Millennium Post

Pointless assurances?

Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi and promised “prompt and decisive action” against the terrorists behind the Pathankot attack. During the telephonic conversation, Modi “strongly emphasised the need for Pakistan to take firm and immediate action against the organisations and individuals responsible for and linked to the Pathankot terrorist attack,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. The statement said, “specific and actionable information in this regard has been provided to Pakistan”. Sharif “assured Prime Minister Modi that his government would take prompt and decisive action against the terrorists,” the PMO said. Suffice to say, India had received such assurances after the ghastly 2008 Mumbai terror attack. Last year, Tariq Khosa, the former head of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), who had supervised the investigation behind the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, said that investigators had indeed uncovered a mountain of evidence linking the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to the carnage that was “planned and launched” from Pakistani soil. However, according to Khosa, the slow pace of court proceedings that are looking into the 26/11 trial can be attributed to the deliberate sabotage of the legal process. LeT Commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six others, were arrested in Pakistan and charged with planning, financing and facilitating the attacks. Their trial, however, has dragged on since 2009, with Lakhvi released on bail in April 2015. The recent attack at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot once again underlines the fact that civilian engagement between India and Pakistan holds little water if the neighbouring country’s military establishment is not onboard. In other words, Sharif’s assurances may be of little or no worth. Past attacks have been launched by forces either backed by or close to the Pakistani military establishment whenever the civilian leadership of the two countries has shown the courage to walk the peace talk.  Although recent reports suggest that the Pakistan military is on board for the normalisation of relations, questions will emerge whether Sharif can shut down India-specific terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad. Since Independence, the relationship between India and Pakistan has been one of deep mistrust. If New Delhi wants to achieve any tangible results, the Pakistani military is probably the only institution that matters. Modi’s counterpart in Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, plays only a marginal role in the formulation and implementation of Islamabad’s India policy. The proof lies in the outcome of the Ufa agreement that both Sharif and Modi had signed in July 2015. Both leaders had met in Ufa, Russia, at the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. The meeting produced a joint statement, which made no reference to the Kashmir issue. Spin doctors in the Modi government had mistakenly presented the joint statement as a great victory for New Delhi and a capitulation on Islamabad’s part. The military-intelligence establishment made its voice heard when Islamabad went back on the joint statement. Therefore, it is imperative to ask whether the Pakistan military and intelligence are ready to change their position on India as a permanent enemy. The Pathankot attack may suggest that nothing has changed.
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