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Archive | May, 2012

Urdunama: Dehshat gardi

Much has been written about on the recent episode where India Today and the Times of India published alerts from the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) on five Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives having infiltrated their way into Mumbai.  That same day, Pakistan’s TV channels and news media revealed, with barely-concealed delight, that these individuals were in fact in Lahore, not India, and that they were ordinary tradesmen, and not Lashkar terrorists.  On the face of it, our intelligence agencies goofed up.  Over at Acorn, my colleague Nitin Pai examines possible explanations in this excellent blogpost.

During a daily customary review of Pakistan’s Urdu media, I came across this article in Roznama Ummat that I found intriguing.  An excerpt from the Ummat’s interview of Mehtab Butt, Atif Butt and Babar Shabbir — three of the five who had allegedly entered Mumbai — follows:

The most concerning aspect of India labeling the three Pakistanis as terrorists is, how India came to be in the possession of their photographs in the first place.  In conversation with Ummat, Mehtab Butt indicated that he was perplexed as to how his photographs came to be in the hands of the Indians.  In response to a question about whether he had uploaded his photo onto Facebook, Twitter or similar social networking websites, Mr. Butt said that he had never operated a computer.  Mr. Butt said that the shirt that he was wearing as displayed in the photo on the Indian channel (sic) India Today was purchased last year.

Atif Butt said that while he had opened a Facebook account for himself, he had stopped using the account after his engagement;  however, he recollects having never uploaded the photo shown on the Indian channels to Facebook.  He remembers though, that the half-sleeved shirt displayed in the photo had been purchased last summer.

All three victims are of the opinion that a powerful camera was used to zoom in and take photos of them at Hafiz Center.  Both Atif and Mehtab were working at their shops at Hafiz Center when a mutual friend of theirs arrived at about 8:00pm on Wednesday with his laptop.  He showed Atif and Mehtab photos of themselves appearing on the India Today website.  At first, they dismissed the photos as a prank, but the grim reality of the situation ultimately dawned on them.

The three then promptly approached local police and advised them of the situation.  According to Mehtab and Atif, they took this step to ensure that they didn’t get apprehended on false charges.  Mehtab Butt informed Ummat that both he and Atif were under considerable stress.  Atif was of the opinion that had he and Mehtab not approached the police, there would be no doubt that the three victims would have been declared terrorists, similar to the “so-called” Mumbai terror attacks.

The three victims told Ummat that not only is India insulting our country, they have now turned their attention towards harming the Pakistani trading community.  Their question to Pakistan’s leaders is, why are we expanding our trade relations with India?  They appeal to the government to get to the bottom of this and respond to India’s imprudent actions. [روزنامہ امّت]

That this was an IO exercise against India is pretty apparent by the narrative.  Two innocent traders and an honest security guard in Lahore being ensnared by the Serpent Next Door triggers the imagination.  But why traders, why not anyone else?  The last paragraph appears to offer some clues.

There is disquiet in parts of Pakistan’s trading community over liberalizing trade with India.  Though many remain skeptical, most are not opposed to it, given the obvious benefits from trade with India.  But the one group that has remained steadfastly opposed to engagement with India on trade and the MFN status has been Difa-e-Pakistan, a rag-tag collection of ex-army officers and jihadi nutjobs supported by Rawalpindi, that boasts within its ranks a who’s who of the military-jihadi complex, including God’s Servant Hafiz Saeed, and the always-humble Hamid Gul.

Hard-line elements in Pakistan certainly have motive, by both impressing upon the Pakistani trading community that thy neighbor is deceitful, and embarrassing India and its intelligence agencies. But the elaborate plot does not appear to be commensurate with the benefits of getting Pakistan to abrogate from bilateral trade commitments with India. The juice wouldn’t be worth the squeeze.  This may very well be part of the plot, but is there a larger game afoot?

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Fraternal magnanimity

On Pakistan, India must not compromise from a position of strength.

Former Foreign Secretary, Kanwal Sibal, has a very timely and well-articulated piece in the Daily Mail on India’s position on Siachen, amid rumors that New Delhi was planning some sort of strategic climbdown in the larger interest of bettering India-Pakistan relations:

Peace with Pakistan is a desirable goal, but peace should be equally desired by both sides and both should contribute to it in equal measure. The burden of making peace should not fall on India while Pakistan retains the freedom to disrupt it at will. Normalisation of India-Pakistan relations should not be predicated on demands by Pakistan and concessions by India.

Those who advocate withdrawal from Siachen – or more appropriately Saltoro as Siachen lies to its east – need to clarify whether we are occupying Pakistani territory.If we are, withdrawal could be mooted. If we are not, then why should we withdraw from our own territory simply because Pakistan contests India’s sovereignty over this part of J&K and insists we accept its position?

Should such obduracy inspire trust in its intentions? The 1949 and the 1972 agreements delineate the LOC till NJ9842, with the line going ‘northwards towards the glaciers’ beyond that. ‘Northwards’ cannot in any linguistic or geographical interpretation mean ‘north-eastwards’, but Pakistan and the US unilaterally drew the line several decades ago from NJ9842 north-eastwards to the Karakoram pass controlled by the Chinese.

In reality, because the entire state of J&K acceded to India legally, the areas not in control of Pakistan are rightfully Indian whether we physically occupy every inch of our own territory or not. [Daily Mail]

The reality here is that those advocating an Indian compromise on Siachen have failed in explaining its correlation to “peace and stability” in our region.  Yes, India and Pakistan must talk, and yes, peace — whatever that means in the context of the subcontinent — is always desirable.  But the eagerness to pursue this ill-defined concept of “peace” in the subcontinent must not trump the security of the country, which India’s elected representatives are entrusted with.

In fact, I will take Mr. Sibal’s argument (that both India and Pakistan ought to desire and contribute to “peace” in equal measure) further.  The domain of international relations plays out in a state of anarchy, generally absent of binding or enforceable laws.  In this state of anarchy, the only real currency for transaction is power.  Power dictates both rationale and narrative.  We are not quite in the Peloponnesian world where “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must,” but it is entirely in keeping with the reality of the world today that transactions between nations ultimately favor the more powerful.

In this regard, Pakistan, as the weaker power and one that already operates with considerable decided strategic disadvantage, should fully expect negotiations and final settlements on territory to largely favor India.  The idea that India show magnanimity towards Pakistan just because it is larger is silly and a relic of a bygone era. India is not Pakistan’s “big brother,” and Pakistan certainly felt nothing close to warm fraternal bonding when its military-jihadi apparatus unleashed mayhem on India and its citizens.

The benefits of improved India-Pakistan relations are skewed more towards Pakistan than India.  It is therefore in Pakistan’s interest, more than it is in India’s, to improve bilateral ties.  Improvement of ties on contentious issues would require compromise, and compromises are for Pakistan to make.  Pakistan must realize that it suffers from a significant trust deficit in India due to its actions over the last 65 years.  It can begin to address this gap by demonstrating that it has gotten over its India psychosis.  India should simply wait, watch and verify.


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