Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Conflict zone ticking By Shamim-ur-Rahman

Conflict zone ticking By Shamim-ur-Rahman

The author is a Senior Correspondent of Daily Dawn - Karachi - Pakistan

Though we may disagree with what the Indians and the world community is saying against Pakistan, they have have succeeded in pitting the world against us through a mandatory resolution of the UNSC, adopted under Chapter 7 that make its compliance mandatory, failure of which would provide the world community a pretext to launch preemptive strikes either through economic or military means.

It represent a very serious development and failure of Islamabad's foreign and security policy. Both civilian and military bureaucracy and the government has a lot of explaining to do because their half-hearted approach in dealing with the issue of terrorism or the terrorist groups has endangered country's integrity and security of its citizens.

One is amazed that what the Foreign Office was doing all these days when the Indian's with their strategic ally, were manipulating a diplomatic coup d'etat against Pakistan by winning over China's support for the resolution. Some naive people believe that the government of Pakistan itself manipulated this mandatory resolution to sell it to its people as a fait accompli and the only way to escape the wrath of the world community. How brilliant. Only fools thinks that way.

While there can be no two opinions regarding the bloody mayhem in Mumbai that sent a wave of panic and terror across South Asia, initiating yet another round of dangerous blame game in a nuclearised environment, Indian media's attempt to whip up war hysteria at the behest of some its Hindutva and hardliners in the Congress Party, which deliberately projected the tragedy as India's 9/11, that culminated in the New Delhi's decision to discontinue the process of composite dialogue with Pakistan further deteriorated the security situation in the region. Many things have happened since then and the Indian's moving according to their game plan that was aimed at arraying different nationalities against Pakistan, as nationals of many western countries were killed in Mumbai attack. Indians immediately pronounced judgment against Pakistan's ISI, Lashkare Tayeba without any investigation and thanks to intelligence proofs provided by the Americans or the British and Israeli intelligence. New Delhi's tirade was unleashed by its very ambitious External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherji, who once aspired for Congress leadership and becoming prime minister of India, and had even developed some difference with Sonia Gandhi in this regard, which many believe was part of the Indo-US strategic plan of bringing Pakistan under pressure to submit to their policies, and in the process allow them to deprive Pakistan of its strategic assets.

Pakistan seems to be in a straight jacket with apparently no alternatives but to follow the dictates, to save its nuclear assets. It has come under immense pressure after media investigation reports in Pakistan "confirmed" that the lone surviving terrorist involved in Mumbai attacks belonged to Faridkot in Dipalpur district of Pakistan. New Delhi wants to push through this so-called evidence of Pakistani soil being used in the tragedy and that it was allegedly involved in the episode. Perhaps that is the reason New Delhi is scuttling proposal for joint investigation. Perhaps South Asia will remain in the war mongering mode until the upcoming Indian elections early next year. Whatever may be the truth in the so-called evidence about Ajmal Kasab, apparently it fitted into the line which the Indian media fed by its intelligence agencies and political leadership, taken right from the beginning of the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

But the situation took a dramatic turn when a Lahore-based lawyer claimed Ajmal was allegedly picked up the Indian agencies with the connivance of Nepalese police, along with many other Pakistanis, in 2006 and that as petition challenging the Indian agencies and Nepalese authorities was pending in Neplai court. If proved, this could be a serious blow to the Indian claims and the so-called credible intelligence provided by the US, NATO and the British intelligence sources, accusing LeT, Al Qaeda, Jamatud Dawa, and ISI etc, based on an old perception. Although some of the world leaders, including that of the US and the UK acted swiftly to stop the situation from getting out of control due to jingoistic mindset of the people in the region; it seems that the effort was tilting in favour of India. Sending US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others to New Delhi and Islamabad was the right move for salvaging the situation by Washington and the British Prime Minister Cordon Brown's whirl wind visit to the South Asian region. But it has not resulted in the resumption of bilateral dialogue. Rather it has enhanced pressure on Pakistan as all the world leaders are maintaining that Pakistan's solid was used in the aMumbai attack.Remarks of the US President-elect Barack Obama that India would be within its rights if it took retaliatory action against militants hiding inside Pakistan, were counter-productive and not conducive for peace in the region. Pakistan's top leadership seems to be more committed to safeguarding Washington's interests, no matter how it impinges on Pakistan's own national interests.

