In the eyes of US policymakers, on the touchstone of stability, Pakistan is not bracketed with India with which it shares social and cultural relations. Instead, Pakistan is bracketed with those countries that share instability
Pakistan and India are caught up in a tussle in which Pakistan is demanding that India bring the mastermind (and perpetrators) of the Samjhautha (friendship) Express blasts of February 2007 to justice whereas India is demanding that Pakistan bring the mastermind (and perpetrators) of the Mumbai attacks of November 2008 to justice. This seems to be a tit-for-tat policy by both countries.
Pakistan thinks that the leader of Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Swami Aseemanand, is culpable in the Samjhauta Express incident. He confessed before a judicial magistrate his own involvement along with his accomplices in the twin bomb blasts that set two rear passenger coaches of the train on fire, killing dozens of Pakistani passengers who were on their way back from Delhi to Lahore in 2007. The RSS is closely tied to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of India’s current Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi. Pakistan has also asked India to share with it the confessional statement of Aseemanand but India has turned down the request by saying that Pakistan’s request was premature, as the probe had not been finalised. In the past, the name of an Indian army officer, Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit, who had links with a Hindu extremist group, Abhinav Bharatwas, was heard in this regard. Though Aseemanand has now gone back on his confessional statement, which he claimed to have given under duress, the positive side of these developments is that India is doing its homework by running after one suspect and trying him before going after the next one. Nevertheless, India is in distress because the incident took place on its soil near the famous Panipat.
India is of the opinion that the leaders of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), such as Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, against whom evidence was provided to Pakistan (for his masterminding the Mumbai attacks in 2008, which devoured the lives of more than 160 people in Delhi) should be brought to justice. Pakistan detained Lakhvi in December 2008. However, a few days ago, on March 13, 2015, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) quashed the detention orders of Lakhvi for want of sufficient evidence against him and instead upheld his bail granted by an Anti-Terrorism Court. This was when a new flare up in Pakistan’s relations with both India and the US appeared. Both countries vehemently asked Pakistan to fulfil its obligations of discouraging terrorism by bringing terrorists to justice. On this matter, Pakistan and India also exchanged hot words with each other within diplomatic confines. The US was quick to publicly remind Pakistan of its commitment to bring the offenders of the Mumbai attacks to justice. No doubt, Lakhvi was detained quickly under a different allegation (before he could be literally released). Pakistan is in trouble for detaining Lakhvi for a crime not committed on its land. It is not known if Pakistan has made its own investigation into the alleged involvement of Lakhvi or the LeT in the Mumbai attacks or it is just relying on the evidence provided by India. In principle, Pakistan must do its homework and reach a solid conclusion. Nevertheless, the way Pakistan succumbed to the (joint) pressure applied by India and the US, it seems it is still short of finishing its part of the investigation job.
On March 13, there took place another development. The director of the US’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), John Brennan, said that Pakistan was one of those countries that were posing strategic and tactical challenges to US policymakers, including officials of the CIA. He was basically saying that events engulfing Pakistan were unpredictable and so were their results. One event had the potential of driving Pakistan in one direction while another could make Pakistan tread another path. Pakistan has lost control of its own direction; events are the determinants. For instance, if an attack on the children’s school in Peshawar in December 2014 had not taken place, Pakistan was following one kind of anti-terrorism policy. Now, after the attack, Pakistan is following another kind of anti-terrorism policy. Brennan also identified Pakistan at one end of the belt characterised by post-Cold War instability encompassing countries such as Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan. This shows that it is not just Afghanistan that Pakistan is being identified with, the list is long and the analogy is disquieting. Brennan’s statement indicates that the US does not consider Pakistan a part of South Asia but a part of the (greater) Middle East. At least in the eyes of US policymakers, on the touchstone of stability, Pakistan is not bracketed with India with which it shares social and cultural relations (other than those defined by religion). Instead, Pakistan is bracketed with those countries that share instability. Interestingly, Pakistan still deludes itself with the idea that it can bring stability to Afghanistan.
Hitherto, in their post-independence history, both Pakistan and India have travelled through four zones of confrontation: firstly, explicit war as fought in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999, secondly, as non-state actors killing each other’s citizens, thirdly, proxy war fought on a third land, for instance, in Afghanistan and, fourth, the exchange of fire engulfing human lives along the Line of Control or Working Boundary. The fifth zone of confrontation — nuclear and missile power — has not been tested so far against each other. Nevertheless, it seems that the zone of activities of non-state actors (belonging to Pakistan) is pregnant with redefining Pakistan’s relations not only with India but also with the US. Secondly, non-state actors have rendered Pakistan to be considered a part of the Middle Eastern instability belt. The ghost of the Mumbai attacks will keep on haunting Pakistan unless it does its homework, launches a thorough investigation and reaches objective conclusions. Appeasing non-state actors on one excuse or another is bound to put Pakistan in more trouble both regionally and internationally.
The writer is a freelance columnist