Call off the peace dialogue — to begin with

Call off the peace dialogue — to begin with
By H. K. Dua

NEARLY a month after the terrorists’ audacious assault on Mumbai and the country’s sovereignty, the people across the country are certainly feeling restless, wanting to know what the government is actually doing to ensure that no such attack takes place again.

After spewing out anger in the streets of Mumbai as an immediate response, the people are luckily showing a measure of responsibility a national crisis demands of them. But it will be a folly, also politically unwise, to underestimate the intensity of suppressed emotions on their discovery that the political establishment across the board was caught unprepared for meeting the challenge in Mumbai.

While democracies normally move slowly to evolve adequate responses to sudden threats — in this case it was not so sudden — New Delhi has to wipe off the impression that it is not dependent on others to sort out what India should be doing on its own.

The use of high-pressure diplomacy is welcome, so will be the massive attempts to mobilise world opinion to force Pakistan to take action against the terrorist groups thriving with its patronage. But outsourcing all the efforts to others may not deliver assured and early results. No outside power can understand the pain India has repeatedly been experiencing because of terrorism wantonly exported from Pakistan.

Why Ms Condoleezza Rice and Mr Gordon Brown rushed to India soon after Mumbai carnage did make headlines in India and abroad, but it is too clear that they came to New Delhi to advise India to exercise restraint promising that they will try to see that Pakistan behaves. Ms Rice’s latest statement at the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington that Pakistan has not done enough to satisfy India makes it clear that Washington’s word has no impact on whosoever governs Pakistan.

This is evident from the kind of statements that are coming from Pakistan and President Asif Zardari’s tendency to go back on his statements making one excuse after another that can make anyone laugh. The President of Pakistan has even refused to accept that Kasab is a Pakistani national – only to get rejoinders from none else than Kasab’s father as well as former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who has given Zardari Kasab’s and his father’s address in Faridkot village near Okara.

It is hard to believe that the government in New Delhi, which is guiding the destiny of a nation of over a billion people, is sitting idle and doing nothing and only depending on other countries to defend our interests.

Some of the recent statements such as those of Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee that India is keeping all options open to tackle the post-Mumbai situation possibly indicates that New Delhi’s position has been hardening. Perhaps, New Delhi has also been realising that the risks of delay might give the impression of unintended inaction to disillusioned people.

No one is expecting the government to spell out its options in its IN-tray, but it cannot ignore the importance of making some visible moves to convince the people that it has worked out a clear-cut policy, and is ready to ensure that Pakistan at least hands over the wanted men like Dawood, Azar Mahmood and others, winds up the Jihadi training camps and dismantles the financial and communication networks facilitated by the ISI.

Its decision to call off the Pakistan cricket tour made sense, as terrorism and the spirit of cricket do not blend together. But cancellation of the cricket tour is too weak a signal to impress anyone at home, or in Pakistan. And, if cricket cannot go with terrorism, how can the peace process at all be carried forward when Pakistan is refusing to give up abetting terrorism?

India and Pakistan have had several rounds of what has come to be known in official jargon as the composite dialogue. Given Pakistan’s continued unwillingness to call a halt to terrorist strikes from Pakistan, there is no earthly reason for carrying on with the peace process which has now become simply a theoretical exercise. The least New Delhi can do is to immediately call off the dialogue, letting Pakistan know that sub-continental peace cannot be ensured by India, when it is violated by Islamabad. Like tango, it takes two to make peace, after all.

Even calling off the peace process may just be a signal to make Pakistan realise that Indian patience is getting exhausted and it is ready to sacrifice the peace bid it was very keen on.

It looks like that the Manmohan Singh government will have to do much more to follow this up to convince the people that a nation of India’s size and potential cannot be fiddled with whether the rulers of Pakistan are unable or unwilling to conduct in a manner every member of the international community ought to.

If Pakistan allows its territory to be used for attacks on India on the unacceptable plea that those involved in the attacks are the so-labelled “non-state actors”, it does not absolve it from the responsibility of allowing its territory to be used by the Jihadis. Its quibble that Pakistan itself is a victim of terrorism does not wash in international law which binds it to the position that it can’t cast an evil eye on its neighbour and allow its own territory to be used by malcontents bred, trained and guided by its various outfits.