We witnessed the massive Indian mobilization along Pakistan's borders and in the occupied Kashmir and on the high seas. The violation of Pakistan's air space was a deliberate prodding mission to judge Pakistan Air Forces preparedness and its reaction time to challenge the invading aircraft. Although we have settled with the explanation that it was technical violation, presumably following British and US indulgence, the fact is that it was deliberate posturing to send us message. Following Brasstacks buildup it was decided by Indian and Pakistan that their aircraft will not fly within 15 miles of their international borders. If they did so ,they were required to inform the other country. Indians did not adhere to its and deliberately engaged us in a dangerous posturing in and environment when there is significant disparity in conventional weapons between the two countries. Whether or not it was aimed at launching a surgical attack inside Pakistan, it was certainly a calculated risk, probably in the knowledge of the so called "friends". If the Indian's might have committed that mistake, Gordon Brown's mission as peace maker would have failed as the sub continent would have plunged into another bloodbath. The western countries would be more interested in gaining control of Pakistan's strategic assets, and not stopping India.

The Indian arrogance of a regional influential was evident from Pranab Mukharji's contention that under the circumstances it was not possible to continue composite dialogue with Pakistan and his repeated insistence on the right of his country to act in self-defence. Dr Manmohan Singh's questionable assertion that Pakistan was epicenter of terrorism further aggravated the situation. But now after the resolution and Brown's visit his stand has softened owing to blow-hot blow-cold diplomacy.

This was despite the fact that the terrorist tragedy happened on the day the Home Secretaries of the two countries concluded their talks in Islamabad and announced several concrete steps to move forward in the peace process, such as the opening of several land routes for trade – Kargil, Wagah-Attari, Khokhropar etc, relaxation in the visa regime, a soft and liberal policy on the issue of release of prisoners and joint efforts to fight terrorism? Was it also a coincidence that on this fateful day the Foreign Minister of Pakistan was in the Indian capital holding productive talks with his Indian counterpart?

Indian government's decision to discontinue the bilateral process was tantamount to playing on the terrorists' turf and providing them space. Perhaps they have achieved their real objective.

After the Security Council resolution banning Jamat ud Dawa , now that Pakistan is in compliance mode, if the US and the world really wanted to root out terrorism, they must insist on joint investigation and the need for resuming the bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan no matter how critical the situation may be. One can only find the truth through dialogue, absence of which might push the region towards a disastrous scenario. Beating the war drum under the umbrella of united and firm national response to the terrorist threat will not lead to any solution. It does not lead to the much needed cooling off period for diplomacy to make headway. Both India and Pakistan have bilateral mechanism besides the SAARC framework, to deal with terrorism, and that must be invoked to deal with the situation.

In this particular case Pakistan has also proposed joint commission to unearth the truth. If India is sure of its contention it should not oppose it. But they apparently want to have one way traffic. That is not going help in this situation. One should not rule out the possibility that elements who were involved in Samjhota Express and Malegaon massacre had something to do with inflaming the situation and portraying it as India's 9/11. After all ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who was investigating involvement of a serving Lt Col Srikant Purohit of the Indian military intelligence, along with others, was among the first victims of the terrorists in Mumbai. Joint investigation is also necessary for verifying the controversial confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab and different accounts of the incident involving him.

The overwhelming majority of the people of India and Pakistan believe that while the immediate responsibility for unmasking the culprits of Mumbai and taking them to task surely rests with the Government of India, all of us in South Asia have an obligation to join hands and go into the root causes of why and how such forces of evil are motivated and emboldened to resort to such acts of anti-people terror.

There are apprehensions that so many different forces prone to religious, sectarian and other forms of intolerance and violence may be looking for ways to arm themselves with more and more sophisticated weapons of mass murder and destruction.

For the sake of peace it is essential that the governments of India and Pakistan take immediate steps for cessation of all hostile propaganda against each other; besides joint action to curb religious extremism of all shades in both countries; and continue and intensify normalization of relations and peaceful resolution of all conflicts between the two countries.

Perhaps facilitating a visa free regime for building bridges of trust and increasing two way trades through people-to-people contacts is need of the hour. Unfortunately people-to-people contact is the main casualty of Mumbai mayhem.

India should also address the core issue of Kashmir according to aspirations of the Kashmiri people and it should do serious soul searching because there are many insurgencies going on in India's many regions at the moment. Many of them have linkages with radical right wing religious parties of the majority and possibly with the elements in the Indian military. India should come out of Pakistan centric, and more so, ISI-centric threat perception. ENDS

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