Pragmatic | A lily-livered Indian briefing

What the hell is the Indian government official saying here?

The two press reports (here and here) of an off-the-record briefing by a senior Indian official provide a fair idea of the Indian government’s position in the aftermath of the US military operation that killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan. Here are a few gems from the briefing.

India is in favour of continuing talks with Pakistan. India demonstrated resolve to remain rooted to its current policy of “remaining engaged with Pakistan”.[Rediff]

How about demonstrating the same “resolve” when it comes to getting justice for the victims of Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008?

But the official noted India will put more pressure on Pakistan to “walk the talk” when it comes to cracking down on groups like LeT, which planned and carried out the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008.

The official acknowledged India has “drawn a blank” when it comes to getting Pakistan to extradite suspected criminals, called Pakistan a “never-never land” for terrorists, and described India’s relationship with Pakistan as “complicated” and “conflicted”–saying that’s no different from Washington’s relationship with Islamabad.[WSJ]

And how precisely will “more pressure” be put by India? By invoking the Thimpu Spirit and going back to the composite dialogue (while refusing to explicitly christen it so) with Pakistan, something which was in place before the Mumbai terror attacks! If these policies have “drawn a blank” so far, why are we being so bull-headed about pursuing these failed policies ad nauseam?

India’s relationship with Pakistan may be “complicated” and “conflicted” — as is Washington’s with Islamabad — but the nature of these two “complicated” and “conflicted” relationships is totally different. They are complicated and conflicted in different ways. As @thecomicproject said on twitter, while Osama bin Laden might have been hiding in Pakistan, the likes of Hafiz Saeed roam around freely in that country. This brings out the stark difference in the nature of the relationship that the US has with Pakistan, and India has with Pakistan.

For all the “conflicted” nature of their relationship, US wields a high degree of influence in Pakistan because it bankrolls the Pakistani military and the economy. India, in contrast, has no influence whatsoever inside Pakistan. Let us not waste any further time in comparing the two.

“We have to deal with reality. Pakistan is a ‘hard’ country. They are not a push-over, and the US will learn that. At same time we are not helpless. There is a reasonable, sober way of dealing with a neighbour,” said the source.[Rediff]

Let us not worry too much about US learning that lesson. We ought to be rather concerned about what we have learnt in our six decades of dealing — in “a reasonable, sober way” — with a ‘hard’ country called Pakistan.

“We can’t ignore the reality. The ‘giant swatter’ is not going to work.” The source insisted, “It is very easy to be hawkish and say bring them (Pakistan) to their knees. But then what? The story won’t end there.”

The source added, “The idea is not to bring Pakistan to its knees. It’s not going to help. History will bear me out.”[Rediff]

India’s geographic proximity to Pakistan, the official said, makes its security calculations different than the U.S. “We exist back-to-back with Pakistan. There is no denying that reality,” the official said. “It’s easy to be hawkish on Pakistan, to say, ‘we’ll bring Pakistan to its knees,’ but then what?”

The official also said “we are not war mongers” and noted the countries’ shared heritage in the Indian Subcontinent. “Pakistan is a foreign country but it was a part of us at one time,” the official said.[WSJ]

This blogger is unable to figure out what all this means — “denying that reality”, the “giant swatter”, “very easy to be hawkish”, bringing “Pakistan to its knees” and “we are not war mongers”. Surely the concerned official is aware of what has happened in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989, and the attack on Indian Parliament, and of Kandahar hijack, and the terror strikes in Mumbai trains, at Jaipur, Hyderabad and many other cities and in Mumbai in November 2008 — with the Pakistani hand behind all of them.

This official’s sophistry can not cover up for the Indian state’s failure to pursue retributive justice for all the Indian lives lost due to terror, which has been actively promoted and controlled by Pakistani state agencies. Besides securing justice for the tragedies of the past, the purpose of Indian actions with respect to Pakistan should be to deter Pakistani military-jehadi complex from unleashing any terror against Indians in the future, whether on Indian or on foreign soil.

This official needs to remember that appeasement is not engagement, and burial is not the same as closure. While India needs to engage with Pakistan, it need not appease Pakistani military-jehadi complex. What Indians need is a closure with Pakistan, and not a burial that this Indian official is proposing here.

And finally, what the hell does “Pakistan is a foreign country but it was a part of us at one time” mean? Yes, it was. So what!

Update-1: There was another gem too which has been covered by this press report.

They also scoffed at Pakistan foreign secretary Salman Bashir’s stating that the demand for justice for 26/11 was outdated.

“We don’t think it was a serious statement,” said the sources.[HT]

And this blogger thinks that none of the statements made by the senior Indian government official in an off-the-record briefing to the media were serious statements.

Update-2: More chicanery on display, via this report.

“However, we have to understand the logic of history and geography… (even if) we have to eat more bitterness,” the source added.[Telegraph]

But the whole aim of government policy should be to ensure that we don’t have to “eat more bitterness”, whatever be the logic of history or geography. And if you as a government official can’t do that, it is perhaps best that you gracefully exit the scene.

Enough said. No more updates.

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.