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Cut to the probe

On Pathankot investigation, ignore the hyper-patriotic blather. Allowing in Pak team serves India’s best interests.

Updated: March 30, 2016 12:32:20 am
pathankot attack, pathankot airbase attack, Pathankot terror probe, amit shah, JIT, pakistani probe team, pakistani probe team in india, BJP, lahore attack, india news, latest news, pathankot attack updates The Pakistani team with NIA officers at the agency headquarters in Delhi, Monday. (Express Photo)

The Opposition uproar that has greeted the arrival of Pakistan’s Pathankot investigation team will surprise no one who follows the political game. The fact, however, is that allowing in Pakistan’s investigators serves India’s best interests. For one, it denies Pakistan the opportunity to claim that its genuine desire to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of cross-border terrorism was defeated by Indian recalcitrance. Following 26/11, then-Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s decision to reject Pakistan’s desire to cross-examine witnesses continues to haunt the prosecution. The fact that Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) did not independently conduct investigations will also hand defence lawyers a useful tool as the case proceeds. In the long term, the Pathankot case may even set a template for future investigations of cases of cross-border terrorism, hard to prove before courts in the absence of cooperation from Pakistan. In future, notably, Pakistan will be hard-pressed to deny India’s own National Investigation Agency matching access to the country. Even if sceptics who claim Pakistan lacks a sincere intention to act against the perpetrators of anti-India terrorism are proved correct, Islamabad will be unable to blame the failure of its case on India.

Little imagination is needed to see that these potential gains come at no cost to India. The argument that the presence of Pakistani intelligence personnel inside the Pathankot air base could compromise national security is patently absurd. High-resolution imaging of the base, revealing precise details of military structures, is available online. Terrorists do not seem to lack knowledge of the base’s workings as it is. There is more merit in the argument that Pakistan’s FIA — rather than a team in which three of five members are intelligence officers with no legal power to investigate crimes, not police personnel — ought to have been charged with the case. The fact of the matter, though, is that it is for Pakistan to decide whom it wishes to charge with the investigation of a case, not India.

The bottomline is this: Hysterical patriotism ought not to be allowed to stand in the way of a sensible step forward for India’s counter-terrorism agenda. The NDA government might, however, usefully draw some lessons from this unhappy affair. The script for the histrionic performances of the Congress and the AAP was written during the BJP’s years of reflexive opposition to then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Pakistan policies, which, it would seem, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now following. Though this behaviour might be considered part of the game, it comes with real costs — among them, narrowing the space political leaders have to take the kinds of difficult decisions needed to pursue peace. India’s political parties must learn to find more mature ways of critiquing governments on defence and foreign policy.


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First published on: 30-03-2016 at 12:32:18 am
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