The relations between
India and Pakistan have run into deep trouble after the terrorist
attacks in Mumbai on
November 26, 2008.
Indian leaders are issuing tough statements almost every day accusing
Pakistan of harboring terrorist groups that engage in acts of
terrorism in other countries. The media campaign has also continued
unabated. The way this crisis in India-Pakistan relations is handled
will go a long way to determine South Asia's security profile and the
nature of the society in each state.
It is interesting to note that within an
hour of the Mumbai terrorist attacks Indian media accused the
Pakistani state as well as a Pakistan-based militant group of
engineering the incident. The first statements by Indian Prime
Minister and Foreign Minister were carefully worded but they pointed
Pakistan. Most political analysts in Pakistan expected such a
reaction because there is an established pattern of Indian reaction to
terrorist incidents on its territory, that is, expression of varying
degrees of anger against
ranging from troop mobilization in 2001-2002 to diplomatic censor to
suspension of the bilateral dialogue. There was not much difference in
the tempo of official and non-official Indian reaction after the
attack on Indian parliament on
December 13, 2001.
Both launched a massive propaganda against Pakistan in the first
couple of months, perhaps to justify India's troop mobilization and
suspension of normal interaction with Pakistan.
The latest crisis raises a fundamental
question of what is the reality between
Pakistan and India. Cordiality and normal interaction initiated in
2004 or the traditional hostility with negative historical baggage?
Traditionally, the dialogue process is the usual victim of such an
incident which is suspended or slowed down. This time it was
suspended and the official, semi-official and non-official statements
exposed the fragility of India-Pakistan friendship. It also showed
that distrust and hostility were very deeply rooted in both countries.
These negative sentiments could be revived easily.
The Mumbai type incidents are product of
domestic and external factors in the age of transnational terrorist
activity. However, Indians refused to acknowledge if there could be
some domestic sources or support bases of terrorism in
India. Nor do they acknowledge that more people were killed in
Pakistan in terrorist incidents during 2007-2008 than in India since
December 2001. Given the enormity of the problem these countries
cannot cope with religious extremism and terrorism by quarreling with
each other on this issue; they need to work together to face such a
massive challenge to the state and society. By venting anger against
each other, India and Pakistan play into the hands of militant and
extremist groups that do not want normal interaction between the two
There are a good number of people in both
countries that overplay the narrow nationalist political discourses
with selective use to history to argue that conflict rather than
cooperation is normal interaction and that these countries cannot be
friends because they represent diametrically opposed nationalisms and
worldview. If such political discourses are to be neutralized the
leadership of two countries has to show statesmanship and a long term
worldview based on universality of humankind.
Military brinkmanship and war will
accentuate the problems between
India and Pakistan. There are people in
who advocate dangerous notion of 'surgical airstrikes' of specific
targets in Pakistan based on the false assumption that Pakistan's
conventional defence, especially air-defence, cannot withstand Indian
onslaught. Similarly Indian notions of "Limited War" and the
"Cold-Start" are misleading and dangerous courses of action because
both India and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons.
The top-level Indian leadership has been
issuing strident statements for the last one week. Indian Prime
as the epicenter of terrorism.
Foreign Minister has also issued similar statement, declaring that
India could exercise any option if
did not control the militant groups involved in the Mumbai incident.
The Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, was not far behind her
university colleagues in criticizing
She said that India had the capability to take a punitive action
Indian government summoned back most
ambassadors based in other capitals to deliberate on the current
India and Pakistan. This step shows that
has decided to embark on a major diplomatic campaign. Both India and
Pakistan have summoned their ambassadors (High Commissioners) for
consultation. If these ambassadors do not return the assigned capital,
it would mean that the relations between India and Pakistan have
deteriorated. This would increase tension in Pakistan.
has so far given measured responses to Indian belligerent statements.
It is invoking bilateral and multilateral diplomacy to cope with
Indian pressures. Pakistani high officials have issued moderate and
carefully worded statements on the Mumbai incidents.
strongly believes in conflict resolution through bilateral and
multilateral means. Therefore, it offered to take action against
Pakistani militants if India provided credible evidence. It is in
constant interaction with major political leaders of the world for
coping with the negative fallout of the Mumbai incident.
strategy of moderation, patience and strong diplomatic interaction is
the right approach to deal the current political issues. Hopefully,
India's leadership will tone down its rhetoric and assign more
importance to dialogue and engagement.