Sense & consequence

India injects gravity and realism into its engagement with Pakistan...

Written by The Indian Express | Published: June 28, 2010 4:32 am

After his meeting with Rehman Malik at the SAARC Interior Ministers’ Conference,P. Chidambaram has struck the right notes of hard talk and patient engagement with Pakistan. He gave Pakistan some wiggle room by appreciating its intentions to address terror,but added what mattered ultimately were hard results. These “outcomes” include a sincere and thorough investigation and follow-up of 26/11 leads,dealing with plotters and handlers of the attack,and ensuring that terrorists don’t have a free run. While acknowledging the fact that Malik’s speech devoted a considerable part to terrorism,9/11 and 26/11,the home minister pointed out that bringing the Mumbai attack to “a logical end” would benefit both countries,beset by the same problem.

Pakistan,predictably,played hardball about Hafiz Saeed,almost framing it as a hate-speech issue — “there are all sorts of people making all kinds of speeches… in both India and Pakistan.” However,when accused of fixating on the Saeed issue,Chidambaram pointed out that it was only accurate to recognise that the process had been interrupted,but that both India and Pakistan were now picking up the threads of dialogue again. He also laid down the mutual parameters for progress — “it is incumbent upon us to ensure that the instruments and resources at our disposal are put to best possible use in our fight against terrorism. We need to examine whether existing conventions at our disposal have been effective and,if not,we need to understand why.”

Keeping the conversation moving is in India’s own interests,and,more importantly,we must recognise that in Pakistan the government is not fully behind the wheel,and state agencies are not necessarily on the same page. For India,the political capital that can be wrung from suspending all dialogue has already been exhausted. And talking to the civilian government should only be one strand of India’s diplomatic efforts,because Pakistan is a jigsaw of overlapping interests — the army,fundamentalist groups and civil society inhabit sometimes different,sometimes overlapping planes,and each tugs a little differently at it.

India must have the wits to engage each of them patiently,along with other international actors invested in Pakistan.

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