It may be hard to accept, but Pakistan won’t help India on terror

By  Kanwal Sibal  

PUBLISHED:  00:25 GMT, 23 December 2014  |  UPDATED:  00:25 GMT, 23 December 2014



The problem for India is that Pakistan is unable to deal with domestic terrorism, which is become more lethal – as the latest incident of the brutal killing of school children inPeshawar shows.

At the same time, it is unwilling to deal with terrorism from its soil directed at Indiaand Afghanistan, because the groups involved are considered as strategic assets.




The gut issue is that the groups nurtured by Pakistan to promote terrorist attacks against us are viewed as freedom fighters and not terrorists. If jihad is a religious obligation, then for Pakistan to treat jihadi groups as terrorist groups would be going against basic Islamic tenets..

Despite the horrific Peshawar attack on schoolchildren, Pakistan is in no mood to bring terrorists to justice

A huge gap therefore exits in how we characterise anti-India jihadi groups in Pakistan, and how Pakistan sees them.

For us they are terrorists; for the Pakistanis they are groups fighting for Kashmir’s freedom and against Indian atrocities on their co-religionists there.

We, therefore, talk at cross purposes when we speak about cooperating with each other in combating the menace of terrorism. Pakistan tactically accepts the inclusion of terrorism in our dialogue agenda because otherwise India will not talk about Kashmir, which is Pakistan’s core issue.

Because of the enormity of the Mumbai attacks in which foreign nationals were also killed, a Pakistani was caught alive and a US informer identified the masterminds inPakistan, the latter could no longer resort to its habitual denials and obfuscations about its responsibility.

Subsequently, Pakistan has used all possible legal and procedural tricks to delay trying those responsible for the Mumbai massacre, citing India’s own dilatory legal processes, and, more deplorably, alleging, as Nawaz Sharif’s foreign policy adviser has just done, that India has not provided enough evidence to inculpate the accused.

Pakistan has been shifting the responsibility for the delay in the trial on to India’s shoulders, when all the evidence is there and it is incumbent on Pakistani authorities to do the necessary investigation.

It clearly has no interest in getting to the bottom of the case and unveiling the complicity of its state agencies in it.

Cornered, Pakistan has been striking back by equating the Mumbai attack to the one on the Samjhauta Express and citing the delay in the Samjhauta investigation to justify that in the case of those accused of the Mumbai mayhem.

Worse, the Pakistanis now exhibit impatience with India’s insistence on playing the old and tiresome Mumbai record, and conveniently advise us to look ahead rather than remain fixated on the past.

For them, Indian accusations of Pakistani involvement in terrorism have no basis, as Pakistan is itself a victim of terrorism, and they regurgitate, irrelevantly for us, the figures of casualties suffered by its citizens and security forces to prove the country’s innocence.




India is charged with deliberately maligning Pakistan’s image internationally by our allegations. To erode any high moral ground that India may have gained in the exposure of Pakistani terrorist links with Mumbai, Pakistan harps on Indian involvement in the Baluchistan insurgency.

In a feverish bid to ensure that the two countries have parity in misdeeds, we are accused of supporting the homicidal Pakistani Taliban in cahoots with the Afghan intelligence.

Pakistan would have concluded in the last six years that while India regularly raises the Mumbai trial issue, it is not making engagement with the Pakistan contingent on progress.

If the dialogue has been interrupted in the past, it is for other reasons, such as beheadings of Indian soldiers on the LoC or the Pakistani High Commissioner meeting the Hurriyat leaders inopportunely.

The US and some others too, in joint statements with us, ask Pakistan to proceed expeditiously with the trial. But for Pakistan all this is pro-forma, with no costs imposed for recalcitrance.

President Obama has just announced a $1 billion compensation package for Pakistan, even when he is imposing severe sanctions on President Putin’s Russia, which neither gave shelter to Osama bin Laden nor supported the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani group to cause loss of US lives.

Our reaction to the recent gruesome incident at Peshawar should be in this larger context. Even though we are the biggest victims of Pakistani terrorism, our sincere condolences to Pakistan over this horror were completely in order.

But, then, more people were killed or wounded as wantonly in Mumbai ”“ 164 dead and 308 wounded. The dead may not have been children, but they left children behind.




Instead of any outpouring of grief in Pakistan at this horrific act, the reaction there was to deny Pakistani involvement, or that Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani. It was even suggested by Pakistan’s Interior Minister that our own agencies may have engineered this act.

Foreign diplomats in Delhi did not participate in a candle light vigil outside the Indian Foreign Office in sympathy, with the Pakistani High Commissioner present. Unlike us, the Pakistani parliament and Pakistani schools did not observe two minutes of silence over Mumbai.

Former President Musharraf holds RAW and Afghan intelligence responsible for thePeshawar attack and advocates retaliation. Hafiz Saeed sings the same tune – as do, apparently, sections of the Pakistani media.

The effort is to shield the Pakistani Taliban from the ignominy of their act and prevent much-needed soul-searching at the national level.

The day after we go out of our way to express solidarity with our long-time tormentor, a Pakistani court orders the release of the principal accused in the Mumbai case.

There is a lesson to be learnt from all this ”“ about Pakistan’s structural inability to erase terrorism from its soil.

But when it comes to Pakistan, we prefer the comfort of hopes over hard realities.


The writer is a former Foreign Secretary

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