David Headley’s Disclosures-II: Pakistan’s Complicity

30 May, 2011    ·   3390

TCA Rangachari discusses India’s options in dealing with the consequences of Headley’s revelations

Shorn of the verbiage and detail, the information that is now becoming available through the Rana-Headley trial in the US into the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai makes one conclusion inevitable - Pakistani complicity. Much of it is largely a confirmation of what India has known, and pointed to publicly, for several months now. As the prime minister said to the press on his way back from Africa on 28 May, there is nothing new to be said. A distinction may well be sought between some elements (retired, rogue, low-level) connected with the ISI, and the ISI itself. But, reasonable opinion even within Pakistan now acknowledges that Pakistan was complicit, irrespective of whether they choose to lay the blame at official or non-official doors. Press reports touting former Pakistan Foreign Secretary Shaharyar Khan’s remarks to CNN-IBN as the first public admission of ISI’s involvement in 26/11 are a case in point. Reactions of outrage and indignation are bound to follow; as it happened in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abottabad; another instance of complicity.

Is this pattern of deed, dissembling and denial unprecedented? Have we not seen this from the time when the ‘Razakars’ came into J&K six decades ago? And, more recently, was the same pattern not repeated with Kargil, nuclear weapons, terrorism, to cite but a few? In that sense, in dealing with Pakistan, India’s options now are no different from what they have been in the past. A report in The New York Times dated 27 May 2011 on US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s six hour visit to Pakistan - the highest ranking American official to visit Pakistan since the OBL killing - in the company of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, quoted an unnamed administration official as saying, “The Pakistanis really have to make decisions themselves about what kind of country they want to live in.”

Whether Pakistan wishes to be treated as a responsible and responsive member of the international community or as a failing, delinquent, unstable state (or whatever other term one wants to adduce to signify progressive loss of control) would then depend on its willingness to behave as a state that abides by the internationally accepted norms of inter-state conduct. That would entail being responsive to the international community’s continuing demands, as put by the British Prime Minister David Cameron last July. Pakistan would be required to stop looking both ways on terrorism; demonstrate its good faith as a responsible international citizen by joining the global effort at nonproliferation, inter alia, by ceasing to be the sole hold-out on the FMCT, have its current democratic dispensation channel its energies into constructive ways including respecting the rule of law, being inclusive, respecting minority rights, shifting its domestic priority to the uplift of its people and regional priority away from India-centricism. (As PML (N) chief and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said at a press conference in Karachi on 14 May, "Pakistan must stop treating India as its biggest enemy…..if we want to go forward and progress.")

Clarity on the future direction of Pakistan has to emerge from policies that Pakistan chooses to follow rather than pronouncements it makes.  Expectation from the outside based on hope or despair are no substitute for forming a judgement. Indeed, Pakistan might be unable to evolve a national consensus and remain torn between the several different courses that diverse constituencies in the polity and society wish to be determinants of or outcomes for the country’s future.

India can, under the circumstances, do no better than to have several different options under debate in anticipation of the differing consequences that will inevitably ensue, depending on the choice that Pakistan makes. India can then consider the options that would best serve its purposes in protecting its interests, including in maintaining peace and stability, good neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation in a sustainable, mutually beneficial way. As of now, the options being discussed range from a plea for an ‘un-interrupted and un-interruptible’ dialogue to discounting the proposition that a strong and prosperous Pakistan is in India’s interests. Meantime, public intolerance with the ‘thousand-cuts’ approach is sufficiently strong to support, even precipitate, punitive action should another cut be inflicted, which would do little for peace or dialogue even as it precludes calm judgement.

The Rana-Headley case has underscored the importance of working together with the US for accessing actionable intelligence and to keep up pressure on Pakistan to refrain from treating terrorists as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ depending on whether they face the East or West. But there are constraints to this strategy since US and Indian interests in Pakistan have a limited congruence. Patience and powder-dry may well be the order of the day.