Rajnath's trip to Pakistan for SAARC summit will help Islamabad not India

Minhaz Merchant
Minhaz MerchantAug 01, 2016 | 21:23

Rajnath's trip to Pakistan for SAARC summit will help Islamabad not India

Should Union home minister Rajnath Singh lead India's delegation at the SAARC home/interior ministers' meeting in Islamabad on August 3-4? The short answer: no.

Pakistan has everything to gain from Rajnath's visit. It gives Islamabad credibility. It allows Islamabad to accept the dossier on Pathankot that Rajnath will bring and days later dismiss it as "more literature".

The Indians say they will hand over "additional proof" of Pakistan's involvement in the Pathankot terror attack. It is astonishing, after seven decades of dealing with a renegade country which treats incontrovertible evidence with cavalier disregard, that Indian politicians still expect Islamabad to act on such evidence.

The 26/11 terror attack on multiple locations in Mumbai, including the Taj Mahal Hotel, took place nearly eight years ago.

Irrefutable evidence of direct complicity of the Pakistani army has been given to Islamabad by both Indian and American investigating agencies. (Several US citizens were killed in the Mumbai attack. Under US law it is obligatory for Washington to deliver justice for every citizen killed in a terror attack.)

Rajnath is an honourable man. But he is hopelessly outmatched in the dark arts that the Pakistani establishment practises. He will receive a cordial welcome when he arrives in Islamabad on August 3.

The spike in attacks in the Kashmir Valley in recent months points to a shift in Pakistan's strategy. 

The Pakistanis will assure him of their intent to act against terrorism. They will deny any involvement in the Pathankot terror attack and ask for more evidence - just as they have been doing for eight years over the 26/11 Mumbai attack.

They will deflect Rajnath's insistence on a National Investigation Agency (NIA) team visiting Pakistan to probe the Pathankot attackers - a promise Pakistan made but never intended to keep.

At the end of two days of a largely meaningless SAARC summit on South Asian security, Pakistan's role as a haven for terrorists will be sidestepped. High sounding resolutions will be passed enjoining SAARC member nations to combat terrorism "in all its forms and from wherever it emanates".

Pakistan's slick ISI-trained media and PR machinery will repeat the lie that Pakistan too is a victim of terrorism, without adding the obvious caveat that it is the victim of its own terrorism.

India, in sharp contrast, is the victim of Pakistani proxy terrorism. The equivalence that Pakistan always attempts to draw is a false equivalence but few, even in the Indian media, call Islamabad out on that lie.

Rajnath's voice, even if he says all that he should say as robustly as he can, will be drowned in the cacophony Islamabad will engineer.

At the end of the SAARC summit, India will look like a pleading supplicant, Pakistan the patient victim waging war against the Taliban and other (non-Punjabi) terror groups.

Does this mean Rajnath should not go to Islamabad for the SAARC summit? Yes. Does it mean India shouldn't be represented? No.

India should be represented at this multilateral forum by home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi. This would deliver a clear message to Islamabad which takes India's woolly-headedness for granted and exploits it to the hilt.

That message is simple: stop terror; conclude the Pathankot and other probes; only then will we talk to you at the ministerial level.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Pakistan policy lacks both coherence and clarity. His early overtures were well-founded. Even the impromptu Lahore drop-in last Christmas on Nawaz Sharif's birthday could be justified - just about.

But inviting a Pakistani joint investigative team (JIT) to "probe" Pathankot was a strategic error. It gave the Pakistanis the precedent they wanted: joint investigations for all future ISI terror attacks on India will now be de rigueur.

It's like asking Dawood Ibrahim to send Chhota Shakeel to help the Mumbai Police "jointly" investigate the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts. This is where the prime minister and national security advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval's Pakistan policy has descended from the sublime to the ridiculous.

And sublime it was for a while. The mortar-for-mortar retaliatory fire by the BSF has silenced Pakistani Ranger guns across the line of control (LoC) and international border (IB) since September 2015.

Cornered and out-gunned, Pakistan has changed its tactics: infiltration. The spike in attacks in the Kashmir Valley in recent months points to this strategic shift.

While Kashmiris resent the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) and a heavy Army presence in the Valley, the attempt by Punjab-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and their thuggish leaders Hafiz Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar respectively have failed to radicalise ordinary Kashmiri Muslims.

The Hurriyat, which was created by the ISI in the early-1990s to foment trouble in the Valley, and Punjab-based militants are the two weapons Pakistan deploys in Kashmir. The Hurriyat is fraudulently projected by Islamabad as the political voice of the Kashmiris. The Punjab-based terrorist groups complement this with violence to intimidate and indoctrinate ordinary Kashmiris.

The Kashmiri youth are used as cannon fodder. They hurl stones at the security forces. Their women and children are placed in front by ISI handlers to face pellets and bullets and form a shield for the cowardly militants behind them.

Splintering Pakistan

Pakistan is meanwhile being torn apart by the same demons it has tried to unleash on India. Balochistan and Sindh are in revolt. Pashtuns on both sides of the Durand Line are in ferment. Afghanistan and Iran have turned hostile to Pakistan. So has Bangladesh.

It is only the rump of west Punjab comprising 110 million Pakistanis (roughly the population of Bihar and half of Uttar Pradesh) that remains locked in its schizoid proxy war against India.

The generals of the Pakistani army are nearly all Punjabi. They harbour a deep grudge against India over military losses in Bangladesh and Kargil - and their own failed State.

They are corrupt and use Kashmir as an excuse to prolong their low intensity proxy war against India. They want this war to continue interminably for only then will their US/Chinese funds and their own relevance in Pakistan be protected.

If Kashmir is resolved, the generals will pick another issue to fight India over - water treaties, for example. They have no interest in the welfare of the people of Kashmir as the dismal status of the residents of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) demonstrates.

What should India do? The prime minister has only to replay an interview he gave to a television channel in April 2014. When asked about talking to Pakistan, he said coldly: "You can't hear each other over the sound of gunfire."

Talk, yes. But not at senior levels till the terror stops. That is why not Rajnath but his home secretary should be in Islamabad on August 3-4.

Last updated: August 02, 2016 | 16:16
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