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       Sunday, September 17, 2006

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India Pakistan Anti Terrorism Institutional Mechanism is myopic

OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion through Blogs and Podcasts.

The agreement on a joint anti-terror mechanism was a new development in India-Pakistan relations and helped the two countries move forward with the resumption of their dialogue that came to a halt after the Mumbai blasts of July, according to the Foreign Secretary-designate and High Commissioner to Pakistan Shivshankar Menon. Mr. Menon said the mandate had been made clear: it had to identify and implement counter-terrorism measures and investigations. How exactly this would be done would become clear after each side identified the bodies that would be involved in the exercise. While BJP mounted an expected attack on PM Manmohan Singh over the "joint" institutional mechanism on terrorism, terming it a fig leaf to cover concessions to Pakistan, Congress-backed resumption of peace talks but took care to advice the Centre that it should not lower its guard against the terror threat.

Offstumped felt it important to add this rejoinder as most monday morning Indian News Media editorials have praised the resumption of talks and have called the counter terrorism mechanism a breakhthrough. While the Indian Express came close to asking some tough questions the all around euphoria in the media is baffling. It is not Offstumped's case that India should not hold talks with Pakistan. Talk by all means, but with a clear vision of the end game with the coherence of a prudent strategy and the moral intransigence of purpose. What we have here is a flip-flop that is high on nobel intentions and rhetoric and very low on tangible results. If the Manmohan Singh Government was so convinced about the Musharraf regime's sincerity why did we have this cat mouse game in the aftermath of 7-11.

The new spin from the newly appointed Foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon is that we must draw a distinction between terror elements in Pakistan and the government of Pakistan and that Pakistan too is victim of Terrorism. The foreign secretary however dodged questions on whether this would pave the way for extradition of known terrorists in Pakistan like Dawood Ibrahim and Syed Salahuddin as well as if ISI would be part of the counter terrorism mechanism. If the counter terrorism mechanisms with other countries are anything to go by all this ensures in the words of the new Foreign secretary annual meetings to exchange views on terrorism. The new Foreign Secretary also spent quite some tim explaining that all this did not mean there was a shift in India's stance towards Pakistan on Terrorism.

How is this not a shift in India's stance towards Pakistan. By what stretch of the meaning of the word "shift" is this not a shift. This is exactly the U.S. State Department line that the Americans have used time and again to rationalize their indulgence of Musharraf while turning a blind eye to his claims of a firewall between the Lashkar and the Al Qaeda.

So folks it is now official Indian foreign policy to indulge the Musharraf regime based on the same dubious distinction that the Americans have used to date. This is a huge shift. What are the implications of this shift. The first is that we have legitimised the Musharraf regime line that Pakistan too is a victim of terrorism. The second is that we have also legitimised Musharraf's claim of a firewall between the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Al-Qaeda. The third is we have completely absolved the ISI of having any hand in aiding or abetting terrorist groups.

What is puzzling to all Right Minded Indians is what was the thinking that lead Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress lead UPA Government to go where even the Americans have failed. In the aftermath of the failed london plot many in the U.S. have been questioning the State Department's indulgence of Musharraf and its line of drawing a distinction between terrorists in Pakistan and the Pakistani Government.

What is also puzzling is why did the PM stall talks after 7-11 serial commuter traib bomb blasts in Mumbai and what has changed in the 60 days since 7-11 that he has now decided to not just resume talks but effect a wholesale shift in India's foreign policy. Was it the Cuban Cigars or the company of Fidel Castro or the hair brained rhetoric of Hugo Chavez or the handshake with Ahmedenijad ?

Does the Manmohan Singh Government really have a strategy to address terrorism and if so how come this sudden change of heart on Mushrraf's Pakistan ?

Since 7-11, Manmohan Singh addressed terrorism in 3 public speeches. The first in the immideate aftermath of 7-11, the second on August 15th Independence Day in his Red Fort Address and the third at the Chief Minister's conclave on Internal Security. A contrast of all three of these speeches is in order to take a critical view of the India Pakistan Joint Statement released in Havana.

On July 12th Manmohan Singh made no mention of Pakistan but said that

no one can make India kneel. No one can come in the path of our progress
the Government will do whatever is required to deal with the challenge at hand.
We will win this war against terror. Nothing will break our resolve.

