Friday, November 18, 2011
Public memory in this wondrous land of ours being remarkably short, we rarely, if ever, remember commitments made by our leaders. That makes it easy for them to go back on their word without anybody realising they are doing so. “You can’t fool all the people all the time,” an aphorism attributed to Abraham Lincoln, is made to stand on its head by the sophistry of those who rule India.
And so it is that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has gone ahead and done exactly what he had promised the people of this country he would not do. Making a statement in Parliament on July 29, 2009, he had said that “Pakistan has to act and act effectively on terrorism before there can be a comprehensive dialogue covering all areas of disagreement or concerns of the two countries”. That was eight months after the horrific attack on multiple high profile targets in Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists that left at least 164 people dead and more than 300 injured.
Unmindful of the fact that on November 26 India will observe the third anniversary of that horrendous blood-letting and disdainful of grieving parents, widows and orphans who are yet to reconcile themselves to their terrible loss, Singh has chosen this moment to declare Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani a “man of peace” who is “willing to work with us” and indicated his desire to visit the country that continues to torment India.
There is more. Without going into details, he said, “I did discuss with Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani whether Pakistan’s armed forces were on board. The feeling I got was that after a long time, Pakistan’s armed forces are on board.” In other words, both Islamabad and Rawalpindi are now keen to talk peace with New Delhi.
In April this year, The Times (London) carried an interesting story which said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had opened “secret talks” with the Pakistani Army chief 10 months ago “to build on the cricket-inspired diplomatic thaw” between the two countries. The newspaper claimed Singh had “appointed an unofficial envoy to make contact with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan's chief of the army staff who exercises de facto control over foreign policy.” The PMO had swiftly denied the report.
The Prime Minister’s sudden mention of the Pakistani Army being “on board” brings that report to mind. It is unimaginable that Gilani would have talked Kayani, who misses no opportunity to make it abundantly clear that India remains Enemy Number One of the Pakistani Army and treats his Prime Minister with unhidden contempt, into getting ‘on board’ the peace train.
That apart, it would be in order to raise three points to underscore the hollowness of Singh’s claim that Gilani realises the folly of persisting with cross-border terrorism as an instrument of state policy and, to signal Pakistan’s rupture with past practice, is keen to bring the masterminds behind 26/11 to justice.
First, between November 26, 2008, and now, nothing has changed vis-à-vis Pakistan nurturing terrorist organisations as ‘strategic assets’. Recent Congressional testimonies by senior US officials, including the topmost military commander Mike Mullen, have reconfirmed what we have known all along. The ISI, working in tandem with the Pakistani Army, continues to use terrorist organisations to further Pakistan’s ‘strategic objectives’. The Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, which masterminded and executed 26/11, did so with the assistance of the ISI.
Second, in the past three years, absolutely no sincerity has been shown by Gilani and his Government to prosecute LeT chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed and his deputy Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi despite overwhelming evidence of their involvement in 26/11 provided by India and the intelligence agencies of other countries. The prosecution case is laughably weak. Dossier after dossier sent by India has been spurned as no more than ‘fiction’. Saeed continues to preach hatred against India.
Third, days before Gilani was anointed a “man of peace”, he ordered that Jamaat-ud-Dawa’h, as the LeT has refashioned itself to beat sanctions, be removed from Pakistan’s list of banned organisations. That decision was in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, especially Resolution 1822, which are binding on all member-states. It also rudely mocks at India’s assertion that the LeT / JuD is responsible for the continued loss of Indian lives.
In Havana, Singh had inexplicably accorded Pakistan the status of victim, as opposed to perpetrator, of terrorism. In Sharm el-Sheikh, he had meekly agreed to de-link terrorism and talks. In Maldives, he has timidly offered peace at any cost. On each occasion, he chose to ignore India’s national interest, although that is supposed to be his primary concern.
This can’t be just about going down in history as a peace-maker, which takes me back to where I began.
(This appeared as a comment in DNA on November 17, 2011.)