Pakistan’s government has shown a tremendous amount of consistency and patience when it comes to improving relations with India. The recently held talks between India and Pakistan were the result of strenuous efforts by the Nawaz Sharif regime to promote peace in the regional neighbourhood. However, there is a fundamental difference in the approach of the two countries; Pakistan intends to make a fresh start by forgetting all the negativity displayed by India in the past, which includes India-initiated border skirmishes. India is stuck on the Mumbai attacks and does not want to talk about any other issue, including Kashmir. The recent statement by the Indian high commissioner to Pakistan further endorses this stance. According to him, Pakistan held Kashmir is the real negotiable issue as the occupied territory, according to him, is an integral part of India. So far, India has been smoothly getting away with the reality of Kashmir by labelling the indigenous freedom movement, by Kashmiris, as terrorism and attributing it to Pakistan. Despite the exchange of extremely friendly gestures from both sides India has still refused to play cricket with Pakistan. And prior to this, Pakistani artists, who are frequent performers in India, like Ghulam Ali Khan, were disallowed from performing in India.
In the backdrop of these unpleasant realities one serious development, not highlighted much by the Pakistani media, has taken place as well. An Indian anti-terrorism court has initiated a video trial of David Coleman Headley, presently serving a 35-year sentence in the US. Headley is the alleged mastermind of the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai and has confessed to his role in front of US authorities. Headley, on his request, was pardoned, for his role in the Mumbai attacks, by the Indian court on the condition that he disclose the role of involved individuals and organisations before the Indian authorities.
There are two interesting aspects of this trial whose second hearing is scheduled for early next year. It is timed right around the corner of composite dialogue between India and Pakistan to be held in January next year. Secondly, the pardon in return for information is meaningless because the details of Headley’s confessions, previously used as evidence by India, included everything in detail. And the pardon itself is symbolic as it is not going to have any impact on Headley’s present sentence status. Then why is this issued being raised? The answer is very simple: India seems ready to fully implicate our intelligence agency. Headley has already revealed his connections with certain individuals who, according to Headley, claimed to be from Pakistan’s intelligence agency. However, the detailed investigations in Pakistan have already proven that the stories related to the Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI’s) role in Mumbai are baseless and concocted.
Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi, held on account of the Mumbai attacks, has been recently set free by the courts because evidence provided by India, which included Headley’ ‘revelations’, was insufficient to charge him for the crime. Essentially, this drama is being staged to set the ground for breaking up the peace process once again. Headley’s statements will once again be used to pressurise Pakistan and jeopardise the peace talks.
Pakistan’s government, as correctly pointed out by Imran Khan in his recent visit to India, cannot arrest any individual on the desire of the Indian government. Pakistan has an independent judicial system that must be respected by everyone. Pakistan itself has been a victim of Indian sponsored terrorism in different parts of the country. Pakistan’s policy towards India, is very clear: Pakistan wants to promote peace and establish people-to-people contact so that radical entities on both sides can be isolated and the communication gap amongst the governments and people can be bridged. For this purpose, Pakistan, despite having alleged proof against India, have multiple times initiated peace efforts with India. Every time this effort is damaged by India on account of different reasons. The sequences of events, past and forth coming, force us to predict that India is once again going to play the Mumbai card to sabotage the dialogue.
Terrorism is a mutual concern of Pakistan and India, and the best way to deal with it is to unite our collective strength and resolve the core issues, most importantly Kashmir. Therefore, prior to engaging in dialogue with Pakistan India needs to revisit its foreign policy, clearly define its goals and share them with all the stakeholders. The key to establishing true relations between the two countries is in forgetting the past and making a fresh start. Pakistan has already stepped forward and now it is India’s turn to timely reciprocate.