THE LAST STOP
Roller Coaster Ride
The relations between India and Pakistan are virtually like a ride on a roller coaster: up and down. They were up when PM Vajpayee took a bus trip to Lahore and down when General Musharraf decided to intrude into Kargil. They were again up when President Musharraf met PM Vajpayee in Agra and they were down when the summit failed. They were again up when PM Vajpayee met President Musharraf while attending the SAARC summit in Islamabad which subsequently led to a comprehensive composite dialogue but have been more or less down since the crisis erupted in Pakistan over the removal of the Chief Justice which led to the eventual downfall of Musharraf, followed by the Mumbai attacks. They appear to be on the upswing yet again after Nawaz Sharif’s coming to power and there is talk of India again agreeing to a composite dialogue to discuss all the issues including Kashmir.
The 2008 Mumbai attacks actually changed the dynamics of whatever was happening in the context of Indo-Pak relations as otherwise the dialogue following the January 2004 Musharraf-Vajpayee meeting would have eventually led to a few positive breakthroughs.
The 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks in Bombay by members of Lashkar e Taiba began on November 26 and lasted until November 29, killing 166 people and wounding at least 308. Among the dead were 18 foreigners, including six Americans. At least 20 members of the security forces died. And nine attackers were killed. The Indian authorities claimed that Ajmal Kasab, the only attacker who was captured alive, later confessed during interrogation that the attacks were conducted with the support of the ISI.
The ten young men armed with rifles and grenades terrorized Bombay, now Mumbai: a city of 18 million, for four days, and turned the city’s prime sites into battlefields until the security forces ended one of the deadliest attacks in India’s history.
The then Pakistani rulers acted clumsily in handling the crisis and misread the international mood against terrorism. PM Gilani, soon after the attack, promised his Indian counterpart that his country would send the ISI Director General to India. The PM House was quick to even issue a press release in this regard. However, the rulers failed to realize that the real power continued to vest in GHQ. The Indian Government had officially not even reacted to this before Pakistan Premier’s Office retracted its statement about the ISI, apparently after the military authorities expressed their inability to comply with his understanding with the Indian Premier.
The Indian media is generally hawkish when it comes to Pakistan; and was even more belligerent after the Mumbai carnage. It is quite free as far as domestic relations are concerned but for some reason toes the Ministry of External Affairs’ line when it comes to foreign affairs, particularly with respect to Indo-Pak relations.
As a result, the temperature arose tremendously and the relations were at an all time low. The PPP Government, instigated by its Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, kept making one promise after another to the Indians about convicting the guilty for their involvement in the Mumbai blasts but nothing concrete has so far come out, despite a passage of almost five years.
It is a sad situation and reflects quite badly on Pakistan’s intentions to fight the menace of terrorism, particularly that which threatens the neighboring countries. Cases are pending in the Anti Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi and, like everybody else accused of a crime, the incarcerated can be assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The question, however, is that what is taking the judicial process to come to a conclusion, especially when the Anti Terrorism Courts are fast-track courts and are statutorily bound to decide a case within a short time. The sooner this matter is concluded the better it will be for the state of Indo-Pak relations.