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Peshawar recoil

If Islamabad moves forward with banning terror outfits, Delhi must rethink reluctance on dialogue

By: Express News Service |
Updated: January 19, 2015 12:00:44 am

Media reports from Islamabad that Pakistan has decided to ban a number of terrorist organisations, including the Haqqani network, which operates in Afghanistan, and the Jamat-ud-Dawa, also known as the Lashkar- e-Toiba, which targets India, have neither been confirmed nor denied. These reports followed last week’s visit to Pakistan by US Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who publicly pressed Islamabad to end its longstanding policy of differentiating between “good” and “bad” terrorists. Although sceptics in Delhi are not ready to buy the argument that Pakistan is on the cusp of a “paradigm shift” in its approach to terrorism, there is no denying that a number of recent developments have triggered a new debate across our western borders.

The massacre of nearly 150 people, mostly children, at an army school in Peshawar last month appears to have shaken Pakistani society out of its passive acquiescence of Islamist terror and stirred the army into action. Pakistan has quickly established military courts to deal with terrorists and begun summary executions of a large number of terrorists in its prisons. While the military courts do cast a shadow over Pakistani democracy, they also signal a new resolve to defeat terror. The change in the domestic dynamic has been reinforced by the growing pressures from the international community, especially the United States, on Pakistan to extend the war on terror against all groups based on its soil, including those which its army has nurtured as strategic assets against Afghanistan and India.

Many in Delhi who would like to reserve their judgement will point to the fact that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. They will underline the record of Pakistani support to the LeT and the army’s reluctance to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack in November 2008 to justice. The security establishment in Delhi knows that the Pakistan army has long valued the LeT as an important anti-India instrument. It will argue that Rawalpindi would want to protect the LeT at all costs, even as it confronts the Pakistani Taliban, which has been the main source of terror at home.

It is precisely for these reasons that Delhi must welcome any definitive and purposeful action by Islamabad against the LeT. If that action does materialise in the coming days, Delhi must quickly reconsider its current reluctance to engage in any dialogue with Pakistan and invite its leaders to join India in jointly combating an evil that threatens to destabilise the entire subcontinent. In the nasty world of national security, scepticism about the intentions of one’s adversaries is not unhealthy. But cynicism that is not leavened by a political appreciation of the possibilities for change is.

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