Kashmir, they have declared a war on him. As a latest proof of this argument, Indian agencies point to a conference convened by Hafeez Saeed of Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba (LeT) on 4 February 2007 in Fatehpur on the outskirts of Lahore where top office bearers of the banned outfit, which now goes under the name of Jamaat ud Dawa, were in attendance, in addition to members of other proscribed groups. The agenda was to exhort the Jehadis to wage a holy war against both India and Pakistan with the ultimate target being the Indo-Pak peace process. Saeed has made his distaste for the peace process known many times in the past. Moreover, the jehadis are also angry at Musharraf for the army’s operations in Waziristan. Given all this, the analysts conclude that the way ahead is for India and Pakistan to work together to fight this menace.

On the surface, this is a perfect recipe for long-term peace and development in the sub-continent, if only this reasoning did not suffer from a basic flaw. Pakistan is indeed threatened by terrorism now (among other things, given that the US vice president Dick Cheney made an unscheduled pit-stop in Pakistan in the last week of February, it is clear that the US President is under pressure from the Congress to get Musharraf to show results on Afghanistan), but India’s problems are of a different nature. India’s major terrorist threats have been Kashmir-centric. Yet, despite the terrorist nomenclature, the fact is, there is an insurgency in Kashmir. If it was not insurgency, why would the government pour in crores of rupees every year through army-run Operation Sadbhavana to win over the hearts and minds of the people? And why would phrases like ‘Over Ground Workers’ or ‘neutralising OGWs’ become part of the daily lingo of the security forces, army, para-military and police included. But it is also true that the insurgency in J&K would not have acquired such a brutally violent overtone had Pakistan not sniffed an opportunity there. Even before the Nineties when Pakistan’s hand became overt, stoking trouble in Kashmir had been its undeclared official policy, irrespective of the government. Terrorist violence in other parts of India has largely been Kashmir-inspired. This is the reason whenever there is an attack in any part of India, including blasts in Delhi and Mumbai, our intelligence agencies are always quick to point to a Pakistani hand in these. Shouldn’t these attacks then qualify as war waged by Pakistan through unconventional means rather than mere terrorism? In an interview to FORCE in December, the then army commander of the Northern Command had said that despite the peace process, “Restrictions imposed by the Pakistan Army to discourage infiltration appear to be cosmetic.”

Given this, how fruitful working with Pakistan on terrorism can be? There is a hope now that Pakistan would realise that terrorism is a double-edged sword which can cut the hand that wields it. Of course, it understands that and it will work double time to ensure that its hand is adequately shielded. But India is a different story; Pakistan does not accept that it is the sponsor of terrorist activities in India. By its reckoning, instead of terrorism, Kashmir suffers from human rights violations perpetrated by the Indian security forces, including the state police. During his visit to New Delhi to meet his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee, immediately after the blast on Samjhauta Express, Pakistan’s foreign minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri expressed sorrow for the victims and said that it would strengthen Pakistan’s ‘resolve to fight terrorists of whatever persuasion, where they be’. But at the same time, he did not forget to mention Kashmir, resolution of which is paramount for peace. In an informal interaction with the media he said, “The Kashmir issue cannot be solved by President Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh alone. No way. It will need the support of the opposition, the media and the people of both countries.” Clearly, for Pakistan, terrorism is an issue that it can deal with alone. It is Kashmir, where it needs India to cooperate; failing which the freedom struggle would continue by all means.


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