Notice the language he used in July 12th talking about a "War Against Terror". He then visited Mumbai on July 14th and gave a press conference where we was a little more vocal on his intentions and very specific in ascribing blame.

just as things can never be the same for those who have lost their near and dear, it cannot be business as usual for us.
We have to ponder over this and act on credible strategy
We are also certain that these terror modules are instigated, inspired and supported by elements across the border without which they cannot act with such devastating effect.
the time has come for us to crack down and destroy all these anti-national elements.
We will leave no stone unturned, I reiterate, no stone unturned, in ensuring that terrorist elements in India are neutralized and smashed.

Between July 12th and August 15th the Prime Minister made about 15 speeches. His immdideate next speech was at the G-8 summit where he called for Zero Tolerance and moved on to other topics. On his return from the G-8 summit there was no reference to Mumbai or terrorism. He then addressed Chief secretaries on July 20th and repeated the usual homilies on what state governments must do to address Terrorism amongst other topics. This was also the speech where he made his most profound remark that

past responses are inadequate in dealing with terrorism

Beyond this the Prime Minister went completely silent on terrorism till his Independence Day speech. Offstumped had extensively analyzed his August 15th Independence Day speech which repeated the same homilies, offered no new vision and had very little to show by way of progress. After August 15th the Prime Minister again went silent on Terrorism till his speech at the CM's conclave. Offstumped has also analyzed his speech on internal security which passed reduced terrorism to a Law and order issue and passed the buck to the states to do something about it. The speech again had nothing to report by way of progress on all the promises he made/

So Mr.Prime Minister, the questions vexing all Right Minded Indians are

What has changed between July 14th and September 14th that you found it fit to first suspend talks and then resume talks by setting up a joint terrorism mechanism with Pakistan ?

1. How did you ensure it was not business as usual for your Government since July 11th ?

2. Did your government act on a credible strategy as promised on July 14th and if so what is it ?

3. If you were so certain about terror modules supported by elements across the border, what have you done between July 14th and September 14th about these modules that you now feel that a joint terrorism mechanism with Pakistan is meaningful and effective ?

4. Did your government really and truly act to leave no stone unturned as you promised in Mumbai, what facts can you provide to back this up ?

5. Now that you have decided to resume talks with Pakistan does this mean you have neutralized and smashed terrorism in India as repeated by on July 14th and July 20th ?

6. Last but not the least did the time to smash and defeat terrorism that you felt on July 14th come and pass by September 14th, that it was time again to smoke a few Cubans and sup with Musharraf.

How is this unlike past responses which you found inadequate ?

How is this Zero Tolerance as demanded by you at the G-8 summit ?

How does this square with your demand at the G-8 that terrorism must be isolated whatever their cause and whichever country provides them sustenance and support.

Folks all of us right minded Indians are wrong and the Prime Minister is right. Past responses of holding the Pakistan Government responsible were inadequate in stopping Pakistan sponsored terrorism, so the new strategy is to infiltrate the ISI from within through this joint counter terrorism strategy. Barring this hair-brained irrational explanation, the wholesale shift of Indian Foreign Policy that the Prime Minister has effected defies logic. Not only does it defy logic but it flies in the face of every promise and assertion the Prime Minister made on July 12th, July 14th, July 18th and July 20th. Some clues to this shift in stance become apparent from comments by seasoned diplomats in the Daily News and Analysis, DNA, who see this as a positive signal to the U.S. Congress to move on the Indo-US Nuke deal

Offstumped Bottomline: Nothing has changed internally or externally between July14th and September 14th to justify this wholesale policy shift. Manmohan Singh clearly lacks the moral clarity and the strength of convictions to win the war on terror, a phrase he used on July 12th and has since forgotten. Whether the new shift addresses terrorism or not it definitely amounts to a wholesale embrace of the Musharraf regime of Pakistan. To do so as a quid-pro-quo for the Indo-US Nuclear deal is myopic and will come back to haunt India.

Here is why this is both myopic and will come back to haunt us. The Manmohan Singh Government's high on rhetoric low on results flip-flop approach to terrorism has made it clear in black and white to both the Terrorists and to Pakistan that they will never be held accountable for anything, there will never be any price to pay. So as long as Musharraf plays along with nobel intentions his regime can continue with its Salami Tactics as there is nothing in the counter terrorism mechanism that will hold him accountable. What does India propose to do if the Pakistanis run circles around Indian intelligence requests and investigative quests ? Complain to the United States ! Is this is how India proposes to gain leverage. This further goes to confirm the U.S. angle to this new shift. The other more important reason why this is myopic is because it does not address the core question haunting the sub-continent - what after Musharraf ? The absence of democracy or mass institutional support for these talks and mechanisms, means we waste time indulging Musharraf to our own peril.

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posted by Yossarin at 6:53 PM  


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