A blanket of exasperation has settled over South Block,with Pakistans consistently evasive responses to the Mumbai terror attack dossier. This week the Defence Committee of Pakistans cabinet belied expectations that it would issue a substantive reply,and instead alluded to further queries to be put to the Indian investigators. Compounding the exasperation in New Delhi with these stalling tactics is Islamabads refusal to officially communicate whatever concerns or clarifications it may have. And the consequent practice of putting out responses through the media hinting at the 26/11 conspiracy being hatched in a European country,or at Bangladeshi involvement is having the effect of trivialising Indias demand for sincere counter-terror cooperation. For India,the message should be obvious. It needs to unlock itself from the courtroom dynamic that Pakistan has so effectively deployed. This is not a court case,there is no legal argument to be won by the back-and-forth currently on. The dossier has substantive documentation on the activities of anti-India terror groups. It needs to be backed by a sustained diplomatic process to compel Pakistan to act against those groups.
The PPP-led governments sincerity in addressing Indias concerns about 26/11 has,however,been put in doubt by another development. This month,the civilian government welcomed the visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moons statement that he was in the process of setting up a three-member commission to probe the December 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Zardari is reported as saying: The commission will have complete freedom to access documentary material and physical evidence and to interview any individual whose testimony would be necessary for fulfilling its mandate. That is not surprising. Zardari and his PPP have been steadfast since the assassination in rejecting the credibility of an internal investigation and have throughout demanded a UN role. But the development,coming as it does simultaneous to Islamabads evasiveness on 26/11 and the role of Pakistani operators,points to a curious double standard.
The complete and open access accorded to the UN commission is unprecedented. It also shows how little faith the civilian government in Pakistan has in obtaining a thorough and credible investigation from its own agencies. That is not problematic; every ruling government makes decisions based on close readings of the circumstances. But given the fact that those very investigative agencies are entrusted with looking into the many dimension of the 26/11 attack,India must have reason to also question the credibility of findings cited by the Pakistani authorities.