Tuesday, March 2, 2010

No lectures, please

Editorial -- Express Tribune (coming out soon in the market)

Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Saudi Arabia could be seen as ground-breaking in many ways. For instance, he is the first Indian head of government to visit the kingdom in over two decades and perhaps a handful of foreign leaders who were invited to address its shura council (body akin to parliament). However, perhaps the most important facet of his visit – certainly as far as Pakistan is concerned – had to do with remarks made by India’s junior foreign minister which for a while created quite a storm among the Indian media. Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor said in an interview to a journalist that Saudi Arabia could “perhaps be a valuable interlocutor” between India and Pakistan given Riyadh’s very close ties with Islamabad. The minister was talking in the narrow context of India attempting to use all avenues at its disposal to impress upon Pakistan that it needed to address the terrorism issue first before headway could be made on other issues central to the conflict between the two nations.
As for Dr Singh’s address to the Shura, possibly the most important point was that he said he was willing to “go the extra mile” provided that Pakistan addressed the terrorism issue with earnest. The problem is that what it seems is that the Indians do not trust the Pakistanis at all – and this lack of trust isn’t just related to fighting terrorism but is bound to colour every aspect of their bilateral relationship. This is further compounded by the fact that the Pakistani side – and for good reason – sees all this quite differently. Cases have been registered against those believed to be behind the Mumbai attacks and Pakistan has not denied that the LeT was in all probability behind the attacks and that the attackers came from Pakistan. India believed – and clearly still does -- that there is an element (or more) of official involvement in the attacks. But for the sake of argument it surely doesn’t expect the government to publicly acknowledge this. What can be done is that terrorism can be fought head on and this is happening – with sometimes tragic consequences – inside Pakistan. Hundreds of soldiers, police and paramilitary personnel and above all thousands of civilians have lost their lives because of this fight and this is something that New Delhi instead needs to acknowledge. If it does this with even a little bit of seriousness the trust deficit will be significantly bridged.
Furthermore, India needs to realize and understand that nothing will happen as far as ties between the two countries are concerned unless and until there is movement beyond this mantra of it asking Pakistan to do more on terrorism. Pakistan doesn’t really need any lectures on how to fight terrorists from anybody.