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Preposterous & Absurd

Preposterous & Absurd

Author: G. Parthasarathy
Publication: Outlook
Date: September 25, 2006
URL: http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20060925&fname=parthasarathy&sid=1

By equating India and Pakistan as "victims of terrorism" in Havana, India has seriously undermined what has been its consistent stand that Pakistan should end terrorist violence unconditionally.

Since July 2005 there have been five major terrorist attacks outside Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) - in Ayodhya, Delhi, Varanasi, Bangalore and Mumbai. While investigations are still on to determine who was responsible for the Mumbai bomb blasts that killed nearly 200 people, there is substantial evidence to conclude that the terrorists who carried out the other four attacks were either Pakistani nationals or Bangladeshi and Indian nationals linked to the Bangladesh based Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), or the Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

It is known that while HuJI is based in Bangladesh it has had links with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) since the days of the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Never before has the Indian heartland been subject to such a barrage of terrorist attacks. Moreover, for the first time, tourists from across India visiting J&K were systematically targeted for terrorist attacks during the past months.

Just after the Mumbai blasts of July 11, Dr. Manmohan Singh asserted: "We are certain that the terrorist modules responsible for the Mumbai blasts are instigated from across the border." Yet, speaking at Havana after his meeting with President Musharraf on September 16, 2006, he said: "The fact is that terrorism is a threat to Pakistan. And it has been a threat to India. We need to have a collective mechanism to deal with it."

Dr. Manmohan Singh has thus acquired the strange distinction of being the first Indian Prime Minister to equate India, a victim of terrorism, with Pakistan, a perpetrator of terrorism. For twenty years the international community and people in India have been made aware of the use of terrorism as an instrument of State Policy by the military establishment of Pakistan. Following the Mumbai bomb blasts of 1993, Pakistan came close to being designated a State sponsor of terrorism by the Clinton Administration. Yet the Prime Minister of India today glibly equates Pakistan with India and declares that Pakistan, like India is a "victim of terrorism"

It is not India alone that has accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism. President Hamid Karzai has given details of how Pakistan is providing safe haven, arms and training to the Taliban on its soil, leading to a substantial increase of suicide and armed attacks on American, NATO and Afghan government forces in Southern Afghanistan. Indian workers assisting in road construction have been brutally killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, which sustains itself with Pakistani assistance.

The three major non-Kashmir terrorist groups operating in J&K, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the LeT have been declared as international terrorist organizations by the US, UK, all major western powers and under UN Security Council Resolution 1363. Yet General Musharraf allows them to operate freely under new names.

Shortly after the Mumbai serial bombings this year, The New York Times report by a correspondent in Islamabad noted that functionaries of the LeT confirmed that they train over fifty persons annually for terrorist attacks across India. The Amir (Chief) of the LeT, Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed, regularly proclaims that his cadres are waging jihad against India in J&K and elsewhere.

We are told by our Prime Minister that General Musharraf appeared "sincere" in his assurances that he would do his best to "control" terrorism directed against India. However, speaking to a gathering made up largely of his own countrymen and Pakistani and Mirpuri expatriates in Brussels on September 12, 2006, General Musharraf twice referred to India as the "enemy" and categorically said that he would not favour even a cease-fire by Kashmiri militant groups at present.

He said:

"I don't hold a whistle to stop them (militant groups). There are a lot of free lance terrorists operating. One can try and influence them. A total or complete cease-fire is impossible. I am against such attempts without moving forward and then everybody will fall in line. They will fall in line once the Kashmir issue is settled."

In effect, what General Musharraf acknowledged was that there are indeed what he called "free lance terrorists" that operate across the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K. What he did not dwell on was how the world could accept this when there were regular meetings, reported in the Pakistan press, of a so called 'United Jihad Council' operating right under the nose of Pakistani Army authorities in Muzaffarabad, with the Council's leaders publicly proclaiming how they intended to let loose terrorist violence across the LoC. India has sought the extradition of the leader of this 'Council'. The request for extradition has been refused on the grounds that the Council's leader, Syed Salahuddin, is a 'freedom fighter'.

On January 6, 2004, President Musharraf pledged that he would not allow territory under Pakistan's control to be used for terrorism against India. This meant that he would effectively take steps to 'end' terrorist violence from Pakistani controlled territory. Yet both the Taliban in Afghanistan and groups like the Lashkar operate with impunity. The Lashkar is described as a "charitable organization" by Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri.

What is, however, a source of greater concern is that in Havana India has accepted the preposterous assertion that there are "free lance" terrorist groups operating in Pakistan and, instead of demanding an "end" to terrorism, appears to be satisfied if General Musharraf will "control" these outfits. Does the government mean that if General Musharraf "controls" support for terrorist attacks like the Mumbai blasts and continues to permit attacks on tourists and security forces in J&K, it will be convinced that General Musharraf is "sincere"?

The decision to set up a 'Joint Mechanism' between India and Pakistan to investigate terrorist violence has to be seen in the context of the U-turn on India's policy to deal with terrorism and the remarks in Havana equating India and Pakistan as "victims of terrorism". Given the fact that Pakistan has yet to hand over terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim, Masood Azhar of the JeM and Syed Salahuddin of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), does the government seriously expect General Musharraf to reveal how the ISI is helping terrorist groups, merely because there is a 'Joint Mechanism'? The absurdity of the proposal is evident from the fact that, even in higher level talks between Home Secretaries of the two countries, Pakistan has stonewalled and rejected the evidence that has been provided to it on terrorist activities emanating from its soil and flatly refused all proposals India has made to extradite terrorists charged with involvement in acts of terrorism.

By equating India and Pakistan as "victims of terrorism" in Havana, India has seriously undermined what has been its consistent stand that Pakistan should end terrorist violence unconditionally. The next time there is a major terrorist attack against India, with substantial circumstantial and other evidence of Pakistani involvement available, Pakistan and its apologists in the international community will ask India to sort out the matter with Pakistan through the 'Joint Mechanism', which is now to be set up. To divert attention, Pakistan will allege that India has sponsored scores of terrorist incidents in Pakistan. If India objects to this, Pakistan will say that the Indian Prime Minister himself has acknowledged that Pakistan is a "victim of terrorism".

The Indian government's casual approach to terrorism can be gauged by the fact the website of the Ministry of External Affairs does not contain any detailed account of reports of acts of terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil, which have occurred not merely in India and Afghanistan, but in places as far away as US, UK, Chechnya and Australia. Does the government of India feel that this is not necessary because Pakistan is also a "victim of terrorism"?

G. Parthasarathy is former Indian High Commissioner/ Ambassador to Pakistan, Myanmar and Australia. Courtesy, the South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal

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