By K.N. Pandita
There is always very little to demarcate private visit of the President of a foreign country from his formal visit. More so is the case with the visit of the Head of a country in our neighbour with which we have a long record of strained relations. We have a number of outstanding issues with Pakistan, complex, sensitive and almost baffling. These are as old as our independence. Kashmir is not the only issue between us although for long Pakistan has been making resolution of all other issues conditional to finding a solution to Kashmir problem. That is not going to happen, and Pakistan seems to have understood, albeit belatedly, that the policy of hinging all Indo-Pak disputes to Kashmir issue is unrealistic.
Sections of press and some political circles sermonised that the Indian Prime Minister vigorously takes up terrorism and Hafiz Saeed issues with the visiting dignitary. They would not be averse to hinging forward move of bilateral relationship to Mumbai related terrorist attack and extradition of its planners in Pakistan. People understanding the nuances of diplomacy and international relations know that some desk-book rules need to be observed even when one is to deal with a party generally considered ‘rogue’. But if hardliners intend to stick to their rhetoric, then they will be asked to apply the formula to themselves first. Have we brought the perpetrators of home-bred terrorism to book? There are many cases to be cited; Afzal Guru, Bita Karate, Yasin Malik and many others. The man who is alleged to have masterminded the killing of six airmen is now a prized guest of the Indian Home Ministry, and is provided BSF special aircraft when called for talks to New Delhi. Bita Karate, while in jail said in a televised interview that he had lost the count of his victims after killing 22 Kashmiri Pandits. He is not only roaming freely in Kashmir, but is also adviser and activist of several social organizations. Why do we become so vociferous in the case of Hafiz Saeed?
The fact is that terrorism with which we are confronted at present is essentially politico-ideological. If India has constraints in handling known terrorists as indicated above, Pakistan too has her constraints. The difference is that while terrorism unleashed against our citizens is foreign made, in Pakistan it is home made. It is true that Pakistani Army and ISI have been instrumental in raising terrorist outfits after having faced failure in grabbing Kashmir by force of arms. It embarked on low intensity or proxy war, and in that context, it raised layer after layer of terrorist-fundamentalist groups. Today, the fire which ISI started to lit India has reached its own drawing rooms. It has now understood what institutionalised terror means. It adorned terrorist outfits with a variety of high sounding names borrowed from the history of conquests of early Islam. Having fed the snake in the backward, the animal has opened its fangs on the inmates of the house. These jihadis want to throw out the elected government in Pakistan, demolish democratic institutions, over turn the social structure, replace judiciary by unitary sharia law and thus pave the path for the Islamic Caliphate that would bring back to memory the autocracy of the days of the Umayyids and the Abbasids.
Saner elements in Pakistan thrown up by he democratic process, even though if flawed, are taking on the orthodoxy and military muscle combine. This is no mean a task and at the same time is fraught with direst of consequences if the balance tilts to negative side. It has to be remembered that Pakistan Army and ISI are the most formidable bastions of jihadism in Pakistan. Crucifixion of Zulfi and broad day murder of his daughter, both are pointers to the type of danger the democratic and liberal forces in Pakistan are confronted with. The question is does it suit India to have a normal, peaceful, developing Pakistan as her western neighbour or a Pakistan perennially torn by ideological, ethnic, sectarian and class conflict on very disturbing dimensions? If the former is the option, then means and methods of supporting the democratic and liberal forces in Pakistan is what New Delhi will be interested in.
It is not easy for Islamabad government to apprehend Hafiz Saeed and hand him over to the Indians or Americans. Picking him up in Abbotabad–like blitzkrieg, too, seems an improbability. He is not Osama because he has the strongest constituency of Pakistani and Taliban jihadis who are well armed, well trained, well-equipped and well fed. It is the headache of Pakistani policy planners how to handle these rogue elements though of their own creation.
PM Manmohan Singh has reciprocated President Zardari’s invitation of visiting his country in very statesmanlike manner. The two leaders committing to continue the process of dialogue is a clear indication that on some vital matters convergence of ideas and approaches could be possible. Decks with such stinking stuff piled up over six decades and half cannot be cleared in that easy and that soon. Is it in India’s interests to get hold of Hafiz Saeed, the perpetrator of Mumbai carnage or is it in her interest to work with his Pakistani counterparts to eliminate the very source that gives rise to the cannibalism of Hafiz Saeed? India political commentators should never forget that Washington’s putting bounty on the head of Hafiz Saeed is not out of any love for India. Nobody fights your war; you have to fight it yourselves. Washington is engaging Pakistani civilian leadership for re-opening Karachi – Peshawar-Jalalabad transit route for NATO supplies that has been blocked in the aftermath of US attack on Af-Pak border, killing 24 Pakistani regular soldiers. Pakistani Parliament had been silently revisiting the question of government closing down the supply route. But it was Hafiz Saeed who was instigating the masses against any relaxation shown by the government. This has prompted the American strategists to react and nail down Hafiz Saeed. Otherwise it is more than a year that India gave the US all information about the perpetrators of Mumbai carnage of 2008 particularly of Hafiz Saeed and Abdul Rahman Lakhvi and other accomplices. Americans never reacted to India’s valuable input in this connection.